Courtesy Allyson Reynolds
Allyson Reynolds and her family.

Mother’s Day can create a mixed bag of emotions for women with children for oh so many reasons. Maybe you had/have a bad relationship with your own mother. Perhaps you’re dealing with secondary infertility or multiple miscarriages. Some moms are frustrated by certain expectations that never come to pass, and others resent and feel awkward about choosing a gift for their mother-in-law. There are always those who believe they don’t deserve the accolades or “forced” expressions of gratitude because they don't think they are that good of a mom anyway.

We could dwell on all the legitimate reasons to dread Mother’s Day, but the truth is, it doesn’t feel very good. Whatever your reasons for struggling with Mother’s Day, why not make this year different? Transforming your Mother’s Day experience can be as easy as making a simple mental switch. (Though I do realize how hard it can be to rewire mental switches, so I don’t say this lightly.)

I’ll briefly share my own experience. My first child was born three weeks into what would become nine years of my husband’s medical training. We had three children by the end of that time. As thoughtful as my husband was and is (he always buys me a little something and includes a card with sweet words of thanks), it seemed that every Mother’s Day during those demanding years he was either at the hospital or one of us had responsibilities at our church taking up a good portion of the day. In other words, I ended up with very little time for myself. This was frustrating for me because I had it in my head that Mother’s Day should be a “day off” for Mom, and that type of Mother’s Day never materialized during those grueling years. Mother’s Day became a day of dread for me because of unmet expectations.

Finally, after child No. 4, I figured it out. Mother’s Day didn’t have to be about me sleeping in, being served breakfast in bed, having the day to myself to do whatever I wanted, topped off by a basketful of cards and gifts telling me what a great mother I was. Mother’s Day could be me thinking about each of my children, how much I loved them and what a gift it was to be their mother. I even started using the day to spend some meaningful one-on-one time with each of my children instead of trying to be alone. Once I made this simple mental switch, Mother’s Day became a delight.

Going back to those reasons some mothers dread Mother’s Day, following are a few suggestions that may help (though I don’t pretend to understand all of these situations):

  1. If you have a strained relationship with your mother, try focusing on how you’re creating a better relationship with your own children and take joy in that success.
  2. If you’re struggling with secondary infertility or multiple miscarriages, you may find comfort in reaching out to another mother in your same situation.
  3. If you have certain expectations for the day, ask yourself which of them are realistic and, if you feel comfortable, make a request of your husband and children. (And if you don’t feel comfortable, don’t be surprised or upset when they don’t read your mind! Last year, after almost 14 years of motherhood, I finally told my husband I wanted a corsage to wear to church on Mother’s Day. He was happy to oblige, and I felt special all day. How else would he have known it was important to me if I hadn’t asked?)
  4. If you really think no one in your family will do anything for you and you’re not happy about it, go ahead and do something special for yourself or get together with another mother friend in the same boat and celebrate in your own way.
  5. If you dread finding an appropriate gift for your mother-in-law, let your husband get his mother a gift.
  6. If you’ve got hang-ups about not being a good enough mom, stop making Mother’s Day about you, and turn the spotlight on your awesome kids and the love you feel for them.

QUESTION: How do you feel about Mother’s Day? Dread or delight? What are your reasons? How have you overcome your negative associations with Mother’s Day?

CHALLENGE: Make the necessary mental switches to turn this Mother’s Day into something delightful.