As I sit here at the close of my second Mother’s day as a widow, I’m overwhelmed with emotions. Good ones, bad ones, ugly ones, ones that can’t even be described with a word…all of them. When the person who you created life with is dead, this day is most certainly a complicated package of feelings. One on hand, I’m so proud of me. And on this day that honours the work of motherhood, I want to shout, yell and holler from the rooftops…look at me world! I’m doing this 100% on my own and my kids are turning out alright! I want to tell anyone who will listen how fucking hard it is to be the only parent 100% of the time. I want to take out a newspaper ad that tells everyone how fucking tired I am and how some days (let’s call a spade a spade here….most days), it’s a struggle to get out of bed and do it all over again. I’m so proud of me and the work I’m doing to ensure our little girl gang of three, not only survives this indescribable loss, but thrives again. I’m so proud of the mothering I’m doing (again….most days lol!) and how my strength, resilience and humour is showing up in my girls.
I’m proud I’m teaching my girls how to have a relationship with their dead dad, and I’m proud that the people I love and surround myself with are letting Kevin live on in our lives. On a day that honours mothers and the tireless work they do, I wore my Wonder Woman tshirt proudly. I just wish I had a cape too.
But also on this day, I am filled with crushing sadness and piercing loneliness. I have no partner to get up with kids while I get a much deserved sleep in. I have no partner to help the kids make a special mother’s day brunch for me. I can’t celebrate being a mother with the person who helped me become a mother. This day is yet another reminder that I’m alone. I desperately wanted a Mother’s day mimosa (well, I always desperately want a mimosa but mother’s day makes it okay!) so I invited a friend and her daughter over for brunch.
While the kids ran wild in the backyard and we enjoyed our mimosas in the sun, I couldn’t help but think back to my first mother’s day. My oldest was 3 days old and we had arrived home from the hospital only the day before. As a special mother’s day dinner, Kevin prepared a gourmet feast of forbidden pregnancy foods I loved but hadn’t eaten in 9 months. Bbq’ed hot dogs and ice cold aspartame filled Fresca! Two of my favourites! We sat on our rickety old back deck (that has since been replaced as I used some of the life insurance money to turn my backyard into an oasis) and I held our sleepy newborn, equal parts terrified and elated. The late afternoon sun sparkled through the newly budding spring trees as I ate my mother’s day dinner. I remember feeling like love was literally bursting out of me. (Postpartum hormones were coursing through my veins but still) The man I loved, who knew me so well, had made me feel so special and celebrated, and I was holding our perfect, small human we had created together. It was a perfect moment and a perfect mother’s day.
Fast forward 7 years and here I am, again sitting in the spring sunshine in my backyard. Yet now I have two kids and a dead husband. How the fuck did I get here and holy shit, this is nowhere close to how I imagined motherhood during that sunfilled mother’s day dinner so many years ago. After brunch this morning, I took the girls to park and while we were there, unexpected tears pricked my eyes. As I glanced around the park, I realized that every single kid there was at the park with their dad. Not a single mom was there. Except for me. Being dragged in two directions because one kid wanted to go on the slide, but was too scared to do it alone. And in another because the other kid loves the monkey bars but needs help getting up on them. So there I am, running back and forth between two kids, while it slowly dawns on me that all these dads are here at the park, alone with their kids, because they’ve taken the kids out of the house so that the mom can have some time to herself or time to go get a massage or whatever the fuck else we are ‘supposed’ to do on Mother’s day. Now, intellectual me knows full well that some of these men could be uncles, some could be divorced dads or widowed dads, some could be part of two dad families…the combos are endless. But grieving, exhausted me only saw the ‘all the moms are getting some much deserved recharge time’ view. And holy fuck, I just want some recharge time. But the person who always knew when I needed a mothering break is dead. Happy fucking mother’s day. Tears were flowing behind my sunglasses, but I barely had time to wipe them because one kid just fell off the slide and the other kid is now stuck on the monkey bars. The solo parenting never stops. Happy fucking Mother’s day indeed.
Widowed parenting is bittersweet. Good bits, beautiful bits…they poke in continually through all the shit. The first thing I heard when I opened my eyes this morning was my oldest, half asleep whispering “happy mother’s day’. She sleeps in my bed (because a queen bed is too big and too cold for one, and we both love it, so ya, that’s how we roll in this single parent household). At 6:30 am we both sleepily opened our eyes at the same time and were literally face to face with each other. She whispered ‘happy mother’s day, Mama. Love you”, threw her arm over me and instantly fell back asleep. I instantly fell back in love with her and then I too fell back asleep. Later that day, when I was out for a celebratory mother’s day dinner with my parents and my brother’s family, I was in the bathroom with my 3 year old. We were crammed in one stall together, and I was wiping her bum. Mid wipe, while she’s bent over in downward dog, she proclaims “I love you, Mama. I love you because you are so comfy.” My heart melted. I had wanted to leave her trouble making 3 year old self by the side of the road most of the day, but that brief sentence made it all better. It’s so fucking hard and sad doing this all on my own. But when little shining rays of light like those moments happen, I grab them and hang onto to them for dear life. This will be what gets me out of bed tomorrow when the hamster wheel of solo parenting continues spinning out of control.
As this day draws to a close, I think of all those moms who were also crying behind their sunglasses today. I see you, I hear you, I hold space for you. For many women, this day is painful and hard and messy. For those of us who didn’t get to get pampered today but simply got to solo parent for yet another day because our partners are dead, I send you hugs. For those of us who didn’t get to receive an ugly daycare craft from our babies because they were born too early to live, I see you. I know how hard it is every day to be reminded of the mothering you don’t get to do, but even more so on a day like this. For those of you who desperately want to hug your mom and tell her how much you love her but can’t because she was taken from you too soon, I think of you and I hold space for your grief. For those of you who will spend this mother’s day morning visiting your child’s grave side, I see you, your tears and I too shake my head at the unfairness of this life. For all of us, I simply ask for you to hold space in your heart for those struggling on this day. Send a note to your friend who had a miscarriage this year, and tell her you are thinking of her too on this day. Check in with your friend whose mom passed away and tell her you are thinking of her mom. If you have a widowed mom friend who is slogging it out yet again in the solo parenting trenches today, drop off some flowers on her porch or take her kids for a couple of hours so she can get a break. For your friend who has lost a child, speak that child’s name when you wish them Happy mother’s day. Grief does not get smaller on happy hallmark days, in fact it gets bigger.
Happy Mother’s Day. Love and light to you all. May your wave of pain today become calmer and stiller tomorrow.