In Praise of Anne Lamott’s “Why I Hate Mother’s Day”

No fewer than six people in my facebook feed linked to or quoted a recent essay by Anne Lamott that appeared on Salon.com, “Why I Hate Mother’s Day.”  Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions is one of my all-time favourite momoirs, and her Bird by Bird is a wonderful guide to the writing life.  She just has a down-to-earth, common-sensical approach to things, and this essay obviously hit a nerve with many in the run-up to Mother’s Day .

I have to confess, I said a quiet “Hurrah!” when I saw the title of her essay.  I don’t exactly hate Mother’s Day, and I really don’t mind getting older, but I do really hate being the centre of attention on my birthday and on Mother’s Day.  I have always hated New Year’s Eve because of the excessive burden of expectations.  If motherhood is imperfectible, so, too, is the fine art of celebrating mothers.

It can be easy in the time around holidays to question the expense and the sentiment and the baggage that goes along with them.  For every celebration there is a killjoy waiting to stamp out the light of the day.  But if it’s easy for killjoys to dismiss a holiday, it is also all too easy to dismiss killjoys as spoil-sports without attending to their very valid criticisms.  It’s a logical response to excess (of sentiment, of spending) to want to undercut it.  And we should.  We should be aware of excessive consumerism in December; we should examine the nature of patriotism in July; and we should examine the duties and the burdens of motherhood in May.

Lamott makes worthy criticisms.  She points to the ridiculousness of obligatory tokens of gratitude.  She points out that not only the mothers (n, pl) mother (v).  She decries the self-satisfaction of parenthood.  She argues that mothers should not be praised as saints because they work hard–lots of women’s lives are hard–and mothers should not be praised as saints because beatification is a double-edged sword.  There is a lot of sacrifice involved in getting a halo, and, she writes, not all mothers actually deserve it.

One of the points I think Lamott makes obliquely in the essay is a point about martyrdom.  At least, that’s the theme that has been ringing in my head all weekend.  The most important insight that I have taken away from the essay is that if we do not want our children and our partners to celebrate us out of guilt, then we also owe it to ourselves not to make the kinds of sacrifices that might induce that guilt.

The only thing I wanted for my Mother’s Day was a trip to the McMichael Art Gallery.  I wanted it really, really badly, and I put all my Mother’s Day eggs in that basket.  Months ago, I blocked the whole day BEFORE Mother’s Day off so that we could go.  I wanted a day, a whole day, for immediate family only, away from crowds and cliches, devoted to looking at and making art and winding up with a long hike in the grounds that surround the gallery and a dinner cooked by someone who was not me.  You can see where this is going, can’t you?  Three hockey teams did not have access to my wishes or my calendar, and slowly but inexorably, the day filled up with obligations that narrowed the window of time to visit the gallery to something that was possible, yes, but not at all desirable.  I was not going to clock-watch during the ever-dwindling window of My Mother’s Day Time.  On an ordinary day, on a Not-Mother’s Day, I think I would have gladly squeezed it in and counted myself blessed for the bounty.  But I had wanted of this day most of all not to be rushed, and that, in the end, is what killed it.  When one of the activities ran long and it became clear that time was dwindling, I just asked to go home.

I want to be very clear that I blame no-one, and I would not have cancelled any of the other events that began to fill the day.  You cannot argue with the calendar.  I do believe that the mother of a goalie does not get to say, “Sorry, Team, we have other plans.”  The mother of three Habs fans does not suggest that they go for a ramble in the woods on the night that the team faces Stanley Cup Playoff Elimination; this is not the kind of parenting decision that is likely to lead to happy Mother’s Day memories.

During the time we could have squeezed in a trip to the gallery, I sat in my back yard and read.  I ate a meal with my family that was not cooked by me, and I received and read my children’s perfectly imperfect Mother’s Day cards.  My husband, my amazing husband, gave me this

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and I felt blessed.  But then, instead of joining them to watch the Habs in all of their playoff glory, as I am sometimes known to do, I watched two movies based on the novels of Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte.  I did things that made me happy, but a double dose of women in period dress will, I hope, communicate to you, dear reader, the depths of my sulkiness and of my anti-hockey sentiment.

I did not blame anyone, but I was very disappointed.

