How I felt about Mother’s Day was pretty clear for the first seven years after my mother died: I was not a fan. But eight days before Mother’s Day in 2003, I gave birth to my twin daughters. Suddenly, the day had new meaning. Mother’s Day, with all its hoopla and commercialization, no longer felt like a day whose sole purpose was to remind me—and others like me—that my mother had died. No. Now, it’s so much more complicated.
On Mother’s Day, we get to honor our mothers and celebrate the joys of motherhood and be treated like queens. When Anna Jarvis first created Mother’s Day in the early 20th century, her intent was for each family to honor its mother. And each family I know does do it their own way. When I was growing up, we celebrated Mother’s Day by giving our mother cards. She would say that was all she needed. Maybe for her, Mother’s Day had its own complicated story. I have no idea. I’m sure I never asked. Regardless, I kind of like my mother’s low-key approach.
Life without my mom is frustrating and sad. And it’s lonely, despite my abundant circle of family and friends. Of course I wish she could witness the milestones: my wedding, the girls’ births, birthdays, recitals. But almost more important, I wish she were a phone call away (better yet, a short car trip) to share our daily lives. So many years later, I’m still surprised sometimes when I realize I can’t call her. I think about my mother every day. Sometimes it’s triggered when my girls and I are doing things my mom and I used to do together, like baking and knitting. And sometimes it’s random, like when I’m heading home after dropping them at school. And while my children never got to meet their granny, she’s part of our family story and is very much a part of our normal conversations.
I do love being able to celebrate Mother’s Day as a mom. It symbolizes that I have the honor of parenting my amazing twin daughters. We have our share of conflicts, but they’re 11, so that should come as no surprise. But I also get to witness them blossoming into the women they’re on their way to becoming. I tell them I love them every day, and they still love to kiss and hug. I’ll never know if I would be a different mother if my mom were here, but I suspect my mother’s absence has had a profound influence on my parenting style.
Thankfully, I have three supportive sisters and a wonderful community of friends. I have the friends I consider part of my village, some whose children are about the same stage as mine, some whose kids are just enough older than mine to make them role models for what’s ahead. I have a few of my mother’s friends whom I check in with occasionally, including one in particular who has become both a strong link to my mother and a source of support at the other end of the phone. I feel blessed to have all of these people in my life, supporting me as friends, sisters and fellow mothers—even if they can’t support me as a daughter the way my mother would have.
So to all you women out there, I wish you a nice, fulfilling Mother’s Day, whether you’re a mom, hoping to be a mom, have decided not to be a mom, have a mom to honor, or don’t. Like my mom once did, I am looking forward to just a few really nice, heartfelt cards from my family.
Diane Gardner supervises the Visiting Moms program of Jewish Family and Children’s Service on the North Shore, a free program that matches parents of newborns with a Visiting Mom volunteer for extra support and companionship. She’s also a group leader and heads the sleep program within the Center for Early Relationship Support at JF&CS. Her interests include helping mothers learn to trust their judgment and choices, as well as helping build communities of support. She earned a master’s degree in social work from Boston University and a master’s degree in public policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.