How to Avoid Being Disappointed This Mother’s Day

Last Mother’s Day fell on the same day as my daughters fifth birthday. Turning five is pretty special, as is Mother’s Day. How do you think we celebrated that day? You guessed it! We celebrated my daughter’s fifth birthday, per my request. It was an easy decision for two reasons: First, I’ve celebrated Mother’s Day twelve times, and second, you only turn five once!

Whether you are a soon to be a mom, a new mom, or a seasoned mom, the day likely holds some significance for you. Mother’s Day is a day to pause, and appreciate and celebrate the mother in your life, and to be honored and recognized for the mothering you do in your family. Some critics argue the day is a commercialized holiday promoted by card and floral retailers and companies. But a vast majority of families celebrate Mother’s Day in some way, even if it is to spend time with family or give mom a day to herself.

Which leads me to a couple of questions: How do you celebrate Mother’s Day? And, are you celebrating Mother’s Day the way you want to, or in a manner you think you should, or because of tradition, it’s always been done this way? Over the years, I’ve heard many stories about women being frustrated or disappointed about how Mother’s Day turns out. For example:

  • The mom who wants her husband to give her a gift and corral the kids to make a thoughtful card, only to be angry when her partner put no thought or direction into the day including organizing the kids. He runs out last minute to a convenience store to purchase a card and picked over flowers.
  • The mom who wants a day to herself but is obligated to honor her mother-in-law at brunch, because that’s the ongoing the tradition in the family.
  • The mom who wants to be pampered and take the day off from parental responsibilities only to have the day be like any other day of the week.
  • The mom who is estranged from her mother, and can’t seem to celebrate, because she’s preoccupied with memories of her mother.
  • The mom who wants to spend the day alone, but worries what others will think if she is not with her children, so she puts her desires on hold and spends time with her family.

And not to be overlooked, Mother’s Day can be an emotional day for many people. Perhaps a mother has passed, or there is a strained relationship or abandonment. Or, maybe there is so much stress in one’s life, such as a separation, divorce, job loss, relocation, or health-related event, that puts celebrating the day low on the priority list, which is understandable.

As a psychologist, I spend a lot of time in the weeks after Mother’s Day helping clients debrief and process the highs and lows of the weekend. What often becomes apparent is the importance of thinking, planning and making one’s preferences be known, before the day. Here are some of the suggestions I often encourage women to think about regarding Mother’s Day:

  1. Reflect on the Day. Before the actual day, spend time thinking about how you want to spend the day. Do you want to spend time with the kids, extended family or by yourself? How would you ideally like to spend the day? Do you want a gift, cards, flowers, or simply thoughtful gestures and home-made gifts? Be clear about what you want. Next question, given the circumstance in your life, what is possible for how you can spend the day? Perhaps it’s impossible to get a full day alone, and finances are limited, making gifts out of the question. Define what it is you want and what is achievable. And finally, not to be overlooked, what are you willing and not willing to do?
  2. Talk About Your Desires with Family. Communicate your desires and wishes to your partner, family, and children. To assume people will read your mind and just figure out what you want is a set-up for conflict and disappointment. Be clear, specific and don’t be intimidated to ask for what you need and want to make the day meaningful.
  3. Take Care of Yourself. When we come from a place of caring for our needs, for example-getting enough sleep, nourishment, and exercise, we can cope with stress and the unexpected more efficiently. Being a mother means a lot of unexpected moments and demands, and by caring for ourselves, we can juggle the stress and strain as it arises.
  4. Create a Meaningful Mother’s Day Tradition. I am a sentimental person at heart. Years ago, when my twins were three, I started a tradition of taking two specific pictures every Mother’s Day with my girls. One picture is a full frame shot of us, and the second is a picture of simply our hands. This tradition has been by far my favorite Mother’s Day activity. As the years have passed, it’s heartwarming to see the addition of another set of hands and watch the growth and development. Many mothers create traditions in their families from cooking a special meal, planting flowers or exchanging homemade cards and gifts, the options are endless. Choose a tradition that speaks to your heart. By doing so, it can bring a special tradition as a lasting memory.
  5. Keep a Sense of Humor. Even the best of intentions to celebrate the day can be curtailed with unexpected situations and stressors. Try to keep a sense of humor, and know, that no matter what happens on the actual day, Mother’s Day is one day of the year, in many years of Mothering.

Motherhood is a powerful, life-changing role with moments of exhaustion, love, joy, frustration, laughter and at times, fear and anguish. However you choose to celebrate Mother’s Day, I hope you have a day of peace, love, happiness and appreciation, spending the day as you desire. Because what you do as a mother, caring and nurturing your family is important, noble work.


3 thoughts on “How to Avoid Being Disappointed This Mother’s Day”

  1. You forgot one of the most neglected groups of mothers: single mothers. My son is ten, and I’ve never had a single Mother’s Day. No gifts. No cards. No breakfast in bed. No special notes. No spa days. Nothing. It’s very hard and emotional, particularly considering that my load is even heavier than it is for mothers with a partner. My motherhood had never been celebrated.

    1. Dear Holly;

      Maybe you should just tell your son that this year you’ll both be celebrating Mother’s Day. Take him to the store so he can pick out a card. Or tell him when it’s time to make one. Plan a special brunch together. Give him money to pay for the check. If that’s not in the budget take him to the bakery and let him pick out some special cupcake (while you wait outside) to surprise you with. (My only really memorable Mother’s Day was the one where my son “took” me to Pizza Hut, his favorite, and we sat together eating personal pan pizzas and reading the Sunday funnies.)

      Kids learn how to celebrate us from their parents. Trust me when I tell you that most mamas don’t get spa days, and if they get breakfast in bed, well, let’s just say that brunch at Pizza Hut would probably be much tastier.

      Try it this year. It just might be fun.

  2. What do you do if you make your wishes known and it falls on deaf ears? I will spend my Mother’s Day shuttling a toddler and an infant all over the place for everyone but me.
    It’s a tough year because it is also my mother’s 70th, so we have added expectations there, but my inlaws have never even acknowledged that I am also a mother. At least when we go to my parent’s they make a big deal about me, too. The only grandchildren they have are my kids, and they don’t even recognize it. Worse than that, they do the same to their own son on Fathers Day.
    And don’t even get me started on Christmas…we tried this year to keep our day to ourselves (celebrated with my parents Christmas Eve) as it is also my oldest son’s birthday, but they passive aggressively made it so we had no choice. My BIL actually told my husband our son’s birth ruined his Christmas and that it wasn’t fair we got to change things just because we wanted to, even though when they were kids their family always spent the day alone.
    We have no traditions of our own because we are always catering to everyone else’s. What happens when they’re all gone?

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