Avoiding Disappointment This Mother’s Day

Avoiding Mother's Day Disappointment

It’s our special day!

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 this is normal. 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.

Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!


Mother's Day Reflections

A few things that were sent to me for Mother’s Day. First, to take you back in a time machine, here’s a clip from The Cosby Show at its best. It was shown at an event I spoke at on Saturday night, and as soon as I got home I showed it to my family. It’s awfully funny:

And now for something completely different.

Do you know what a fistula is? It’s an endemic health problem women face across the Third World, and it happens because of lack of obstetrical care. Basically, when you’re in labour, you get a bad tear on your vagina which goes all the way through to your urethra or even your anus. And because of that tear, fluids (and other things) can start coming out of your vagina and you have no control over it. So you become a pariah to your community, because you stink, and it’s often assumed that God cursed you.

The problem is far worse among the very young moms, whose bodies just aren’t ready for labour.

Here’s a story of a 13-year-old who was raped, and faced labour alone for three days until she delivered a stillborn baby. And she had a huge fistula.

Mahabouba smelled foul, and villagers thought she had been cursed by God. They put her in a hut at the edge of the village and took off the door — so the hyenas would get her that night.

When the hyenas came, Mahabouba used a stick to fend them off. The next morning she set off crawling to get to an American missionary who lived more than 30 miles away. The missionary took her to the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, where she met Steven Arrowsmith, an American urologist from Grand Rapids, Mich.

It’s the story of Christian missionary doctors who have gone to Africa to help treat this horrible problem–and surgery can fix it.

The story focused on Steven Arrowsmith, but I have a friend doing a similar thing in Uganda, Jean Froese, and she’s started a charity called Save the Mothers, which helps women suffering from pregnancy-related problems. If you’re feeling especially grateful this Mother’s Day, it would be wonderful to spread some of that gratitude to other mothers who don’t have what we do.

I have had difficult labours. I simply cannot imagine going through labour alone, as a teenage girl. And yet millions upon millions of women do that every year. We are so, so blessed, even those of us who are going through relationship difficulties. And reading that article reminded me of it once again, and so I thought I would share it with you.

I hope you had a wonderful day yesterday with your families. I certainly did, and I am grateful once again for all God has given me.

Mothering on a Weak Stomach

 

(my 3 kids all grown up! Well, 2 are mine. The boy’s my nephew. But I still love him!)
Happy Mother’s Day! May all of you who are brought soggy cereal in bed, carried by little hands and accompanied by joyful smiles, manage to get that soggy cereal down!

I thought in honour of Mother’s Day I would reprint one of my old columns, especially for the occasion.

And so, here we go, from 2004:

I have often marvelled at the fact that my youngest daughter is so healthy. At first I chalked it up to homeschooling, since we shelter her from germ factories. But thanks to Austrian lung specialist Dr. Friedrich Bischinger, I now have the real answer. It turns out that picking your nose and eating it boosts the immunity.

This is one of those things that, as a parent, you would rather not know. And as I was pondering this piece of research, a few questions occurred to me. Does Bischinger have nothing better to do with his time than worry about nose picking? Perhaps he should come do a shift or two at Canadian hospitals and fill in for some of the overworked internists here.

Even more importantly, how does one measure this particular experiment? You have to compare the pick-and-swallow kids with something. Do you arrange for a group of pick-and-stick-it-on-the-side-of-Grandma’s-couch? Or a group of non-pickers? In our family the question may be moot anyway because we have actually cured my youngest of this habit, at least in public. According to Bischinger, of course, we should just let her rip. Somehow I just don’t think I can find the stomach for it.

Stomach fortitude, though, is something I have discovered in a whole new way since becoming a mom. Grown women venture out with other grown women, only to find the conversation turning to the consistency of toddlers’ fecal matter. Two or three years earlier many of us wouldn’t even admit we had fecal matter. Kids, of course, don’t share our squeamishness. They know body functions are taboo, but these still cause gales of laughter. They are the source of the most outrageous insults and humour they can imagine. (Typical joke told by a four-year-old: “Knock knock.” “Who’s there?” “Fart!”, followed by everyone collapsing on the floor laughing). Recently, when our family was considering renting a particular movie, I refused since it had swearing in it. Rebecca, our oldest, leaned over to her younger sister and whispered, “that means it has bum words.”

The odd thing is that children have no concept of what actually is distasteful. They think nothing of barging in to the bathroom at that particular moment when you really want privacy, but should they see you and your spouse kissing, well, the screams you hear are enough to think we had been the ones nose-picking.

Meal times are perhaps the worst for these expressions of disgust. I actually enjoy cooking, but my meals usually have vegetables and meat—I know this will be hard to believe—mixed together. This is a major faux pas in my children’s eyes, and worthy of several choruses of “eeeewwwws!”. If everything is not confined to its own hemispheres on the plate, it’s not worthy. And don’t even get me started on sauces.

