Mother’s Day or Un-Mother’s Day?

For me, Mother’s Day is a sweet holiday that links me to generations of mothers who came before me and who will no doubt follow.  And it always looks like flowers in my mind.

I come from a long line of flower loving mothers and grandmothers.  Both of my grandmothers had the southern ‘green thumb’.  They could make anything grow and flourish.  They could ‘root’ cuttings for us to take home and plant in our own gardens.  And we were never allowed to say the words ‘thank you’.  That was tantamount to killing it before it was ever planted in the ground.

Another superstition I suppose.

And of course, flowers are flourishing at this time of year.  Roses, foxgloves, peonies, flowering shrubs.  They are floral reminders of earth’s abundance.

They were also symbles of our mothers.  A red rose worn to church on Mother’s Day meant your mother was still with you.  A white one meant she was deceased.  We’ve gotten away from that over the past few years, but I remember the arduous ways my own mother protected her flowering rose bushes so that we would all have the appropriate color for that day.  A little baby’s breath might be tucked underneath it.  The scent of roses wafting from the pews mixed with the Estee Lauder Youth Dew fragrance from the women and the English Leather cologne on the men.

After the service, we would all climb in the boat-sized Cadillac with the scratchy seat coverings and take hanging baskets or potted plants to our grandmother’s houses.  Often we took covered dishes and had lunch with first one and then the other of them.  We would still be in our ‘church clothes’ and expected not to mess them up.  Hard to do when you are a child.

I am fortunate to still have my mother, though both of my grandmothers have been gone for a long time.  And I am doubly fortunate to get to be a mother.  What an honor and a blessing.

And my own experience as a mom on Mother’s Day is filled with the most abundant recollections of crayon drawing cards, hand painted pottery, chubby fists of violets, breakfast in bed, reminders the week or two before that I should be extra nice because ‘remember what Sunday is’!

My husband is also extra thoughtful on Mother’s Day.  He has never failed to make me feel special on Mother’s Day.

But having said all of that, I am thinking about the ones of us who will not be celebrating this holiday.  I have recently been reminded that not everyone has a gallery of fond memories on display in their minds of past Mother’s Day experiences.  Maybe they had a mother who drank too much or used drugs or simply wasn’t there.  Maybe they couldn’t please their mother or was abused in some way – mentally or physically.  We forget about these people sometimes when we shower those we meet along the street with cheerful ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ greetings.

One lady I know says this just reminds her of the fact that she isn’t a mother and probably never will be.  Adoption?  Not always an option.

A radio show that I sometimes listen to had people call in with what they wanted for Mother’s Day.  They asked that the answers be unique, since we all love the handmade cards and misshapen pottery.  I don’t think they expected what they then received.

The callers wanted to be left alone.

They didn’t want to have to smile sweetly and show up for cafeteria lines with mothers and mother-in-laws who made them feel ‘less than’ most of the time.  They didn’t want to hear strangers bestowing ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ greetings to them when they had tried and tried and failed to become mothers.  They didn’t want to face another weekend of commercials on television reminding them to show appreciation to their mothers when they hadn’t seen them in years, or pleased them in decades.  Some wanted to forget that their dear mothers had died young and left them so bereaved that it was horrific to get through.

It was hard to listen to, but probably necessary for all of us.  Holidays can be painful reminders of a gaping wound, and what could ever be worse than the hole left where a mother should be or should have been.

And sometimes the best mothers aren’t the ‘biological’ mothers.  Maybe they are school teachers, friends, neighbors, grandmothers, aunts, babysitters, nannies.   And sometimes they are fathers.  Just as some mothers have been mother and father to their children, so it goes with fathers who have patiently ‘mothered’ their babies.

For you, I am offering yellow flowers.  For all the un-mothers and un-mothered, I am sending good thoughts for a peaceful weekend.

For the rest of us, the lucky ones, I hope it etches a clear memory that brings a nice smile when you recall it.




  1. Thanks for post. I think we both read the same blogger who posted about mothers who were less than sterling. Medea comes to mind. I lost my mom…and I was angry with her for leaving me, but I was fortunate because underneath the anger was sorrow at her loss. You see she was my best friend. Adore her…she is, I believe alive in spirit. I Commemorate her and all moms living and who have gone on…on my blog, here. Enjoy the read (also, there is a giveaway…don’t know if you saw it).
    Have a lovely day tomorrow.

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Renee. I’ve often wondered, when I’ve been wished “Happy Mother’s Day” by someone who doesn’t know if I’m a mother or not, how would it feel to someone who wasn’t, for whatever reason? I guess we should be more thoughtful.

