Mom Talk: What Mother’s Day Is Like When You’re A Single Parent
Written by Natasha Steer
Photography by Image courtesy of Natasha Steer
This Sunday in Mother’s Day, which we know can be a day of mixed emotions for so many. So, for today’s Mom Talk, Natasha Steer shares what feelings the holiday brings up for her as a single mother. From missing out on the pampering many partnered moms enjoy to feeling like she is viewed as less-than for going it alone, Natasha writes about what it’s like facing the day when you don’t fit the stereotypical image.
Whenever you reduce vast experiences to one celebration on a single day, some of those experiences are bound to be louder than others.
Mother’s Day. It’s my most favorite day of the year. It’s also the day I dread the most.
Mother’s Day has been served to us all as this one truly special day in which all mothers get to receive the recognition that they truly deserve every day of the year. It is, supposedly, the day that they magically don’t need to deal with tantrums, teenage attitude, and being the family’s human agenda—all of which is typically done without appreciation or even acknowledgement of the mental capacity it takes to achieve (especially if you’re me). Mother’s Day is pitched as this wonderful utopian 24-hours, filled with unicorns who lick rainbow-colored popsicles as they prance around you, bowing down to you as Queen. Ah, what a life. If only it could be like this every day.
Or any day.
As a single/lone mother, I have a different reality. And let me be clear, I am immensely grateful not only for my child and not only for my motherhood, but quite specifically, my single motherhood. Being a single/lone mom has been one of the greatest joys of my life. Having my son at 19 on my own has been the reason why I grew the way I did as a human.
Being a single/lone mom was a large part of why I could pick up and move to Wuhan, China, when my son was 8 years old, and live abroad with him for four years without care or concern for another person’s career or life. Being a single mother is the reason my son and I were able to visit 40 countries before he was 14.
But that doesn’t mean that everyone sees it this way. Because for me, being a single/lone parent means that on a day that is meant for me to be recognized as a mother, in many ways I feel invisible.
Of course, this has nothing to do with my sweet child, who has bestowed upon me many a kind gesture and homemade gift on this day—even though when we were living in China and he didn’t have prompting from my mum or another family member to remind him. And let me tell you: Relying on a child to remember to do something nice for you is usually a dicey gamble.
But my thoughtful son is no match for the stories that we are surrounded with, stories of this one perfect day of recognition that makes you seen and valued as a wonderful mother—not only in the eyes of your child, but in the eyes of society, and of the world.
In the eyes of most societies, I am not seen as an exemplary mother. It sometimes feels like I will never be seen as an exemplary mother, merely by default of having raised my son without a man to do it alongside me.
For most of the year, I hold a swirl of stereotypes and assumptions at bay, but on Mother’s Day, they come at me full force, reminding me: I am not worthy to be heard, celebrated, or included in the ways that mothers in more traditional family structures are.
On a day meant to shower love, for too many of us, it is pain instead that we are showered with.
I know that I am far from the only person to have this experience of discontent surrounding Mother’s Day, and I know that it is certainly not isolated to single mothers. Mother’s Day is far from a simple, linear, uniform experience of brunches and flower bunches. There are many experiences below the surface.
I would argue that these stories—the ones beneath the surface—are the ones that we need right now. The ones that will open up our understanding of how a single day can not yet represent so many vastly different experiences and emotions. The ones that will expand our ideas of what and who Mother’s Day represents.
Maybe, when we can all realize just how immensely different our experiences all are, and how there is deep meaning to be found in all of them, we can stop striving to fit our own experiences into the culturally prescribed cookie-cutter version of what Mother’s Day should be.
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