Most years I put out a PSA on social media for mums and stepmums prior to Mother’s Day. This year I thought an entire blog might be more helpful.
I do this because there are very few days in the year that can bring as much misery, resentment, and pain to women as Mother’s Day. It’s such a hyped up occasion where our families are supposed to shower us in bounty and praise enough to make all of our sacrifices and pain fade away into distant memory. We are supposed to bask in a warm bath of love and appreciation.
With such overblown expectations, cultivated by media and conditioning, is it any wonder that so many of us end the day hiding in some part of the house in tears?
Mother’s Day can be particularly challenging for those who haven’t been able to give birth or adopt children of their own. Childless stepmothers often find this a time of enormous pain. They are reminded of the children they don’t have in their families and feel they will never be seen as a ‘real’ Mother by their stepchildren and possibly even by their partner.
For mothers who don’t have their children with them on Mother’s Day, the day can bring up many insecurities and unhappy feelings around another woman playing a significant role in mothering their children, not a situation most mothers imagined when they became mothers. For stepmothers whose stepchildren are with their mothers for Mother’s Day, it can be another painful reminder we are not a ‘real’ mother.
So how do we change the way the day plays out and avoid as much misery as possible?
Here are 3 simple steps.
1) Figure out what YOU want the day to look and feel like.
Do you want to be celebrated? If so, how? What would your ideal Mother’s Day look like?
I’ve had many different Mother’s Days over the years and some of my best have been time out from mothering. It’s ok to say – actually the best thing I can imagine for Mother’s day is a night in a hotel by myself, or a day out with friends. It’s also ok to say – I need all of the things; breakfast in bed, chocolates, flowers, a lunch out, a day off cooking…the what is not important. What’s important is that it’s what you want out of the day.
2) Communicate your needs
Yes, we actually need to tell people what we want and need!
I remember the first Mother’s Day I spent with my ex-husband. My first Mother’s Day I had been alone in a different country, away from family and friend, as a single parent. The only thing that was special about the day was my first Mother’s Day was just like any other Sunday. For the next one, I was full of excitement about actually being celebrated as a mother by my child and partner. The big day arrived and there was nothing. Not a card, no flowers, not even breakfast in bed. I was devastated.
When I asked why there was no Mother’s Day thing happening, the response was: We never did Mother’s Day for my mum. I was shocked. Mother’s Day was really important in our family.
So the lesson was, don’t just assume your partner will know what you want or need!
We talked about it, and from then on, he was amazing at making sure the kids celebrated me for Mother’s Day. Even after we broke up, he would take the kids to buy a gift. One year, even after I had repartnered, he came down and cooked me breakfast in bed for me with the kids.
3) Be prepared to change your ideas around what’s important
As a young mum, Mother’s Day was really important. As I’ve got older and feel more solid in my role, I don’t need the same recognition on the day. I know being appreciated and loved is not always about the big moments artifically driven by consumerism. I know it’s the little moments; the cups of tea, the help when I don’t ask, the unexpected phone call or visit. Those are the things that make me feel most loved and appreciated. I’m in my 30th year of parenting now, so I’ve had plenty of celebrations over the years!
I’m not suggesting it’s wrong or silly to want all of the things on Mother’s Day. My husband is not into commercialised holidays or events. We’ve talked about some of the reasons why, and I’ve found over the years I’ve come to adopt more of his views on these things. It’s less stressful and way less expensive! Our family values have evolved over the years, and part of the step-family dynamic is incorporating new ways of celebrating.
If your partner is not into celebrating and isn’t up to accommodating your wants and needs around Mother’s Day, it might be time to figure out how to celebrate yourself instead. Buy the flowers, treat yourself, take a break away. Fill your cup in the way you want it filled, we don’t have to rely on others to do it for us.
However you want this Mother’s Day to be, please don’t leave it to chance and hope and pray your loved ones will magically get it right.
Create the day and celebration you want and deserve.