Thursday, May 8, 2014

Celebrating Me on Mother's Day and How I Became A Father

My husband developed a knack for pissing me off on Mother’s Day.

It started when I was pregnant with our first child.  Mother’s Day hit around my five month mark and I anxiously anticipated the thoughtful gift my husband would surprise me with as the mother of his future child.

I should have braced myself for disappointment.

“Why should I buy you a Mother’s Day present?” Brad asked.  “You’re not a mother yet.”

Having just given up deli meat, my figure, and more importantly, beer, I responded with, “Well, I’m more of a mom right now than you are a dad!”

And when that got me nowhere, I ended up going shopping on Mother’s Day Eve and buying something that I didn’t need and cost more than he would have spent if he’d just gone out and gotten me something, hoping to teach him a lesson.

I’ve come to believe that most men never really get what women want for Mother’s Day.  While we women encourage our men to either get out in the sunshine and play golf for an entire kid-free day or thoughtfully plan their favorite meals whilst they recline on their Barcaloungers, men seem to think that what women want is some sort of family day.

Let me assure you…we don’t.

Three kids and five Mother’s Days later and my husband still didn’t get it.  It took a friend’s husband to bring to his attention that what women truly want for Mother’s Day…is to not be mothers at all for at least two hours.

We were sitting at brunch that Sunday (because I’d thought ahead and made reservations for us) with our friends when suddenly her husband turned to mine and said, “Why don’t we let the girls go to movie or something while we watch the kids?”

As Brad pondered that notion, I felt the heavens open up over my ham and cheese omelet and the second he said, “You know, that’s not a bad idea,” I grabbed my purse, my friend, and my freedom…and bolted.

I can’t even remember what movie we saw that day.  All I remember is feeling somewhat jealous of my friend for having a husband who would come up with a plan like this without being prompted.

And then, about a year later, I felt jealous of my friend for having a husband at all.

The first Mother’s Day after Brad died – I won’t kid you – it was rough.  I had no idea how much I would miss that righteous indignation when I woke up to a card and ten loads of laundry.  But I began to look at those past Mother’s Days - the ones where we spent an hour on a restaurant waiting list with three toddlers because he hadn’t planned ahead or the many times we used that day as “Backyard Cleanup Day” - with a wistfulness I can’t explain.

You know you’re missing someone when you wish he could come back and piss you off just one more time.

Father’s Day is, of course, even worse.  As a mother of three, I’ve spent the last few years since he’s been gone, trying to jolly us along while all I want to do is bury myself in the backyard next to our old dog.  It’s unnatural for kids to have to spend a Father’s Day releasing balloons at a cemetery or making cards for their grandfather at school because their dad isn’t here anymore.

And even though their dad died when they were so young and they really don’t remember celebrating any other way…it breaks my heart a little every time.

It makes me think of that age-old question:  “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?”  My version is, “If the dad is no longer here…is it still Father’s Day?”

I can’t speak for everyone else who is walking a path similar to mine, but in my family’s case…yes, it is.  

Actually, my Mother’s and Father’s Days have gotten a little mixed up.  For example:  Last Mother’s Day, I bought myself a new grill.  Now, if my husband was here, that would have been his gift for Father’s Day (I think.  That man did always like finding free grills on the side of the road, which always creeped me out).  And then for Father’s Day, we bought him flowers to bring up to his grave.

A little twisted, don’t you think?

I celebrate myself a little on Father’s Day, too, because, after all…I’m both parents now.  I’m the one fixing bikes, toilet paper holders, and cleaning out the gutters while also trying to get supper on the table, kiss skinned knees, and squeeze in a load of laundry when I can.  I’m the one who will have to get the lawn mower repaired this year before I can use it, who has a beer after putting steaks on to cook, and who will, I’m sure, yell at my son at least once for exploding something in our driveway this summer.  But I’m also the one who plants all of the flowers on my front porch, cooks the sides for those steaks, and makes sure that my son cleans up his mess the right way.

I’m both.  And I know I’m not alone.

There are a lot of fathers out there who are also mothers and there are a lot of mothers out there who, like me, are also fathers.  We often carry this load without anyone knowing how heavy it truly is.  Most of us make it look effortless to the outside world, but I assure you that on the days we celebrate mothers and fathers, we wish someone could be there to raise a glass to all that we do.

Because the person who would appreciate us the most isn’t here.

So, this year, the kids and I will do what we always do for Father’s Day – celebrate and remember a great dad, a slightly crazy husband, and the best friend I’ve ever had.  And I will also do what I’ve always done every Mother’s Day, even the one when Brad didn’t think I was an actual mother yet, and go out the day before and buy myself something unnecessary and expensive, irritated that he didn’t buy it for me.

Some traditions are always worth keeping.


  1. This is my second Mother's Day as a widow. I can relate so well to this. My kids are all young out of 4 only 1 is in school. Last year my dad "filled the void" to an extent that my husband left, this year my dad has passed too. I'm dreading Sunday...I just want a few hours and someone to appreciate what I do. Thank you for writing this post. It truly explains a lot of how I feel.

  2. We never got to become parents, but I can still relate to many things in your post. I cried my eyes out today just picking up a card for his mom. How can we ever fill-in for an entire person for a lifetime? You and all the young mom/dads raising their kids alone are real superheroes. Hope all the love you get from your kids tomorrow compensates for the lack of "me-time".
    And oh, my husband was also clueless like yours about gifts and doing thoughtful things, and often said/did the opposite of what I hoped for. So I totally know how you feel when you say: "You know you’re missing someone when you wish he could come back and piss you off just one more time." :)
    Have a peaceful mother's day!

  3. My second widowed MD and I couldn't agree more with you-I wanted him back to have one more crazy stupid fight over me having to work on MY holiday. Mine never bought me a gift because I wasn't his mother. So yesterday, I bought his mom and mine gifts, and one from him to me...well, actually three (because I deserve them)! Always trying to make Lemoncello out of the lemons...

  4. I've just been searching around for something I can do for my dad/sisters this Mother's day as my mom died in 2010 and it's still a really hard day for us all.
    Thanks for your story! I hope you have a good Mother's day and can feel his love for you and your kids all the while.