I’ve Changed Mother’s Day Completely: It’s About Being Grateful that My Kids Made Me a Mom

As a parenting coach with three children, I’ve come to realize it’s up to me to honor myself. Years ago, I started telling my family what I wanted for Mother’s Day to avoid (the multiple years of) disappointment, resentment, and self-pity.

It crushed me and made me envious when friends told me that their children served them breakfast in bed, gave them flowers, wrote poems, or gave them a spa treatment courtesy of their husbands. I wondered how I had failed to teach my husband and children how to show appreciation for all the things I did and gave them.

I decided to honor myself on Mother’s Day (Photo credit: Cindy Kaplan)

I consoled myself by dismissing Mother’s Day as unimportant

To console myself, I dismissed Mother’s Day as a Hallmark creation, another commercial construct. The thing is, I see both the beauty and the absurdity in making this one day about honoring mothers. We all need to feel appreciated, or at the very least, not taken for granted. And on this one day a year, the expectation for gratitude and recognition from others can escalate to crazy heights. 

I remember one Mother’s Day that gutted me. It had been a typical week of grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, shuttling, and taking care of a million things to meet everyone’s needs, including the dog’s, except my own. That Sunday, my teenage son texted me: “Happy Mother’s Day.” When I read the text, my heart froze. I was stunned, angry, and deeply saddened.

How could he not appreciate all I do for him, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?

Why can’t he see all the ways I’ve been there for him?

How could he not know how to show gratitude?

Why didn’t my husband model this for him?

I’m a failure as a mother because my kids don’t know how to show appreciation.

What did I do wrong!!? 

After stewing all day, I needed to tell him how I felt. I stiffened my back, held back my tears, and told him that texting me “Happy Mother’s Day” was not okay. I saw the light in his eyes dim as I doused him with shame, and I felt awash with shame of my own.

My disappointment came from not being recognized on this particular day

I realized how deeply I was seeking a sense of worth from my child because of the ingrained beliefs about how mothers must be celebrated on this particular day. It was not simply the fact that I didn’t get a card, a gift, or a meaningful wish, but rather the unmet expectations of being recognized on this day. Our culture has long convinced us that we are to seek our worth and appreciation through others and things outside of ourselves.

My son is now twenty-four, my daughter is twenty-two, and my youngest son is fifteen, My daughter might, as a young woman (yes, I know-gender stereotyping), be the one to rally her brothers to find a gift, make breakfast, or post photos of us on social media surrounded by floating hearts. But, she can’t. She has Cerebral Palsy and can’t speak or move independently, and she has multiple cognitive limitations. 

I could not help feeling disappointed

Regardless of my family’s disappointing track record on Mother’s Day, I still feel the tug of wondering what, if anything, they will do this year, because the cultural expectations are so deeply ingrained.

But, a couple of years ago, I decided (it was time) to find ways to honor myself on Mother’s Day-but not out of spite. I chose to become a mother, not because I want payback for all that we as mother’s give, but because one of the best gifts in raising children is that they show us where we still need to grow.

When I appreciate myself, whether it be through words of kindness and self-compassion, holding a boundary, or taking a break, I let go of the expectation for others to do it for me, which then allows any resentment to melt away. My children have been my greatest teachers, so on  this Mother’s Day, I decided to show my appreciation for the honor of being their mother. I placed a thank you card and chocolate at each of their dinner plates on Mother’s Day. They were perplexed to say the least, and my heart was full. 

I have made Mother’s Day about my gratitude for being a mom

Since then, I have made Mother’s Day about my gratitude for motherhood, for myself, and the deep connection I have with each of my children. This year, I will again be mindful of the thoughts that arise from within, allow myself to feel them, and hold them with compassion. And then I will remember that believing in myself, honoring myself, and caring for myself sets me free from needing it from anything or anyone on the outside. 

I have empowered myself to create a Mother’s Day that is meaningful to me, to notice how I have created connection, which is what I value most in my relationship with my children. When they tell me about their day, lean in for a hug, make me laugh, request my opinion, call me “mommy” even though they’re older, or even text me something they think I’d like, I feel their appreciation.

It is not about what I do for them or what they do for me, but about how I show up for them so they be their authentic selves. 

This year consider honoring yourself on Mother’s Day

As you celebrate Mother’s Day this year, consider honoring yourself. Notice where the expectations pull you, enjoy the breakfast, the cards, the posts on social media if you receive them. Practice seeing yourself and all that you do and are as a mother.

Loosen your grip on the expectations from others, and notice what you can see, and feel into what is already there. If you’re feeling that tug of disappointment, accept that your feelings are understandable, give yourself what you need, and cherish all the parts of yourself.

Find the gift of being present with yourself and your children and hold this in your heart every day of the year. 

More Great Reading:

The Anguish I Feel In the Card Aisle Each and Every Mother’s Day

About Cindy Kaplan

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