Mother's Day brings up a lot of feelings for me, but my wife and I will celebrate with our children, anyway
I’m about to celebrate my third Mother’s Day as a mom, and I’m feeling conflicted as hell about it. I have a horrible track record with the holiday. My daughter was four months old when my first Mother’s Day rolled around, and I was still in the throes of postpartum depression. I cried the whole day, lamenting my abilities as a mother. My second mother’s day happened just months after my partner came out as trans. Our lives were in upheaval. And now, as the third one approaches, it will be my first sharing it with my co-parent and spouse. My wife is “Mommy” in our house. I am “Mama.”
We’ve talked at great lengths about how to celebrate the holiday. Should my wife still take Father’s Day? Should we celebrate together? Should we forget the whole thing? We decided on a co-celebration. She’s as much of our children’s mother as I am, even though, biologically, she is their father. It’s a strange space to be in. I firmly believe that fathers and mothers are capable of the same feats when it comes to children — there is no predetermined roles of authoritarian, or nurturer. Both parents, regardless of sex or gender, can contribute to the well-being and development of children. Despite this, something feels different about a mother — something slightly intangible.
If we can agree that an adoptive mother is just as much a mother as a biological one, then we can remove birth from the equation. We can also remove genetic material and biology. There’s something deeper to motherhood that can’t be ascribed to physical components. It is a concept tackled by philosophers and poets. I think often of Edgar Allen Poe’s sonnet to his mother-in-law. She was a woman that he felt closer to than his own mother. He wrote, “Because I feel that, in the Heavens above / The angels, whispering to one another, / Can find, among their burning terms of love / None so devotional as that of ‘Mother’” Is it the devotion that makes a mother? I’d like to think that fathers have this same sort of devotion to their children.
Of course, there is the obvious that separates a father from a mother—gender. For a trans woman, gender can be a minefield. Maybe this is why I’ve segued away from the idea of Father’s day entirely as a way to celebrate my spouse’s contribution to our family unit. Mother’s day is an easy and family-oriented way of affirming my spouse’s gender. Aside from this explanation, there’s something that instinctually makes me consider her as a mother first, despite the biological relationship she shares with our children. It is something I can’t quite contextualize.
I feel, instinctively, that she’s their mother, too. It’s in a different way than the way that I’m their mother — I carried them in my womb for nine months, I birthed them, I breastfed them. My body was their incubator, food source, and is now their jungle gym. But she is just as much a parent, a mentor, a counselor, and a caregiver as I am. Her patience is unparalleled. Her sense of adventure is infectious. She is just as much a goddess in the eyes of our children as I am, and for that reason, she has earned this title, and I don’t mind sharing the day. Even if I’m conflicted about the day itself, I don’t find myself conflicted about our joint celebration.