Mother’s Day Isn’t An Essential Holiday For Me
By Karen Habashi
Photo © MargJohnsonVA/Twenty20
May 2, 2022
Mother’s Day is an important celebration for many around the world, although the timing differs from one place to another.
Back in Egypt, we celebrated in late March, on the first day of spring. Meanwhile, in North America, it is celebrated in May.
And while I understand why it is widely celebrated, I choose to not participate in a showy way.
My love is not conditional based on the gifts I receive. Or the number of mentions I get on Instagram.
These days, Mother’s Day seems more like a capitalist endeavour. It’s a way for companies to drive sales and sell more products, prefaced by the idea that buying something is the appropriate effort in which to honour “Mom.”
It’s for this reason that I have always told my husband and kids not to get me anything.
Just let me sleep in.
Or maybe get me breakfast in bed with some coffee.
One of my favourite gifts was from my first Mother’s Day. My husband used the cardboard cover of an aluminum foil pan and printed our daughter’s baby hand on it.
He added a photo of her smiling and wrote “best Mom ever” on top.
I still have it on my fridge, 14 years later.
Not Just About Consumerism
I understand how easy it can be to begrudge a holiday that has simply become a commercial exercise.
But it isn’t the only reason I downplay this holiday.
I became the most vocal about how little the day meant to me when my health began to get worse.
One day I was even in the hospital on Mother’s Day.
To protect my daughter from heartbreak and embarrassment, I thought it was best to end the pressures associated with Mother’s Day.
"I became the most vocal about how little the day meant to me when my health began to get worse."
So I told my eldest daughter to simply say, “Mom doesn’t celebrate Mother’s Day.”
To me, it felt like my way out of the pomp and circumstance of the day while I did what I needed to do to get better.
It isn’t that I feel like my mothering doesn’t deserve celebration, but the day felt insignificant to me as real life set in.
Mother’s Day can also feel like a way to dump a lot of love on one day and forget for the rest of the year. Like Father’s Day, Teacher Appreciation Day or other days like it.
I don’t have the luxury of forgetting the limitations of my parenting while facing chronic illness, so the day brings up a lot of emotions.
My point of view doesn’t sit well with everyone.
During a craft session at my daughter’s school, the class was doing what classes do: making homemade Mother’s Day gifts.
My child walked up to her teacher and asked if she could do something else.
The teacher, curious, asked why.
My daughter told her teacher that I don’t celebrate the day, that I think it’s a useless holiday and I probably wouldn’t like the gift. I would love anything my kid makes, for the record, but they were making containers of bath salts and I don’t take baths.
My daughter knows me well.
Her teacher audibly gasped and said, “Oh my, I’m so sorry that she feels that way.”
"I laugh about this now, thinking how the teacher must have thought I was a terrible mom."
I laugh about this now, thinking how the teacher must have thought I was a terrible mom who vocalized that she hated anything her daughter gave her.
I can assure you I’m not that. But I can laugh about it now.
When my daughter came home that day, she was very sad and cried. She told me about what happened, and I felt bad for her.
As a result, I felt deep guilt and shame, emotions I’ve carried the burden of for most of my life.
This internal response is something I’m working on. To support my overall mental health and well-being.
But no matter how much work I do on myself, some moments just hit hard. Like this one.
Quick Thinking, Regret
I cried in secret because I didn’t want anyone, especially my kids, to see me.
But that was the only action I took, which I regret.
I didn’t talk to the teacher.
I didn’t follow up with my daughter.
I just said that not everyone will understand my perspective, and that’s OK.
I missed an opportunity to explain how and why I feel the way that I do.
And as parents know, our actions do impact how kids navigate the world.
My daughter is sensitive, and she is also very conscious of my health. Bearing that weight made her a very quiet and timid child.
"But my growth is happening concurrently with my kids, which means there are bumps in the road and things left unsaid."
No matter how often I tried to encourage her to use her voice and speak up, she wouldn’t.
But I see now why that is. I wasn’t modeling my suggestions. I was simply saying words that I never acted on myself.
As a Coptic Christian woman who lived in Egypt, I learned early on that there are boundaries for women. Speaking up was not something that came naturally to me. Or, really, any woman who grew up in the same faith as me.
Since arriving in Canada, I’ve sought therapy and have grown mentally and physically stronger.
But my growth is happening concurrently with my kids, which means there are bumps in the road and things left unsaid.
All I can do is commit to doing better. To create a life for us that encourages being outspoken, that allows for feelings to be shared — even the hard ones.
So I vowed to break the cycle. And so far, it seems to be working.
I see how taking care of myself, and being proactive in how I talk about my feelings and my health, is leaving an imprint on my kids.
My twins handle confrontation in ways my eldest never did.
In preparation for this Mother’s Day, they told their teacher they didn’t want to make cards with pink hearts on them.
Instead, they made Batman cards with the quote: “You are the night, you are Batman.”
I’m a big Batman fan, and my home office wall is dedicated to him. And my kids knew how this would be special, and not some generic pink and red construction that doesn’t show any thought about the recipient.
When the teacher asked why, they said: “This is what our mom loves, and since this card is for her, we will do what we want.”
They’re kids, so it may seem like a big swing, but they were just thinking of me and not the assignment.
Even my eldest has become more confident.
"It’s a reminder that I’m still standing (thanks, Elton John) — even on Mother’s Day."
She has started debating in school and was even bold enough to ask her teacher to review a mark she felt was too low.
After some measured conversation, she was able to point out some things that her teacher admittedly missed from her paper. And the mark was changed.
I’m proud that my kids are learning to speak up and out.
Dealing with a progressive chronic illness has slowly broken my spirit and body.
From the outside, people see a strong woman fighting, but on the inside, I can be a total mess.
I’m human in that way. Something many of us probably need to remember.
As a family, we’re becoming stronger despite adversity.
It’s a reminder that I’m still standing (thanks, Elton John) — even on Mother’s Day.
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