08 May, 2017

Refusing to give up my power

One of the advantages of being away at this time of year is that I will miss Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day somewhere else however hasn’t bothered me too much – I took great delight, for example, watching all the families out for lunch in Soweto, South Africa, on Mother’s Day in 2009 - and I’m pretty sure that it won’t bother me in Iceland either, as I generally find there is a real freedom being away from your own society and community and language.

Feeling separate from the rest of our communities can be an ongoing, underlying source of pain, one to which we become accustomed, but as the years go on, we don’t necessarily recognise this until we suddenly notice its absence (for example, when travelling). And of course, one of the difficulties of our ongoing No Kidding life is that we can never quite predict when those nasty “ouch” moments might appear. Doing something that makes us happy – for example, going for a walk or cooking a special meal at home with your partner or friends – can help alleviate the impact of this day, and so can planning in advance, which is why I've posted this a week early. It is an invented holiday, and within a few days it is forgotten, and I refuse to give it too much power over me.

That first day back at work though – all those discussions/competitions between parents around the water cooler about how they spent their day – can be painful, and it is fine to protect yourself and make yourself scarce during these conversations, or (perhaps useful in a one-on-one situation) use a standard response of mine that I hope makes them think, which is along the lines of “I am not the person you should be telling this to”  or "why would you be telling this to me, of all people?"

But I’d love to hear your own suggestions of how to deal with this in the comments.


  1. I like the idea of being proactive and taking steps to buffer the pain that may come with Mother's Day. Radio commercials about the holiday have been mildly hitting a nerve. I'll say mildly because the feelings that surface are usually irksome rather than meltdown. I feel like I'm in a better place emotionally, so it is a little easier to deal with this year. So, I'm planning to listen to more CD's in my car for the rest of the week I think.

  2. I'm all for being proactive. M day is such a hot-button holiday that so many remain willfully clueless about. So yes to boundaries and being mindful. And yes to finding alternatives.

  3. I had 19 years to come up with a reasonable response as this was the span of time between when I had lost my mother & I'd become a mother. I'm not sure that I ever did. I never wanted to put people on the spot by asking them why they would say such a thing to me, because in almost all cases, I think they were asking a perfectly innocent question and just making Monday morning conversation and not really caring that much about my response. So mostly I handled it about the same as I did when people would say: "Merry Christmas" since I didn't celebrate that either. "Fine Thanks... & Yours?" I figured they'd much rather talk about their day than hear my long explanation anyway.

    1. When does a "perfectly innocent question" become just another example of a dominant culture isolating others though?

      I have quite a few things to say in response but will keep them for a future post, because ... well ... I'm on holiday!

  4. I have historically spent that day gardening. Home has always felt like a sanctuary, and I could pretend it was just like any other Sunday, immerse myself in beauty and nurture life of a different sort. In case of rain, we'd spend the day eating junk in pajamas and watching Netflix or some streaming something-or-other to avoid the commercials and family movie crap aired for the occasion. And then it was Monday, and I would chew the head off anyone who talked to me about their stupid brunch, but most people sensed my situation and knew better, which helps.

  5. That is such a great point -- that you don't even realize the pain is there until you spend some time not in pain and realize how much something still stings (humans can apparently grow accustomed to anything). I like the idea of shaking yourself out of your normal routine: going somewhere, doing something different.

  6. I love your suggestions, and the idea of traveling and being away from the society you know around the holiday. I am dreading Mother's Day this year. I have also worked in the garden (in the back so I can't see the stroller brigade or celebrations in the neighborhood), or spent the day reading, or even had noontime cocktails. I DO NOT go on facebook. And probably, not for another couple of days after, because it's usually over the top...although I want to honor my own mother and mother-in-law, so it becomes a tricky balance. It's not a holiday for me, but it's a holiday for other women in my life. Self-protection is going to be key this year though. And it makes for another reason to be grateful I don't have cable. I have seen VERY few commercials and I have stayed away from big box stores that have displays and things. Luckily for me I am so open about our situation (although I haven't been as open about our decision to stop as I am slowly making my way through those conversations and I don't want to "announce" it per se), so most people know not to talk about amazing Mother's Day celebrations with me. Thank goodness. Enjoy Iceland! What a great place to get away from it all.

  7. I've always wondered why getting away helps (though it doesn't "fix" anything, especially in the early years). I understand the "real freedom" you describe, even the freedom of being away from one's own neighborhood which in my case also seems to also be a bastion of human reproduction. My husband and I haven't been able to travel much since the end of our treatments, but it's something we're anticipating working into our lives in the future, hopefully.

    I absolutely love "I am not the person you should be telling this to" and "Why would you be telling this to me of all people?" Perfect responses to the presumptive comments and questions we tend to receive. A lack of awareness and consideration does not make a person's words innocent.