The Makings of a Mother's Day Breakdown

I hope you had a great Mother's Day. We had a quiet day at home (thank you, quarantine) with the family and it was relaxing and restful and I thoroughly enjoyed it. But it had me thinking.

A few years back, I had a complete breakdown on Mothers Day.

No, really.

I remember it was warm outside, and beautiful and sunny. My husband was in the driveway, prepping for an afternoon of lacrosse for our sons. He was getting bags and gear and sticks together to put in the trunk of the minivan so we could pack up the family for the games. I was standing there, arms crossed, teary eyed.

I had been sullen and sad all that day. I had been on the verge of tears pretty much since I got out of bed that morning. I am a big fan of the Silent Treatment when I am upset (#excellentcopingskills), and I know I had been quiet. Not proud about it, just letting you know.

My husband asked was what I wanted to do for dinner: go out, pick up take-out from a restaurant or stay home and grill something...since it was Mothers Day he was giving me the choice.

It was a pretty normal question, so of course, I burst into tears and sobbed to my husband that I wanted to pack up a bunch of my stuff and leave.

Which is not the typical (or helpful) response to what-do-you-want-to-do-for-dinner.

While continuously wiping my running nose on my sleeve I tried to explain that I had completely lost myself. Our kids were younger (at that point, probably 12, 8, 7, 3). I was drowning in the daily tasks that life with a family requires and exhausted and had no time to do any of the things I used to love to do. I know this says nothing positive about my time management or self-regulation, but work with me..

I told him I wanted to pack up my running shoes, my art supplies, a handful books and go away somewhere alone until I missed them all and wanted to come back. I would drive until I felt tired and get a hotel and stay there for a few days or something.

My husband astutely commented that if I waited to come back until I missed them, that could be a long time.

I responded with more sobbing (again, highlighting my superb interpersonal communication skills).

I ugly cried. For a weird-long time.

It got awkward.

To be honest--since we are in the circle of trust here--my crying is always ugly crying. I am not an actress with lovely, forlorn yet beautiful tears streaming sort of crying. No. For me, it's just face twisted-up, red-nose running ugly cry.

Regardless, I could not pull it together. It was miserable.

My husband, who is a really great, loving and affectionate person, but let's face it--a dude--was, I am sure, confused and possibly annoyed, and felt terrible for me, but was still, in the end baffled by my behavior. Not that he didn't care; he cared a lot, but he had no idea how to fix it.

Then I suggested I could stay in a hotel in Bridgeville for a few days. Just as an aside, Bridgeville, PA is about 3 miles from my house, and not known as a hot vacation spot. I grocery shop there. They have a Home Depot. Not vacation-y. You can probably google it.

So we stood there in the driveway. Me crying, him standing looking at me with wonder and pity. It was really something.

And really I didn't know what to tell him to do so that he COULD fix it, because I was wallowing in self-pity and sadness. Leaving for a while (not like, LEAVE, leaving--just a few days--everyone please calm down) seemed like the most dramatic and best answer.

Anyway, far from feeling like the dramatic heroine in a tragic novel, I just felt a little like a lunatic who just wanted a break from the mothering role for a while.

When I look back on that day, I laugh, because in that moment I felt so completely desperate. And I felt pathetic, a feeling which is not ever helpful to a woman in that state.

You can love your whole family--love being a mom and love your kids and everything and still feel completely out of sorts with yourself from time to time. I think it was normal, maybe hormonal, maybe I was more tired than usual...there are a host of reasons I was such a wreck, but it was a reminder that I was neglecting something. Or someone.


Something had been looming under the surface, and part of it was missing my own mom, who had died of breast cancer a couple years before this. Part of it was just that I lost focus on some things that were crucial in my life to make me feel like my own person. And I hadn't made the space in my life to DO those things as regularly as my spirit needed. And this was a harsh reminder that I needed care, too.

It was Mothers Day, which meant all of the weight of "what Should be a Really Special Day for Moms compared to the Every Other Day the Rest of the Year" is piled on top. If you are a new mom, or superbly optimistic, I am sorry, because I am about to burst your bubble.

Here is my best Mothers Day advice: Lower your expectations.

No, a little lower.

Just a little bit lower.

There. Right there--that's better.

I absolutely being married and having a family. I just needed to reconnect with things that were solely me. Things that were my own, that transcended the roles of mom or a wife. It had been so long since I had had time to indulge those parts of me that lay quiet when we were so busy and the hours are filled to bursting with family needs and duties. When I write that, it sounds selfish and wrong, and I am even getting choked up right now with the frustration of trying to explain how I felt in that moment. But those things (whatever things those are in your life) keep nudging you and reminding you that they are lying dormant, waiting to be rediscovered and enjoyed.

Melodramatic. But still true.

For the record, I classify self-care as doing the thing that your Future Self will thank you for. Might be something meaningful, might not. It's putting your own oxygen mask first, and I know we have covered that here before.

Lowering your expectations is a healthy response to the anticipation of Mother's Day, since there just is not enough that someone could do to properly thank Moms for their sacrifice, devotion, love and dedication. There just isn't. And for us moms to feel fulfilled...well, in many ways, that burden is on US ourselves. These wonderful people who orbit in your world cannot be responsible for all of your feelings and wish fulfillment. They are not an extension of you (although there are many years, you Moms of Young Littles, where it feels like they ARE an extension of you, and by virtue of their relative proximity to you at all times, they ARE). Your husband, dear as he may be, is not responsible for your happiness. I am not sure if that is what I was waiting for that day, but I now recognize that there was a disconnect between what I was anticipating and what was the reality of the day. And that is ok, too. I have to take these learning experiences where ever they come from.

So guess what happened that day?

After many tears, and hugs from from my husband...

We packed up the girls and we headed to lacrosse as a family. And the rest of the day was lovely, warm and sunny, and we ate a delicious grilled supper together that my hubby graciously prepared.

I would love to report that I packed up the running shoes, art supplies, and books and left for a motel in Bridgeville (or somewhere lovely) for a few days. But the fact is, I didn't get the Mom-sabbatical.

I got hugs, and "We Love You, Mom," and some really great lacrosse games. And a memory of Mother's Day that I will never forget. And for that I look back and I am grateful.

Ann Marie

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