In today’s world Mother’s Day has become a commercial opportunity for most retailers and is ‘bigged up’ to be a a day of expectation. Go into any supermarket or department store and there are dedicated displays full of thoughtful gift suggestions and cards galore, even sitting and relaxing watching the TV we are bombarded with adverts depicting the perfect Mother’s Day scenario.
The reality of this day for women is usually anything but! What about those women who have lost their Mum? It becomes a day to ‘get through’ along with their birthday, Christmas and all those other family celebrations. What about those women who can’t have children and yearn to be a mum? What about the vast majority of women who strive to make sure their Mothers and Mothers -in- law feel loved and special, usually on behalf of their children and husband, and the last person they think about is themselves?
At times being a mother can be so overwhelming; from that trapped feeling when the kids were little, to a sense of powerlessness when they are teenagers. Or it can seem to be a series of sacrifices where the rewards are barely noticeable. So it’s not surprising that Mother’s Day can take on a level of significance that is potentially out of all proportion. As the day approaches we wait hopefully for those few hours where we get a sense that all our efforts have been noticed and our loved ones show us just a bit of gratitude.
Rachel – I am ashamed to say I have fallen into the trap of expectation. Last year, having organised gifts, cards and family time for both Grandma’s, I waited for my teenagers to shower me with affection and a maybe some flowers, only to be ignored until lunchtime by both my teenagers and the only effort was made by my poor husband on their behalf. When I dissolved into tears at the lack of love, my eldest teen said “What’s the matter with you? Are you having the menopause or something?!”
Lucy – My experience was not much better – I spent the day in bed (it was my first since my Mum died) – but despite being there all day I didn’t even get breakfast in bed. I can’t lie, I did receive a few token gifts but they were definitely bought by and maybe even chosen by my husband.
So does this mean that we have raised ungrateful children, who in the absence of anyone encouraging them to make Mother’s Day cards (oh we miss those handmade creations!) fail to think beyond themselves? Perhaps? Or maybe they are simply not there yet. Gratitude is something that children learn and should be able to understand by about the age of four but that doesn’t take account of the teenage factor! Just as they are at their most egocentric, their brains are rapidly rewiring, allowing them to separate from us. Despite this we are expecting them to think about how they can show their gratitude to us.
However the importance of gratitude shouldn’t be ignored. Research by Robert Emmons (Professor of Psychology UC Davis) has shown that practising gratitude has profound effects including:
- Enhanced immune system
- Increased optimism
- Lower blood pressure
- Increased positive emotions
- Higher levels of joy and happiness
- Expanded generosity and compassion
- Reduced loneliness and social isolation
He argues that the process of practising gratitude on a regular basis makes us feel more connected to those around us and helps us notice how much we are supported and loved. So despite the daily grind, noticing the positive means that we can look at our lives and recognise that things are generally pretty good. He has written a book The Little Book of Gratitude by Robert Emmon
Perhaps this year instead of hoping for a day filled with gratitude from all our nearest and dearest, we should remind ourselves that the love we feel for our mothers and children is a gift and we should feel grateful for who we have, and have had, in our lives. This means for us, accepting that our own teenagers are growing up and the days of sweet handmade paraphernalia are over, but recognising that we were lucky enough to have experienced this in the first place. And maybe, just maybe we should spoil ourselves a little and remind ourselves, we’re doing the best we can.
Look at this lovely website Brave over Perfect by Christine Carter – Raising Happiness.