Once a year, on a Sunday in May, we stop what we are doing and take one day to celebrate our moms (though most would agree that one day is not nearly enough). Mother’s Day is when we moms want to be pampered and, for our day‑in and day-out, year-round hard work, to be recognized by our children and our families.
The month of May is filled with retail sales and brunch specials everywhere you turn. They are all geared to pamper the mom in your life. You walk into any grocery store and you are bombarded with buckets of fresh-cut flowers, wine, and boxes of chocolates all targeting those kids and fathers that are scrambling for that last-minute gift for Mom. Not a day goes by in that month that I don’t hear a commercial on the radio or open my mailbox and see a reminder of something as a mom.
Many women at this time of year struggle with a multitude of emotions. Some women have lost a son or daughter on the battlefield, some have lost a child to disease, and many others have had to say good-bye to their child due to an accident. There are many more women that have lived their lives and have never known the unique challenge and joy of raising a child.
But for women like me, this day is very different. You see, my two kids don’t call me Mom.
In 2010, a lot of things changed in my life. I went from male to female. I went from Mark to Meggan. I went from a son to a daughter. But one thing still has not changed. There is one thing that makes this time of year extremely difficult to deal with. My kids, as much as they have moved forward, adjusted to the new normal, and grown from the whole experience, still do one thing that only they can change. They still call me Dad.
We have had our talks, and emotional talks at that. They have shared their concerns and fears, and I have reassured them that I am in no way trying to take the place of my ex‑wife as their mom. I have also added that there are a lot of kids that have two moms.
The kids and I agree that the Dad title really isn’t appropriate anymore, especially in public. We have tried to find something else, anything, they can call me other than that masculine title.
I understand that my kids have had a difficult time dealing with their dad disappearing and a woman taking his place. They have done a great job changing over the pronouns from the masculine to the feminine, but this one title and the parental role they see that I have in their life still hasn’t changed and, to be realistic, may never fully change.
I have done all I can to ease their transition in the last three years. As any good parent, I have learned from my mom and I try my best to equip my children with what they need to face changes and challenges in their life, conquer obstacles, and face life with strength and determination. Right now, whatever the wall is that keeps them from seeing me as one of their “moms” is just too high. In this strange world they have been thrown into, “Dad” is that anchor to the past.
At this point you might ask, “Why don’t you and your children just keep celebrating Father’s Day?”
My response to that is Father’s Day is a masculine-driven day for men! Have you looked at me lately? Do you know me, even one bit about me? I’m a woman, not a man. I am a mom, not a dad.
Since I have never felt like a man, Father’s Day for all those years was something that haunted me. I smiled and truly enjoyed whatever gifts my children got me. Barbecue tools aren’t just for men, you know. But inside, my heart sank each time anything masculine was ever attributed to me.
I didn’t have to physically give birth to my children to be their mom. Every woman who has opened her heart and adopted a child knows that all too well. Being a mom is the heart you show every day. Being a mom is taking every ounce of love in your soul and spreading it over your kids. It’s cuddling them when they are sick or tired. It’s sending prayers ahead of them, to places they haven’t even imagined yet.
As difficult as it is, I can do nothing more but continue to be patient, caught between two special days for parents.
A bright glimmer of change came this year when my now-eighteen-year-old daughter came to me and said, “Oh I forgot to tell you, you’re gonna be a grandma.”
After I choked back the shock, I remembered that she was talking about the computerized baby she was going to be assigned for her child development class. We talked about all the details that it was going to involve, and the whole time my mind fixated on one word that my daughter had used—“grandma.” My heart was melting. She had taken another step forward.
As much as we want to keep our children small forever, they have this nasty habit of getting older, and as they do, our relationships with them change. Through the years our relationships grow deeper and more complex. I have already seen this happen between my daughter and me.
My hope and prayer is that someday, somewhere in our future, that last vestige of maleness still haunting me is left in the past. I truly hope that when my children are blessed with their own kids, my daughter, future daughter-in‑law, and I can celebrate Mother’s Day together.
Reprinted from Listen to Your Mother: What She Said Then, What We’re Saying Now, edited by Ann Imig by arrangement with G.P. Putnam’s Sons, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, Copyright © 2015 by Ann Imig.