A year ago, I was dreading Mother’s Day. It isn’t always a holiday I necessarily dread, but I knew beforehand that this particular year was going to be rough for two reasons: first, my husband was going to be working that day, so I knew there wouldn’t be any special treatment from him. And, second, I was pregnant with my fourth baby and very sick, so I already knew that I was going to spend the day feeling terrible physically because I was a mother. It just felt like I was being set up for a lousy Mother’s Day before the day had even come. Surprisingly, the day turned out quite differently than I had expected.
Mother’s Day morning came, and I felt sick, as usual. But the first thing I saw when I opened the front blinds that morning was our irises in the front yard—they had finally bloomed! We had been expecting them to bloom each day of the previous week, so I felt like it was my first little present, and it really helped me start the day off with a smile.
About five minutes later I threw up. As as I sat in front of the toilet afterward, I remember thinking, “Well, things can only get better from here!” (I usually only throw up once each morning when I‘m pregnant.) It was the pivotal moment of my day—I just decided that today was going to be a good day despite its many limitations and imperfections.
After breakfast the kids and I decided that it was too beautiful of a morning not to be outside. As I sat in the sunshine, I wrote in my journal and watched the kids giggling and playing all around the yard in their pajamas (something we never do!). We stayed outside for what turned out to be too long, but the fresh air and the sunshine seemed to help all of us start the day with a good attitude. And in a way, I felt like patting myself on the back for allowing myself to simply enjoy the moment—something, unfortunately, I didn’t feel like I had done in weeks!
Then just before we went inside to get ready for church, a thoughtful neighbor showed up with a Mother’s Day treat for me. I was a little embarrassed to be caught outside in the backyard with all of us still in our pajamas, but it was very touching to have someone think of me on a day I wasn’t expecting much attention.
When we finally got inside and looked at the clock, I realized that I only had an hour to get all of us ready for church and to feed everyone lunch. Normally, that thought would really stress me out, and I’d be snappy with the kids, telling them to, “Hurry, hurry, hurry!” and we’d all arrive at church frazzled and grumpy because Mom had been yelling.
But that day, for some reason, I was able to keep a better perspective. I thought to myself, “So I guess we’re going to be late. Who cares? It’s not worth ruining the day over it.” So we got to church late, but we got to church happy and without any yelling. Being patient in a stressful moment and enjoying the simplicity of our morning was the best Mother’s Day present of all that year because, in a small way, I took one step closer to the mother I want to become.
I only have positive memories of my last Mother’s Day even though I was sick. In looking back, I realize that it was not because of great presents or special treatment I received from others, but because I made a decision, in the moment, to find joy in the day no matter what.
I have realized that even holidays (or especially holidays!) don’t always go as perfectly as we imagine they will. No matter what the day, it takes a concentrated effort to find beauty and joy when the day turns out to be mundane or disappointing. The feeling at the end of the day, when we’ve made a good effort to treasure even a moment, helps remind us that there really is good mixed in with all this craziness that we call motherhood.
QUESTION: Do you have high expectations for holidays, such as Mother’s Day, that you find are never quite met and leave you feeling frustrated or disappointed?
CHALLENGE: As you approach a holiday, try not to make the happiness of the day depend on others. Instead, plan what you will do to enjoy the day and help your family do the same.
Originally published on May 11, 2014.
Sarah Monson, Editor
Image from Shutterstock, with graphics by Julie Finlayson.