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Do you write for or in spite of your mother?

“Don’t you have a women’s day?” my students ask.

my mother

“Just Mother’s Day,” I say. I know full well other countries have International Women’s Day. It was a huge holiday in Bulgaria. All women and girls got flowers and cheers. Sexism and violence against women are rampant there, but flowers are still pretty.

I think it would be great to have a woman’s day in the U.S. That, of course, isn’t going to happen. “You can, of course, honor any woman you like.”

My students tend to think it odd we celebrate mothers alone. “All women work hard,” they say.

Indeed.

Since my mother is dead, I sometimes feel that I could do without Mother’s Day reminding me of what I don’t have. Then again, seeing a mother and daughter shopping together does that. A hundred scenes in a hundred movies do that too.

Luckily, my pain can’t dictate the world.

In the meantime, like many women, I struggle with the mom/other life balance. I could be a better cook, a better housekeeper, and a better at-lots-of-other-things-you-name-it if I didn’t write & make art. But do I ever want to think (much less say), “I could’ve been a writer if not for my family.” Of course not.

Today, I came across this article about Mother’s Day by Anne Lamott. If you read it, let me know if you want to hug Lamott or throw something at her head. Now, like many wannabe writers, I like Lamott’s Bird by Bird. Her book Operating Instructions is another great read.

Would your mother think it a gift if you wrote her a story?

10 thoughts on “Do you write for or in spite of your mother?

  1. Your mom was lovely. 🙂 She had very sculpted features.

    I read the link you gave. I half wanted to laugh at her. She struck me as a bitter soul who was angry that other people wanted to celebrate their mothers on Mother’s Day. As though their celebrations had anything to do with her or needed her permission. Throw something at her? No. Roll my eyes at her arrogance and conceit? Oh yeah.

    Sure, Mother’s Day has its own sadness, and painful reminders, for myself as well – but a lot of people, most people, love their mothers and are glad for the chance to have a day to show it. 🙂

    • Her books are down to earth and lovely. I recommend them and would hate for her to be judge on one article. I see some of her points, but I fail to see why we should cancel a holiday because it may make some people feel bad. We’d have no holidays at all.

  2. Read the Lamott article. I could see the truth of some of the things she said, but mostly it struck me as the product of someone who thinks too hard. About that subject, anyway. I don’t have kids of my own, and the step-kids were already adults before I married The Missus — if anyone should feel bitter about Mother’s Day, it’d be me, I’d think… not someone who has a healthy relationship with her own offspring.

    And I wondered if she’s as manically hostile to Father’s Day?

    I’d say to her say: relax, let it be, let people have their little (however artificial) celebrations, and if they’re honored out of guilt rather than choice, well, guilt isn’t always a bad thing, y’know? Of course there are evil twisted mothers whose children “celebrate” Mother’s Day in terror, but banning it because of that truth would be punishing the many innocent counter-examples for the sins of the few.

    I don’t know how women do what they do, and I include childless women in that mystery.

    Although actually, come to think of it, I don’t know how almost anybody does what he/she does. This probably constitutes a fatal flaw in someone who presumes to write fiction.

    • When I had my mother, I loved buying her presents. I wanted to celebrate with her. Sure, she’s gone, and Mother’s Day reminds me, but why should I deprive someone else the chance to honor their mother for a day? I agree with you. She’s thought too much about even if I understand her points.

      Should we cancel Valentine’s Day to make single people feel better? Maybe cancel all displays of affection! Cancel the 4th of July because some people weren’t independent. Cancel Halloween because some Christians don’t like it. Cancel Christmas because non Christians will feel bad for not getting presents. Cancel New Year’s Day because some people are lonely and have no friends. Cancel Thanksgiving because some people are lonely and have no family. Cancel St. Patrick’s Day because some people can’t drink beer and will feel left out. Cancel Veteran’s Day because some people hate war. Cancel President’s Day because so many presidents owned slaves. Cancel Martin Luther King Day because some folks are still upset about losing the Civil War. Cancel Easter because some folks are not Christian. Cancel birthdays because some folks feel old. Cancel Father’s Day because were canceling Mother’s Day.

      Make everyone feel better. Burn your calendar.

