Surviving Mother’s Day

My experience with Mother’s Day has varied over the years. As I grew up, Mother’s Day in my house was widely known as my mom’s “day off.”  Every year, my dad would wake up my brothers and I to help prepare a somewhat edible breakfast for my mom. We’d take our haphazardly wrapped presents, school artwork, and breakfast to her in bed and she’d of course act surprised and so touched by the gifts. Throughout the day, it was the unspoken rule that my siblings and I were to do the dishes, keep the house clean, and absolutely no fighting. If we veered from the course, my dad was there to keep us in line.

As I grew into adulthood and was married, I waited a while to have kids. But on Mother’s Day weekend in 2012, I surprised my mom with a visit home, and some exciting news that I was pregnant. I was four months along, and was so excited to announce to the world that I was going to have a baby. My phone was filled with congratulatory texts, messages on social media, and happy phone calls from sibling and friends. It was a happy day.

A year later on a much different Mother’s Day, I was right in the midst of a heartbreaking divorce. That baby in my belly was now a busy six-month-old, and my day was filled with the mundane tasks of diapers, feeding, and cleaning up messes like any other day. It was far different from what I imagined my first official Mother’s Day would look like.

For the next four years, I was a single mom, and each year the day of celebration was hardly a “day off.”  While I was so grateful to be a mother to my sweet young boy, I longed to be pampered by a spouse that appreciated my hard work as a mom, and the encouragement of good behavior for my little boy on that day.  Instead of wallowing in the sadness, I decided to take the day into my own hands.

First, I made big plans for the day. There were a few years that my son happened to be with my dad on Mother’s day, so I made plans to do something solo. It turns out spending that day without kids is actually really nice. I spent a day at the spa one year, and another out hiking when my budget was tight. On the years that I had him, we’d go out and do something fun together that was low key and fun for both of us.

Next, I spoiled myself. I’d buy myself my own flowers, book the pedicure, or buy myself a treat. If you want the things, buy them. Obviously there’s budgets to take into account, but I’ve found that even the little things like fresh flowers in my house bring me so much joy.

Beyond celebrating myself, I also celebrated other mothers around me. Serving and being with others truly helped take away the loneliness or hurt that I was often feeling. I loved spending time with my mom, and showering her with the love and surprises that she deserved. I also tried to reach out to friends with friendly texts expressing how much I admired them as moms as well.

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And finally, on years that were especially tough, I reached out to my tribe. Asking friends or family for help when feeling overwhelmed with the day (or life for that matter) is humbling, but so vital to survival.  I found in my experience that most people were often looking for opportunities to help, but didn’t know how, or were afraid to ask. I learned that it was okay to say that I needed a helping hand or a break sometimes. I had family that would step in to make the dinner, friends that took my son for a few hours on the day, and others that dropped in with little surprises for me.

Last year, I celebrated Mother’s Day in a new fun way. I was recently remarried and had a new baby at home. My husband bought the flowers, helped my son prepare the meal, and even kept the kids quiet while took a much-needed nap. The new change of celebrations did not go unnoticed on my part as I relished in the feelings of gratitude for this new phase of life. I also still ached for the mothers out there who are solo parenting, cleaning up yet another mess, breaking up fights between siblings, or spending it alone.

This year on Mother’s Day, I hope that it will be a day to celebrate, regardless of your circumstances. If you are single parenting, I hope you find a way to treat yourself. If you’re a mother that finds yourself pampered, I hope that you’ll pause to remember how lucky you are, and to find ways to celebrate those that aren’t.

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