This weekend is Mother’s Day, a holiday that I have a great deal of trouble with. While the premise seems simple and innocuous (sharing with your mother that you appreciate and love her), the practice has become fraught… and for many people was always fraught. Some people, when they think of Mother’s Day, find their hearts full of pain, shame, guilt, and a slew of other emotions. When they think of their mothers (or their lack of) or their own motherhood (or their lack of), the last thing they want to do is celebrate.

If those feelings rang like a bell in your heart just now, I write this post for you. And I want to give you permission, right this minute, to opt out of observing a ritual that causes you so much pain. You don’t have to pick out a card or send flowers, or receive candy and hollow sentiments to try to hide the fact that everything is not “world’s best mom” perfect in your motherly relationships. In fact you probably shouldn’t. 

Don’t send a card if you don’t really want to. Don’t force yourself to fit a mold that wasn’t made for you. Don’t let others make you feel lesser for something you may have no control over. You are valuable. You are loved.

Mother’s Day, just like any other holiday, is a social construction, given weight by the current cultural belief that motherhood is the most exalted state of being for a woman. It reduces women to one particular role and then judges them by how well they fit into that role. Worst of all, it fails to acknowledge that a lot more goes into being worthy of appreciation and praise than the simple act of giving birth.

Anne Lamott says in an article she wrote for Salon in 2010:

“But Mother’s Day celebrates a huge lie about the value of women: that mothers are superior beings, that they have done more with their lives and chosen a more difficult path. Ha! Every woman’s path is difficult, and many mothers were as equipped to raise children as wire monkey mothers. I say that without judgment: It is, sadly, true. An unhealthy mother’s love is withering.”

Some women who would be amazing mothers aren’t, either because they can’t or don’t or have chosen not to have children. Some women would rather not have or weren’t ready to have children. Some women were mothers but aren’t anymore. And some people’s mothers are absent for reasons totally out of their control.

A person’s value is not contingent upon their fertility (thank you, The Handmaid’s Tale). And the truth is that no amount of cards or candy or flowers can make up for the the quality, or lack of quality, of our relationships. So I’m advocating for Hallmark and the government and organized religion to stay out of our business. They’re the ones who make it easy for a broken social construction to keep forcing this holiday down our throats.

Instead, let’s focus on being real, being present in the relationships that we have and valuing the people in our lives regardless of our biological connection to them.