“Want to Opt Out of Mother’s Day Emails?” was the header of a recent missive from a makeup company. And a sleepwear company. And a crafting website.
“We understand that Mother’s Day can be a difficult time for some of us,” one of the emails began, letting me know that I could take a pause from their campaign but, not to worry: “We’d still keep you updated on the latest trends and offers.”
Woo-hoo! I was relieved I could still receive makeup news even if I skipped Mother’s Day.
Now I, more than anyone, understand the pain that Mother’s Day can cause.
During my four years of infertility, suffering from as many miscarriages, I wanted nothing to do with the early May holiday celebrating the very thing that I wasn’t sure I would ever become: a mom.
It was bad enough that throughout the year my social feeds were filled with pregnancy announcements, ultrasound pictures and the adorable newborns that I couldn’t seem to produce.
Because of my baby envy, I had to fake supportive exclamations to my pregnant friends because I couldn’t sincerely say, “I’m so happy for you.”
My husband didn’t get it – “Their having a baby has nothing to do with us,” he’d say as he tried to “comfort” me.
But it was just a reminder of my entire life: the endless rounds of IVF (10), the money spent ($100,000+), the hormone shots (a gazillion) and our life on hold as we hovered between couple-hood and parenthood.
Year after year, when May arrived, I would take a hiatus from Facebook; and it wasn’t a self-righteous hiatus I could announce as a healthy “social media cleanse,” either.
I was just avoiding heartbreaking posts like “These delicious kids are what made me be a mom” or the worst, “My first boy made me a mom, my daughter made us a family” – as if the only way to be a family was to birth 2.2 children.
Of course I was still a family with my husband. And still part of a family, with siblings and parents, including a mom. We celebrated with her, even though none of us had fond memories of Mother’s Day: As a child, my father would unilaterally opt out of celebrating Mother’s Day, claiming it was a “Hallmark holiday.” (Unsurprisingly, my parents eventually divorced.)
So coming from a dysfunctional family and trying to start my own (functional) family, I can understand why people might want to cancel or opt out of Mother’s Day.
But . . . no. Just no.
In the seven years since I’ve become a mom, I look forward to celebrating this day – and don’t feel guilty about it.
I want to celebrate how hard I worked to become a mom, how hard it can be to be a mom and the deliciousness that is the baby/toddler/preschooler/sassy seven year old phases.
Call me “fertility privileged” – which apparently is a thing, according to The Guardian – but I want that sweet breakfast in bed that will have to be peeled off the kitchen walls after; I can’t wait for that totally wrong present from my husband I’ll secretly have to return behind his back; and for one day — and one day only — I want to try and sleep in. Haven’t we moms earned it?
Besides, there is so much in the world tearing women apart — moms vs. childfree by choice, fertile vs. infertile, working moms vs. stay-at-home moms, “lean in vs. lean out.”
I wonder if the backlash against Mother’s Day isn’t really to distract us from the real issues facing women today: equal pay, reproductive rights, parental paid leave – things that would benefit most women regardless of their familial status.
Just because we celebrate Mother’s Day doesn’t mean mothers are better than anyone else. (Just like saying “Merry Christmas” doesn’t denigrate Hanukkah).
I respect the rights of any woman to choose to or not to have children, and support any way she choose to have them.
And my heart is always with anyone who wants children and is unable to have them, whether it’s because they haven’t found a partner, don’t want to do it on their own, or can’t afford the outrageously expensive treatment or complicated adoption services needed to make them a mom.
And to these women I say, opt out! Ignore the posed pictures of laughing families and treacly odes to kids, without shame or guilt.
But let’s not cancel Mother’s Day just yet, because with all the sleeplessness, the worry, the mom guilt, the housework and the emotional labor, it’s still one of the least appreciated roles in the world. (And I say this as a woman with a partner who does 50/50.)
This year, I will cook brunch for all the mothers in my family, then take my daughter to afternoon tea in New York City. I’ll also be opting out of all marketing emails – for Mother’s Day and beyond.
Amy Klein is the author of “The Trying Game: Get Through Fertility Treatment and Get Pregnant Without Losing Your Mind.”
This story originally appeared on NYPost