Dear Single Mom on Mother’s Day
I remember my first Mother’s Day as a single mom. I didn’t expect it to be the way that it was or to be filled with the emotions that hit me that day. I mean, it’s Mother’s Day, and I’m a mom. That didn’t change just because I didn’t have a husband. Or did it?
It turns out, kids don’t really know it’s Mother’s Day unless someone tells them. I hadn’t thought about that when I woke up that first Single-Mother’s Day morning. No one was going to make me breakfast or have cards and a gift waiting for me on the kitchen table.
I hoped to smell a fresh pot of coffee as I walked toward the kitchen, but instead, I smelled something bad in the garbage and saw a sink full of dirty dishes. I turned a blind eye to mess in the sink. I had decided I’d take the day off from housework since this was my day, but that luxury immediately seemed to be impossible to seize.
The kids woke up misbehaving, crying, whining, and arguing. It wasn’t just the kids who were exacerbating. The puppy peed inside the house, right next to a clean load of laundry I had tossed on the floor to fold later. (Note to self: No matter how clean your floor, don’t put your clean laundry there.) From the moment I woke up, pretty much everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong.
“Happy Mother’s Day to me,” I said quietly under my breath.
No one remembered to honor me that day. That Mother’s Day was a huge disappointment.
After the kids went to bed, I went out on the deck and sat alone for a long time. I felt sorry for myself. No one cared about how hard I work or how much responsibility I shoulder.
I told myself things like, “If you hadn’t screwed up your life so badly, you’d wouldn’t be in this place. If you’d have a husband, he would have reminded your kids to be thankful for you. He would have honored you. If your mom was nicer, she’d have helped your kids do something nice for you today.”
It was not my best moment. I cried a lot of tears that night on the deck.
Four Things I Learned
I wish I could say that was my only Mother’s Day that didn’t go according to the plan, but it wasn’t. That was the year, however, I started learning a lot about how to embrace my new normal as a single mother on Mother’s Day.
#1: Check Your Expectations
I expected my children (and even the dog) to understand that Mother’s Day was my special day and give me a day free from misbehaving, crying, whining, and arguing—and peeing in the house. I thought I’d get to sit back and be celebrated and appreciated all day.
That kind of thinking made that first Single-Mother’s Days feel like a failure for me. However, in the days that followed, I realized I needed to go into a day like Mother’s Day with more realistic expectations. Misbehaving, crying, whining, and arguing happened every day in our home. Therefore, I’d most likely see that on Mother’s Day, too. Trash will stink, dishes will be dirty, dogs will have accidents, laundry will need to be done—because all of that is life. And signs of life are GOOD.
Single Mom, take time before Mother’s Day to examine your expectations for the day and adjust them to be realistic. Going into the day with proper expectations will help avoid setting yourself up for disappointment and frustration. Write down what a normal day looks like for you with your kids, and then don’t expect Mother’s Day to look much different. Turn your disappointment into gratitude. Be thankful for everything you can be on Mother’s Day, including the signs of life that feel overwhelming at times.
#2: Teach Your Children
Unfortunately, your children weren’t born with an instinct to honor you. Just the opposite. They were born needing to be served and to be the focus of attention. Honoring others is something they need to be taught.
As Mother’s Day approaches, take time to talk with your children about holidays and why it’s important to celebrate people on special days like Mother’s Day (and Father’s Day, for that matter). Teaching them about the meaning of Mother’s Day and why it’s important to take time to celebrate you on this day.
Maybe this feels uncomfortable and sounds selfish, but teaching your kids to honor you isn’t just about being celebrated on this one day. You’re giving them a valuable life lesson about intentionally celebrating the important people in their lives.
You’re also setting the tone for your children’s future. If they become parents someday, how would you want them to treat their future spouse on Mother’s or Father’s Day? How do you want them to treat you on future Mother’s Days when they’re adults? By teaching your children to honor you on Mother’s Day, you’re instilling an important value in them that will help them have stronger relationships throughout their lives.
One fun way to allow your children to celebrate you on Mother’s Day is to give them a small amount of money to spend at a store. My kids love the local dollar store. You should have been there the first time I set the loose to pick out something they thought I’d like. If you give your kids this opportunity, you’re sure to get a laugh out of seeing what they pick! More importantly, with very little investment, this activity will help them learn how to think about other people’s likes and preferences so they can become givers of thoughtful gifts.
Mom, your kids love you so much. They just don’t know how to express it. Set them up with them opportunities to show you.
#3: Make a Plan
In the days leading up to Mother’s Day, think about what you can do to make it a great day. Don’t let Mother’s Day just happen to you, make it happen for you!
Do you like spending time outside? Plan to visit a local park, beach, or gardens.
Do you enjoy being active and getting exercise? Make plans to take the kids with you for a walk or an easy hike.
Prefer relaxing and being still? Maybe rent a movie and watch it with popcorn and special snacks.
Whatever you like to do, consider how you can build time for it into your day.
If your kids don’t like your plan, remember this is an opportunity to teach them how to celebrate others on their special days. You put your own needs aside so often to make your kids happy, so take time on Mother’s Day to indulge in something that will make you feel happy and fulfilled. And remember: You’re not just doing this for yourself, but also to show your kids that moms deserve to do the things they like to do, too!
#4: Honor Your Feelings
Despite all your best efforts, Mother’s Day may still be difficult. Whether you face reminders of past holidays when a former relationship was intact or feelings of sadness when you see married friends celebrating with their spouses, you don’t have to pretend like everything is okay in your world. It’s important to honor your feelings, and know that it’s normal to feel hurt, lonely, sad, or angry. It just means you’re human!
Consider how best to honor those emotions as they come up. You might talk through them with a friend, write about them in a journal, or take a few quiet moments to pray and talk to God. These hurting feelings can offer powerful insights to help you heal and embrace your life as a single mom. They also offer clues to parts of your life experiences that you still may not have come to terms with.
Take time to recognize and honor any emotions that come up for you on Mother’s Day, and remember that, whatever you feel, it’s normal.
Mom, this year, instead of focusing on what you don’t have on Mother’s Day, take time to celebrate and honor what you do have–strength, courage, and the love of and for your children. Shepherd’s Village is here to pray with you and for you. You are never alone. If you need prayer or to talk to someone about the feelings you’re having about Mother’s Day, please fill out our Prayer Form or call our 24-Hour Prayer Line.
Happy Mother’s Day,
Another Single Mom &