Yet I am not the only source of squeamish stomachs in our family. My daughters cause plenty of nausea, too. One of them, who has never met a sauce she likes, thinks nothing of picking up the gum she stuck on her dresser before dinner to finish it afterwards (we’re working on curing her of that, too). And why is it so hard to get kids to remember to flush the toilet?

It seems that motherhood is an inauguration into new challenges for the stomach-challenged, which is probably why it begins as it does. When I was pregnant with Rebecca the only thing I thought of, for the first five months, was food. I dreamed about food. I daydreamed about food. The only thing I didn’t do was eat food. I was so nauseous that every waking minute was dedicated to trying to picture some food that would stay down—an apple? A hard boiled egg? Definitely nothing with sauce.

One day I will have the bathroom to myself, I will be able to kiss my husband whenever I want, eat whatever I want, and ignore the consistency of everybody’s toilet habits. I think I’ll miss these days. And that’s why I still cherish the mushy kisses and mushy cereal I’m presented with every Mother’s Day morning. I hope you all had a wonderful day Sunday, too.

A Microwave and a Mother's Heart

Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a variety of newspapers. Here’s this week’s, just in time for Mother’s Day!

Forget that Mars and Venus thing. I have found the definitive difference between the genders.

Or rather, my nephew found it.

It is a YouTube series appropriately called, “Is it a good idea to microwave this?”
Now if you have to ask the question, you already know the answer. But these enterprising young males have built a microwave room, plastered with tin foil and a video camera, where they set things like Snow Globes, Twinkies, LED batteries, Xboxes, and more on high for a few minutes and then watch through a window to see what happens.

I would hazard a guess that 90% of their YouTube viewers are male. I admit to finding it rather mesmerizing watching the plasma sparks burst out of the batteries, and a snicker did escape my lips as the Snow Globe exploded, but I wouldn’t have searched for them in the first place. But my nephew, all on his own, discovered these university-aged pyromaniacs. And when he showed my husband, Keith said, “Cool!” (Warning: some of their videos do have offensive language).

Males, I believe, are pre-programmed to like blowing stuff up. Women, on the other hand, like to talk about males who like to blow stuff up. My daughter said that if two university aged females were launching a YouTube channel, they’d probably turn it into a talk show rather than a combustible experience. And I think she’s right.

But that doesn’t mean that women are inherently more peaceful than men. I’ve never bought that whole philosophy that “if women ruled the world, there would be no more wars.” Anyone who has ever hung around junior high school girls for any amount of time knows that girls can be every bit as mean as boys—and in fact can be far pettier.

While junior high girls may be intimidating, a mother protecting her brood is downright dangerous. When outsiders attack, we don’t offer to negotiate and sing Kum-ba-yah. We drag out the heavy artillery.

I think it’s because motherhood brings out new, overpowering emotions. When you become a mother, you make a decision to forever have your heart walk around outside your body, as author Elizabeth Stone said. You have very little direct influence over the most important part of your life.

Sure we can control our children when they’re young, but as they get older that control slowly fades. We can’t keep them from disappointments. We can’t save them when friends turn their backs, or when they fail at something they pursued fiercely, or when they get cut from the team. We can’t protect them when others gossip or badmouth or betray.

And that kind of hurt is worse, in many ways, than if it happened to you. We moms want our children to be happy, and when they’re not, we hurt, too.

In the midst of that hurt we have to be the ones to rise above it; we have to be the ones to teach our kids resiliency; to help them out of the funk; to help them not to give up, but to try again. We have to put aside our own pain to help them out of theirs. And it’s not easy.

As my own children have grown I have found parenting far less physically demanding but far more emotionally exhausting. We dream so much for our kids, and yet we need to let our children be free to pursue their own dreams on their own. That’s an awful lot to ask of a mother, and that’s why I think this Sunday all of us moms deserve a day where we are lauded, applauded, and hugged galore.

And some chocolate wouldn’t hurt, either. And no, it’s not a good idea to microwave that.

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Mothering on a Weak Stomach

'mother's day graphics 001' photo (c) 2011, Laura Thykeson - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/Here’s my Mother’s Day column! Well, actually, it’s the Mother’s Day column from a few years ago. I forgot to write one this year because I had it in my mind that Mother’s Day was next weekend, and when I sent the column in for this week I hadn’t realized that. But I think it’s more appropriate to reprint this older one this week, so here you go!

I have often marvelled at the fact that my youngest daughter is so healthy. At first I chalked it up to homeschooling, since we shelter her from germ factories. But thanks to Austrian lung specialist Dr. Friedrich Bischinger, I now have the real answer. It turns out that picking your nose and eating it boosts the immunity.

This is one of those things that, as a parent, you would rather not know. And as I was pondering this piece of research, a few questions occurred to me. Does Bischinger have nothing better to do with his time than worry about nose picking? Perhaps he should come do a shift or two at Canadian hospitals and fill in for some of the overworked internists here.

