Being single on Mother’s Day can hurt, especially if it’s your first and you’re used to celebrating it in a particular way. Whether you initiated your divorce or your spouse imposed it on you, embracing a single lifestyle can take some getting used to.
The good news is you hold a lot of power in your single status. You also have received your first Mother’s Day gift, and that’s a clean slate to reimagine Mother’s Day the way you want it to be. Here are a few cheap and easy ideas to get you started.
1. Let go of old expectations.
When you’re married, Mother’s Day can feel as much about your children celebrating you as your spouse for raising the children you have with them. If you’re recently separated or newly divorced, your ex may not be up for celebrating Mother’s Day with you or honoring you at all.
If they are, great, but the celebration will probably still feel different. Whatever the situation, you may come away feeling disappointed.
The thing about disappointment is that it hinges on expectations. If you don’t want to feel disappointed in your Mother’s Day, let go of what you expect it to be based on how it once was. The truth is Mother’s Day would’ve likely changed for you anyway as time went on, even if you were still married.
As your children age, they’ll begin living lives independent of yours. This may mean a semester abroad or summer program prevents them from being with you on Mother’s Day in person, or they have a Little League game scheduled that very afternoon, and there goes brunch.
Jennifer Hurvitz, a nationally-known divorce and relationship coach and author of “woulda. coulda. shoulda.: A divorce coach’s guide to staying married,” says, however, there’s a constant: “While your expectations may be changing, your kid’s expectations will stay the same about one thing — seeing you happy on YOUR day. They find peace and comfort in that.”
Bottom line, if you don’t want to feel like you’re missing out or being deprived of what you’re used to, plan on being flexible. In other words, roll with Mother’s Day by being open to a Mother’s Day that’s unlike the ones before it, and the genuine possibility Mother’s Day can be better than it was, despite being different.
“Whatever it is you have planned,” Hurvitz says, “make sure you bring your A-game.”
2. Start a new tradition.
So what that when you were married you went to brunch or lunch on Mother’s Day at a particular restaurant. Or you went to your sister-in-law’s. If you think about it, this wasn’t always a tradition; there was a first time when you went there for Mother’s Day, which means you celebrated somewhere else the year before.
Now that you’re single, you no longer have to confine yourself to preconceived notions about what Mother’s Day should look like. Your new Mother’s Day could be about you and your children spending a weekend away, taking a day trip, making brunch at home, or donating your time to help underprivileged single mothers and their children.
The great thing about traditions is that you have a choice: to honor them again and again, or say thank you in Marie Kondō fashion for the years you enjoyed them and leave them behind to try something new.
“Show up with a smile; be positive and celebrate all the new memories you’re creating,” says Hurvitz.
If your new idea works and everyone’s happy, you can then decide whether you want to turn it into a tradition. It’s up to you, so long as you remember that when a tradition keeps you rooted in the past and a negative holding pattern, it has overstayed its welcome.
3. Allow your children or (someone else) to take the reigns.
Depending on the ages of your kids, allow them to do some (or all) of the planning. If your younger children want to serve you breakfast in bed with all the trimmings — burnt toast, soggy cereal, and a bouquet of dandelions, let them. Or they want to craft you a pasta necklace, with most of the pasta landing on the kitchen floor in the process, don’t stop them.
It can be hard to get excited about “gifts” that cause you to do more housework, especially on Mother’s Day. But a little effort — yours — can go a long way in making or breaking Mother’s Day for you and your kids. And by effort, I don’t mean the extra cleaning you’d have to take on but, instead, the extra effort you might have to exert to set a positive tone in your house.
If you wake up and for the rest of the day remain in a pissed-off mood, depressed, and angry, you will convey that same energy to your children. Since parents set the stage in their house, what you’re inviting are children who mirror you in the only way they know how — by being cranky and irritable.
When that happens, your Mother’s Day can only get worse from there. Better to make an effort from the beginning to communicate to the entire family that Mother’s Day is something to look forward to and enjoy, rather than a day to avoid or get through as fast as you can.
To that end, Hurvitz suggests staying off of social media for the day. “It can be gut-wrenching to watch all your married (and committed) peeps celebrating with their kiddos. Posting pictures, doing their thing. And while it’s not their fault, it’s like a punch to the throat.”
4. Make a plan for the day.
That plan doesn’t have to mean you schedule activities from morning till night. But you should have something scheduled to look forward to, even if you have to plan the activity yourself.
Whatever you choose doesn’t have to cost a lot either, but the plan should be for you to do something you don’t normally do. It could mean planning a picnic in the backyard or the park, going for a nature walk, or planting a tree or perennials you can watch bloom every spring for years to come.
Your plan can also include buying yourself a gift, such as a massage to use when your kids are with a relative or at school, or your favorite flowers. There’s no reason why someone else has to give these things to you. You still deserve a Mother’s Day celebration, so don’t feel guilty about giving one to yourself. You’ve earned it.
Alternatively, consider including the kids in picking and buying your Mother’s Day gift, even on the actual day.
“Counting on your ex to purchase your gift from the kids is, well, poor planning,” says Hurvitz. “Kids don’t have the ability to buy your present but might feel bad if they don’t get you anything.”
She suggests giving kids $20, or whatever is in your budget and then heading to the mall or Target.
“Let them shop for what they think you’d really like on their own, then grab Slurpees and a pretzel at the food court. Best Mother’s Day ever.”
5. Remind yourself that Mother’s Day is about celebrating motherhood.
Though it may be hard to recall as friends and family busy themselves with brunch reservations and posting pictures on social media of colorful floral bouquets sent to them by loving husbands and children who don’t have their own credit cards yet, it’s not what the spirit of Mother’s Day is about. Mother’s Day is about the strength and resilience that mothers, especially single mothers, exhibit.
It’s about commemorating how you shape your children’s lives not just on Mother’s Day but every day of the year, in part by sharing the lessons you’ve learned, including those from your divorce. Most of all, Mother’s Day is about enjoying the family you’ve helped create — and will continue to — now with you as its head.
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