It’s Mother’s Day this weekend in Australia so there is a pretty likely chance that you’re going to see a post or two about this upcoming day featuring in your feed this week. Like most people, I have fabulous childhood memories of making things for my mum and getting her breakfast in bed. But Mother’s Day changed forever in the year after my mum died. I’d just turned 20 and being a stoic and emotionally challenged young woman that I was, I suppressed all feelings about the day and proceeded to go nightclubbing until the wee hours of the morning. Because as far as I was concerned, it was much easier to deal with the hangover the next day than allow my feelings dictate how I was going to handle my first Mother’s Day without her.
You’ll be pleased to know that I didn’t resort to alcohol or partying as my default setting for dealing with that second Sunday in May every year since the first one, but I sure as heck didn’t deal with it properly either. For many years I just pretended it was another day. I went about my day as though I was always intending to go for a run or study or work. I pretended like the TV ads by a local telecom company reminding me to phone my mum for Mother’s Day didn’t hurt. I thumbed my nose at the concept of flowers, big ballad filled CD’s or lazy brunches as prime examples of commercialism at its worse. And I made my way through the other side of it all with my sanity relatively intact. Or so I thought.
Deep down I knew I was hurting. I resented the flyers that spilled out of the paper that spruiked gift ideas and Mother’s Day specials. I was jealous of my girlfriends as they made plans to catch up with their mum for breakfast or lunch, or baked and shopped and planned. So it was pretty fortunate timing that I happened across a project that changed my whole perspective of Mother’s Day entirely.
It’s been ten years since I learnt about Trees for Mum. An event created by two women in Sydney who had lost their mothers, Trees for Mum was an event designed to put some meaning back into Mother’s Day for motherless people everywhere. They wanted to create a day where people could come and celebrate, remember or commemorate their mum by planting a tree. A day of reflection, nostalgia and love. So two years after they founded the concept, they were looking for someone to coordinate the event in Melbourne. And I was up for the challenge.
Trees and the space to plant them were sourced and the first event had about 80 people attend. When an 87 woman came up to me at that first planting and told me with tears in her eyes that she missed her mother, who had passed away over 40 years earlier, every single day I knew that I had found the project for me.
I continued to coordinate plantings in Melbourne and then, when we moved up to the river, I began coordinating them here too. In 2009, we held our first event near the river and hit the ground running to an overwhelming response, and the event grew from there. However after the event in 2012, whilst heavily pregnant with Miss B, I worked with our local environmental authorities to secure more hands-on support for the future, knowing that I wouldn’t have the capacity to organise and undertake all the logistics of the event on my own. The 2013 event was a success with over a hundred people attending, but with only PR and promotional support from me. In 2014, Trees for Mum struck up a national partnership with an environmental group and it was the first year I didn’t provide any support to the event, not even the human interest / emotional aspect to the promotion. As a result, the numbers were down and I received a lot of feedback asking where the stories that we’d previously been known for had gone.
I was asked last year if I’d be willing to help out for this year’s event to bring back the Mother’s Day element to the event and of course I was more than willing to help, but when I had heard nothing from my contact, I followed up to see what was happening only to find they weren’t involved in the project this year. I attempted to make contact with the local group’s coordinator as well as the regional coordinator but despite several conversations and emails they were, in short, not interested in having me involved. They’d ticked the boxes in sending out the national templated media release and so as far as they were concerned that was all they needed. The emotional connection to the event had been lost and it was being treated more as an awareness and membership event for the local group.
I was gutted. I still am if I am honest. The project that I had grown and loved with a passion is now not in my control at all. From a sentimental perspective, I really struggled with that at first; after all, it was the first place that I was able to introduce Miss B to her grandmother and where we were planning to take the girls again this year.
But now, I’m mostly sad that the people coordinating the event this year fail to understand that to those of us who had been regularly attending the event over the past 6 years there was significant meaning attached to it. That there will be no brunches or exchanging the gifts with our mums this year, or any other year to follow and it was this event that had given us the opportunity to participate in Mother’s Day a positive and meaningful way.
After hearing what had happened a girlfriend of mine asked me if I was going to fight for this event and to be honest, I thought about it… for a minute. With work being as busy as it has been I’m not sure I have headspace to argue and it to be honest, it’s actually caused me to stop and take stock of what Mother’s Day means for me now. When I didn’t have children of my own, Trees for Mum fulfilled a void that I was desperate fill. Now, with two beautiful girls of my own, I realised I have the opportunity to create my own meaning and begin our own traditions for the day and I actually think that’s enough.
A few days on since my last conversation with the event organisers and I’ve realised that whilst Trees for Mum may have been where I’ve directed my energies for the past 10 years, it doesn’t define who I am and what Mother’s Day should be. And with that revelation, I have been able to let go of my attachment to this project, appreciate what I got from it and put the most positive of vibes out there for it’s continued success. And drop a few hints for the hubby to make me breakfast in bed with my girls!
What does Mother’s Day mean to you? Do you look forward to Mother’s Day?