I’m so glad it’s finally my turn,” my mom squeezed my hand as we left her favorite restaurant.
I knew what she meant, though she didn’t explain. She meant it was finally her turn to be celebrated, after so many years of Mother’s Days devoted to her own mom, to her mother-in-law, to smilingly accepting skin-greening jewelry and other trash scraped together at the dollar store by her kids, to pretending she didn’t care that my dad had forgotten.
The problem is, I didn’t quite agree.
I had just given birth to my own child, and not all that long ago. Freshly postpartum, weary with sleeplessness, and swollen with milk, I was the motheriest mother at that moment. It would’ve been really nice to spend Mother’s Day celebrating, well, me, to be honest.
I was frustrated by this obligation that I seemed to inherit. I resented that I was expected to make up for years and years of my dad dropping the ball, of not only neglecting to acknowledge the woman who’d mothered his children, but additionally expecting her to do the heavy lifting in celebrating his own mom.
But if I was being really honest with myself? The brunt of my resentment was toward my mom. My dad should have celebrated her. But why didn’t my mom insist on being celebrated? I remember the barely hidden tears over forgotten Mother’s Days (and anniversaries and birthdays and Valentine’s Days). I also remember, as I got older, her stout insistence that she was fine with this arrangement. That she wasn’t one of those high-maintenance women who expected attention and adoration. That this wasn’t something inflicted on her, but that she chose.
And by doing that, she did choose it. For her, but also for me. Why didn’t she stand up for herself? In those years when she was elbow deep in baby poop, when she was nursing sick children in the morning, serving a hot dinner, and then working an evening job to make the ends meet, she didn’t get a special day. And instead of being outraged, instead of doing what she could to fix this terrible mess, she just passed the baton to the next wave of tired women. She passed it to me.
This would be a great place to go off on the social conditioning that made my mom think she had to be nice and selfless and avoid inconveniencing anyone. But when I’m honest with myself, that’s not what annoys me. I’m annoyed with her for not resisting.
So, yeah, I could skip spending Mother’s Day with my mom, but I won’t. In that way, I guess I am just like her, willingly inheriting this martyrdom instead of demanding my own day. But I know that I would be doing it just to punish her for handling things differently than I wish she had. It’s too late to make my dad fix it. It’s too late to change all of those years of sobs muffled by the sound of running dishwasher. The best I can do is celebrate another woman, because no one else did.