Adapted from two 2012 online discussions.
DEAR CAROLYN: Every year, in the weeks leading up to Mother’s Day and on the day itself, I am miserable. I have a volatile relationship with my own mother and see all around me mothers being praised even though they are barely competent (for example, they lost custody to the dad or are relying on others and the state to raise their children).
I am by no means a perfect mother, but I try my best, love my children to death, and enjoy them immensely. I do not feel, however, that I should be celebrated for this or that being a mother makes me more important than women without children. Why celebrate motherhood at all?
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My family has been invited to a Mother’s Day celebration for my mother-in-law and sisters-in-law and I do not want to go. I don’t want to pretend to celebrate something that in fact makes me miserable. Should I be honest when sending my regrets, or just say simply that I cannot attend? My husband and kids most likely will want to go, so I would stay home by myself or find something else to do. Or should I just suck it up and go?
— Mother’s Day Funk
DEAR MOTHER’S DAY FUNK: I don’t mean to minimize your difficulties with your mom — that’s a lot of weight to carry — but it sure sounds like you’re making too much of this. We celebrate birthdays, and what did anyone do to deserve that? We don’t choose to be born, we don’t even help our mothers push (au contraire). At least Mother’s Day celebrates some actual hard work, even if a lot of shirkers still manage to help themselves to the brunch.
Society looks for all kinds of ways to say, “Yippee, yay us.” Valentine’s Day sends the message that coupled is better than single; Fourth of July says Americans are better den all youse udder guys; Thanksgiving says people with close families and fat turkeys are better than those without; Christmas says solstice celebrations matter more when they’re all about Jesus; and New Year’s even tries to make the argument that Dec. 31 is more fun or significant than, I dunno, April 20.
So repeat after me: Yippee! Cake!
Unless it’s bad cake. Then I’m with you on just staying home by myself.
DEAR CAROLYN: My grandfather just passed after a long and difficult illness. I’m obviously sad, but dreading the funeral because the rest of my family is much more religious than I am. I’m not an atheist, but I’m definitely not the evangelical that I was raised to be anymore.
If it helps my family, that’s great. Whatever gives them comfort. I obviously won’t be saying that I’m not quite sure I believe in an afterlife, but how do I suck it up through the super-duper evangelical service, complete with altar call?
— Bible Belt
DEAR BIBLE BELT: Keep repeating this in your mind as needed: “Anything that will go away after a couple of hours without my doing anything to fix it is not officially a problem.” Works great in traffic, too. Though at least in traffic I can listen to NPR.
Sorry about your granddad.