Mother’s Day morning: here I sit alone, drinking my coffee and smoking my fifth cigarette. It’s a Sunday morning; no one else is in the house and it’s very quiet. I’m still in my pyjamas even though it’s almost 9 a.m. I haven’t even thought about breakfast yet. My hair isn’t brushed, and I don’t know if I’ll even bother today.

You see, it’s Mother’s Day. Apparently, it’s supposed to be MY day.

I have two children. Paul is eight years old and Emily is six. They’re with their father this weekend. He and I share joint custody of them, which means that they’re with me half of the time and with him the other half. I know where my children are this morning. They’re at their nana’s: their father’s mother’s house. They’re most likely making some grand gesture of a breakfast with pancakes and eggs. Hopefully my son and daughter are being encouraged to participate. Their nana has been involved in their lives a lot. She loves them dearly and they’re one of the few things that I have seen bring light to her eyes. Nana has suffered and survived lung cancer, and is currently in remission. I’m hoping she’s enjoying my children and her own to the fullest today.

I however, am going to pour another cup of coffee and enjoy the silence.

I might call my mom later. She’s probably saddened by her husband not being there to celebrate yet another holiday with her. My father passed away six years ago, and my mom finds this very challenging.

I have seven siblings, of which only a handful live in the vicinity of my mom. She raised eight kids with a workaholic husband. She was often left alone to deal with the daily trials and tribulations of raising kids; a window broken, a frog loose in the house, fist fights. I giggle at some of the memories. Imagine five boys in one house, four of whom were less than five years apart. There was many a fight, and REAL fights with black eyes and bruises. Creatively, to solve this problem, boxing gloves and a bag arrived Christmas morning. From what I recall, this just meant my mother could no longer use one of her favourite lines: “If you’re going to fight, GO OUTSIDE!” This was one of many trials my mother handled. I probably couldn’t even imagine. You see, I’m the youngest so the worst of the family chaos happened when I was too little to remember. Her whole life, or at least forty years of her life, was about being a mom. Forty years… I haven’t even lived that long yet!

But today, as she sits alone in her apartment, I wonder if she’s cherishing this time alone or resenting the fact that she’s not with any of her children? Or perhaps she is. Perhaps my brothers have invited her over for brunch to spend some time with their families. Or perhaps they’ll take her out to dinner or bring her some flowers and check in on her. I will call, probably.

My coffee is empty again.

My friend Mary lost her mom last year to cancer. She’s missing her a lot. Mary has her own daughter who is out travelling the world. Though I don’t think she’s expecting a phone call from the tundra from her. We’re going to have coffee today. Mary is saddened by the loss of her mom. She misses the connection she had developed with her mom over the years.

I am so grateful this morning. My coffee is still hot. I’m able to sit and drink it uninterrupted. The only person I have to take care of today is myself. A luxury, really. How lucky I am that on some days I actually get to look after myself fully.

Since I’ve had my kids, my children’s father would ask me what I wanted for Mother’s Day; “a day off” was always my response. I’ve had people judge me for this. I’ve judged myself for this. But the reality is, I need a day off; a day for myself to do things for myself, not for others.

My world has shifted a bit since I first became a mom. I do have some free time where I’m not constantly pressured to take care of the little people, but really I’m getting what I want for Mother’s Day. A day to be myself on my own, a cherished gift.

How many other mothers out there feel pressured to spend time with their families on Mother’s Day, when really all they want to do is hang out in their P.J.’s with their favourite book? Or to turn on their favourite sitcom and watch reruns all day with a bowl of popcorn. Or maybe you’re the type of mother who wants all the action a family can give. The loud, the boisterous, the noisy! I hope, if you do enjoy this, that you get what you need!  But I also hope that if you want quiet, a nap, the TV, your girlfriends, that you’re able to ask for what you need, too!

I hope, if you’re a mom who needs a day of rest—a REAL day of rest—that you’re able to ask for it, and that your family will not judge you for this need, but will support you in your request.

I want to give all the mothers out there permission to ask for what they really want for Mother’s Day! Think about it this morning. What do you want? Ask for it, you have a right! Your world is so full of everyone else’s needs and wants. Today give yourself permission to ask for what you need! Your sanity and happiness depends on it!

This afternoon I will call my kids, and ask if I can take them to the park for a game of grounders so that I can give them a hug and say thanks. Thanks for making me a mommy. They have taught me so much about myself. I know I wouldn’t be the woman I am today without them.

But I am, a woman. I am a worker, a lover, a mother, a friend, a sister, a woman.

Motherhood is not the only thing that defines me. I used to think that this was required. I thought that as soon as I had my first child, I would be nothing but a mother. This almost killed me. Literally. The depression I fell into was unbearable.

What is motherhood? How is it defined by our society? By ourselves? I had these ideas of what motherhood meant. I learned them not only from my own mom, but from all the media presentations, from the other women I met at playgroups and my kids’ school.

For years I tried to be what I thought a mother should be. My whole life revolved around my kids’ needs, as well as their father’s. This was no one’s fault but my own.

I have evolved since then. I needed to.

If I was to be a happy mom, I had to take care of my other needs as a woman. This hasn’t been easy. This means sometimes my kids are at the babysitter’s so I can participate in events that don’t include them but enhance my own growth. It means they’re at school before most other kids and they’re at school later than most other kids so I can work at a job that I’m passionate about but that I have to travel 40 minutes a day to get to. It means that they will get their own breakfast and learn to pack their own lunches. They will help clear the table, pick up after themselves and help with taking the garbage out and doing the laundry. It means they’ll know their mom is more than just a mom, but a woman, a worker, a lover, a friend, a sister. A woman.

Mother’s Day; a day to celebrate all the women who have gone through this process. To learn who they are and how best to serve themselves and their families without losing themselves. What would I be teaching my daughter if I put all of my life on hold just to take care of her and her brother’s needs?

I do not want her to give up all of herself for the benefit of her children. I want her to be herself, whoever that might be.

Today, I want all mothers to celebrate their motherhood in whatever way best reflects who they are. Enjoy the day, it’s for you! It is about you and how you can honour yourself and all the work that YOU do!

I will be drinking more coffee, making myself a simple breakfast shortly and spending the morning with some very good friends. Then we’ll see. But I know that on this Mother’s Day, I will honour myself and all the choices I have made to become the best mother I can.

by Kate Quinlan
image: coffee cup via Shutterstock