Happy Mmmm…ental Health Day

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day.  It’s a hard day for me for two reasons:

1. I live really far away from my mom and can’t afford to see her more than once a year.

2. I can’t have kids.

Mother’s Day for me is like Valentine’s Day for singles: a flower-and-card-filled reminder of what I don’t have.  I get depressed and slightly jealous when I hear friends talk about an afternoon of lunch and shopping with mom.  And while I do not want a baby at the moment, I can’t stand feeling the pity, embarrassment, or worse, the judgment of other people who expect me to sit at home and weep every night over my malfunctioning reproductive system.

It’s hard to ignore any holiday in this culture.  I went to Wal-Mart this morning, and every open space in the store is stuffed with (slightly nasty) roses, tulips, and corsages.  The card section is awash in pink envelopes; the seasonal section overflows with chocolate and stuffed animals.  Commercials and billboards and printed ads scream out Mother’s Day reminders every which way you turn.  It’s one gigantic Infertility/1,500 Miles-From-Your-Mom Awareness Day.

But the worst is church.  Church is the place where you can leave the materialism and frustrations of the world behind and commune with the Divine, right?  Nope. Mother’s Day at my church begins with the pastor wishing everyone a Happy Mother’s Day.  He’ll mention it again in the pastoral prayer and at least once during the sermon.  Then he’ll ask all the mothers to stand up, please (infertile women, sit!  Stay!).  While all the mothers are standing and lovely music is being played, the deacons and elders go around and deliver roses to each woman standing up (ovaries don’t function?  No rose for you!).

I know this sounds bitter and angry, so let me clarify.  I’m genuinely happy for all the wonderful mothers out there.  Motherhood is a beautiful gift from God, and mothers deserve respect.  But you know what?  I deserve respect too.  I deserve to be loved for who I am and valued for my contributions to the world even though I’m not adding to its population.  I “mother” about a hundred kids a year in the English classes I teach.  I encourage, persuade, warn, edify, counsel, pray for and cheer for each one of them.  I not only give them skills and knowledge they’ll need to be successful in the future, I also cherish a parental affection for them.  I would even venture to say that because I’m not focused on raising my own children, I have more love and attention to give my students.

While I know in my heart that all this is true, Mother’s Day will continue to be difficult for me until the rest of the world learns it.  In the meantime, I’ve made Mother’s Day into a Mental Health Day for myself: I stay home from church, watch my favorite movies, Skype with my mom, and cook a delicious lunch.  No guilt, no embarrassment, no frustration.  I need to stay mentally healthy and well-balanced so that I can do what I feel called to do.  Few people may recognize my achievements as being just as significant as those of a mother: I’ll never get a rose in church, and I might not ever live closer than 500 miles to my mom.  But I’ve set my eyes on what’s ahead, and I’m not looking back.  Not ever.

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