I was also very angry at myself for feeling disappointed.  Why had I saved for a single day a host of things that I value?  Art, creativity, learning, hiking, not looking at the clock, privacy, family time.  Why had I thought that the day should be devoted to these things to the exclusion of all others (hockey) when the very reason I so badly needed it was because the bulk of our schedule is devoted to the kids’ activities and interests to the exclusion of mine?  The solution to the problem of not having enough of what I want to do in our daily lives is not to try and make it happen on the one day on which the kids and husband will feel obliged to make it happen.  The solution is to make art, creativity, learning, hiking, not looking at the clock, privacy, and family time as much a part of what defines our whole family as the hockey schedule.  My martyrdom was not in sulkily asking to just go home when we could have gone to the museum, but in not having insisted that what I value must also have equal space on the calendar on every other day of the year.  This is not easy to do.  If I ever do manage to fit in all of the richness of all of our interests, I will have earned my halo, but I will have done it without being a martyr.

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Mother’s Day Gift Guide

Mother’s Day is coming up.  It’s Sunday, May 10, and we’ve complied a go-to gift guide for mom whether she’s a glamorous grandma or green thumb, a book lover or a foodie . . . or maybe she’s everything all rolled in to one! Do you see something that catches your eye? Forward along to Dad or the kids . . .or better yet, wait for no one and treat yourself!

From Beth-Anne:

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Mist & Fix from Make Up For Ever is now part of my morning beauty routine. It’s a professional grade alcohol-free setting spray with the texture of water that improves your makeup’s staying power. It’s easy to use – hold it about 40 cm from your face and mist continuously for a few seconds and allow to dry. It smells glorious and leaves my face looking fresh and dewy. (starting at $14)

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This handmade pewter pendant is plated in silver and its message, Live Love Teach by Foxy Originals is the perfect way to describe and thank mom. ($20)

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Alex and Ani create and design eco-conscious jewelery. Their latest collection, Persephone is available at select Hudson’s Bay stores and features bracelets and charms with special meaning. My favourite is Guardian of Answers because aren’t moms the keeper of them?

from Nathalie:

I’m going to depart from my usual “Please don’t buy mothers anything with which to cook or clean” rule and say that I’d love to receive these sets of ombre bowls from President’s Choice and Real Canadian Superstore.  They have them in cool blues and hot reds and oranges, and the colours are just so juicy!

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Ombre mixing bowls from PC $25

Ombre mixing bowls from PC $25

And, now that patio season is finally, finally here, you could gift a mother with this awesome retro cooler chest for the back yard or the beach.

Cooler chest from Tera Gear $149

Cooler chest from Tera Gear $149 at Real Canadian Superstore

One of my favourite things to do in the yard with the kids is to roast marshmallows on the fire.  Somehow, spending an evening that way feels like the most luxurious kind of family time.   No hockey, homework or housework to attend to, just sharing the fire.  We saw this great Hampton Bay fire pit at The Home Depot spring preview.  ($79.98)

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I am asking for a gift of experience this Mother’s Day.  I want us all to go to the McMichael Gallery and look at art and hike the trails around the gallery.  I’d also recommend trips to the Art Gallery of Ontario to see the Emily Carr and Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibits, and to the Royal Ontario Museum.  If you think you will visit a museum multiple times, a membership is a wonderful gift.  (For our family of five, a membership costs what we’d pay for just two visits.)  We have family memberships at both museums, and, honestly, it’s some of the best money I’ve ever spent.  I get so much use and value out of our memberships.  It feels like true luxury to be able to just pop into the museum for a quick visit, and to see the exhibits multiple times makes me feel like royalty.  I have taken the kids to see the Basquiat twice already.  The first time we sketched, and the second time we used the play dough that all kids can get in a loot bag from the front desk when they go in.  I got to really attend to the art, and the kids kept busy with their interpretations.  Time spent together is the gift I love best.

Youngest's sketch of a Basquiat self-portrait.

Youngest’s sketch of a Basquiat self-portrait.

Middlest's interpretation in play dough.

Middlest’s interpretation in play dough.

 

From Carol

Almost four months ago, noticing I was depleted and in need of a recharge, my husband offered to hold the fort at home while I visit with favourite cousins in California this week.  In what goes down as good old fashioned mistake-making, I did not take him up on this.  At the time, I almost felt too tired to plan for this, and now I’m sitting here in Toronto feeling rather foolish.

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Most of the moms of young kids I know would really relish some free time.  Sometimes with their spouses, or their friends, or alone.  The best gift ever would be sorting out which of these the mom in questions needs most, and try to make it happen.  I bought a Buytopia getaway to Ste. Anne’s Spa in Ontario with this in mind, and Groupon-type offers make short jaunts like this more affordable.
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But the truth is brunch at favourite local haunt (mine is Lady Marmalade on Queen Street East) would be perfectly splendid too.

