Mother’s Day has been a challenging holiday for a while now.

It’s hard to explain that to some people — I mean, who doesn’t love Mother’s Day, right?  Making silly cards when you’re young, doting on your mom, enjoying special attention from your own children.

But there are many ways in which this holiday can be hard.  Here are just two of my own.

BrightSide and I tried unsuccessfully for a number of years to start a family, so there were certain annual events that caused me immeasurable pain.  One was the blessing of expectant mothers in our church, and another was Mother’s Day.

Every May that passed without a child of my own was both exhausting and excruciating as I watched women around me showered with love by their kids.  There was an ache in my soul so deep that the wound throbbed with every heartbeat.  I found it difficult to be around devoted families, but it’s despicable to hate women for their joy so I hated myself for even having the feeling.

This makes it sound like my problems would have been solved once we started our family.  And in some ways it’s true — T-man’s arrival ushered in a new era, one where I finally got to be a mama and that deep down desire was eased.  Fulfilling my dream of being a mother was a precious moment for me.

But Mother’s Day is still hard as I see my mom going through her own struggles.  She has advanced Parkinson’s disease, and watching her endure what this illness is doing to her is nearly unbearable.

Growing up, my mom was a force to be reckoned with.  She was a navy wife and mother, sometimes stepping up into single parenting because of my dad’s deployments or his work hours while home. She coordinated at least ten moves, some of which were cross-country or across oceans.  Mom researched each new area for the best schools, and she managed to oversee packing and moving days while corralling three kids.

It may have taken me years to reach this point, but when I need to be strong or assertive I look back at memories of my mom.  I remember listening to her handle problems on the phone with a calm but determined there-is-no-disputing-this tone of voice.  I saw her juggle five things at once without dropping the ball, even when surrounded by packing boxes and a moving truck.

Was she perfect?  No.  These memories, much like the ones of my own kids from their toddler days, have benefited from the passing of time that gives recollections a rosy tint.  But was she kind and strong and loving and wanted the best for us?  Yes.  Unreservedly, yes.

Seeing this strong, independent woman struggle with everything in her life now is painful  beyond words.  She’s grown dependent on the people around her for everything, and while we want to be there for her I know that it upsets her to need the assistance.

Mom feels very anxious these days.  How could she not?  The concept of time eludes her and she’s often confused, even at home.  She doesn’t always recognize the people around her, and that’s an unsettling state of flux to live in.  Thoughts are trapped in her head, either because she can’t find the words themselves or because her body won’t allow her to speak them.  I’m handling a lot of the changes okay, but nothing helps when your mom is terrified and there’s not a thing you can do to comfort her.

Oddly enough, the times when she doesn’t know who I am aren’t as troubling as I thought they would be.  It is sad, but in a way it seems like mom doesn’t struggle as much in those moments.  Maybe because she doesn’t feel that maternal need to reach out and get me to understand what she’s trying to say.

Please don’t misunderstand me — I’m grateful that my mom’s still here with us.  But there are times when I miss the woman she used to be, and celebrating Mother’s Day with her stirs all that up.

So, for all the women out there who might be struggling on Mother’s Day:

Ones who have lost their mothers and have to celebrate her memory without her…

Ones who grew up without a mother or with someone who caused more pain than love…

Ones who are watching their own mothers suffer…

And ones who are trying to become mothers while enduring the wait…

Whatever space you’re in, whatever burden you might carry, may this day bring you peace and blessings.

Senior Lady Holding Hands with Young Woman