In the United States, today was Mother’s Day.
It started for me with a kiss from my husband, who is back from his travels on a temporary basis before moving to Puerto Rico permanently. We’re officially legally separated now, but it’s amicable enough and he’s sticking around until the house is officially sold.
My nineteen-year-old son, of course, was sound asleep when I got up. (I got some dark chocolate from him later, yay.)
I went off to try something new — a communal session of Buddhist meditation at a friend’s house. When I got there she wished me a Happy Mother’s Day and I reciprocated before I remembered that she had no children. I corrected it to “Happy Nurturing Others Day,” since she certainly does plenty of that. Still, I saw her face and I think I may have caused her some pain.
Sometimes I need to remind myself that my two main characters in The Awful Mess probably connected at least partly because they were both people who had felt left out as their peers married and had families. Mary’s husband had dumped her because they thought she was infertile. Winslow hadn’t landed a wife yet and wasn’t the kind to have a kid out of wedlock. (He wasn’t even the kind to have sex out of wedlock, when we first meet him.)
My husband and I had to resort to artificial insemination to get pregnant. He already had a daughter, and she was (and is) delightful, but she was already 13 when we married and she lived with her mother during the school year. I felt pretty bereft without a child of my own, so I’m very glad that we were eventually able to conceive Alejandro. We weren’t so lucky the second time we tried.
I bring this up because on days like this, it’s perhaps useful to be reminded that not every woman has had the good fortune to have a child. Other simply may not have ever wanted one. For those for whom this isn’t a voluntary situation, or just for those who are tired of the constant drumbeat of society’s expectations, Mother’s Day can be a painful holiday.
If this is a day that reminds you of frustrations or regrets you may better be able to keep at bay the rest of the year, I am so sorry.
It’s also worth remembering that mothering is something we can all do, and there’s no particular reason we must restrict it to our own flesh and blood. Tonight, I salute all of you who take the time to nurture any other person or creature.