Nothing like a national holiday to make you feel completely out of place?
When it comes to certain holidays, I kind of have a love-hate relationship with the whole shebang. And I think that?s natural, because I?ve grown up without much family, so approaching holidays often feel like a cold and wet reminder to the the fact that I?ve spent so many aloneorintoxiccompany.
But Mother?s Day? Mother?s Day holds a special place in my heart as the holiday I loathe the most.
First of all, when I was growing up, my mother had this thing where she ?didn?t like attention.? And she?d tell me and my sister not to even mention certain holidays–namelyherbirthdayandMother?s Day.
You might think it would be simple and that would be that. But then she?d make a huge, epic deal about her own mom?s birthday and the three of us would usually go to our grandma?s apartment for Mother?s Day.
So as a kid, it was very confusing. Did she really want us not to say or do anything?
She?d often complain about grandma being too demanding and expecting too much. When we came home she?d say that you could tell grandma thought her gift should have been bigger. I didn?t know how she knew that but at some point along the way I thought my mom could read minds.
And she?d complain about how no one did anything for her.
So to this day–and I?m 35–I?m never sure what I should actually do. At the very least, I err on the side of caution and say, ?I know you didn?t want me to say anything, but? happy Mother?s Day?? And years where I?m doing well enough financially, I give her a nice gift.
But there?s always this underlying idea my mom puts out about the holidays that to celebrate a person is somehow selfish. And that I certainly shouldn?t want that kind of attention formyself.
So that?s my first problem with Mother?s Day–for as long as I can remember, mine?s been steeped in confusion.
My second issue with it lies in my being a single mom.
I have a four year old little girl and she?s the best thing I?ve ever done with my life, she really is. Motherhood hasn?t been easy, but I?m proud of myself as a mom.
Yet every year, Mother?s Day approaches and I feel like shit. Dammit, it?s May 1st. Everyone is getting ready for a holiday and I can?t help but feel like no one sees me. Or that they see me, and they know I?m doing something really hard, but it just doesn?t matter. Like I don?t matter.
Maybe this makes me selfish, because I do want someone to remember me on Mother?s Day. I want someone to realize that my four year old can?t thank me on her own,notyet. And it?s not the same trying to teach her myself that mom deserves a little recognition.
With social media, we get a much closer glimpse into holidays and the way the people around us celebrate them. (A lot of fake happiness there, I know.) BUT I still feel left out. I see families celebrating together, I see moms going out to brunch or tea, all dressed up with their kids.
And I take a tangent–thinking about how between my being so freaking fat and putting my daughter first when it comes to clothes shopping, I don?t have anything to wear to that kind of thing. It?s one more part of the female experience that I don?t believe belongs to me. I don?t really know what it?s like to feel feminine and wear dresses with ease. PCOS and lipedema make me feel more like a monster or perpetual ugly duckling.
And even more than that?
No one is going to invite us to tea or brunch. Mother?s Day is for families. And I?m living in this state where my daughter is my only family. I?m glad my daughter can know her dad, step mom, step sisters, half brothers and grandma down here. I moved down here so she?d have more people to love her and not just me. But, honestly? This move has been terrible on my mental and emotional health because I remain so isolated.
I have a few friends and many nice acquaintances, and when I say I?m so alone I never want to make anyone who?s done kind things for us feel badly. I just think? many people are generally out of touch with what it?s like to be a single mom without a strong support system.
The people I know down here have parents and spouses and in many cases, a lifetime of local friends. I?m still feeling like a fish out of water. I only really have a social life when I?m dating someonelocal. Did I mention I?m demisexual? So yeah, that?s fun.
Recently a married family man down here told me that I?m not as alone as I think I am, and that everyone sees what I?m doing and that they know it?s one of the hardest things in the world.
If that?s true, why is it so hard to find anyone who has time to spend with meandacknowledgethatI?mnotjust amombutapersontoo? Why am I always worried about holiday plans?
Maybe it?s easy to look at me and write me off. This is my fault. I got involved with someone who didn?t respect me. We had a child and this is my life. I should grow up, quit feeling sorry for myself and change my life if I don?t like it.
I still feel strongly that single parents need a lot more than most anyone wants to believe or give. And this isn?t a ?poor me? issue. This is a mental health issue.
On my first Mother?s Day as a mom, my daughter?s dad took us to The Lego Movie, got himself a 6 buck Icee, and didn?t ask me if I wanted anything. Our daughter was an infant and slept through the whole thing, waking up only when he dropped us off back home so he could spend the holiday with his then girlfriend? and I could continue my new job of momming.
The next Mother?s Day I was back in Minnesota. My daughter and I were living with a couple that had an extra room and let us live there for free while I was getting back on my feet. I don?t know what I did on Mother?sDay that year, but what stands out to me is how someone anonymous mailed me a card with $50 gift cards to Target, Whole Foods and Trader Joe?s. They wrote that I wasn?t forgotten. That one made me cry in a good way. I remember thinking that someone out there understood how single moms need occasional love bombs. And I never figured out who did it. But they remain in my heart whomever they might be.
The next year when my daughter was two, her dad and I were fighting a lot by email. For Mother?s Day he sent me a $40 Amazon gift card which he signed, ?from my selfish penis.? Sigh.
Last year her dad had our daughter say Happy Mother?s day inin a3secondvideoclip. She was all dressed up and celebrating with his family because he?s remarriedandhasamillionkids.
