So, I’m about to talk about Mother’s Day again. I completely understand if you want to leave the room.
I’ve seen a lot of social media posts in the past few days addressing how to compassionately address Mother’s Day for moms who have lost a child. It’s an important topic that doesn’t get enough attention. Because of my history, I can tell you there is another underrepresented class of mother aching on Mother’s Day. It is mothers who have lost their children in court. Like me, they’ve lost access to their children in custody battles that are often contentious and heartbreaking.
These mothers are often misunderstood because there is an assumption they’ve done something inexcusable, like abuse, in order to have lost custody. In my case, it was a combination of my mental illness history, testimony of my vengeful parent, and not being able to keep up monetarily with the other side. I’m not sure I can adequately explain how awful it is when – and it really happens often — acquaintances and strangers alike assume I have custody of Mini-Me.
I’ve made my list of things to say to and consider for non-custody mothers on Mother’s Day. Whatever you say, it is imperative to keep kindness at the forefront. These woman, and I count myself among them, are hurting in a deep way. Six years after the ruling, my heart still hurts every day for my little boy. These women spend their days thinking about their child but not talking about them. When they do talk, it is guarded to protect themselves from seemingly innocuous questions that are invariably painful to answer.
Here’s a little list which I hope will help everyone have a happier Mother’s Day.
Say It: Wish her a Happy Mother’s Day. Whether you have your child or not, it is still Mother’s Day for you. She still gave life to a beautiful little person. Whether I see him every day or alternate weekends, I still think about Mini-Me all the time. I love him every second of every day. The love you feel, the concern you feel, and the pride you feel is no different than any parent in a traditional situation.
Ask: Ask if there’s anything you can do to make this day special. It is still a special day and non-custody moms don’t get the benefit of breakfast in bed or hand-printed cards. It feels even more important because it is so abundantly clear that other people are celebrating this holiday. There are those who would argue that Mother’s Day is a Hallmark holiday. That it really shouldn’t matter. It’s been suggested to me that it’s superficial to have negative feelings about not celebrating with my child. Intellectually, it makes sense but in my heart I want my baby. And I want to be recognized as his mom.
It’s Okay: It’s not a faux pas to ask where my child is on Mother’s Day. I think it’s more hurtful when people pretend I just don’t have a child. It invalidates my journey as a mother. I understand the cause is often because my situation makes them uncomfortable. They don’t know what to say, or want to cause me hurt, so they don’t say anything. For me, it is completely normal that I don’t have my child on that day. That is my life. It is the reality I live in. If you ask, I’m thoroughly prepared to answer. It is true that I don’t really want to tell you more. I don’t want to tell you that my child is celebrating his stepmother. But telling you the status is more comfortable than ignoring the fact he exists.
Stay Positive: I understand that my situation keenly strikes most people, especially mothers. Please do not tell me that you feel sorry for me. Keep it to yourself that the situation is horrible. Save it for another day. It is a torture in itself that I don’t know what pajamas my son wears to bed or what he ate for lunch. The horror of my custody situation is brought home to me every single day. I do not need anyone else telling me how bad it seems to them. It is a kindness if you keep your thoughts to yourself. Considerate it a Mother’s Day gift. Instead include me in conversations about your kids or, if you have little ones, hit me up for parenting advice. I’ve got some good experience.
Love Me: Please give me an extra long and tight hug. There have been many studies saying that physical affection is an amazing deterrent to emotional pain and depression. So help me out on Mother’s Day (or any day of the year) and give me some extra love. Don’t forget to tell me that you love me. There are very few days on the calendar when I need to hear that more.
Believe it or not, I love Mother’s Day. I think it’s immensely important to celebrate the tireless women who pick us up and brush us off when we fall. They are selfless women who guide us with love and candor. They are the center of our world who, no matter how old we get , we always want when our world is collapsing. So this Mother’s Day, give the mother in your life an extra tight squeeze and let her know how much she means to you. it doesn’t matter whether she is the one who you were born to or if she picked you up and made you her own. The result is the same. A mother’s love is a priceless gift.
I am blessed to have a mother-in-law in my life who scooped me up and made me her own. Judy, aka The Benevolent Mother, thank you so much for all that you do for me, Mini-Me, and The Bearded Gentleman. You are the heart of this family. You are a thoughtful, loving mother and an amazingly adoring grandmother. Please know we are always grateful for all that you have done and all that you do (especially trying your hardest to feed me!).
Happy Mother’s Day to my little Pickle. He’s no longer this tiny but he’ll always be my baby.