    1. And often people assume that just because someone is of the female gender and of a certain age, that they are indeed mothers. I wished a friend who I knew was a mother a ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ and she informed me that she wouldn’t be seeing her child and walked off with a painful expression. Don’t know what that was about, but it was’t good.

      1. Maybe we should just stick to telling our own mothers, if they are still with us!

  3. Thoughtful post today, Renee. I smiled at the memories as I read it. And I feel sad for those who aren’t mothers or who had less than loving mothers, but I grew up without a father (he died when I was an infant). So…. Father’s Day was very difficult for me. But I learned to live with it, and didn’t expect everyone around me to not celebrate Father’s Day just because I couldn’t. I think we sometimes have to “harden ourselves” and overlook things that upset us, rather than expecting the world to give in to the minority. (Just my opinion, of course!)
    Happy Mother’s Day to you – and you’re right: being a mother is an honor, a privlege and a blessing!

    1. I can’t imagine that you are ‘hardened’ about anything. I think knowing the painful reminders ‘soften’ us instead. And I have read enough of your tender posts to understand that you are caring and empathetic – and a good mom! Happy Mother’s Day Dianna.

  4. This is a difficult Mother’s Day as it is the first time ever I have not been speaking to my mother on this day. Unfortunately, it is due to her treatment of my husband and she has placed me in a difficult situation. I think it is hard to know what to do when a parent forces you to choose between herself and your spouse. At least my own son has made the day special for me with flowers and his wacky chocolate chip pancakes. Have a very happy Mother’s Day, Renee.

    1. Selma, I hope the estrangement will be short lived. But sometimes we have to draw lines and it can be difficult for some parents to release control over their children. I hope I have taught mine to make his own decisions and that I will respect them. I’m glad your son is making your day bright and cheerful.

  5. Ah, Youth Dew! Haven’t thought of that fragrance in a long time, but I remember it too…
    Those southern traditions do hold up, don’t they? Sweet memories, and I’m so glad you are one of the lucky ones, as I am, and that Mother’s Day brings good thoughts of mothers, grandmothers, and your own experience in that role.

    I too, feel so blessed that this day is sorrow-free for me. But thank you for your thoughtful and moving words reminding us that for many people, this day is a reminder of loss, of what might have been, of what couldn’t be. No greeting card can cure those hurts. ~ Sheila

  6. I can’t get away from the southern roots I suppose. I wasn’t even thinking about fragrance, but when I started writing, the scent memory returned – strongly. I am glad this will be a sorrow-free day for you and for me – for now. You never know when the curve ball is coming at you though. I hope your day is fantastic Sheila.

  7. I can’t thank you enough for this post. I just had a conversation about someone who sent me a “Mother’s Day” video. I was included in his mailing list. My initial thought was what was he thinking? I tried to watch it so I could give some constructive comments as video/TV producer. It didn’t take long for me to be in tears and have to turn it off. This man knows I lost my mother at the age of twelve. This man also knows that due to cancer treatments I was not able to have children no matter the method. Cancer patients are not the best candidates for adoption. This has always been a very difficult day for me and I try to lay low and away from the festivities so as not to bring anyone else down. It was very kind of you to acknowledge this for people like me. Somehow I don’t think this simple act of kindness took anything away from you celebrating your day. In fact it probably made you appreciate it more.
    Thank you,

    1. Michelle, it only makes a day brighter when you can recognize other’s feelings. You are so right about that. It doesn’t have to be either/or. I hope you find a peaceful place in your heart today and know that I am keeping one in mine for you.

  8. I was writing a comment here yesterday, was almost done, when I went to another Window (or so I thought) to look up spelling for a word. When I tried to come back, my comment and your site had disappeared. In trying to recreate what I was saying, I’ll try to use only words I can spell!

    This is a marvelous post, with its recognition of the joy it brings to joyful Moms and the pain it can bring who don’t have those associations. Our precious Mama is gone, four years now. She would be turning 100 next month, but made it to 95¾ (which she took pains to point out). In retrospect, we hung on her too long with aggressive medical treatments, beyond what she would have liked, but now we can believe that she is resting in peace, and if the tenets of her faith are true, resting with her beloved.

    1. Lee, I commiserate with you in the comment trials. Sometimes the best ones get lost somewhere in the ether. But I love what you posted. It can be difficult to let go of someone, even when we know we should. But 95 3/4 is a pretty significant age and her rest is earned. Happy Mother’s Day Lee.

  9. Happy mothers day my friend! I hope it was wonderful and thank you for the reminder that not all of us have loving or even just mothers in our lives.