I had let my daughter stay at her dad?s that weekend because I was trying to manage a heavy workload to support her (I work from home),andIdidn?t knowwhat elsetodoonmyown. One friend had a really sweet idea to take my daughter out shopping at Walmart. My daughter picked out a rainbow bandanna, a flower candle holder, a pink cup and a great cat card. It was precious to see what she picked out! But I felt guilty about it because I had complained about Mother?sDay on Facebook and I was still really blue about being alone on the holiday itself.
This year? what can I say that I haven?t already vented about on Facebook any other year? Well, this year is off to a banging start because I stupidly wrote to my daughter?s dad about how disappointing this move to Tennessee has been and how he could be kinder and more supportive at the holidays. Like help our daughter pick out a card and gift for him. [I have a history of giving him Christmas gifts, birthday gifts and Father?s Day gifts even when he?s done nothing for me because I want my daughter to know you GIVEinlife, not just get.
Unfortunately, venting to her dad caused him to run to his wife to protect him from my words and she lectured me that he?s HER HUSBAND and I am NEVER to speak to him so disrespectfully.
Yup, Mother?s Day still a lonely holiday for me. This year, work is not going well, and finances are extremely tight, so it?s not like I?m going to treat myself. I can?t help but wish we had family that wanted both of us around.
But this year, I am going to keep my daughter with me rather than having her stay at her dad?s so I can work. We?ll probably watch the Llama Llama Mother?s Day episode. I?ll try to make the day fun.
Sohey, if I have your attention, let?s talk about the single moms in your community. Let?s talk about what they need.
Believe it or not, they need the same things as any mom with a spouse or partner and plenty of family support.
It?s just that they just need extra aid in meeting those needs since they don?t have the help at home.
Off the top of my head, single moms need:
A break. And I?m not just talking about the break we get when our kids go to their dad?s house and we get to decide what?s most important to tackle–housecleaning, job-related work, laundry, errands, etc. We have a running to-do list and without help it is simply neverending. We need a real break like dinner out, or a movie. Something that makes us feel human again.
Friends. Not fair-weather friends. And not just convenient friends. Not just church friends who only want to convert us. We need friends who can remind us that we?re more than ?just a mom.? We need friends who check in on us because god knows how much we worry living alone.
I mean, if something ever happened to me at home, if I had an accident and couldn?t call for help, how many days would my four year old be stuck with no one to find her? This is something I think about because there?s no one I talk to everyday. I can go weeks without talking to another adult because I work from home, don?t drive, and have no social life.
Help. And I?m going to argue that the help we need might not be the help you think we need. I?ve got a boxspring sitting against a wall in my bedroom that I no longer need and don?t know how to get it out of the housealone. There are curtains I don?t know how to hang since I?m not handy and I don?t have all the tools. There?s a light bulb that I?m just dreading when it burns out because I?m not sure how to remove the light fixture. Sometimes help around the house is perfect.
And helping us meet tangible needs? That?s amazing. Gift cards are one of the greatest things because it says you trust us to shop without being told precisely what to spend it on. Trust me, it?s astounding how many people are comfortable telling single moms what to do. All the time.
If you give a single mom a gift card, take it a step further if possible and offer to help her get to the store to use it, and maybe take her out to lunch or to simply say they deserve good things too.
A real supportsystem. No one can make it through this life alone and stay sane. We ALL need a hand in some way from time to time. We all need some kind of companionship. It?s not weakness to admit these things. Sometimes support is just a listening earandsometimesit?s moretangibleaid,butthebasicpremiseisthatyoudon?tgiveupon them.
Many crisis centers and faith-based programs for single mothers kick them out when the child is 18 monthsold. Well, guess what, my daughter is four and I?m STILL getting back on my feet. I have friends who have completely written us off too because it?s taken too long. But it?s not a linear process. Things can get better for a while and then suddenly worse again. Without it being our fault.
Regular invitations. I feel like this is the hardest one. It?s very nice to occasionally include a person in your plans a few times a year, and if that?all you can do, fine. But I?ve got to say that it seems to surprise a lot of people that a handful of interactions with real live people a few times a yearisn?tenough. Ideally? Every single mom needs at least three to four people who will give her an invite to something in their world about once a month. Even if it?s just taking a walk. We need something to look forward to.
Grace. Personally I worry about being a bad friend. I worry about being a charity case. I worry about being too needy. And I?m ashamed at how little I juggle compared to some other moms. Working from home, caring for my daughter, and now trying to create a career for myself in writing? I don?t know how to juggle morethanthat.
I?m already drowning. So I?m probably not going to do the things I used to dobeforemotherhood, like bake cookies or invite people over for dinner. Though I think I might start to be able to do more of that if I can get to a better place with my mental health. And I think my mental would be better off if I had more human interaction.
In the meantime, I need a lot of grace. I have asperger?s and certain expectations may not always be obvious to me. I often feel like I have nothing to offer anyone and I?m just in the way since moving down here. Help me find a place. And give me grace for my mistakes because I don?t always know better.
I don?t think I?m alone in feeling all of these things. I suspect there are plenty of moms like me falling through the cracks everyday. And I suspect that most people just don?t get it because they have someone to turn to when things get really rough. They see single moms as someone else?s responsibility. They tell us to go to church. Sigh.
The good news in all of this is that I?m a mom. I?m doing something I never thought I could do–especiallynotalone. And before I know it, things will get better. Maybe I don?t completely believe that. But I?ve got to try. My daughter and I share a very sweet bond,andwehaveagoodrelationship. If there?s one thing I?m sure about, it?s that if I keep putting in the work, we?re going to have a great lifelong relationship. We?re breaking toxic family cycles over here. Maybe it comes with pain along the way.
But maybe through the pain I can help others.
And that is why I?m here on Medium telling strangers all about my often embarrassing life.