Mother’s Day is often filled with angst and guilt and conflict. Mothers are particularly good at taking care of everyone else, wanting to please people, keep the peace, and simply putting themselves last.
And some Moms have a hard time accepting the love and attention they get on Mother’s Day. They feel guilty or unworthy, ruminating about all the times they screwed up as a parent (never mind that they do far more “right” than “wrong”).
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Mother’s Day is the perfect time to stop people-pleasing and start taking care of your needs and asking for what you want. It’s not fair to expect your family to know what you want unless you spell it out.
Don’t do things out of obligation
Have you been spending Mother’s Day the way you want to celebrate it? Do you feel obligated to spend time with your mother? Are you tired of having to pick out a gift for your mother-in-law, who makes snide comments about your cooking and parenting? Are you doing what your kids and husband want to do? Are you planning a big family gathering when you’d rather keep it simple?
You’re a grown woman and a mother; it’s time to consider your own wants and needs when planning Mother’s Day. You don’t have to buy gifts, have a family dinner, or include every “Negative Norma” who sucks the joy out of your day. You can do things your own way. This is one of the great joys of adulthood – you get to decide what’s best for you!
When you start changing things up, some people will actively resist with angry words or puzzled looks, a guilt trip, or maybe some crying thrown in to manipulate you even further. Don’t fall for it!
There are plenty of other days that you can take your mother to lunch or bring your mother-in-law flowers, if you choose to (the key word here is choose). They should be able to understand that you have your own family and your own needs. If they don’t respect this, politely tell them that this year you’re doing things differently, smile, and confidently remind yourself that your requests are perfectly normal.
It takes time for people to adjust to change, so expect that others might not initially understand why you’re doing something different. You will need to determine for yourself who it’s worth explaining your reasons to (some people will pitch a fit no matter your reason and are more interested in an argument than truly understanding; don’t waste your breath on these people).
Release the guilt
Once you’ve let people know what you want and what you won’t be doing this year, guilt tends to set in. Guilt is the result of feeling like you’ve done something wrong. Doing something differently, doesn’t mean it’s wrong; it doesn’t make you an uncaring daughter or selfish daughter-in-law.
I find it helps to step outside yourself in order to determine whether your behavior seems “wrong.”
Imagine your friend told her mother that she’s bowing out of their traditional Mother’s Day brunch this year in favor of a day at the beach with her husband and two-year-old. Your friend’s daughter has a hard time sitting through the brunch held at an upscale hotel, which results in your friend and her daughter being scolded by her mother. Do you think your friend is wrong to choose another way to spend the day? Is she responsible for her mother’s happiness? Should she invite her mother along to the beach? Does she have the right to do what she wants on Mother’s Day?
You have to live your life according to your own values. I believe compromise is important, but it has to go both ways. It doesn’t work if you’re doing all the compromising and accommodating. I don’t believe in sacrificing yourself in order to make other people happy. That isn’t a compromise in my book.
When you feel good about your choices, know they are the best you can do, and reflect your values, there is no need for guilt.
Start a new tradition
Sometimes the best way to reclaim Mother’s Day (or any other holiday) is to start a new tradition. We easily get stuck doing things the way they’ve always been done…often long past the point of enjoying them or having them reflect what matters most.
If Mother’s Day is always fraught with tension in your family, perhaps you can opt to go out of town for the weekend or decide it’s the day you head out for a long hike all alone. Empower yourself to scale back your celebration, maybe make your meal a potluck instead of doing all the cooking yourself. There isn’t a right or wrong way to celebrate.
Mother’s Day can be a tough day for so many reasons — a difficult relationship with your mother, the loss of your mother, infertility, the loss of your own child, or being estranged from your child, to name just a few. You don’t have to be boxed in by the traditional or usual ways of spending this holiday. Honor what feels right for you. Mother’s Day isn’t a happy occasion for everyone and choosing not to celebrate or honor your mother is completely valid.
What do you really want to do on Mother’s Day?
There’s still time to figure out what you want to do this Mother’s Day. Here are a few questions to consider.
- Who do you want to spend the day with?
- Are there people who are part of your usual Mother’s Day celebration that drain you or bring negative energy?
- Is it worthwhile to share your reasons for changing the way you spend Mother’s Day?
- What have you enjoyed about past Mother’s Days?
- What have you disliked about past Mother’s Days?
- What feels like more of an obligation than a joy?
- Are there ways to change or compromise on how to spend the day?
- If you could do anything you want on Mother’s Day, what would it be?
- How can you deal with other people being disappointed or angry about how you spend Mother’s Day?
Whatever you do on Mother’s Day, I hope it feels true and right for you.
©2017 Sharon Martin, LCSW. All rights reserved.
photo by Ambro on FreeDigitalPhotos.net