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May is also the season of growing… if you know a mother who likes to garden, the handmade offerings at Spade and Feather are simple, well made, and gorgeous.  A favourite are the Wild Bee and Insect Houses which translate the essential work of pollination into functional beauty for any garden.  I love them.

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Maximizing space is always on the minds of urban gardeners in particular, and these Felt Wall Planter Envelopes from Spade and Feather are a great option.  They’re eco-friendly (made from Eco-Felt, 100% recycled plastic), easy to hang, and make vertical gardening accessible to everyone.

 

Mother’s Day Best of the ‘Net

Here is an interview sure to bring on tears.  Myra and her mother, who is intellectually disabled, interviewing each other for NPR’s Story Corps.  Have a hanky ready.

This is darkly hilarious: After Happily Ever After, a take on what happens to Disney Princesses after the end.  It ain’t pretty.

And this, this might make you pee your pants.  It might also give you nightmares: Creepy Things My Kid Said.

Last, but not least, check out our new media page, a list of where the 4 Mothers are published and quoted.

Enjoy!  And have a very happy Mother’s Day.

Ignite the Spark for a Child in Need this Mother’s Day

I love good fundraising campaigns.  I especially love when those campaigns match your donation dollar for dollar.  That’s one powerful incentive to give.

In honour of Mother’s Day, The Children’s Aid Foundation and the Ignite the Spark are fundraising for a campaign to bring extracurricular activities to children in need.  The wonderful thing about this programme is that they commit to a minimum three-year enrolment so that the children have a good, solid chunk of time in which to explore their chosen activities.  It is a guarantee of continuity in lives that often lack that most basic ingredient.  If you make a donation before May 12, your dollars will be matched.  Have a good weekend, all.

No Mother’s Day?

Christy Turlington Burns, most of us know, is a model.  But she’s also a maternal health advocate who began a campaign called Every Mother Counts, an organization devoted to reducing maternal mortality.  The World Health Organization estimates that 360,000 girls and women die each year from complications related to children, most of which are preventable through basic, proven health care services.

To raise awareness about this issue, Turlington Burns proposes that in lieu of Mother’s Day, mothers band together for “No Mother’s Day”, encouraging mothers to “disappear” for the day,  “out of solidarity with those who needlessly die in pregnancy and childbirth.  We believe that in acting together, we can show just how much a mother is missed when she is gonefor the day in solidarity with those who needlessly die in pregnancy and childbirth.  We believe that in acting together, we can show just how much a mother is missed when she is gone.”

Without further ado, here is a two minute video clip, directed by her husband, shouting out about No Mother’s Day.

So we throw our weight behind this pressing, heart-breaking issue.

And then, from 4Mothers to you, we can’t help but wish you a very lovely Mother’s Day, for all you do, each and every day.

The Perfect Mother’s Day Gift

This past Christmas I gave my husband, a great gift!

Nope.  It’s not what you’re thinking.

I wanted to give him something personal but also something that would be useful.  I had contemplated some sentimental ideas and while they definitely would tug at his heartstrings and be a memorable gift, nothing seemed to be the right fit.

While searching online, I discovered Canadian company, Riverstone Designs and their LoveLinx Collection.  The collection of pendants, bracelets, earrings, cufflinks and key chains are beautifully crafted sterling silver jewelry personalized by your child’s thumbprint and/or photo.

I selected the cufflinks for my husband’s Christmas present.  The design of the cufflinks is modern and sophisticated and the craftsmanship is impeccable.

Because I have three boys, I did three cufflinks each personalized with their thumbprint and name (on the back).  While some may see the odd pairing of links as a need to have a fourth child (by some, I mean my mother!), others see it as a need for the artists of Riverstone Design to increase their men’s line.

Mother’s Day is just around the corner and a meaningful gift from Riverstone Design, LoveLinx Collection would make a special gift.  The Circle of Love pendant for $60, tops my list (hint, hint) but any of the various bracelets (starting at $80) and necklaces (from $42) that have been personalized with my boys’ prints would make me smile.

Act fast . . . orders for Mother’s Day must be placed by the end of March.

Disclaimer:  The author of this post did not receive any product or money from Riverstone Design, LoveLinx Collection.  I just love the cufflinks they created for me and I wanted to spread the word!

photocredit: www.ohbabymagazine.com