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Hi, loves. 🌿
This weekend's shenanigans.
So we did it again, didn’t we, put ourselves through the absurdity of Mother’s Day, even after this most horrific week for mothers all over the country? How could flowers and chocolate and breakfast in bed and scrawl-covered cards from toddlers ever make up for losing bodily autonomy? For a government that still doesn’t value our labor and a pandemic that has bled women from the workforce?
I know very few mothers (of young kids) who actually enjoy Mother’s Day unless they are relieved of childcare duty altogether. Yes, we perform our love and thanks online; we share adorable photos of our children and gorgeous ones of our own mothers (when they were young!) or now (when they are old and we are savoring every moment!); we thank everyone for everything. We especially thank our children for giving us our entire lives.
Of course we love our children! Of course we love our mothers! Of course we are grateful for all we have! Of course our lives have been shaped and changed by all these people, in good and bad and confounding ways. This is life, after all! What else is there, really, but these complex webs of relationships? My daughter and my mother are two of the most central, vital forces of my life. I love them in a way that terrifies me and live in constant fear of anything happening to either of them.
But this year, when I scrolled over to Instagram, the place where Mother’s Day is shot through with steroids, all I could see in every post was what was unsaid or only mentioned briefly: Heartbreak, rage, sadness. Around infertility (even if said mother had ended up with kids); women silenced because of the children who never arrived; women who’ve lost their mothers recently or twenty years ago or who never had one at all. Mothers who had complicated, painful relationships with their own mothers or their children. Mothers who are suddenly parenting alone and don’t want to be. Mothers whose partners are around but simply can’t step up, and certainly not on Mother’s Day. The pressure of it all felt overwhelming and sort of awful.
None of this is to say that I fault anyone for posting anything—please, share the love. I do trust that it is, in fact, sincere. Most years I gobble it up, most years I post along. I adore seeing everyone’s kids and mothers, and I fall for the one-dimensionality of our social feeds every year.
But this year I felt like we were all just trying so hard. Like this was a heavy fucking lift, to show our maternal happiness in a country that has declared, unequivocally, that it doesn’t give two shits about us. I just wanted someone else to try hard for once, and not with chocolates and a day at the spa. Someone else like: the government, with paid leave and equal pay and universal healthcare. Like: the courts, leaving Roe alone or, better yet, expanding access to all kinds of reproductive care, so that we can, as Rebecca Traister so aptly says, flourish in familial structures.
I wanted men to show their motherly love by flooding the streets in their best walking shoes with big signs and bigger fury, demanding free and safe access to reproductive care. I wanted them to act like bringing children — or not bringing children — into the world is something we do as humans, together.
Perhaps because what is being taken away from us just seems to grow year after year of this interminable pandemic — and this interminable era of late-stage capitalism — it seems cheap to celebrate us on one Sunday in May.
Oh, why, thank you. Yes, these pancakes in bed will do it for me.
How else would you like to honor and respect and help us for the other 364 days while we grow and raise and feed and nurture the next generation? While we puke into garbage cans on street corners, so sick with first-trimester nausea, or agonize over a scary fetal exam? While we go through endless rounds of IVF that come to nothing? While we learn that the baby we had already picked out a name for will not be able to see or hear or live a life of any pleasure? While we rock the baby who did make it at 3:30am for the 189th night in a row and contemplate jumping out the window from pure exhaustion and loneliness? While we manage work and children who need to get taken to and from school and the doctor and the dentist and and and?
I am all for celebrating anything. I will make a cake for any occasion, truly. I love throwing a dinner party for someone’s…anything, or for no reason at all. So this is not a recrimination of celebrations, or even of joy. If people feel real joy on Mother’s Day, I want to hear it and believe it. (No, but really, tell me.) One of the most moving parts of Angela Garbes’ Essential Labor was the reminder of joy: how we are all entitled to it, even in the midst of oppression, grief, or a world on fire — even more so, in those circumstances, because pleasure helps us survive. Here we can all learn from marginalized people and women of color who have, historically and all too often, had to cultivate joy under harrowing conditions.
Perhaps where everything always, inevitably, goes awry around our house is that all I want as a mother, as a woman — everything mentioned above, plus free childcare, a safe, anti-racist, feminist, gun-free world for all of our children, equal division of labor, a society that values care and some real rest — are too much for one little family, my little family, to grant me on one little day a year. So we settle for notes of love, for flowers, for thanks, for a short trip to the mall alone.
Sometimes these things do. They are sweet and thoughtful and kind and needed and very much appreciated. I remember my first Mother’s Day with so much tenderness: my husband took our 10-month-old to the museum so I could have a few hours in bed, alone, watching a movie, eating the pancakes I’d made myself, uninterruptedly. I cried with happiness. These are the small kindnesses we afford each other because we can manage them in a world that often feels unmanageable.
But in the weeks we’ve had — in the years we’ve had — it isn’t enough. We are ravenous; ravenous and terrified and fiercely, furiously protective of ourselves and our daughters, whose bodies — in some parts of the country, soon almost everywhere — already don’t belong to them; whose bodies are being sacrificed on the alter of the patriarchy.
So, yes, let’s celebrate us, and the caregivers all around us who hold us up day in and day out — the ones we can call about absolutely anything, who will grant us grace and advice and courage and a shoulder to cry on and a hearty laugh and some good quality chocolate. But let us also remember that this day means so little if we cannot all experience, in Rebecca Traister’s words, “familial flourishing, economic stability and freedom.”
✨ I am so excited for Summer School!!!!!! I love seeing so many of you sign up. There’s still plenty of time to join. Read more about it here, and you can check out additional info in my Instagram Stories.
✨ AND! Come to the last Zoom workshop in May! It’s truly the most fun. Three spots left.
ALL THE THINGS
Rebecca Traister wrote about the limits of privilege in a post-Roe world. And she speaking about it brilliantly on the Vanity Fair podcast is a MUST. Jia Tolentino wrote about Angela Garbes’ Essential Labor and it’s all you ever wanted. My friend Lauren interview Ada Limón and about her new collection, The Hurting Kind. This last episode of the Better Things podcast (sob sob sooooobbbbbbbbb). I love these protestors outside the Justices homes.