Your Mother, Her Day: May 12 is Mother’s Day and the material world is busy reminding us to commemorate our mothers with flowers, jewelry, breakfast in bed, and dinner out at a special restaurant. Though this tradition of honoring motherhood has ancient roots, the current version began in 1907 when Ana Jarvis, desirous to honor her deceased mother, proposed that one day a year be set aside to honor all mothers. And so it was that Woodrow Wilson designated the second Sunday in May as a national holiday for that purpose. The appellation was in the singular form, Mother’s Day, not the plural Mothers’ Day as it is sometimes used today, underscoring the very personal and specific focus on your mother, her day.
Many More Moms Than You Think: This all sounds pretty easy. But it is not always that easy. For instance, who is in charge of making sure that mom is celebrated? When the children are too young to shop or make French toast, the task usually falls to dad to ensure that mom feels special on her day. And that same man often has his mom and perhaps his in-law mom to factor in as well. There might even be a step-mom who expects some acknowledgement of her role for all those weekends together. Sisters are moms too. And here is the man, one man, three moms, some young children and a lot of confusion. How do you prioritize all these moms?
The Mother’s Day Irony: It is ironic that a day set aside over one hundred years ago for children to show honor and respect for their mothers has evolved into a task for husbands who are often at the helm of making the celebration reach a pleasurable conclusion for their wives. Hence, The Coupledom’s role deserves attention as we approach yet another Mother’s Day in the U.S.A.
Triangulating Mother’s Day: One sure-fire way to make a mess and misery out of mother’s day is to view it (often subconsciously) as a competition for “Most Important Mother Award.” Spouses, partners, everyone has a mother and most are alive and young enough to know if they are being sufficiently honored by their sons and daughters on that one day a year devoted to their loving sacrifices. Divorced families may add another twist when step-mom and step-grandma have played roles of maternal significance, and in so doing earn a place in the Mother’s Day roster of significant maternal figures. The permutations and combinations are endless and the potential for guilt, hurt and the resurgence of old wounds is palpable. Neither Hallmark, nor Macy’s, Target, 1-800-Flowers or any other merchandiser has figured out how to make all the moms feel satisfied and all the husbands, daughters and sons relieved. This goal falls into a different category of expertise.
In previous posts I have dealt with the tendency for The Coupledom to find themselves in a triangulated relationship that brings havoc to an otherwise happy home. Mother’s Day provides ample opportunity for just such triangles. Being pro-active as a couple to prevent this possibility means sitting down and talking about how to tackle potential complications with open minds, and the mom working hard not to personalize pragmatics while still feeling entitled to put her needs and preferences forward. This is a balancing act for all that takes some self-discipline, foresight, mutual respect and honesty.
A Developmental Approach To Mother’s Day: A useful perspective in assessing how to plan for the day is taking a look at the developmental stage that the particular mother is in. New mothers and those in the throes of raising young children really do need a break, as well as perhaps breakfast in bed. Feeling truly appreciated for her hard work may be best shown by doing some of the work for her and also providing an outlet outside the home for herself or The Coupledom to play and have fun without pressure or responsibility for the care of others. The mom of teens is probably still hankering for that break and the affirmation of her as a woman/wife that a husband can provide but women at both stages revel in the joy of being surrounded by children who are excited to show their appreciation. For the mom whose children are out of the house, everything shifts and the focus might be on efforts to bring all the children and grandchildren together. But here again, more than one generation of moms in the picture requires sensitive and thoughtful attention and communication on how to best honor each of them in ways that correspond to their stage of motherhood. Grandmothers are certainly important but the daughter or daughter-in-law who is in the trenches of caretaking children may be the mother most deserving of attention and consideration.
Husbands Are Sons Too: Obviously husbands as sons have pressures and obligations that pull on them as well. That is one of the reasons that it is crucial that the couple be honest and open with each other when making their Mother’s Day plans so that the day is just a day and a good day, not something that lingers as a bad smell or another grudge to haul out later to make a point.
The Smart Mother’s Day: Have a smart mother’s day that avoids traps and triangles, with a Coupledom that actively collaborates on how to make it the best day for mom, even with some surprises. What you don’t want is the surprise of hurt or the toxic infusion of competition. The Coupledom should roll out of this year’s celebration with shared warmth and a strong working engine of love and respect.
Good luck and Happy Mother’s Day.
©Jill Edelman, M.S.W., L.C.S.W. 2012