There are holidays you expect to be especially hard after you become a widow. Father’s Day, for sure. Christmas too.
But like most aspects of widowhood, reality is often a far cry from anything you imagined. Take Father’s Day for example. While I may not be skipping for joy when it rolls around, the day isn’t necessarily the most miserable one of the year either.
No, Father’s Day is trumped by my birthday, anniversary and, oh yes, Mother’s Day.
To be fair, I think a lot of moms in the trenches have conflicted feelings about Mother’s Day. After a year of being poked, prodded and subjected to an endless stream of questions from family members both large and small, all we really want is to be left alone on our special day. But how do you break it to the people you love that the best way they could show their appreciation would be to go away?
So I think all Moms with Littles, to a certain extent, feel like Mother’s Day is simply a high-stakes version of everyday life. You have to ooh and aah over every card and smile like Donna Reed and hope to the heavens you don’t lose your temper because, really, who wants to be *that* mom when her family is trying to do something nice for her?
The problem with being a widow (or having an inconsiderate husband) is there is no one else in the house to run interference. No one to let the kids proudly present the burned toast and soggy cereal and then usher them out so mom can read the paper in peace.
Without that other adult in the house, the widow is left to fend for herself. The kids might wake her at 6am and then 6:30am and then start fighting so she decides there is no reason to even attempt to stay in bed until 7am (I may or may not be speaking from personal experience here).
The widow is wrangling her kids into church clothes and herding them into the van so that she can shoot disapproving glances at them for the next hour while hoping no one notices their bad behavior. The sermon is probably enlightening and uplifting but she wouldn’t know because she can’t pay attention while silently refereeing children who are fighting over 3 inches of pew space.
Then she is taking her kids home and maybe making her own Mother’s Day dinner. Or perhaps she decides to forego cooking and takes them out to eat. After waiting for an eternity in the lobby for a table, she then spends the next hour picking up crayons off the floor, grabbing forks being used as weapons and using her angry whisper in a vain attempt to scare her offspring into submission.
Back at home, the widow has visions of an evening filled with bedtime stories, lullabies and good night kisses on sweet cherubic faces. Instead, she gets incessant whining over screen time, a sink full of toothpaste and rushed night time prayers said between clenched teeth. One or more slammed doors (from a frustrated child or mother) may punctuate the night.
Yes, the widow’s Mother’s Day is like any other day, except it comes loaded with more guilt and sadness than usual. Guilt that we are too much Cruella de Vil and too little Mary Poppins. Guilt that we can’t muster up feelings of warmth and gratitude on a day that, in some respects, feels like a test of our mothering ability. Guilt that our kids deserve better and despair over the thought that if only Dad were here, everything would be different.
Unfortunately, nothing will bring Dad back so we’re left to muddle through these sticky holidays on our own. I’m happy to report that I managed fairly well yesterday. I was insanely grumpy in the morning, but once I put a finger on why I was grumpy, my day seemed to get significantly better.
For you widows-in-arms, I hope it gives you comfort to know you’re not alone. While I haven’t found the silver bullet, I think keeping our expectations low and being able to name how we’re feeling in the moment may help minimize the stress of these “special” days.
And for any Dads in the audience, here’s my two cents if you still have kids at home: Next Mother’s Day, make a great breakfast for your love, leave it on the table or her bedside and then do a disappearing act with the kids. Meet your wife at church or come back later in the day to take her to dinner. But please, give her a few hours of sweet, sweet freedom to do what she wants. And don’t make her ask for it.
Moms, you’re welcome.