As we approach Mother’s Day, a holiday designed to pay homage to our birth mothers, their mothers, and any other living relatives with the word “mother” in their titles, many people have conflicted feelings about the holiday itself and its obligations.
Not everyone is eager to spend time, effort, and money honoring this individual (or individuals). “Mother” can be a word that engenders ambivalence—that love-hate relationship that many have with their birth parent in their families of origin. For those who were adopted or whose parent or grandparent is deceased, there are questions as to how to honor or recognize someone whose existence is a mystery.
For those without conflict or ambivalence about Mother’s Day, you can stop reading now. But for the rest of you, I’d like to propose some creative ways of dealing with “mother” and Mother’s Day.
Regardless of the hours spent in counseling discussing mother, there may be some consolation in remembering that without her (and without her mother), you wouldn’t be here. For those who are deeply depressed, that isn’t always easy to be happy about, but for others, it may help to keep that in mind. Despite all of her limitations, deficits, and shortcomings, you do exist.
It may also help to broaden the definition of “mother” to include other people and concepts:
- Those who, in the course of your life, have nurtured you. I’m talking about aunts, teachers, mothers of friends, therapists, guidance counselors, and more. Some of these individuals may have become mother surrogates or “mothers of choice.”
- The earth as Mother. After all, we do call her “Mother Earth” for a reason. Without her, we couldn’t exist. Perhaps give a few words of thanks and appreciation for the earth that sustains us all. By the same token, we might also offer her an apology for the destruction we have caused and continue to cause.
- Spiritual mothers. In my role as a Yoruba Priest, I pay homage to Yemonja, the mother of all waters, and Olokun, the Orisa that lives in the bottom of the ocean. Without them, there would be no life and in many cases, not much to eat. All religions have one or many prominent mother figures—Mary, in the Catholic faith, is the first who comes to mind.
- Mothering ourselves. At some point, whether we have internalized from our birth mothers the tools and techniques of self-care or have had to learn them on our own, it is essential that at some point we take over the role of mother to ourselves. We can do this by respecting our bodies, minds, and spirits. We can be self-caring in simple and basic ways such as eating properly, getting enough rest, exercising, and having fun as often as possible.
- Mothering others. Not codependently, but in a nurturing and supportive way. Humans are the best for receiving our mothering, but we can also mother an animal. Dogs are great for that and they give a lot of thanks in return. On a more involved level, this might also include fostering a child, volunteering at a non-profit that focuses on children in need, delivering food to shut-ins, and more.
So on Mother’s Day, whether you battle crowds, traffic, and overpriced meals and flowers, or stay home grieving the loss of an actual mother or good mothering, remember that there are many ways to celebrate motherhood.
© Copyright 2010 by Kalila Borghini, LCSW, therapist in New York City, New York. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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