5 tips for a happy day.

I have to be honest: Until I became a mom seven years ago, I had no idea how stressful and even (let’s face it) awful Mother’s Day could be. I knew, of course, it was rough on the women who desperately wanted to be moms and on mothers who had lost children. I even got that it was hard for moms who spent the day far away from their children, longing for their company.

But that it was hard on moms with kids at home? Coulda fooled me. And apparently they did because my first Mother’s Day was – umm – less than blissful.

Mind you, this was totally my fault – totally the fault of all my silly expectations and assumptions I’d brought with me to the day. Expectations my husband could never have met and assumptions I had no business making (or at least, not expressing!).

So when the day rolled around and my husband presented me with a darling pair of espadrilles I had admired in a catalog the previous month (I mean, really, how great is this?!?!) BUT didn’t make mention of any brunch plans, I freaked. What’s Mother’s Day without BRUNCH? What sort of ungrateful husband doesn’t even make BRUNCH reservations? What am I supposed to COOK today? Isn’t this day supposed to HONOR ME?

I’d like you to think I only thought these things, but no, they actually came out of my mouth – straight into the face of my husband. Nice, I know.

The next year was better. No shoes or any gift. But he did make reservations at my favorite Swedish restaurant in the city. We were set to leave right after church and drive straight down. I still freaked – but I managed to keep it to a minimum. But we get out at noon. We need to feed Henrik. He can’t wait that long …

When my husband took out a pre-packed package of graham crackers and a sippy cup to tide our baby over, I relaxed, but realized there was something else going on with this Mother’s Day thing. So I began to ask friends what they really thought of Mother’s Day. While everyone said they appreciated the idea of it (and all of us adore the gifts our kids make for us!), most friends had had their own frustrations with the day. And mostly, these frustrations had to do with feeling like in reality Mother’s Day was being celebrated for some other type of mother. For the mother you see on TV, for the mother Hallmark tries to tell you that we all are, for the mother that doesn’t always like what we like or spend the day we’d want it spent.

After these conversations with friends, I had a good, honest chat with my husband. First, I apologized for acting like such a Mother’s Day psycho and not appreciating his effort. Then, we started talking about my expectations for Mother’s Day and what would make the day truly special and feel like it honored me as a mom – as opposed to some glorified, however generic, version of motherhood. He wanted to know.

Since that conversation, I’ve continued to think about some things to help make Mother’s Day less stressful and more joyful. In fact, in the years since this happened, five of these ideas have weaseled their way from my brain and into practice – helping make Mother’s Day wonderful for everyone involved.

  1. Let others in on the big Mother’s Day secret. You know that unless your kids are grown and you miss them like crazy, busy moms really want some time alone on Mother’s Day. Let’s just get this out: We all have seasons when a perfect Mother’s Day means a day where a mother didn’t have to mother, right? So if you want time off or by yourself that day, let your family know this. Don’t be rude about it. Make sure your kids and partner know you love them and will miss them. But go ahead and admit this would make your day great.
  2. Say what you want. Obviously this is in line with the first tip. But let’s say you want a huge hoopla, big enchilada kind of Mother’s Day: tell your family! Maybe a hand-picked bouquet makes you feel honored. Maybe it’s breakfast in bed. Maybe it’s a fancy brunch, tickets to a baseball game, or a picnic at the park. Whatever it is, let your family know. They love you – so give them the best way to show you.
  3. Lower your expectations. So, you’ve let the fam in on the secret or told them what you want. Now, forget you said anything. When you expect nothing and end up with something – total gravy! Seriously, if you want to enjoy the day (and not ruin it for the rest of your family) ratchet down your hopes and dreams for the day. Those grand illusions only lead to disappointment. Remember, that family you love so much? They’re only human. They love you too, but they can’t love you perfectly.
  4. Extend grace. So maybe your lowered expectations will churn out the gravy you hoped it would. Then again, maybe it won’t. Maybe no one will put out much effort; maybe it’ll be a day just like all the rest. Maybe you won’t feel any more loved than you did the day before. Oh, well. As I heard someone tell me recently, “Notice that feeling and then let it go.” Because seriously, people, it’s a day. If you knew your kids loved you on Saturday – without them having made you anything special or served you a wonderful breakfast in bed – you should know they love you still on Sunday.
  5. Honor another mom. It’s easy to get all wrapped up in our own mommy selves on Mother’s Day but let’s not forget about our own moms, mothers-in-law, mother figures, or any other moms who may be feeling the sting of loneliness on this day. Don’t know what to do or how to honor another special mom in your life? Ask her what she wants.

Written by Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira

Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira

Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira has been a trusted writer and speaker to women for over a decade. In Christian publishing for more than 10 years, she has served as managing editor for Marriage Partnership and Christian Parenting Today. She also helped develop the Women and Family Resources department at Christianity Today International (CTI). Rivadeniera earned her degree in English from Calvin College and attended the University of Chicago’s publishing program. Since the birth of her first child, Rivadeneira has worked from home as a mother, editor and writer. In her book Mama’s Got a Fake I.D., Rivadeneira has good news from every woman wondering what happened to the unique combination of gifts and abilities she was known for before kids came along. She helps moms reclaim their full identities as creative beings, gifted professionals and volunteers, loving friends, children of God—and mothers. She lives with her husband and three kids in the western suburbs of Chicago. Visit her at www.carynriavdeneira.com or www.themommyrevolution.com.