Just Some Important Reminders for Anyone Feeling a Lot of Emotions This Mother’s DayYou’re not weird or broken if you don’t feel like celebrating.
If the constant stream of Mother’s Day messages in emails, advertisements, and social media posts are making you feel anything but seen lately, just know that you’re not alone. Despite what the flower companies would lead you to believe, not everyone is excited to celebrate or be celebrated on this day.
“Motherhood is about as sanctified a role as there is in our culture, and Mother’s Day, as an annual celebration of that role, is almost impossible to escape from,” says psychotherapist Matt Lundquist, LCSW, founder and clinical director of Tribeca Therapy. Many people simply can’t relate to the experience that is so celebrated on that day—for a multitude of reasons.
“It’s also important to note that, in spite of how cherished motherhood is, society—in many ways—fails to support mothers,” Lundquist notes. So it can also feel understandably trite and insincere to see so many companies pushing roses and scented candles when what you could really use is affordable childcare, health care, and paid parental leave.
So, If Mother’s Day is a tough one for you—and it’s not just one day, of course, because the hype starts weeks before, right?—know that there is nothing wrong with you or the way you choose to get through this time of year. Here are a few validating reminders from people who know exactly what it’s like to be overwhelmed by complicated emotions around this time.
For the person who lost their mother:
“My mother died when I was a teenager, and Mother’s Day used to be unbearable. But a few years ago, I decided to reframe my thinking. Mom isn’t here with me, but that doesn’t mean I can’t celebrate her. I stay off social media so that I don’t compare my experience to anyone else’s, and spend the day watching her favorite movies, looking at old photographs of her, and just thinking about the brave, kind, inspiring woman she was.” —Lynda T., 40.
“For those who have lost their mother, Mother’s Day can feel like an unavoidable reminder of the loss of someone who has had a profound impact on them. Whether the relationship was once close or strained, feeling the absence of a mother on this day can stir up complicated emotions and grief. Grief does not have an end date, and it is often in those joyful moments or holidays that the loss can feel most intense.
Anticipate that strong emotions will likely come, and give yourself the space to feel your emotions without self-judgment. Spend the day in a way that honors your relationship with your mother. If your mother loved chocolate cake, treat yourself to cake. If you loved to bring her flowers, pick out those flowers for yourself. Consider something you enjoyed doing together and incorporate it in your plan for every Mother’s Day to come. Observe Mother’s Day as a celebration of what you received from your mother. You can even write a letter to your mother, thanking her for the parts of yourself that remind you of her. Remember, this day will pass. You will get through it.” —Lilit Lewis, MA, LMFT, therapist in South Orange County, California
For the person who is estranged from their mother:
“On Mother’s Day, I try to be the mother to myself that I’ve never had. I ask myself what I need and give myself permission to feel however I feel in the moment. I might want to spend the day alone, taking a long walk or going to the spa. Or if I feel like company, I’ll do something with my closest friends—the people I feel safe with. I don’t need them to relate to how I feel or offer advice, just listen.” —Anna W., 28
“In the case of estrangement, there is a double grief of sorts: The mother’s absence from one’s life but also the grief of incompletely receiving the kind of love and care a mother is meant to give, the very love and care celebrated on that day.
A whole lot fewer people have good relationships with their mothers than the world would have you believe. You’re not so alone in having conflicts today—or in simply not having a mother who is safe or available to call.” —Matt Lundquist, LCSW, founder and clinical director of Tribeca Therapy
For the person who is trying so hard to become a mother:
“Be gentle with yourself knowing that the day itself will bring up emotions you may not be anticipating. If you think Mother’s Day may be a heavy day for you, make a plan ahead of time for how you will spend the day and who you will spend it with. For some, social media posts may be particularly triggering of painful emotions, and if that is the case, make a plan to stay off social media that day.
It will also be imperative to ask for what you need ahead of time and on the day from loved ones, whether that means extra space or increased support. Lastly, validate your own emotions by acknowledging that there is a reason this day is hard for you instead of trying to fight it.” —Lilit Lewis, MA, LMFT, therapist in South Orange County, California
For the person who is struggling with motherhood:
“As a single mom of two kids under age 5, Mother’s Day isn’t all that different from any other day. Like the rest of the year, I’m flying solo—cooking, cleaning, entertaining, and trying to keep the peace. It’s round-the-clock and exhausting and hard not to envy other moms who’re being spoiled that day, or, at the very least, getting a couple hours of precious ‘me time.’” —Helen G., 38
“Since Mother’s Day is marked as a celebration of the wonderful qualities of mothers, those who are struggling with their role as a mother can feel internal conflict about disappointment or not feeling good enough. Many mothers feel overloaded with pressures to ‘do it all,’ and silently struggle with feelings of failure, loss of identity, exhaustion, or loneliness in their role.
To make Mother’s Day easier, take inventory of things you have enjoyed in the past and the types of things that make you feel most like yourself. Make a plan for incorporating these things into your day. Consider your expectations for Mother’s Day and what you feel like you need most right now vs. how you feel like you ‘should’ spend this day. Whether you need rest, time away, or a day at home alone without any expectations, it will be essential for you to communicate these things to those who are participants in caring for your children with you. If you feel lost about what you need, ask a loved one to help you with suggestions and implement a plan for the day.
There is nothing you have to do to earn this day. You are worthy of being a mother regardless of how you feel in this moment. Use this day to thank yourself for doing your best.” —Lilit Lewis, MA, LMFT, therapist in South Orange County, California
For the person who lost a child:
“The labeling or title of ‘mother’ is applied when one has a child. So when someone who has experienced a child's death hears the term ‘mother,’ proclaimed with such joy and loving excitement on Mother's Day, it can be triggering and add to her awareness that she would have been a mother had the loss not occurred.
As in all holidays in which grief may be present, you should check in with yourself, your needs and your mood, and do whatever feels most comfortable. If that means honoring that you are still a mother to that child, then lighting a candle would be appropriate. If it means staying out of the public eye for the day, that's OK—whatever makes the day as smooth as it can be to get through. If you have a particularly connected relationship in which you nurture or ‘mother’ another child, friend, or relative, you might celebrate that role as well and reach out to them on Mother's Day.
If you find the holiday triggering, it might also be helpful to remind yourself that Mother's Day is a commercially created holiday. If you approach it from that perspective, you might just be able to ignore it altogether.” —Jill Cohen, family grief counselor
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