There are work-arounds to not having a mother in your family. Our kids drank formula rather than breast milk. We make adjustments to forms when necessary. And when our twins are overly cranky, we tell them “Save the drama for President Obama!” But I’ll admit, Mother’s Day is a tough one.
What are my kids going to do when their classes are making macaroni and glitter cards and milk carton bird feeders every mid-May? Sit in the corner and do long division because they have no one to give theirs to? I don’t want them to feel left out, and I would never want a school to cancel Mother’s Day for their benefit. It’s a great holiday. I even have a mother myself.
Actually, my problem with Mother’s Day started before the kids were even born. Three years ago, around this time, our surrogate, Tiffany, was pregnant with the blobs who would eventually become Bennett and Sutton. She did everything a pregnant woman is supposed to do – ate well, got regular check-ups, stayed off crack. For her diligence, she was rewarded with non-stop morning sickness, a fetus who kicked the crap out of her uterus, Braxton Hicks contractions and eventually, 24-hour bed rest, all for the sake of someone else’s kids.
For that alone, I’d say she earned a bouquet of flowers once a year, but it doesn’t make her, you know, an m-word.
Then there was Drew’s sister, Susie, who’d gone through the hassle and discomfort of egg donation, who’d injected herself with needles on a daily basis, flown across country about five times – at the risk of losing her job – and forked over her DNA to make a couple of kids who would always call her “Aunt”. What would Mother’s Day represent for her? Just another Sunday? An annual unacknowledged reminder of her sacrifice?
It didn’t seem right. But using Mother’s Day to honor Tiffany and Susie didn’t seem appropriate either, because we were very clear about our family structure and who was in charge. Fear not, Right Wing. I have no desire to redefine motherhood.
After thinking it over for a while, we invented our own holiday, Surrogate and Egg Donor’s Day, which we celebrate on the Saturday before Mother’s Day every year.
The timing is significant, because it keeps our kids from feeling left out of Mother’s Day weekend, and it allows our surrogate and egg donor, both of whom now have kids of their own, to celebrate Mother’s Day with their own families, while still being honored for their contribution to ours. Because they’re such amazing people, they get a whole weekend of love.
We’re not the only non-traditional family who can use this extra holiday. Plenty of special women fall outside the definition of the word “mother” but still deserve recognition for their contributions to families. It could be:
- Your adopted kid’s birth mother
- The woman who raised you in your mother’s absence
- A stepmother
- Your family’s long-time nanny
- A trans parent who’s not sure where they fit in on Mother’s/Father’s Day
- A co-parent
- A mean green mother from outer space
Or whoever you think deserves a special day to honor her for her role in your family.
The same goes for special men, who you might want to celebrate the day before Father’s Day, rather than, you know, not at all.
In writing this piece, I realized I’m not the first one to use the term “Other’s Day”. Some people are even offended by it, which is fair enough. But the distinction is totally up to you and your family to make. If someone’s special to you, you can celebrate them on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or Other’s Day. If Other’s Day sounds off-putting to you, call it Special Women’s Day or Special Men’s Day or even something clumsier, like Surrogate & Egg Donor’s Day. Every family’s different, so we can all celebrate in different ways, too.
My kids are still a little young to understand the meaning of our special holiday, but I look forward to getting them involved in it as they get older, doing art projects, Skyping, or sending flowers. It’ll be a great excuse to retell the incredible story of how they were born and to acknowledge what makes our family special. Maybe it’ll also be a reminder of how corny their dads are, but I’m fine with that, too.
Again, I’m not trying to redefine anything, but I think it’s only fair that non-traditional families have a way to honor the people who matter to them. I know, the last thing we need is one more holiday on the calendar, but if Hallmark wants to put out a special card with some schmaltzy sentiment aimed at surrogates or egg donors, they’ve got their first customer right here.