Avoiding Mother's Day Disappointment

It’s our special day this Sunday!

The day when we get fussed over. When someone else makes us breakfast and brings it to us on a tray (even if the cereal has gone soggy and the toast has grown cold). Someone else is worrying about what we’ll eat for lunch and dinner. Someone else will do the dishes.

We’ll get a lovely card from our husband telling us “You’re still the one who stops my heart.” We’ll get lovely handmade cards from the kids. And we’ll get some special presents to open–something that is meant just to pamper us, to say, “we love you, and we appreciate you, and we want you to relax.”

After all, it’s Mother’s Day.

Commercials tell us that we’ll get flowers, and chocolates, and pampering, and kisses.

But what if we don’t?

What if we wake up on Mother’s Day and no one is whispering at us to stay in bed so that we can await our breakfast? What if people are yelling about, “what is there to eat?”, and “where’s my other shoe?”, and “Johnny’s bugging me.”

What if there is no present? What if all that’s awaiting us is a gift card to Starbucks, if we’re lucky?

Have you ever dealt with the Mother’s Day disappointment?

You try to tell yourself it won’t matter if they forget this year. You try to tell yourself, “I know they love me, even if they don’t show it well.” But deep inside you’re just tired of being taken for granted.

I understand. I’m not really a gift person, as I share in my column tomorrow, but I do want to at least be remembered. I love the homemade cards with the long testimony of how much I mean to those I love.

And I haven’t always received it. It’s not because my family doesn’t care; it’s just that they know I’m not a gift person, so they don’t always remember that it does matter. And because I’m usually the one responsible for reminding my kids to get presents (or at least I was when they were younger), when it’s something involving me my husband doesn’t always make them do it. He gets a card himself, but he doesn’t necessarily put the boot to them and make them get something.

This can be especially difficult if in your daily life you often feel like the one taken for granted–the one who does everything to care for the family, often with little thanks. On the one day we are supposed to be thanked, they can still forget.

Now maybe you have a husband who’s very sensitive to Mother’s Day protocol, and this isn’t an issue for you. But for those moms for whom Mother’s Day often brings disappointment, I want to offer some thoughts to perhaps help it to go more smoothly this time:

1. Spell Out What You Need

Seriously. Just tell them. Every year, about three days before Mother’s Day, I say to my girls, “I don’t want you to spend money on me this year. I simply want a letter–a LONG letter (at least a page and a half) talking about our relationship and your favourite memories and what you love about me.” And that’s what I get!

On the occasions when there’s something relatively small that I do actually want or need, I’ll spell that out, too. “Honey, I need some silver hoop earrings. I would love to get some silver hoop earrings for Mother’s Day.”

I also have taken to creating a Wish List on Amazon of books that I’d like, and keeping a file that our family shares of gift ideas that I would like. You can create such a file and keep it in your family’s “Cloud”, or keep it in Google Docs and share it with everyone. Then they can upload gift ideas, too!

2. Don’t Expect Them to Read Your Mind

Avoiding Mother's Day Disappointment

I can already hear the complaints about #1. “But they should just KNOW what I need.” “They should love me enough to do it for me without having to be told.” “They shouldn’t mind having to think of a nice gift.”

But are those expectations realistic and fair?

I’m sure if you were to ask your children what is absolutely most important to them that you do, you may find areas where you have disappointed them, because you don’t value something that they do. My youngest daughter takes skating lessons for fun, and she likes me to come and watch. But she takes them right over the hour when I need to be getting dinner ready, so I don’t go often. I watch her so much at the other competitive things she does, and I’m with her all day (we homeschool), so to me it doesn’t seem like a big deal to take off for an hour and a half and get dinner while she skates. But that matters to her.

My husband likes it if I take Saturday mornings and go for a walk or go bird watching with him. That really matters to him. But sometimes on Saturdays I make other plans because that’s the only day I have to do certain things. And I know that I disappoint him, but I figure he should understand how important my other plans are, too.

We disappoint people.

It is not just that your family can disappoint you; you likely disappoint your family as well.

That’s not meant to make you feel guilty; it’s just that you are all different people, and so different things matter to you. That’s what it means to be an individual! And expecting them to read your mind and to value things to the same extent you do is not fair.

If you really, really want a specific thing this year, tell them. It may seem less romantic, but it’s also leaving far less room for disappointment!

3. Be Grateful for What You Have

Seriously. If you’re a mom, rejoice. You have the incredible privilege of having people who are intricately linked to you–who will love you forever. That is a beautiful thing. Will they always do the right thing? Nope. Will your husband always do the right thing? Nope. But why not practice gratitude and just have fun with them this Sunday, even if you all have to pitch in and make dinner together.

4. Practice Fostering More Respect

Avoiding Mother's Day Disappointment

Finally, here’s an important one. Sometimes Mother’s Day takes on a huge significance because the rest of the year is definitely NOT Mother’s Day. Every other day of the year you do everything for everyone else. You put your own dreams and goals on hold so that you can chauffeur your son to hockey. You spend every waking moment catering to your kids so that their lives are smooth, and full of all the wonderful things and activities you only dreamed of when you were growing up.

And no one says thank you, because you’ve taught them that it is normal for mothers to wait on them hand and foot.

You’ve taught them that mothers are supposed to have no life outside of their kids; that mothers are supposed to clean up after them.

You’ve reinforced the fact that you will be there to tidy their messes and pick up behind them.

I know not every mom does this, but an amazing number do. And ladies, if you have done this, I know  you did it out of love. I know you sacrificed your own time and hobbies so that your kids could have the best. But here’s the thing: they didn’t ask you to. You did it on your own.

And now you want them to recognize it, even though you’ve raised them to think this is natural.

If you’re frustrated with your life, and feeling taken for granted, Mother’s Day can’t make up for that.

Perhaps we’re putting too much on what little day. Perhaps what we really need to do is to take a good look at our lives and ask ourselves, “am I raising kids who are respectful and grateful and helpful and compassionate? Or am I raising kids who expect others to do things for them?”

I know that’s a hard question, but it’s one really worth asking. Maybe this year, Mother’s Day can be your trigger to change the way you do life so that you aren’t always exhausted. It really is okay to say no to your kids. It really is okay to carve out time in your schedule for yourself. It really is okay to teach your kids to do chores so that you aren’t the only one cleaning up.

Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate moms–so celebrate! Celebrate the fact that you’re a mom. Celebrate your family. Let this be a day that you re-evaluate and you make sure that you’re the kind of mom YOU want to be. And don’t expect other people to read your mind. Maybe if we did that, we wouldn’t be in for so much disappointment on Sunday morning.

To Love, Honor and VacuumIf you can’t picture what it would look like to raise kids who did think of you and who didn’t take you for granted, that’s what To Love, Honor and Vacuum–the book–is for! For everyone who feels more like a maid than a wife and a mother, this book helps you think about family life in a different way. It’s not about raising kids–it’s about raising future adults who are responsible, independent, and compassionate. And that means we moms can stop doing everything for everybody!

Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!