Saturday, May 12, 2012

mother's day

I'm not much for holidays. Oh, I like holidays. I like having the day off from the usual expectations and activities of every other ordinary day. I like having a day off when I don't have to come up with my own excuses for taking it.

When I say I'm not much for holidays I mean that I'm not much for participating in the expected behaviors of whichever particular holiday it happens to be. Though I enjoy the decorations and foods that others indulge in, I just don't seem to find the point in working myself into a frenzy for a holiday instead of kicking back and putzing around.

Holidays fall into categories...religious, national, and commercial. Some occupy more than one category since the rampant commercialization in our country never fails to miss an opportunity to tell us that we must buy buy buy to show just how loving, faithful, or patriotic we are. This irritates me more and more as I get older.

And now Mother's Day is upon us once again, this national holiday that falls heavily in the commercialism stream that tells us how we are supposed to feel and how we are supposed to express those feelings.

This was not a day I cared for as a child after a certain point in my growing up, or even as an adult child. My mother is dead now so the issue is moot except where my own kids are concerned. I get phone calls on the appointed day just because they do love me (at least I hope that's what motivates them), unlike my own feelings for my mother whom I did not like very much and held any love I might have had for her in abeyance so that any call or gift she got from me was strictly out of duty. She was a selfish self centered woman and I could expect no real affection or even interest in my life from her in return. Our jobs as her children; my sister, my brother, and I; were to orbit her and reflect well of her.

I've never wanted or demanded that from my own kids who I adore. No gifts or flowers or simpering emotion required. No guilt or recriminations doled out should they let the day go by unmarked. I would prefer nothing from my children than the resented dutiful phone call, appearance or gift that was expected of me.

Not all women are suited for motherhood but before the cultural changes of the '60s that's what all women expected of their lives, what was expected of them. You got a boyfriend, got married, had sex (or had sex and then got married), and had babies. About the only way to avoid having children was to be infertile or to never marry.

As it turned out, my mother didn't really like children. They were messy, time consuming, and demanding of her attention and affection. She liked the idea of children as it fit into whatever role she was currently playing, but she didn't actually like to spend time with her children. Oh, I'm sure she loved us in her way but she just didn't have much interest in us til we became teenagers, something she would freely admit to.

I think she liked teenagers because that is where her self image stopped growing. In her mind she was perpetually that pretty girl who the boys sought after, going to parties and hanging out with her friends. Once we became grown and had families of our own, her interest in our lives waned.

Since she didn't take to motherhood I suppose it was unrealistic of us to think she would be interested in being a grandmother, which she decidedly was not. She didn't even want them to call her any of the variations of grandmother. They were to call her by her middle name, Lou. So, of course I, in my perversity, instructed my children to call her Grandma Lou.

She was happy to see her grandchildren as long as it was a short visit and they came with a parent attached. There was no spending the day or the night, there was no babysitting even for an hour or two so I could go meet a client, there were no week long visits away from home. My sister, elder by three years who married and had her kids young, filled that role for my children.

Mother told us that she would wait until they became teenagers only by then my kids had no interest in spending time with a woman who wouldn't be bothered to get to know them while they were growing up.

Besides, they told me, she had too many rules at her house.



  1. How sad she went so out of touch she couldn't even do the teen age thing over with another generation. Relatives leave such lessons.

  2. she definitely didn't sound made for motherhood. sounds a lot like my husband's grandmother - very self-absorbed, very much the flirt, marrying multiple times, not raising her own kids, etc., etc.

  3. "Grandma Lou" - that's funny Ellen.
    Well, you have also described my mother perfectly here, and I agree with all you say.

    Have a great weekend!

  4. You have hit the nail right on the head in this - your mother was of a generation where the norm was to marry and have kids regardless of whether or not you wanted them.

    I read so much in Blogville about how much everyones mother means to them etc - it's refreshing to see such a frankly honest statement.

    My mother had four kids, she wasn't a bad mother but my fathers serial adultery left her lonely and bitter. She withdrew into herself and found it difficult to just relax and enjoy things for what they were - shame really because I think she had a lot to offer, but her fear of rejection prevented her from offering it. She constantly sought approval and comparisons, which was exhausting.

  5. My mom was the opposite of yours - and in fact went too far the other way because she wanted to be best friends with me when I was a teenager. That wasn't so bad, but I worried about her after I left home. Fortunately my brother had children which she LOVED. She didn't want to be called Grandma, & my Mamaw was still living, so she decided to have the grandkids call her Nean, short for Jeanine. It suited her quite well.

  6. As I have shared on my blog in the was hard to fulfill the card deal for Father's or Mother's Day for my parents because....not one of the cards ever said, thanks for ???????????????
    I too have very few fond memories to tell my grands about my Mom. Oh well. They will have doozies to tell their kids about what nut cases their mom and oma were. least we will be memorable.
    Oma Linda

  7. tough to avoid all the love others would like to share

  8. How very sad at all she missed.

    Much sadder is the fact you grew up in that environment. Thanks for breaking the pattern.

    Grandma Lou...good for you!!!

    Enjoy your day puttering about.

  9. So sad that she didn't even know.. or care to know what she was missing. And that was a lot. Still, we learn much from our parents, even if it's what kind of parent not to be.


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