In concept, Mother’s Day is a wonderful holiday. In r
eality, it’s complicated.
It’s especially anguished for those of us who no longer have our mothers in person or in spirit.
That community, sadly, is growing fast. Thanks mostly to delayed childbirth, many of us are losing our parents before we crossed the parent threshold. Or, like me, we have a parent too sick to be engaged as a grandparent. It makes for some mixed emotions when we’re called to celebrate all things mother.
Allison Gilbert knows the feelings well. She’s the author of a fascinating new book “Parentless Parents: How the Loss of Our Mothers and Fathers Impacts the Way We Raise Our Children” (Hyperion).
For me, reading it was a revelation. Probably what it feels like to run into a friend at an AA meeting: So I’m not the only one.
“There’s an idea that it’s natural to have your parents die first,” Gilbert said, “and it is. But there’s something out of the ordinary about not having them around for the life-altering experience of becoming a parent.”
Gilbert’s book talks about how parentless parents often feel more overwhelmed by childcare duties, miss the support that a parent’s visit or phone call would have provided, and how they can harbor resentment toward loving in-laws.
“People feel like they’re the only ones going through it. They need to find others who can understand it. They can make a real bond, “ she said.
Many of her fans have begun using her book’s Facebook page to connect. They’ve been creating support groups for parentless parents, including a group here in the D.C. region.
Gilbert is well aware of the coming holiday, so she plans to devote much of the talk to strategies on how to have a better Mother’s Day and keep the memory of lost mothers alive. I’ll brunch to that.
Are you facing a Mother’s Day without your mother? How do you mark the day?