I have some big feelings about Mother’s Day, and they have only gotten more complicated since the start of the pandemic. I believe we should pay tribute to all of the love and unpaid labor mothers give to families that keeps society going, and I like that Mother’s Day has radical roots as a protest holiday. At the same time, I’m annoyed that the tradition has turned into a capitalist bonanza with icky marketing. This only feels like more of an affront since the pandemic started. I don’t understand how minor tokens of appreciation on this holiday are somehow seen as an effective counterweight to society treating us as the shock absorbers to failed public policy. It also annoys me that flowers and breakfast in bed are socially approved as enough “thanks” from male partners who don’t pull their weight at home every other day of the year; mothers on the whole do disproportionate amounts of care and domestic labor even when both partners work full time.
Ok, so how do we make lemonade from this lemon-filled holiday? I had my own personal Mother’s Day turning point in May of 2020. My twins were three months old, and we were at playgrounds-still-closed level of lockdown. That afternoon I had a complete meltdown about how my life was going to be miserable forever that involved throwing things and crying while lying on the kitchen floor. I’d organized an outdoor Mother’s Day social distanced gathering for some friends at the park that I was late to and tried to smile through, but by the end of the day I was pretty sure I was hitting rock bottom with postpartum depression and sought help the next week. It was a dark day. In 2021, I decided to reclaim the holiday to cleanse the bad memories from the year before, and several weeks in advance, Dr. Liz and I decided to take our vaccinated selves for massages to a fancy Country Inn spa followed by tea and treats and an outdoor cafe. It was lovely and just what I needed. What two of my pandemic Mother’s Days made me realize was that I want to plan the exact Mother’s Day I need and deserve each year. This has redeemed the holiday for me, and I want to empower you to consider doing the same.
First, take a moment to decide what you want for Mother’s Day. The answer may come to you instantly, or you may have to unearth your suppressed desires and even process feelings of unworthiness or guilt about how you want to spend the day. If you feel stuck, get out a pen and paper and brainstorm 10 ideas and see what speaks to you. And if you are reading this and you aren’t a mom yourself, open up conversations with moms in your life about giving them the day they really want.
Ok, so now I’m gonna run through some Q and As aimed at moms about the nuances of pulling this off.
Q: I already plan everything in my family. Why do I have to plan my own Mother’s Day?
A: You don’t have to plan your own Mother’s Day, but if you have a partner who never plans anything, or you are the default planner, odds are they aren’t going to nail exactly what you want without explicit instruction. I am not a fan of dropping hints. I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect partners to intuit our needs and desires. If you know what you want for Mother’s Day, be clear about it weeks in advance. If it involves a partner making reservations and booking things in advance and you are stressed they won’t do it in time, just do it yourself so there are no avoidable disappointments.
Q: My partner plans activities and gifts for Mother’s Day. I don’t want to appear ungrateful, but it’s not what I want. How should I handle this?
A: Now, a few weeks before the holiday, is a great time to raise this directly. I’d suggest not framing it as a criticism, but instead sharing that you are excited to do something different this year and propose your idea. Don’t just shoot down their suggestions if you have no ideas of your own.
Q: Mother’s Day in my family gets shared with my own mother/mother-in-law/sister so how I actually want to spend the day gets backburnered. What should I do about this?
A: Consider if it’s possible to bow out of larger family celebrations for Mother’s Day if they don’t spark joy. If that isn’t possible, or you enjoy them, but just don’t feel like they are fully what you need, consider planning your own completely separate Mother’s Day celebration the following weekend or another day. Last year, I met with a group of my mom friends the Sunday following Mother’s Day for a nice brunch (WAY less crowded than on than the actual holiday) and went to another friend’s vintage sale. No one had family obligations that weekend and we all had a nice afternoon for our “Mother’s Day.” It worked out great.
Q: I’m a single mom and I don’t have a partner who’s going to provide any gifts or childcare for Mother’s Day. How do I plan a Mother’s Day I’m happy with?
A: Mother’s Day doesn’t have to embody cliches in order for it to work for your family and be something you want to do. It can be getting together with other single mom friends for a picnic, planning something nice for yourself when you have time alone (if you share custody) or just treating yourself to an easy day, like letting your kids play video games while you binge Succession and order your favorite takeout.
Q: I want a break from my children on Mother’s Day. Should I feel guilty about this?
A: Hell no.
Q: Money is tight right now and/or I have a hard time doing things that require spending money on myself. What should I plan?
A: The most precious thing you can give yourself is time. There are lots of ways to claim time for yourself without spending money, like going for a hike, spending the night in your sister’s guest room, catching up with a friend or enjoying a hobby. Just beware of and fight the urge to “get things done” or do chores during any “time off” on Mother’s Day. This is a day to honor your labor by resting!
Q: Mother’s Day is a painful holiday for me because I’m dealing with a loss, have a difficult relationship with my own mother or for some other reason. How should I navigate Mother’s Day this year?
A: Whatever feels most nurturing to you. No need to put on a fake smile and participate in activities if you are really not feeling it. And if the way you feel most honored as a mom is to not celebrate or acknowledge the holiday, then that is a-ok. Just be sure to stay off social media!
I hope this has given you some inspo and permission to make this holiday something that feels truly good and nurturing to you. And if you want to gift yourself the most feminist of gifts that keep on giving, join our Double Shift membership community. Challenging the status quo of motherhood in community is the present that you can enjoy all year round!
In this week’s members-only thread, I’ll be asking, what do YOU want for Mother’s Day this year?
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I'm deep diving into some reporting for national outlets so I'll be taking next week off from the Wednesday newsletter. I'll still send out a member thread on Thursday though!