Mother’s Day is often portrayed as another Hallmark occasion, with smiling, multi-generational, nuclear families celebrating their mothers with gifts of food, flowers and sometimes, lavish jewelry. That may not be your reality – it’s not for many mothers I know but that doesn’t mean you should just ignore this occasion. Here are some suggestions for how to make sure you enjoy Mother’s Day after divorce.
For this topic, I chatted with licensed therapist and author, Terry Gaspard and you can listen to our chat in this episode of Conversations About Divorce. We talk about
- what being a mother after divorce means
- what you can do if you don’t have parenting time with your kids on Mother’s Day
- why you should still celebrate Mother’s Day, even if you are alone
- how to balance historic traditions against your own needs
- how to use Mother’s Day to teach your children to appreciate others
Listen in to the episode here or subscribe in iTunes.
In case you prefer reading over listening … here’s what Terry and I discussed.
Being A Mom After Divorce Is Not Always Good
Let’s acknowledge this. If you have minor children, divorce usually means that your children will not be with you 100 percent of the time and that’s a challenge. Even with the best, the most cooperative ex who is actively and positively involved in co-operating, not seeing your child every day can be gut-wrenching.
Despite this, Gaspard says your responsibility as a mother is to be a good role model for your children, to show them that you are coping and adjusting to your new family situation and that you are supportive of their relationship with their other parent. That means being an adult, taking the high road and putting your child’s needs and wishes first. That’s what mother’s do.
Get A Social Life
One of the ways you can show your kids you are adjusting well to your divorce is to develop an active social life. It’s not easy stepping out solo when you’ve spent years being accompanied to events. It can be downright uncomfortable walking into a room by yourself but the more you do it, the more you’ll get used to it and with each event your confidence will grow.
Meetup.com is a great way to find people with similar interests and events to go to. Not sure what interests you anymore? Don’t know what you’d enjoy? A good place to start is those activities you enjoyed before you were married. Often times, we drop these because of time constraints or because our spouse isn’t interested in them as opposed to our own loss of interest.
Getting a social life is not the same as dating … it’s about rediscovering yourself and that’s an important first step BEFORE you start dating again.
Gaspard says that as her kids saw her going out and being socially active, they saw that she was coping with her divorce effectively and that in turn, helped them to cope.
Don’t Expect Your Kids To Take Care Of You
Your kids have their own lives and this becomes particularly apparent with teenage kids. Your job as a mother is to make sure your kids are having play dates and building connections with other kids. It’s not your child’s responsibility to forgo these opportunities to stay home and cheer you up. The danger in leaning on your kids for support through your divorce is that they will assume more of a caretaker role for you and that may have repercussions in their own future intimate relationships.
Ask For Mother’s Day With Your Kids
Parenting plans typically include a schedule for Holidays and other special occasions and that may mean that you have already agreed that your child will be with you on Mother’s Day. If you don’t have a parenting plan, or yours doesn’t cover Mother’s Day, consider having a conversation with your ex requesting that you child spend the day with you.
Except for the most recalcitrant of ex’s, I think it’s always worth a try and I typically recommend offering a trade so there is a tangible benefit to your ex in accommodating your request. Mother’s Day is an easy one – you can offer to trade Father’s Day.
Sometimes circumstances mean that your children can’t be with you on Mother’s Day. It may not be that your ex is being inflexible but it could be because of other plans. Gaspard recalls that her ex one year wanted to take her daughter on a trip to Europe that included Mother’s Day. Weighing the pros and cons, Gaspard says it would not have been fair of her to deny her daughter the opportunity to travel overseas just because it meant not being together on Mother’s Day.
Mother’s Day is just one day and if you can’t be with your kids on the actual day, then you can plan to observe it on another day. This is a great practice to follow especially for the non-religious Holidays. Once your kids are adult and no longer living at home, you’ll likely find yourself doing this more and more.
Create Your Own New Tradition
Gaspard and I both agree that family traditions are important anchors to any family. They are part of what makes your family uniquely yours. As such, it’s important to devote some energy post-divorce to developing new traditions and adapting old ones to suit your new circumstances.
You can include your children in this by soliciting their input. By doing this, you’ll not only learn what’s important to your kids, what they’ve enjoyed historically and want to retain, you’re also teaching them the importance of putting some thought into how to honor and show appreciation for others.
This isn’t always going to be problem-free and even experts can disagree. For example, assume that you have spent Mother’s Day in the past celebrating it with your ex’s extended family with his mom and his sister. It’s always been a highlight of the calendar and the cousins love seeing each other. Now you’re divorced, it feels awkward for you to do this and you want your own Mother’s Day celebration.
Gaspard’s advice is not to be petty, see the big picture and look for what will help your kids in the long run. With the example I gave above, Gaspard felt the tradition with the ex’s extended family should continue. My viewpoint is that this is Mother’s Day. It is your day and you’re on solid ground for wanting to establish a new tradition. There is Grandparents Day and while this doesn’t have the same prominence as Mother’s Day, it would be alternative occasion for the cousins to get together.
Honor The Day
Whether you get to spend the day with your kids or not, do something to honor the occasion and your role as a mother. It doesn’t have to be something elaborate, expensive or time-consuming. It needs to be something that will feed your soul and takes care of you, maybe something you don’t have time to do in your normal everyday routine.
Have A Gift Policy
Be sure to share with your kids how you feel about gifts. For me, I feel that a gift is part of being recognized. I also think as a mother, it’s part of my responsibility to teach my children how to show appreciation for the important people in their lives and I’m one of them. With young kids it can seem odd to be orchestrating your own gift, but my thought on this is that you are laying the groundwork for future years and other occasions, such as Father’s Day.
The gifts that have meant most to me are those that show thought and effort on the part of my kids – the breakfast in bed, the CD of their their favorite songs, the single rose, my favorite chocolate bar. These gifts speak my language of love.
However, you end up celebrating Mother’s Day, be good to yourself, be kind to yourself, be compassionate.
Read from Terry Gaspard at her website, Moving Past Divorce. Her book, Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship is available on Amazon.