Navigating Mother’s Day As A Single Parent

Mother’s Day can feel under or overwhelming when parenting on your own, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Mother’s Day can be a mixed bag of emotions when you’re raising a family on your own. Looking at the media, social or otherwise, it can feel like you’re the only one not living “your best life”, whatever that means. That’s not the case, though. 

A Pew Research Center study shows that, in the U.S., more children live in single parent homes than elsewhere in the world, and the majority are headed by women. Our reality is more common than we imagine. The truth is single parenting can be simultaneously (or alternately) joyous and crushing, rewarding and exhausting, fulfilling and depleting. With the hindsight of raising two sons on my own, I can say this is the case, no matter the kids’ ages.

When it comes to Mother’s Day, we all want to be acknowledged and valued. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  Kids, especially younger ones, don’t instinctively know to brainstorm about ways to show appreciation for Mom, and exes don’t always step up to model the behavior. It comes down to this: we can still navigate the emotional churn and have the type of day we need, but it means taking the lead in building the kind of day we want. 

  1. Decide what you need and ask for it. Whether it’s one hour uninterrupted in the bath or pancakes for breakfast, let your kids know how you would like to spend the day and how they can help. If they are very young, enlist the aid of family, neighbors or your women-friends.  I get it, this can be uncomfortable and guilt-ridden. Many of us were raised to put others first and not speak up for ourselves. Being in a situation where others literally depend upon us for survival makes this even trickier for single moms. The ability to complete the sentence “I need….” is critical at home or at work, though. When my kids were small my sister reminded me that beyond feeding and caring for them, it was my responsibility to model healthy behavior for my sons.  What could possibly be healthier than the ability to say, “I need….” without apology?
  2. Let go of expectations. This was a tough one for me, but what a relief it was to finally let go of how Mother’s Day “should” be. One year when my sons were pre-tweens, I wanted flowers for Mother’s Day. Since a bouquet was unlikely to spontaneously appear, I grabbed the wooden frame from a sandbox they outgrew, filled it with dirt and planted some lavender. I am not an outdoorsy person by any stretch of the imagination, but I gave myself a gift that day - a sense of accomplishment and something I could appreciate for days to come.
  3. Give yourself credit. Trust me on this one. The kids are alright and so are you. You’ve developed abilities you never knew you had. You’re not living a ‘less than’ life. You are a living example of strength, endurance and grace.

So, to my fellow single Moms (and all moms in general), a gentle reminder accompanied by my deepest respect and admiration. If we want acknowledgement, we must give it to ourselves first.



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