MOTHER’S DAY… when you’re not one

With Mother’s Day fast approaching I think it’s time for a shout out to those among us who find Mothering Sunday less than straightforward; for those who find it a challenge; and for those for whom it is truly painful.

I’m talking about those who have lost a child; those who have lost a mother; those who are estranged from their child or gave a child up for adoption; those who are estranged from their mothers or who long to meet a birth mother; those women who are trying ever more desperately to become a mother; those who fear they have left it too late to become a mother; and those who know they will never ever become a mother, the childless not by choice; me. We all at times have found Mother’s Day to be a day of sadness, of regret, of uncomfortable envy, or a simple hollow emptiness.

Mother’s Day is rarely a day of difficulty for me now. It’s like any grieving process, in that often the ‘special days’, the anniversaries, birthdays, Christmas, the days where you might expect to miss a loved one the most, they often pass without the raw pain that might have been anticipated. I find and I’m sure it’s common, that grief (in whatever its form) can revisit at the most unexpected times and can catch you unawares. Small random moments bringing with them a huge sense of loss. The big days we know are coming and whilst that doesn’t mean the pain can be avoided, it can be prepared for. It’s certainly difficult not to notice Mother’s Day heading our way. So, what to do if you’re struggling? It might be a bit Pollyannish to say focus on the positive and all that’s good in your life but it can work. I like to think of those exhausted, taken for granted, mothers who are being made to feel special that day.

The glory of Mother’s Day is that it is simply a day when people show kindness and do something nice for their mums. If the day is a difficult one for you then try being that kind, loving, thoughtful sweet natured child to yourself. Have the flowers, the lovely meal (though I’m not suggesting inflicting on yourself a visit to a restaurant full of smiling mums) but treat yourself to something. I think the childless not by choice would do well (if you are able) to indulge in a bit of self-care on Mother’s Day. I’m sure we can all think of some small thing that makes us feel good, a walk in the country, a good book, a foaming pint in a pub with a glowing fire, a feel-good uplifting film, a footy match; cake.

If buying a wonderful ‘To Me, From Me’ gift (the very best gifts in my opinion) or inhaling a large box of chocolates or a bottle of pink champagne or both, isn’t going to do it for you, then allow yourself a wee wallow in the grief of childlessness. You are entitled to feel sad, there is no need to suppress it; give in to it and allow your sorrow to bubble up. These feelings never last forever and it will surely feel better than pretending the day means nothing.

You might even manage a chuckle at some of the naff ‘perfect’ Mother’s Day gifts. I can scoff at the commercialisation of the day but I cannot feel glad I’ve escaped it, I would have cheerfully endured a crass little teddy with a pink heart saying I was the best mum in the world. When I have witnessed a tardy, half-hearted über quick card selection and dash for a bunch of daffs late afternoon on Mothering Sunday, I have felt for the mother for whom the offspring clearly finds this ‘special’ day rather a chore, a box that has to be ticked; at the very least I have never been that.

Extract from my memoir Dear You: A Letter to my Unborn Children

‘What would we have done on Mother’s Day? Would you have selected something for me from the pink wall of flowers and hearts that appear in all the supermarkets in early March. Would we have enjoyed an overpriced roast meal in an overcrowded local restaurant? Or would you have been a little more creative and if you weren’t, would I have minded? I fear it has all gone a bit mad. I recall receiving an email from Apple one year about treating Mum to an iPad for Mother’s Day – whaaat? Whatever happened to a bunch of daffs and a bar of fruit and nut, or breakfast in bed, or simply an offer to do the washing up?

Mother’s Day has at times been an awkward day of sadness for me and mostly I have dealt with it by focusing on my own dear mum. I remember one occasion when Des and I took my late mother-in-law (and her elderly mother) out for lunch on Mothering Sunday and the very thoughtful restaurateurs gave each mother a little potted polyanthus to take home. I, of course, left empty handed and feeling excluded. I also felt mean. It was a nice gesture, very much appreciated by the mums present, so why did I have to turn it into a slight against me when it wasn’t one? Gawd, I don’t even like polyanthus.’