  3. My mom would love it if I wrote a story just for her. But I have a little push/pull thing with her, because she’s my biggest supporter, yet I’d never want her to read something and think, Oh gosh, is that how she sees me? Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t, but I wouldn’t want to go wading through and tell her which is which, so I avoid the issue.

    • Sometimes I wonder if I’d write a story for my mom now. I wouldn’t have when I was 20. I’d be terrified she’d realize I had no talent. Who knows where our relationship would be?

      Hurray for your mom supporting you! But yes, so many family relationships are push and pull.

  4. I think maybe you came across that link on my blog/twitter feed. I guess I liked it because I’ve known a lot of the women (barren by choice or not) who get really excluded on mother’s day. Where, you ask? Church (which might also contribute to Lamott’s bitterness). My own mom hates Mother’s Day because she is an office manager at a church.

    Another reason I’m not found of the holiday is the way that it got transformed from its original purpose–something closer to a society changing witness of the value of women’s work and the desire for peace in the wake of the son-destroying Civil War. It turned into a way for the North and South to unite in praising the little mother waiting at home by the fireside. Like so many things, it was meant to be revolutionary but became an individualist holiday and symbol of conformity.

    I suppose I also don’t like it because it inevitably lands very near my anniversary (the anniversary of the marriage I am now trying to get out of)…

    As one of my few faithful readers, I wanted to let you know that I may not be posting as much at my blog. My husband is sort of cyber-stalking me and I’m finding it increasingly difficult to be honest on my blog about my journey without including some kind of reference to him. I’m thinking about turning some of my musings into a memoir (the new entry novel these days it seems like), but I don’t quite know how to do that without discussing how I felt about my marriage and really damaging him.

    It’s funny/ironic, because I have been thinking about honesty in art/art for art’s sake or art for a cause since my undergrad without a real personal connection. Now suddenly I’m thinking about a public discussion of my life and realizing how I could potentially hurt people I don’t want to hurt. Very interesting.

    • I DID find that story because of your twitter feed. If I’d been thinking, I’d have given you credit! I like Lamott and liked the article. Some of her points I agreed with, but not all. My own mother is deceased and so Mother’s Day pains me quite a bit. And I sympathize with women who want children but can’t have them. Mother’s Day must be painful. But I still disagree that this is a reason to be against the day. Ending the day will not ease the pain. And I feel, though I don’t want to be mean and don’t intend it that way, that people should be better about being left out.

      Life is filled with being left out. I got left out of teams. Parties. Many things. But, you know, my mother taught me that not being invited had little to do with me. or rather, it was the other person’s party (or whatever), and they were allowed to have the party they wished. It would not do me any good to make it about me. Can we live in a world where everyone feels included all the time?

      That is not to say we shouldn’t care about those left out. And we should not accept people being left out of housing, food, safety. But being left out of a holiday? My happy family probably makes people lacking a family feel left out. What am I to do? Instead of focusing how other people leave us out, perhaps we could find those places where we fit in? I don’t know. But for people who have their mothers and have their children, should I ask them to forgo a day that they enjoy? I can’t quite reconcile with that.

      I think it relates to the idea of should a person be happy if someone else is miserable?

      Lamott brings up such great points that ought to be discussed. We certainly shouldn’t follow Mother’s Day because Hallmark tells us to or because we’d feel guilt for not.

      How to deal with your life on your blog is so hard. I’m sorry to hear about your husband. You have to do what feels right to you. I’ve written about my life on this blog, though rarely about my husband and son. They’re too immediate and I don’t wish to upset them. At the same time, you have a right to tell your story.

      Of course, you don’t want to hurt someone. I try to decide if I’m vindictively hurting someone, or if I’m simply telling my story. Some people will be hurt whatever you say. You will hurt someone because of what you said. You will hurt someone because of what you didn’t say. We all responsibilities to others. At the same time, you can’t be held responsible for other people’s happiness. Your husband chooses to read your blog. He has to be a grown up and learn to deal with that choice. Maybe he isn’t capable of that? I don’t know.

      Good luck in what you decide to do. But find some way to express yourself. That is necessary for your happiness, which is something you have a right to.

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