Today is my tenth Mother’s Day as a mama. Can I just say it was by far the best yet? I’ve come a long way.
Nine Mother’s Days ago, I was engaged and had a one year year old. Our family of three went out for lunch and this, I had decided, was my Mother’s Day celebration. Baby L refused to sit in a high chair in the restaurant. She was screaming as I was lifting her out of her seat, in an effort to get her to stop. Husband was mortified to be seen with an out-of-control toddler, and she flailed and (maybe intentionally, maybe not) slapped me in the face, for every person in the restaurant to see and hear. We dropped cash on the table and left. Husband was embarrassed, overwhelmed and annoyed and I was on the verge of tears because it was Mother’s Day, dammit, and I was supposed to have the picture perfect day. It was like I expected my baby to know that this was supposed to be my special day, and Husband was supposed to dote over me and shower me with the perfect gifts.
Husband used to agonize over buying gifts for me. Every Mother’s Day, birthday, anniversary, Christmas this used to cause great anxiety for him. I would be so “cute” and “coy” dropping hints all of the time about things I like, expecting that he was just on the edge of his seat, hanging on my every word and plotting the most amazing surprise gifts. My expectation was gifts that were so perfect that I didn’t even know I wanted them, but he should know me so well to know what I need more than I do. Clearly, I was setting him up for complete failure.
No surprise tropical vacation for my birthday or remodeled kitchen for Christmas? Does he not understand how special I am?! (Bless my entitled heart.)
One of our first Christmases together, Husband logged into my Victoria’s Secret account online and just checked out, buying me all of the clothes from my shopping cart. He was probably very proud of himself. Obviously I liked all of these clothes, they were the right size, etc etc. I still cringe when I think about this, but I was such an idiot that I actually cried to him, explaining that he was not thoughtful for coming up with something on his own.
(For the record, I wish I could slap my 22 year old self for that one.)
For a couple years following, Husband would practically beg me to please just buy myself a gift. This seemed to be our compromise. I got the things I wanted, he was off the hook for having to fetch them and we were both fairly disillusioned about the whole gift giving process.
So much has changed in the last ten years, (growing up, maturing, constant need to forgive and be forgiven….) but the most important thing that has changed has been our attitudes and expectations.
First, we now just know that toddlers are assholes and are very familiar with the temperment of 1-3 year olds. We have had one (or two of them at a time) for a decade now. We are shameless as we drag little ones of of church, accepting it as a part of life instead of want to die of embarrassment and deciding we are complete failures as parents and people.
I do not play dumb games and expect that my husband reads my mind. This does not just apply to gift giving. When I need something, I need to speak his language — direct and to the point. Husband now keeps a running list of things I blatantly ask for like, “I would like BLANK and it would make a nice gift for my birthday next month” on his phone. It is brilliant, relieves anxiety, and I feel understood and loved for the very special (I’m an enneagram 4 if that means anything to you) person I believe I am.
I am grateful for any effort made. Every gift. Every card. When I stop and count my blessings, it far surpasses my list of grievances. Always.
Today, Husband’s surprise Mother’s Day gift (he hired a cleaning service for me!) was foiled yesterday. I didn’t decide that my surprise was ruined, therefore Mother’s Day is ruined and EVERYTHING IS JUST RUINED! I was just as excited to be reminded of it today as I was when I came across a text from new cleaning lady on his phone yesterday. You can bet I will be JUST AS HAPPY every time that woman comes to clean my toilets OH MY GOSH.
I knew (and expected) that today, on Mother’s Day, I would still have a toddler who is a jerk at church. I still needed to remind the kids to use their manners at brunch. I still had to clean poop out of my 3 year old’s fingernails (because learning to wipe is hard, you guys).
This does not mean my Mother’s Day wasn’t perfect. It was filled with time spent together, a meal I didn’t have to make, handmade cards and my favorite flowers (you can bet Husband has that in a note on his phone) and the best gift of all — a nap. It has been my favorite to date. Husband isn’t stressed from unrealistic expectations I’ve put on him, my kids are being sweet with their extra hugs and kisses, and at the same time cursing Mother’s Day for being the reason they can’t go play with friends. It is imperfectly beautiful like most, and I wouldn’t trade it.
When you remove crazy expectations on the people around you and leave grace for your real, actual life, you will be more joyful and a much more pleasant mama, wife, sister, friend, daughter… Be a gift to your family so they still actually want to celebrate you on Mother’s Day!
Are you letting your satisfaction in this holiday rest in the hands of your spouse, your kids, your parents or your friends? Have you set unrealistic expectations for today? You are the only one who can choose joy for yourself. Let’s all extend a little grace and expect imperfection today.
Here is a toast to you, Mom — Happy Mother’s Day to you. May you rest assured you are loved, appreciated, and strong enough to stay this hard and amazing journey called motherhood. Shall we expect and embrace our imperfect, unfiltered days today and every day. Cheers!