If you’re going through separation or divorce, you may be dreading Mother’s Day this year. You may even be experiencing the Mother’s Day blues. Family-centered holidays – like Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day – can intensify feelings of sadness, inadequacy, and loss. For newly separated and divorced people, these holidays can really emphasize how much the family unit has changed.
If your family had Mother’s Day traditions – breakfast in bed, brunch at your favorite restaurant, flowers, cleaning the house, detailing your car, etc. – both you and your kids may be feeling blue. For a stepmother, Mother’s Day can bring up feelings of unhappiness combined with hurt when the children they’re helping to raise head off to their “real” mother’s house without a backward glance.
Mother’s Day is going to be different this year, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be awful. Remember that you have choices about how you spend it by being proactive and exercising these choices, you can create new and meaningful traditions for you and your family.
Tips for Beating the Mother’s Day Blues
- Make a Plan. This is the single most important action to take to make sure that the day is fun – or at least okay – for you and the kids. Knowing how you’re going to spend the day will reduce stress and anxiety for all of you.
- Tell Your Kids. Tell your kids what you want rather than hoping they’ll surprise you with the perfect gift/day. Hoping they’ll know just the right thing to create a Hallmark moment puts way too much pressure on them – and is a recipe for disappointment. If you’re a stepmother, make sure to communicate your wishes clearly with your husband.
- Gifts from the Heart (Not the Mall). Especially if money is tight, ask your kids for a gift or card they can make themselves – or create a new tradition by making something together.
- Create New Traditions. You can choose to start entirely new traditions: a picnic in the park (or your living room if the weather doesn’t cooperate), a trip to the zoo, an afternoon watching favorite movies in pajamas; or variations on an existing theme: brunch at Restaurant X rather than Restaurant Z.
- Celebrate with Other Single Parents. This one works whether or not you have your kids on Mother’s Day. Another single mom will understand exactly how you’re feeling, and can provide coaching and support if she’s ahead of you in the divorce-recovery process – or you can be the one offering advice from experience. If you don’t know any other single parents, join a local support group like Parents Without Partners (www.parentswithoutpartners.org).
- Pamper Yourself. Especially if you don’t have your kids on Mother’s Day, make sure to do something special for yourself. If mani-pedis or massages aren’t your thing (or aren’t in the budget right now), give yourself permission to spend the day doing something you love. This could be meeting up with girlfriends for a movie/drinks/meal or reading “guilty pleasure” magazines or books, or even just sleeping in as long as you want.
- Don’t Be Ruled by the Calendar. If you don’t have your kids on Mother’s Day, plan to celebrate it next weekend. Make sure to tell your kids about the new date so they won’t feel sad or guilty if they enjoy May 9th without you.
- Special Tip for Stepmoms: If your stepchildren are going to be with their mother for the holiday, take the opportunity to have a romantic, kid-free dinner with your husband. Being a good stepmother is a tough (and mostly thankless) job; your husband can take the opportunity to thank and acknowledge you for being a great parent to his children.
If you’re experiencing the Mother’s Day blues this year, you’re not alone. Follow the tips in this article to help get you through the day. Soon enough, you will be able to enjoy this day for all that it is worth.