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Whom Will You Honor on Mother’s Day?

The idealized view of mothers that Hallmark cards so eloquently express in pictures and words is one I have never experienced. I never called my mother by anything other than her given name. Growing up and even as an adult, I never called her “Mother” or “Mom.”

Lest you think I’m criticizing my mother, I hasten to add that I’m grateful that she gave me life. And I’m also thankful for the qualities she passed on to me, among them, my willingness to work hard, my sewing skills, my appreciation of music, and my determination and resilience.

For sure, my mother did the best she could, given that she was orphaned as a young girl and forced to care for her five younger brothers. She grew up without the experience of having a mother to guide and care for her.

A Coined Term, “Mother Wound,” Strikes a Chord in Many

Apparently, I’m not the only one who struggles with Mother’s Day. If you google “mother wound,” you will find websites with hundreds of people participating in conversations about growing up without emotional nurturing.

Although “mother wound” is not a recognized medical term, it is a legitimate psychological issue for thousands of people if responses on the internet are to be believed. Oprah Winfrey even offers a course on healing the mother wound.

Because my four-book Blackbird series is a fictional depiction of mothering (my own and my mother’s), I’ve heard from many women about the pain and disappointment reflected in their relationships with their mothers. Some of their stories have brought me to tears.

It’s hard to face my own shortcomings as a mother

Writing the books brought me face-to-face with my inadequacies as a mother and made me cry with sadness and regret. Unfortunately, life doesn’t give us opportunities for do-overs. Consequently, on Mother’s Day, I’ll be reminded and acutely aware of my failures and shortfalls as a mother.

The holiday is also challenging for sons and daughters for other reasons. Some have strained relationships, and others have conflicts that seem impossible to resolve. Yet others—both mothers and daughters—have expectations that can never be met.

Estrangement or unmet expectations can separate mothers and their offspring

If you were fortunate enough to have a loving mother who has since passed away or you are a mother who has lost a child, the holiday may be a source of grief and sadness. Those who find themselves infertile and childless are reminded once again of their frustration and sense of loss. And we need to consider the impact of Mother’s Day on adopted children or the mothers who gave up children for adoption.

Given all these conflicting emotions and circumstances, what’s a person to do?

The women I will honor live in my memory

Honoring My Voluntary Mothers

On Mother’s Day, I intend to honor the women who voluntarily served as my mother at critical junctures in my life. They include a businesswoman, Wilda Risdon, who mentored me in high school. I also was mothered by a college professor, Winifred Van Etten, who became my lifelong role model.

I also found a late-in-life mother and playmate, Kay Cossette. Kay was approaching eighty when we met, and I was in my early forties. She thought I worked too hard and insisted I take time to play. She took me to Oakland A’s baseball games, dragged me onto the tennis court, and included me in bridge games and family holidays. Her laugh was contagious.

For the essence of mothering, I will honor my mother-in-law, Jo Carson. I admired her greatly. When I met her, I had a sense, for the first time, of what it would have been like to grow up having a mother.

In all the years I knew Jo, I never heard her criticize another person. The most she ever said was that she was disappointed in someone. Since then, I’ve tried (unsuccessfully) to follow her example. She was able to love the people around her unconditionally despite their human failings.

To remember and honor these incredible women who demonstrated the best qualities in mothers is how I will celebrate.

What about you? Whom will you honor on Mother’s Day?



All photos courtesy of Canva