Courtesy Cat Bowen

When The Pressure Of Mother's Day Actually Ruins The Whole Thing

As we round the calendar toward Mother's Day, I find myself at best unenthused, and at worst, irritated. It was designed to be this day where we celebrate the mothers in our lives, giving them "a day off," letting them relax, sit back on their motherly thrones, and be worshipped for the maternal goddesses they are. But in reality, it's often just one more day where we as mothers feel the need to be perfect, have the perfect day, to celebrate perfectly. The pressure of Mother's Day can be overwhelming, and it's time we start acknowledging that.

When I picture the second Sunday in May, my throat starts to seize up. It's so much competition over the pomp and frippery that's designed to be some sort of grateful recognition of mothering. It's not that I don't think that mothers deserve all the recognition in the world — they do. It's just that when the whole world is clamoring to give you accolades, mothers — myself included — can sometimes feel the expectation of those accolades as exterior pressure. It becomes just one more thing, one extra task that we need to complete exactly as expected, otherwise we can't be "the perfect mother."

There is this assumption that Mother's Day is a supreme gift to the overworked matriarchs of the world. Mothers are recognized everywhere they go from the moment their eyes open until they drag their exhausted bodies into the cradle of their sheets that evening. Restaurants overflow with women donning the corsages that were pinned to them at church that morning. Mothers and daughters celebrate together at brunches that they planned, eating food that they ordered or prepared — emotional labor once again the burden of the mother. Mothers post on social media the pictures of the artwork their children give to them, the gifts they receive. Prices on roses are even higher than they are on Valentine's Day.

We are told that it should be a day when we can do whatever we want. "Take a nap," "go to the spa," "let the rest of us do the work, for once." But when this respite attaches itself under duress, when the intention for relaxation is based on a manufactured sense of ceremony, the expectation creates undue pressure on the one meant to be experiencing the peace. If your partner is not a planner, if you have to work, if you find yourself mired in the quixotic nature of Mother's Day, forced to abandon your plans, it can feel like a loss or a personal failure.

My husband is sweet, and he has many great qualities, but planning for things like a Mother's Day Brunch or a spa day is not one of them. To be fair, I'm insanely picky when it comes to things like that. I micromanage. I am the one who always picks out every restaurant we go to, every meal we eat. It has always been this way. And I feel like I shouldn't have to plan my own Mother's Day. I shouldn't need to make the choices, but at the same time, I worry that any other choice would be the wrong choice. I worry that the restaurant would be too crowded, that I wouldn't like the food, or that the kids wouldn't be dressed appropriately. At least if I am the one planning it, I can only be upset with myself if something goes awry.

And I know that I'm not the only one who has this problem. Many of my mom friends have chatted to me that they want to give over those reins, but because this sort of task has always fallen to them, they feel responsible for it even when it supposedly should be handled by someone else.

The pressure of Mother's Day isn't only in the perceived need for the "perfect" day. It's also in the fact that it can be an emotional battle for many of us. Not everyone has a mother. Some of us don't have great relationships with our mothers, or we don't know how to navigate that space. Single moms face the same expectations for Mother's Day, but they don't have the same support system, so the pressure is even higher for them. They must be planner, party, and parent all wrapped in one. The weight could be excruciating.

I am not arguing that we should do away with Mother's Day — not entirely. I am merely suggesting that we take a step back from the pressure of perfection and allow the day to go as it will. Maybe you celebrate it that Sunday, maybe you choose an arbitrary day in another month that works for you. You can relieve yourself of the burden of the presupposed ideals, and instead enjoy the moments as they come. We are given so few, why allow others encumbrances to be your own?