My mom and I won’t be together on Mother’s Day this year. I’m in western New York for a friend’s wedding. She’s home in Maryland—relaxing, I hope, but more likely preparing for another week of teaching. We have a lot in common, especially our love of books and thrift stores. We carry our weight in the same parts of our bodies (sorry for mentioning it, Ma). We both have short hair. We have the same middle name and the same urge to overachieve.
One thing I admire about my mom is her fearlessness when it comes to starting over. A musician for decades, she went to graduate school (again!) in her 40s and became a children’s librarian. She parted ways with the church our family attended for a decade and found a new spiritual home, a church (coincidentally, I’m sure) two blocks from my own apartment. And she’s always down for trying interesting foods, new hobbies, new clothes or exciting hair colors—currently, she’s sporting a platinum pixie cut with lavender tips. She always surprises me. Our relationship isn’t always smooth, but it’s ours.
This week, I’ve collected stories about new moms, missing moms, dead moms and boomer moms, if only to demonstrate that there is no one way to have a mother or not have a mother. Some of us have toxic relationships with our moms and are better off—mentally, physically, spiritually—without them. Some of us have lost our moms to diseases, accidents, or time itself. And still others of us are becoming moms—every day, another Facebook friend announces she’s pregnant. Mother’s Day can be a day of meditation or just another Sunday. But I hope, truly, that it is a day of contentment, no matter how you celebrate.
(Past lists on this holiday include A Collection of Stories About Not Choosing Motherhood and Reading List: Mother’s Day.)
1. “It’s My First Mother Day As A Mom. Now What?” (Meaghan O’Connell, The Cut, May 2015)
Don’t get me wrong, the sentimentalization of motherhood as a stand-in for actually valuing and supporting mothers is horse shit. Give me free day care over flowers and a finger-painted card any day. But I am certainly going to milk this day for all it’s worth.
2. “All the Absent Mothers.” (Antonio Aiello, LitHub, May 2015)
Before she falls asleep, Antonio Aiello’s 8-year-old daughter has a daydream she wants to share.
3. “Are We Destined to Become Our Mothers? A Scientific Investigation.” (Jessica Machado, Broadly, July 2015)
So all those cries of “You just don’t get meeee!” that you wailed during puberty weren’t completely unfounded–your mom might not have. But that’s probably because no one ever cared to “get” her, either. And likely, it wasn’t just her parents who dismissed her, but her boyfriends, husbands, bosses, pastors, peers, and general society. Yup, our problems with our moms partially stem from a long history of sexism.
4. “This is a Dead Mom Essay.” (Maddie Taterka, Autostraddle, February 2015)
Maddie Taterka was 16 years old when her mother died. When she finally decided to seek out other “dead mom” narratives, she finds solace in Wild and other works by Cheryl Strayed. Taterka has written a remarkable essay about how to come to uncomfortable terms with grief.
5. “The Lessons We’ve Learned From Our Boomer Moms.” (Anne Helen Peterson, BuzzFeed, April 2015)
How we see our moms versus how our moms see themselves, through stories that vary greatly across lines of race and age.
6. “Litany for My Mother’s Body.” (Goldberry Long, The Rumpus, May 2014)
An intimate essay that exemplifies the physicality of womanhood in general and motherhood in particular.