Mother’s Day Survival Guide
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Being a Solo Mom on a day meant to honor you isn’t always easy
I have a confession to make: I’ve never had a great Mother’s Day. My first four weren’t about what I wanted, even though I asked. For my last three (which were better than the previous ones) I’ve been a single mom, and my kids were still too young for me to take the day to relax. Last year’s was the best one yet, with the kids (along with the help of their babysitter) preparing lunch and dinner the day before; but halfway through the day I escaped to my office, locked the door, and cried. My kids were fighting like crazy, and my hope for a peaceful day had vanished.
I have enough Solo Mom friends to know I’m not the only one who doesn’t have a magical Mother’s Day each year. And, let’s face it, there’s too much hype around this day anyway. But there are ways to enjoy it, even without a spouse to buy you flowers and diamonds, make you breakfast in bed, or keep the kids in check. It’ll just be different than what you see on TV.
Mother’s Day as a Solo Mom takes some planning, and the first few years can be hard until you figure out what works best for your family. I’ve spoken with “the experts” (Solo Moms with several years of experience) and with one new Solo Mom about the dos and don’ts for how to have a good Mother’s Day and want to share with you their wisdom.
Spend time with family. Instead of spending the day alone with your children, include your family in the celebration. Spending a day with the moms you know, love, and respect is a great way to honor this day.
“When my daughter was little, I didn’t put a lot of pressure on Mother’s Day, and I took the focus off of me, putting it more on my mom, grandmother, and sisters instead,” recalls Emily Knazter, who was a Solo Mom for 10 years. “I would plan a get-together for all the special women in my life so I wasn’t sitting around waiting for someone to do something special for me. It was fun for everyone. If you are realistic, and not expecting a grandiose thing from someone so small, you can appreciate the little things and enjoy the day.”
Brittany Thompson, a single mother to a five-year-old boy, has a similar Mother’s Day tradition with her family. For Thompson, the day is about thanking those who support her. She and her mom often exchange gifts and go to dinner together.
“My parents are very helpful, and for me, Mother’s Day is about feeling their support because that’s what I lean on the most,” Thompson explains. “We have a close family—just me and my sister and brother—but not a lot of extended family. I want them to know they are appreciated.”
Don’t expect lavish gifts. A handmade card, a small craft, or a wrapped toy from their room are great gifts from young children. Though they may not be roses or diamonds, they are made with love, and it’s important to acknowledge the simple things.
“When she was little, I knew my daughter was too young to do something for me,” Knazter recalls. “Around the age of seven, she would make little things for me regularly, and especially on Mother’s Day. She’d make me a bowl of cereal for breakfast, draw me a picture—she’s very artistic—or get me flowers from the yard. She still does stuff like that today. I remember one year she ran my bathwater, lit all the candles, put some nice music on, and made me go take a bath. She was about 13 or 14 when she did that.”
Some children, like my daughter, feel it’s important to purchase a gift for you on special occasions. I help facilitate this by arranging for her to go shopping with a friend of mine. I give my friend money, and she helps my daughter select the gift and stay on budget. The pride and happiness my daughter gets from giving me a gift that she selected is worth the extra effort.
Treat yourself. No one’s going to do it for you, so do it for yourself. Think about what you enjoy—the movies, gardening, shopping—and make some time, either the day of or the day before, to do something nice for yourself.
“Practice self-care, and do something that makes you happy,” Thompson recommends. “I don’t mean a manicure or pedicure, but if you can drop the kids off at your mom’s or get a babysitter, do it. Being a single mom is hard, so take some time to regroup. People feel guilty for taking time for themselves, but you shouldn’t, and Mother’s Day is the perfect day to do it.”
Last year, as a Mother’s Day treat, Thompson’s parents watched her son for the weekend while she and her sister went out of town. She hid a gift for her mom in her son’s closet as a thank-you and enjoyed some quality time alone with her sister.
Solo Mom Katie Smith was sad at the thought of celebrating her first Mother’s Day alone this year, but once she realized it will be as special as she makes it, she became excited. She is choosing not to do something special alone and is treating herself to a day that focuses on the things she wants.
“I decided to make reservations at one of my favorite restaurants,” she says. “We are going to get dressed up and enjoy the day. Maybe we’ll do some shopping, too. I am very good at buying myself things!”
This year, I think I finally have it figured out. I’m going to create a new holiday tradition and keep an old. I’m planning to take my children to afternoon tea, something we all enjoy. We’ll also plant our vegetable garden—a tradition I began on my first Mother’s Day as a single mom—and I plan to simply enjoy them, bickering and all! Though I will set expectations, I recognize that they are just kids, after all. Maybe if I’m lucky, they’ll make me a bowl of cereal for breakfast.
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