As the third Mother’s Day since my separation (my first since my divorce) fast approaches, I invited my three children to each write a guest blog post about why they believe Mother’s Day is better after divorce. When I suggested the topic, it did not occur to me any of my kids might still feel otherwise. After all, we have been working so hard these past two years to mend the heartache that unavoidably follows divorce, even the less contentious ones, and today I am fortunate to say our house is generally a happy one. What I received from my middle child, a typical 12 year-old seventh grade girl, follows, opening my eyes to how an adolescent may process her parent’s split, and areas where I can be more sensitive to her feelings while successfully acclimating her, and me, to living happily and contentedly as part of a two-household family and maintaining a positive look to the future. Here is her post.
My father moved out of my house in April 2012. Even though he never lived at home full-time after 2009 when he was transferred back to Hong Kong, it is different now that my father is officially no longer a part of Mother’s Day. I do not like the feeling of this “different” Mother’s Day. Here are five important reasons why Mother’s Day was better when my father was there, too.
1. My father no longer calls to wish my mother a Happy Mother’s Day and is no longer there to buy my mom flowers for the occasion. I remembered seeing flowers on the round table in the main hallway of my house, year after year, and the sight of it would make me happier. Flowers are no longer put on the round table since my parents’ marriage ended. Nowadays, flowers are given to my dad’s fiancée, who is not even a mother, but will soon be my stepmother. The phone calls ended, and my dad no longer says, “Happy Mother’s Day,” to the mother of his three kids.
2. There is always an empty seat at the table during our Mother’s Day meal. Even though Grandma, Grandpa, my uncle, my mom, my sister, my brother, and I are there, there is always that empty seat. “Party of seven.” There is no such thing as a table for seven at a restaurant, so we get taken to a table for eight. One more member of the family could take that seat, designed to be my father’s seat at the table.
3. When I am at a restaurant for Mother’s Day, I look around and see tables full of families. Children, grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins, mothers, and fathers. The father and mother happily get along and are constantly smiling about the special day. This used to be my family before my parents got divorced. Now, all that is left is my mom talking to her mother and stepfather about how Dad should at least call to wish her a happy Mother’s Day.
4. Mother’s Day has become “Single Mother’s Day” for me. Instead of seeing a complete family every Mother’s Day, we wind up having a long discussion about how our family is still “complete” and that Mother’s Day is not any different than it was before. On “Single Mother’s Day,” Grandma and Mom have their own discussion about Mom being single and stuff like that. In the end, the day is not about being an amazing mother, but a day about being a single mother.
5. Mother’s Day no longer has any charm to it for me. Mother’s Day is about a complete family celebrating all of the work a mother does for the rest of her family. It is all about acknowledging the work she has done during the entire year. Now, since the divorce, Mother’s Day is about divorce. Why would such a happy day be about such a devastating topic? I do not know, and now Mother’s Day is a sadder day for me.
My mom says Mother’s Day is better now that she is divorced. I completely disagree. She says she and Dad no longer fight on Mother’s Day. The truth is, they often fought less on Mother’s Day than they fought on other days. They would bicker often, but I once saw somewhere couples that fight care a lot about each other.
My mom tells me there are ways to make Mother’s Day better, but the only way that would make my Mother’s Day better would be if my dad were there, too. I know exactly what she is aiming at. What she wants me to believe is that a stepfather will save Mother’s Day. But, he would not save my Mother’s Day. Yes, he would fill the empty chair at the table, he would make the day not “Single Mother’s Day,” and he would buy my mom flowers. But there is one thing a stepfather would never replace—the feel of Mother’s Day before my parent’s divorce. My dad is the only person who could bring back the old feeling of this special day. A stepfather could never do that, no matter what anyone else says, and no matter how much I like and accept him. Mom could bring a stepfather to Mother’s Day, and into our lives, but wishing my dad were there is something that will never change.
Contemplating my daughter’s words, I recognize Mother’s Day (and, similarly, Father’s Day) is as much, if not more, about our children than our titles, especially in situations of separation or divorce. Divorce can consume us if we are not careful, preoccupy and distract us, and prevent us from seeing what is right before our eyes. As parents we must ensure our young ones know this day is truly a celebration of the relationship and bond shared between mother and child, not about what is perceived to be lacking or missing from our lives as a consequence of our split. Though our “old” Mother’s Days are no more, this Sunday, and every other day starting right now, I will be more conscious about focusing on all that I have. As I do, I will give my children the respect and space they need, and are entitled, to miss their father, while helping them accept that each of their parents has moved on from one other and are better, happier, and healthier for doing so.
Wishing you and the ones you love a very happy Mother’s Day.