Hint: The trick is not forgetting that I'm still Mom, even today.
A “Hallmark Holiday” — call it what you want — but the second Sunday of May is here and lots of moms are knee-deep in [insert drumroll … ] some serious disappointment.
For years I was in this gang — heck, I was the leader of the disappointed debbies, but not any more. It took a little work, but I figured out a few tricks to burst the burgeoning gray cloud of Mother’s Day Letdown.
Here’s what I suggest in three simple steps:
1. First off, celebrate the other awesome mothers in your life: It is not too late to send a personalized card to your own mom and your mother-in-law, even if you’re spending part of today with her. But don’t stop there. Sure cards popped in the mail today won’t arrive till Wednesday or Thursday, but send some anyway. Drop a note to your aunt or that woman in your parish who was an awesome example to you of mothering. They’ll feel appreciated and you’ll benefit from directing your focus outward.
2. Lower your expectations: Sure, it’s Mother’s Day and you’re a juice pouring, diaper changing, carpool driving mom. Surely the folks you live with connected the dots, right? Surely, they saw the hot pink card displays at the drug store and the jewelry advertisements on anything that carries ads … right?
Wrong. Assume they didn’t see anything at all. Just like they can’t see the soccer uniform you left ready for them, or the items of dirty clothes strewn on every stair. Assume they don’t even know what month it is. Put a note on your calendar for next April 30 reminding yourself to remind them. And for today, don’t feel like it’s too late. Proceed to Step 3.
3. Offer a few kind (and clear) requests, even now: Years ago, Mother’s Day befuddled my husband (and me). He simply didn’t know what to make of it, and I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to get out of it (or how to communicate that to him). He knew I wasn’t the kind of woman who wanted expensive perfume or jewelry and the pressure of an invented holiday left him wanting to rebel against convention.
But the fact is, the holiday does exist, being a mom is super hard, and even if an imaginary purple-headed sea monster decreed the holiday, it’s really caught on. Pastors will preach on it, restaurants will be packed to the gills, and everyone and their mom (or so it will certainly seem) will be recognized in some special way.
So if I’m the only one receiving an 11th-hour hand drawn card and a handful of dandelions that will turn into weedy gray puffballs by morning … yeah, I’m going to wind up pretty bummed. [Note: They say “it’s the thought that counts,” but sometimes those last minute, homemade gifts scream a lack of thought.]
So remembering to keep your expectations low (really, it’s how your family treats you all year long that actually matters; don’t fall into the trap of making a commercialized holiday mean something it doesn’t), ask your husband or your oldest child to take your progeny to the Dollar Store with ten bucks — I promise the fact that you’ve plugged the idea in their heads won’t lessen your enjoyment of what’s to follow.
When your sweet children return home with wide doe eyes and one of those single stemmed red roses that discount stores sell just on these purple-headed sea monster decreed holidays, you’ll see what I mean. When your little boy hands you glittery shooting-star earrings, you’ll see how pretty you are in his eyes even though he mostly sees you shuffling around the kitchen wearing ill-fitting sweats. And when all your sweet children crowd around — their baby breath warm on your skin — as you open the final “big present,” whether it be bath salts or a heart-shaped box of chocolates, it doesn’t matter. To you, this gift will be “Mother’s Day,” a token of love and thanks just like the holiday itself.
So yes, ongoing appreciation throughout the rest of the year is what really matters (and if you’re like me, you get it). But if you’d also like to receive a few flowers that aren’t actually weeds, be clear, offer your family a little guidance.
They need it to find their socks and keys and everything else. It certainly doesn’t mean they don’t love you. It just means you’re the mom, especially on Mother’s Day.