I became a mother in September 2009, my son passing away just an hour after taking his first breath. When my first Mother’s Day rolled around eight months later, I was drowning in a thick haze of grief overlaid with the pain and trauma of infertility. The next five Mother’s Days were a lonely reminder of the loss I had experienced and what my body was incapable of achieving.
In 2015, I adopted my daughter while living in the country of my origin, India. Last year I chose not to celebrate our first Mother’s Day together as the day still unravels a raft of emotions for me. The only saving grace is that I know I’m not alone.
It’s not just women who have watched their children die who dread Mother’s Day. Many women (and men for that matter) suffer in silence as their children are lost through miscarriage, their status as parents invisible. Then there are those whose membership to the motherhood club eludes them. Research has found that even women who are childless by choice feel excluded on Mother’s Day. And of course, many have already lost their mother, leaving them with no one to celebrate the day with.
While I empathise with those who find Mother’s Day difficult, choosing not to celebrate is not just a statement in solidarity. Motherhood is not new. It’s something that women have been doing since the dawn of time and I don’t see the point of singling out a day to celebrate it.
Mothers are not martyrs who should be placed on a pedestal because they care for their young. It’s this pressure that leaves so many women struggling to separate themselves from being a parent. After all, how many men cite being a parent as their greatest achievement?
Motherhood is a role that I’ve chosen to enrich my own life. In fact, becoming a mother is probably one of the most selfish things I’ve ever done. My children are the most affected, yet neither of them had a choice in the matter.
Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mother and I fought hard for the privilege. Motherhood is wonderful but it doesn’t define everything I am. This is a valuable fact that I want my daughter to learn, because if statistics are anything to go by, she may never be a mother. She can be many things: a friend, business owner, student, partner, colleague, athlete, prime minister, and yes, a mother if she chooses. The only thing she can’t opt out of is being my daughter, and perhaps that’s something she’ll want to celebrate when she’s old enough to choose.
Motherhood is not new. It’s something that women have been doing since the dawn of time and I don’t see the point of singling out a day to celebrate it.
Being a mother, to both of my children, is a privilege that I am incredibly grateful for. It has stretched my emotional and mental fibres to their limits, and given me the unadulterated joy that comes with a child’s warm hugs. It’s also accelerated the whitening of my hair and contributed to the growing number of worry lines on my forehead, but it hasn’t made me feel like I need to be part of a special club.
By holding up motherhood as a prize, we exclude those who are not part of the club, isolate those who silently suffer from grief or infertility, and tell our children that our mothers should be cherished only once a year.
I celebrate being a mother every day because I know what a gift it is. And while I’d never turn down breakfast in bed or a new pair of slippers, I won’t be upset if the day passes without fanfare. I’d prefer that my daughter shows gratitude and celebrates those who she loves every single day, not just when Hallmark tells her to.