Yesterday was Mothers Day… and yes, it’s still Mothers Day in some parts of the world (and not at all at this time of year in others). And whilst we love our children unconditionally, we secretly hope that they find us special enough to make an effort for us, but sadly for some, they don’t.
And I will say, I am one of the lucky ones… my kids did make an effort for me. I told them what I wanted for breakfast, and they made it for me (not perfectly or how I would do it, but they tried). They bought me presents which had a family theme to them, so we could ‘all’ enjoy/benefit from (chocolates, iTunes vouchers and a board game), I received some cards with heartfelt messages on them, I had two vouchers for massages, which I used before the morning was out, and my boys were both exceptionally helpful throughout the day, without any whining. So, for a 13 year old and an 11 year old, I think I did pretty well. I also celebrated Mothers Day with my ‘pseudo mum’ on Saturday night, and got a call from my ‘Dad No 2’ on Mothers Day morning to wish me a lovely Mothers Day, and had some lovely Mothers Day messages from friends through Facebook.
But some mothers didn’t get anything. They somehow didn’t have their kids because of court orders or custody arrangements and ex-husbands are spiteful, their kids are selfish and just forget, or other hidden reasons. And while we know in our hearts that it may be an ordinary day because we know the nature of our kids or ex-partners, we still have an expectation that they will do something extraordinary to make us feel good, but they don’t.
And it’s not just about being acknowledged by your kids, it’s about your friends and family. I am a firm believer that if you are doing an excellent job about whatever it is, motherhood, your job, your talent, your emotional resilience, whatever it is, you should be recognised or praised for it. We feed off both positive and negative feedback, so if someone genuinely believes that you are doing a great job at something, they should tell you, and what that does, is makes you feel better about yourself. I know people who have arguments with their own mothers who believe that Mothers Day only celebrates ‘them’ and not about their daughters, daughters-in-law, nieces, etc who are also mothers. How is that fair? It’s a celebration about ALL mothers. And you would hope to think that your own mother, or even aunt, was thinking you are doing a great job at mothering.
Are our expectations too high? Possibly, yes. And it’s all commercialism that makes us feel that way. If we treat it like another day, and expect to be treated like we do every other day, the surprises that might fall our way might actually give us the smile, the joy and the feeling we want to feel like we matter.
But it also carries on for the rest of the year. If we expect something will happen the way we want it to, it will never happen. If we just let our world ride the way it wants to, then somehow, everything falls into place. We can’t keep living with a heavy heart because we expect too much, because we give too much of ourselves and hope that our loved ones will recognise what we do and how we feel. We do live in a selfish world, with increasing levels of negativity, mental illness, narcissism, and daily struggles. But as single mothers, and some single fathers, we soldier on, but we need to believing that something good is just around the corner, but not forcing it to happen, or expecting what it is.
Christmas is a time of giving… NOT receiving. For me, it’s giving my time to the people who are special in my life, it’s giving presents to the young, sweet and innocent who relish in the joy of Christmas, and it’s giving to the people who have touched my life in someway throughout the year by either making it easier for me or making me smile. To me, giving is a show of appreciation to those who bring joy to my life.
For years, I lived up to the role model of my mother, who sent endless Christmas cards with annual letters describing what her and her family had been up to for the last 12 months, to endless long lost aunts, uncles, old school friends and old work acquaintances. I even spent around 10 years hand-making cards as my gift to everyone who was in my life. And it was like a numbers game… how many Christmas cards did you send out? It was almost like bragging rights to how many Facebook friends you have… But since the advent of Facebook, it’s easier to stay in touch with all those people who would have been on the Christmas card list, and now you just send a generic Facebook ‘Merry Christmas’ rather than a card. Last year, I think I bought a packet of 20 cards and posted about 12 cards, this year, I’ve only bought cards that get attached to presents. It had become an ‘expectation’ that people would receive a card, and some a present from me – friends, family and work colleagues, but I’m tired of living up to the expectations, that, I will admit, are sometimes in my head, but also that are apparent a few months after Christmas when people would say ‘we missed out on the beautiful muffins you make last year’ or ‘so sad to not receive your family letter at Christmas.’ We’ll, as I said, Christmas is about giving NOT receiving… and if I don’t feel like giving my annual treats, then that’s OK by me.
The other Christmas expectation I want to talk about is the expectation of family coming together for Christmas. Some people move to the other side of the world to get away from family or anything else they want to escape from, some move interstate or a few hundred kilometres away… it’s a conscious choice. So why do they feel obliged to come home once a year, or every second or third year, to spend it with ‘family?’ Family are the people who love you and you love them back in return… they don’t judge you, they are proud of you, they make you laugh at the beauty in life, and you come together to cry in tragedy. If that isn’t blood, then it doesn’t matter. So many people I have spoken to over the past few weeks who are actually dreading Christmas Day with all the family bickering, struggle between driving from one place to another and not being able to take in the Christmas spirit, and all the other negative thoughts that go with the hardships and emotions of this ‘silly season’ then you must ask, for your own happiness and stress levels, is it worth it?
I know there are many many people who absolutely love getting together with family on Christmas, and it is a super special day, and you are definitely one of the lucky ones that have a family that have like-minded love and ties to each other… but there is so much more dysfunction and families needing to spread further and further apart because of jobs, broken families, etc, that the long-held family traditions are fading.
From past experience, it is tremendously hard to break away from tradition. The first time I did it, was because someone in our family broke our tradition and we were forced to spend our Christmas day with people I didn’t know, who spoke a completely different language. And, I agree, sometimes those days can be fun and rewarding, but not Christmas Day when you want to know you can fart in a different direction or tell an ‘in family joke’ that you know will get a laugh and not need to explain it to others who are out of the loop. It was a shock to my family for my family not to show, and I had the big talk from my parents why I was taking such dramatic action, but I wasn’t going to be dictated to, how my young children and I would spend our Christmas.
This year will be the third year I haven’t spent Christmas with my blood family. From that first time to the last time I spent Christmas with my blood family, it progressively got worse… the bickering about if we should change the rules to the Kris Kringle presents, to someone always cooking too much food for their course, to who’s house it will be at this year, to who’s not pulling their weight with cleaning up, to someone wanting to change the rules on when the kids get to open their presents. Why? Why make it soooooo hard, when it is supposed to be a joyous day.
This year will be the second year I get to spend it with my country family, which I’m excited about. It’s relaxed and everyone gets to bring something and it’s like one big buffet dinner with a little bit of dessert at the end. There’s no hang up on presents between us, because we just enjoy spending time together. And that’s the way it should be…
So what I’m getting at, and as selfish as it sounds, enjoy Christmas in a way that is beneficial to your well-being… give to those who appreciate you, and you appreciate… laugh with those who embrace your sense of humour, eat your favourite foods without worrying about your waist line, and take in the spirit of Christmas without worrying about other’s expectations, traditions or values. And once you break away from what isn’t right for you, you can learn to break away from other things in your life to move forward and be the person you’ve always dreamed to be! Be brave… and look after your beautiful body, emotional mind and treasured soul this Christmas, and not worry about any others, except for your children.