Don’t Let the Smile Fool You – When Mother’s Day Hurts

Every once in a while I am scrolling through photos on my phone and come across a picture from my first Mother’s Day with my son two years ago. I look at that smiling image of my son and me, and I cringe a little inside. While far from picture perfect, we look serene and happy in our coordinating outfits. But, those sentiments couldn’t be further from the truth of that day.

My first Mother’s Day as a mom was rough.

It had been two months since my mother unexpectedly died. My son was only a few months old and still colicky. I was sleep deprived, emotionally drained, and feeling disconnected from my son. To make matters worse, my son woke up that morning and looked right at my husband and uttered his first words ever – dada. I realize this sounds overdramatic, but in my state of mind at the time it felt like confirmation that my son preferred my husband and that I must be a terrible mom.

Through the tears and frustrations, I remember desperately wanting a cute picture of us. Not just to share, but to have this snapshot that would represent my first Mother’s Day. As if I would look back and forget the pain. I don’t know what anyone else thought about that picture when they saw it on social media, but now I just see a mom that was struggling.

It’s been two years since that Mother’s Day and to be perfectly honest, I still dread this holiday. Everywhere you look you see images of seemingly ideal mother/child relationships, whether it’s with your mom or children. In reality though, life is far from picture perfect. Behind those coordinating outfits and beautiful smiles are people dealing with pain, grief, insecurities, and disappointments. I’m not saying we need to stop sharing moments from Mother’s Day! I do enjoy seeing what other moms are up to. I’m just saying we need to stop comparing our real, messy, sometimes painful lives to a filtered and cropped snapshot of someone else’s life. 

Struggling Through Mother’s Day

If you are struggling this Mother’s Day with grief, insecurities, or disappointments – you are not alone! Be honest with your struggles with someone you trust, focus on the positives in your life, practice self-care, or turn your focus to someone else. Sometimes I let myself get so focused on what’s missing that I forget to enjoy the blessings I do have in my life. I see my friends enjoying time with their mom, or get an email reminding me to buy a gift for my mom, and I spiral into a cycle of depression and anger over how unfair it is. But, I forget the other part of Mother’s Day- my son. He is a huge blessing in my life, toddler tantrums and all. Some days I need to get out of my head and focus on him. Instead of wishing we were past this toddler phase or wishing he acted like he liked me more. I need to put that energy into the relationship. Instead of using it to focus on my grief, I need to think of other moms who might be struggling. It’s amazing how a simple note, baked good, or just a text checking in can change someone’s day and attitude. My mom always taught me to do something for someone else when I was feeling sorry for myself or focused too much on my pain. I can’t control some of the circumstances in my life, but I can control how I react to them.

You’re Not Alone

Please hear me out when I say I completely understand that depression is not something you can “just get over”. I also know there are moms and women out there dealing with tragedies I can’t even begin to understand. It might seem trite for me to say “turn your focus to someone else”. If you are someone going through depression and grief, please know you are not alone. I may not fully understand the circumstances you are going through, but I know what it is like to feel depression, despair, and going through the motions on the outside while feeling numb on the inside. I wish you peace and comfort this Mother’s Day! If you are struggling, I definitely encourage you to open up to a trusted friend or talk to a doctor or counselor. The first step is sometimes the hardest! I feel like I’m just now starting to take a few steps out of a deep fog of the past few years. I read a quote recently that basically said having anxiety/depression doesn’t mean you are weak, but rather showing up when you are struggling with those shows incredible strength. Some days showing up might just mean getting out of bed, and that’s ok. You are still moving forward.

Give a Kind Word…and Accept One

So as this Mother’s Day approaches let’s all remember to be patient with ourselves and others. Let’s try to stop comparing our real lives to a snapshot of someone else’s. Instead of being envious, let’s stop and smile at another mom – you never know what she is dealing with inside her mind. If you know another mom who might be struggling this Mother’s Day, send a note, arrange a playdate, or just check in with a text. My mom used to jokingly say each year all she wanted for Mother’s Day was a “kind word”. Let’s do that this Mother’s Day and spread a little love and kindness to others.

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One Response to Don’t Let the Smile Fool You – When Mother’s Day Hurts

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    Cindy May 8, 2019 at 5:06 pm #

    Thank you Sarah Lynn for sharing you have your mothers gentle spirit 💕

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