The Otherness of Mother’s Day

I spent Mother’s Day being mothered rather than honoring my mother thanks to what we think was a touch of food poisoning. Not ideal but we were together nonetheless and that was good. I did spent a little bit of my couch time surfing Instagram (though only a little here and there – my eyes hurt, apparently a symptom of some types of food poisoning) where I saw exactly what you might expect:

Pictures of mothers through the years with adoring captions.

Pictures of kids in their Sunday best for brunch, or in their dingiest duds as they gifted yard work and other labor.

Pictures of families as moms pulled their partners into the day’s spotlight and partners honored one another’s parenting in posts.

I even saw one post praising a fur mom for her loving parenting.

Did you do some surfing, too? Did you see your feed – perhaps normally filled with politics and complaints and pictures of food in various stages of preparation – spend 24 hours awash in gratitude and appreciation?

It’s a beautiful thing the way holidays and birthdays and milestones invite us to pause from our regularly scheduled internal programming and look freshly at our lives and luck. And yet…

…I have to confess that there were other feelings that I noticed bumping around with the joy and gratitude inside of me. Feelings of Otherness.

I once had a woman contact me about coaching who asked if I was a mother. “I just don’t think I could identify well if you aren’t,” she wrote.

Not a parent. Other. Outside of a dynamic that I can guess at, play in, explore peripherally but, so far, not know.

We were all Others in some way yesterday, though:

Mothers who have lost children physically or emotionally.

Kids who have lost moms physically or emotionally.

Moms who began their parenting journey single and those who have become single along the way.

Women who, like me, have chosen not to have children and those whose bodies or circumstances made that choice for them.

Adoptive moms and moms who have given their children for adoption.

Children being raised by one dad or two.

Children being raised in loving homes by people other than biological parents.

Children being raised in terrible homes by biological parents.

I spent those few minutes scrolling through my feed feeling my own Otherness and the Otherness of so many more, feeling happiness for those whose Otherness allowed for a joyful celebration yesterday and heartbreak for those whose Otherness would be sharpened on the whet stone of the holiday.

I don’t mean to suggest that Otherness is a bad thing. Otherness just is. Normal is an average and averages aren’t real – they’re the result of an equation that smooshes together all the Otherness to give us as tidy a picture of reality as possible.

And a tidy reality? That isn’t real either.

What is real? That we all have way more in common than not, and that the not part – the Otherness – is exactly what makes this world exciting and dynamic and beautiful.

Yes, sometimes the Otherness also makes life challenging and scary and lonely…. The really cool part, to me at least, is that because we all are Other in some way, we all have the potential to have compassion for the ways in which others are, well, Other.

So, a belated Happy Mother’s Day to those who would like such wishes, and wishing us all the discovery of joy and connection in our Otherness, whatever form it may take.