Time to Rethink Mother’s Day (not everyone is celebrating)

On November 1, 2006 my daughter Sophie and I became statistics. Not quite three, she joined the motherless children’s club. And I became part of the 8% of U.S. households where a single father is raising a child.

That was the day my wife, actor and filmmaker Adrienne Shelly (WAITRESS), was brutally murdered while working in her West Village office.

For the past eleven years I’ve struggled to get through Mother’s Day. It’s not a celebration in my home. Just a rewind into horror. An intense, sudden punch to the gut like a 24-hour stomach virus.

It’s an especially difficult day for my little girl, who went to bed one cold Autumn night as happy as an innocent toddler can be and woke the next morning to a dark, unrecognizable world.

Sophie is 14 now. Despite my conscientious and at times feeble attempt to wear both parental hats, she’s been forced to navigate through life without the guidance, nurturing and love that only a mother can provide. So fucking unfair. And heartbreaking.

I remember walking down the street a few days after Adrienne died and feeling raging anger and resentment at all the people who were going about their business like any other normal day while my world had just been mashed into a meat-grinder. Why do they have to look so happy? Don’t they know what just happened to Adrienne? To me? To Sophie? To our families?

That’s what Mother’s Day feels like now.

Because not everyone has a mother. And not everyone has a mother they like. Or even love.

Many have mothers who’ve died. Or are dying. Or whose body is thriving but whose mind has deteriorated.

Others may have mothers who are neglectful. Or worse, physically and/or verbally abusive.

Mother’s Day is a cruel reminder that when it comes to moms, we are not all created equal.

Sophie and I had a long chat last night before bedtime. I held her tight and acknowledged that it must’ve been a hard day for her. It was. Of course, she misses not having Adrienne in her life. She mourns the loss of a mother she never got to know. She can only close her eyes and imagine. Imagine what it must be like to have a mother. Her mother.

Mother’s Day makes her feel different. Because it seems like everyone has a mother and she doesn’t.

“I’m jealous,” she said.

At one point during the day she stopped looking at her social media apps because they were dominated by ‘mom and me’ shots. It was too upsetting.

Maybe next year we can all be a bit more sensitive to all the folks for whom Mother’s Day is a hardship. A day that drowns them in painful realities instead of Rockwellian thoughts of mom and apple pie.

We should especially consider the children. Acknowledge their loss. Life is hard enough just being a kid. It’s a more complicated landscape to navigate when they’ve been robbed of the beautiful, kind, loving mommy they tragically only know through photos and videos.

Send them a message. Let them know we are thinking of them too. That they are not alone…

Writer, blogger, resistor, supporter of women filmmakers

Writer, blogger, resistor, supporter of women filmmakers