Are you my mother?

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY. If you are someone who has pushed another human out of your body and managed to keep it alive, kudos to you!

I’ve never given much thought to this holiday, because of all the made-up holidays it seems fairly innocuous. If you happen to have a mother who is alive and likes you, take her to brunch or something (or maybe make her brunch, as all the brunch places are full today). If you happen to be a mother, don’t take it personally if your kids don’t take you to brunch. All the brunch places are full.

Yesterday, I read this essay by Anne Lamott on why she is anti-Mother’s-Day, and she brings up a few things worth pondering as you wait for your brunch.

Mothers are not superior beings. In fact, many mothers are not even equipped to be mothers. My mother certainly never was. I appreciate her efforts to parent, but she was mentally ill and usually couldn’t even manage to feed me. Mothers are flawed humans like the rest of us, and the best mothers I know are the ones who put being a person before being a mother. The best thing you can do for your kids is teach them how to be a functional adult, by example.

Mothers are not the only adults who matter to children. Thankfully. It really does take a village, and even kids with two great parents are raised by that whole village. The best mothers are the ones who allow and encourage influence from other adults.

Lamott writes, “I hate the way the holiday makes all non-mothers, and the daughters of dead mothers, and the mothers of dead or severely damaged children, feel the deepest kind of grief and failure.” Is that true? If it is, we should definitely outlaw this holiday, because that’s almost everyone. I don’t feel grief or failure. My mother won’t call me today, because she’s crazy and has changed her status to my “non-mom” — and more recently incoherent “aunt Betsy.” She never wants to speak to me again, for ETERNITY (she emphasizes).

My grandma — who was functionally my mother — died when I was twelve. She wasn’t the “perfect” mother, partly because she really did not want to be a housewife, and yet she had three kids before she was 23. She was depressed and resentful when her kids were young. If birth control had been more accessible to young women in the 1940s, there’s a good chance I would not exist. My mom was the third unplanned pregnancy. Grandma resented motherhood, but she loved being a grandma. I was born when she was about the age I am now, and I guess she was finally ready for babies. Thankfully. My mom had a “nervous breakdown” when I was six months old and basically handed me over to grandma.

I don’t have kids, but I don’t feel like that means I’ve chosen an easier or less noble path. Today I will celebrate the fact that I was able to parent myself and become a relatively functional adult without functional parents. Today I give thanks to the whole village that raised me.

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