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A Mother’s Day Challenge

Love and a Prius
Holidays are catalysts for character strengths.

Each holiday poses a special opportunity to awaken us from our slumber and activate one or more strengths.  It seems that in the U.S., the culture collectively turns its attention to a particular strength each holiday. Consider the following:

  • Thanksgiving – gratitude
  • Christmas/Hanukkah – kindness/generosity and for some, spirituality
  • Easter (i.e., the weeks leading up to it) – self-regulation
  • 4th of July – zest
  • New Years Day – hope

What about Mother’s Day? Many strengths are great contenders on this holiday. However, it is unlikely that any can topple the importance of love.

Phone calls, letters, visits, cards, and gifts are mailed; events and fun experiences are planned; compliments and positive affirmations expressed; kind and generous acts performed. For some, these gestures and kind offerings can act as a turning point in their relationship with their mother. For others, the expression of love ends or fizzles and Monday they are back to their life routine, happy to have another holiday out of the way.

Sure, it’s great that cultures tap into that strength capacity and express it that one day. But, the real challenge is sustaining the strength for the long-run. Virtually anyone can do a short sprint to their mailbox at the end of their driveway, but relatively few can actually complete a marathon. Any strength can easily be expressed in short-term bursts but the expression in the long-run is much more of a challenge.

My Challenge to You

This is my challenge to you. No matter how close or how distant you are with you mother (this includes those who no longer have a mother who is living), deepen the connection. If you would rate the level of depth and meaning of your current relationship with your mother to be a 7 on a 1-10 scale (where 10 is the most deep/meaningful it could possibly be), then take action to move it to an 8.

What can you do to advance the relationship for the long-run? Practice forgiving your mother for her flaws? Using your curiosity to ask her questions about her most meaningful and happy memories from each decade of her life? Sharing your deep gratitude to her for what she has provided to you? Deploying your perspective strength to help you see the bigger picture of how large of an impact she has had on your life?

A Challenge for Mothers

The VIA Institute explains the character strength of love as being a two-way street. It’s not only about giving love to your children (whatever age) but it’s equally about being able to receive their love in return. For many mothers, especially those of the “self-sacrificing” type, the latter does not come as natural as the former.

Mothers: consider how big of a “present” you can give your child by letting them love you in the best way they know how. Maybe it’s accepting a lavish gift, maybe it’s spending a lot of quality time with you, or maybe it’s letting them take care of various chores around the house for you.

When your child expresses their love for you and affirms your inherent goodness, do you allow their words to penetrate your skin and reach your core? Do you allow your soul to flutter and dance in joy? Do you pause and savor the meaning and truth of every ounce of what they have said?

To all mothers – please pause, take a deep breath, and realize what a sacred gift you are to the world. This world is better off with you in it. Happy Mother’s Day!


This blog entry is dedicated to Rachelle, my wife who is celebrating her second Mother’s Day, and to Sue, my mother who is celebrating her 37th.


Graffiti at The First Center for the Visual Arts
Creative Commons License photo credit: Sean Davis.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Dewayne Neeley

A Mother’s Day Challenge

Ryan M. Niemiec, Psy.D

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APA Reference
Niemiec, R. (2012). A Mother’s Day Challenge. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 22, 2018, from


Last updated: 13 May 2012
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 13 May 2012
Published on All rights reserved.