  10. Thank you for so capably illustrating all sides of this day; I grew up with a wonderful mother who was/is smart, creative, loving and adaptive. And, lucky for me, I had legions of strong women around; I (stupidly) assumed most had such an experience.

    I read your post and I can’t help but think of my oldest boy who spent the day at his MIL’s house today; she attends church often but throws poisonous words at her children. She lords over them what she feels they owe her and compares (out loud) what they’ve done for her lately. Describing her as hateful would be a compliment.

    but … I grin as I picture him setting his jaw, showing up with a smile and a side dish, and navigating through her stew pot of misery. And I can’t help be reminded of my Mother’s words, “There are no shortage of people who serve as reminders of how not to behave.”

    While I wish they didn’t have to endure her, sometimes I think those miserable ones make us cherish the kind/supportive people they do have, just a little bit more.

    Happy Mother’s Day to you!! Hugs, MJ

      1. You raised that boy right – as we say in the south. I bet he does appreciate you even more for that experience. I hope you’ve had a wonderful day.

  11. A thoughtful post for all…holidays can be really hard on some and it is good that we remember this. Thanks!

    1. I don’t know if you celebrate Mother’s Day in India, but if you don’t, I think you should send one of your posts to your mother that you wrote about her. I imagine she would be very proud.

      1. No we do not celebrate Mother’s Day here. But this trend is already started here. I hope our kids will celebrate this day for sure. 🙂
        My sister told me few months earlier that- My mother read one of my post about her; and she had tears in her eyes after reading that one. It’s been one year, since I last saw her. I really do not know If she is proud of me or not although I hope so; but one thing for sure, she knows how much I love her.

  12. I hope your Mother’s Day weekend was a lovely one. You have a good heart and I agree with you. Great post. 🙂

  13. Beautiful, beautiful. For a lot of years, Mother’s Day was bittersweet for me–I’m blessed with a kick-ass mom myself, but I was told in no uncertain terms that *I* shouldn’t attempt to have children due to a medical condition… I’m happy to say that there was nothing but positive outcome when I ultimately decided to ignore “medical advice” and become Mommy… But I still have, as a reminder, the mournful poems I wrote on those earlier Mother’s Days. Thank you for your thoughtfulness in reaching out to the un-mothers and un-mothered. 🙂 I’m sending a few ladies to your blog this week!

  14. Wow, Kana, thanks. I’m so glad you found something useful in the piece and I do appreciate your sharing it with others. And aren’t you the brave one taking on traditional medical advice and forging ahead with your own ideas about what your life should look like. I think a lot of readers will get something from your comment.

  15. The callers wanted to be left alone on Mother’s Day!!! This SO resonated with me. You know, to have a mother’s day where I don’t have to get up and do the washing at the laundromat and say “don’t forget to wash your breakfast dishes, Daniel” and not have to – well, HAVE to anything, and just spend the day as I will, with my will making up its mind by the minute.

    This was a great post, Freemail. To hear what callers said in response to a unique gift for mother’s day – just perfect info, this was. I’d love all to hear it!

    You know, ever so sweetly my son gave me a CLEO magazine, which I don’t know if you know over there, but is a teenage mag, really, but he said, “I hope it’s the right magazine, but I got it because of the free make up”. Sure enough, it came with “long lash” mascara. I never wear mascara!! I gave it to a 21yo (pregnant!!) girl at work, and said “don’t tell my son” and she loves it. Read CLEO in the bath the other night and said “Oh, sigh, to read a mag in the bath, this is just so great”, and I know my son loved it 🙂

    Yeah, but to be left alone is the best!
    Noeleen /

  16. I like to keep these days simple myself. I don’t want my two to ever feel the pressure of getting me things. I just want them to be healthy and productive in their lives. That’s the best gift they can ever give me.

  17. Renee, this was such a great post about Mother’s Day. What an interesting counterpoint to the happy-go-lucky typical Mother’s Day festivities we normally think of. But you’re so right – it isn’t/wasn’t all rosy for every one out there. Really well-done, my friend.

  18. I love Mother’s Day! My daughter always sends flowers and my son always calls. I get cards from my pets and my husband. It’s a sweet holiday to me!

  19. What an absolutely fabulous piece, Renee. It is as if you wrapped your arms around every mother and un-mother on the planet with amazing compassion and understanding! I have still been overwhelmed with so much in my life that I have been out of the blogging loop now for months. I am so glad I was able to step back in this evening and see this lovely post. I hope to be a regular here again.

  20. Hi, I love this blog! My mother loves planting flowers, as well as my grandmother’s both loved planting everything and anything! I believe it strengthens families!

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