Even more importantly, how does one measure this particular experiment? You have to compare the pick-and-swallow kids with something. Do you arrange for a group of pick-and-stick-it-on-the-side-of-Grandma’s-couch? Or a group of non-pickers? In our family the question may be moot anyway because we have actually cured my youngest of this habit, at least in public. According to Bischinger, of course, we should just let her rip. Somehow I just don’t think I can find the stomach for it.

Stomach fortitude, though, is something I have discovered in a whole new way since becoming a mom. Grown women venture out with other grown women, only to find the conversation turning to the consistency of toddlers’ fecal matter. Two or three years earlier many of us wouldn’t even admit we had fecal matter. Kids, of course, don’t share our squeamishness. They know body functions are taboo, but these still cause gales of laughter. They are the source of the most outrageous insults and humour they can imagine. (Typical joke told by a four-year-old: “Knock knock.” “Who’s there?” “Fart!”, followed by everyone collapsing on the floor laughing).

Recently, when our family was considering renting a particular movie, I refused since it had swearing in it. Rebecca, our oldest, leaned over to her younger sister and whispered, “that means it has bum words.”

The odd thing is that children have no concept of what actually is distasteful. They think nothing of barging in to the bathroom at that particular moment when you really want privacy, but should they see you and your spouse kissing, well, the screams you hear are enough to think we had been the ones nose-picking.

Meal times are perhaps the worst for these expressions of disgust. I actually enjoy cooking, but my meals usually have vegetables and meat—I know this will be hard to believe—mixed together. This is a major faux pas in my children’s eyes, and worthy of several choruses of “eeeewwwws!”. If everything is not confined to its own hemispheres on the plate, it’s not worthy. And don’t even get me started on sauces.

Yet I am not the only source of squeamish stomachs in our family. My daughters cause plenty of nausea, too. One of them, who has never met a sauce she likes, thinks nothing of picking up the gum she stuck on her dresser before dinner to finish it afterwards (we’re working on curing her of that, too). And why is it so hard to get kids to remember to flush the toilet?

It seems that motherhood is an inauguration into new challenges for the stomach-challenged, which is probably why it begins as it does. When I was pregnant with Rebecca the only thing I thought of, for the first five months, was food. I dreamed about food. I daydreamed about food. The only thing I didn’t do was eat food. I was so nauseous that every waking minute was dedicated to trying to picture some food that would stay down—an apple? A hard boiled egg? Definitely nothing with
sauce.

One day I will have the bathroom to myself, I will be able to kiss my husband whenever I want, eat whatever I want, and ignore the consistency of everybody’s toilet habits. I think I’ll miss these days. And that’s why I still cherish the mushy kisses and mushy cereal I’m presented with every Mother’s Day morning. I hope you all have a wonderful day Sunday, too.

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More Thoughts on Mother's Day

Thanks for all your comments on my Mother’s Day post!

I just thought, though, that maybe I was too harsh. I may have given the impression that my husband isn’t good to me on Mother’s Day, which isn’t true. I arrived home today from my road trip to find flowers and a card and chocolates, and (and this is the best part), he and the kids had cleaned up the entire house! So he is amazing.

It’s just that the kids don’t necessarily get me anything unless he arranges it, and he doesn’t always think of it. He does stuff for me himself, but I’d sort of like stuff from the kids. Of course, that’s not really his fault. They’re at the age where they could figure it out for themselves, too.

In fact, maybe I’m being too passive aggressive. If I want something, maybe I should just tell them? Do you think? Instead of just complaining when I don’t get what I want? It’s not really fair to expect people to read my mind.

So I shall tell the girls tomorrow morning that I expect something on Sunday. We’re taking my niece out shopping all day anyway, so they have a chance to get something. And then it’s not Keith’s problem anymore.

What Will I Get for Mother's Day?


When I was a child I bought my mom lots of presents. I got it in my head that she liked roses, and she liked earrings, so I bought her earrings shaped like roses for like six years, for every Mother’s Day and Christmas starting when I was about 6. And like a good sport she wore them.

But I made the effort.

My kids don’t really. I need to remind them to get something for Daddy for Father’s Day, or for Christmas. But Keith often forgets to take the initiative to get them to get me anything, so quite often on Mother’s Day I don’t get a present.

Now I’m not really into presents. I don’t actually like people spending money on junk for me, because I don’t need any more junk. But I wouldn’t mind a poem or a picture or something that took some effort.

I think the reason that I was so into presents as a child was because I was an only child and my mother was a single mother. I knew that if I didn’t get her anything, no one else would. It was my responsbility. And I felt it heavily even at 6.

But my kids don’t have that same feeling. They know that Daddy and I will come through and do the shopping in the end, so they just wait to be reminded. In a way it’s a good thing, because they’re not taking on an adult role. But in another way, I just wish that they would think of more things for me!

Is that selfish? I hope not. I do love my kids, and they really are awesome kids. I have absolutely nothing to complain about. But I don’t always enjoy Mother’s Day, because we make a fuss over my mother and my mother-in-law, but rarely does anyone make a fuss over me.

Okay, now I’ve got myself in a funk. Somebody get me out of it!