Thursday, May 17, 2012

Post Mother's Day Contemplations

When I started this post I was listening to Papa-Bug lovingly instruct the Little-Bugs in the art of French Toast preparation. There were presents that the kids were having a hard time waiting to open.

Mother's Day can be really excellent, or really stressful, partly because it's such an obligatory holiday. You can't get out of it unless you don't have a mom, and I imagine it mocks and stings for those who don't have a mom. If you forget or neglect, you are a bad child. If you're a mom and you just don't want to go to a dressy brunch (send the kids!) you're an unappreciative mom at best. Once you become a mom you have to decide how to have your own day with your own kid(s) and how to honor your own mom. Of you're a dad you have to try to make the day special and worry free for your partner and honor your own mother too. It's different than Christmas where everyone is celebrating everyone.
It was a wonderful day.

Now don't get me wrong - I enjoy Mother's Day, especially in theory. Mothers work really hard for their families and should have a special day and be honored. And we should stop making assumptions and obligations about mothers and what they want for their day.

For years, my mom attended an art retreat over Mother's Day, out of cell phone range. We scolded her because as her kids we are supposed to care for her and surround her with our love on this day in particular. It's later, after I am daily attended by my small entourage that I really understand that a weekend where she didn't have to respond to us at all was her best Mother's Day gift to herself. I wish I would have thought to contribute to the fees for her retreat.

This article about Anna Jarvis and her campaign against the commercialization of Morher's Day was fascinating and gave me a lot to think about - namely what aspects constitute a good Mother's Day, beyond the cards, flowers, and nice meals.

Here are some things I came up with that side-step the commercial and would make many of the moms I know pretty happy.

Make Good Decisions - Moms make a million decisions everyday - what to have for snack, which chore to prioritize, what is or isn't worthy of a time out, is that fall worth a call to the nurse or a visit to urgent care, playdate or no, organic or conventional... Make decisions for her. If you're caring for a mom close to you on Mother's Day, you have an idea of her preferences. Let her know that you would like to surprise her on Mother's Day by taking decision making off her plate and ask if that would be okay. Then make a meal you know she loves or take her to her favorite restaurant (its probably not the one with toy dinosaurs on the tables). You might have to do some sneaky reconnaissance work in advance, but it will be worth it. If you're going out, get the kids and diaper bag ready without assistance. Let her sail through and enjoy. 

Save Her Space - If you know she doesn't want to hang out with family, arrange a fun adventure that precludes a family brunch. Call her mom and/or mother-in-law and say you are planning a special all-day surprise for her and ask if there is a different day for an extended family celebration. Then send the mama to a spa, take her to the beach or a favorite hike/museum/picnic spot. Arrange that some of this adventure is hers without you, kids, or anyone else. Or just stay home and let her know the day is Hers with no obligations. Turn the phone off.

Tackle Her To-Do List - Even if she's really on top of it, you know there is something on it that's not getting done. Stay up a little late Saturday night or get up extra early Mother's Day morning and do that chore you know she keeps moving down the stack - clear the laundry off the couch and actually put it away, sweep that area that clearly hasn't been swept recently, scrub a sink or two... When she wakes up, there's less on The List, which is a huge gift. And free.

Along similar lines, if you plan to make her a special meal, make sure it comes with a beautifully clean kitchen. Cleaning up after the preparation of a gourmet meal is a lot of extra work!

And one inspired by my Mom, specific for Grandparents - Give her the gift of no expectations. She's a mom with kids of assorted ages, the commitments and expectations of day-to-day life looming. Remember what that was like? Your daughter loves you and honors you. Give her the day - no expectations, no invitation with pressure, no guilt-trip if she forgets to call you. If shes having a great Mother's Day, she is doing it her way with her kids. You raised a good Mom - pour yourself a drink and raise a glass to both of you. My Mom has done this for me - suggesting I could join her for mimosas, but not caring if I don't show up. If I call her, she's the first to say Happy Mother's Day, and if I don't get to the phone she wishes me well the next time we talk - no guilt, no pressure. It's one of the best gifts I've received for Mother's Day.

Mothers-In-Law can let their son lavish the Mother of her grandchildren with attention and flowers - and not get bent out of shape if he neglects his Mom a little. Raise a glass to yourself - you taught your son how to be a good partner and father. Your Mother's Day gift is that he is living that lesson you taught him.

These are just a few ideas - and in case Papa-Bug is reading this, I had a wonderful Mother's Day. I had sometime to contemplate this post and discuss some of the pitfalls of Mother's Day when a friend and I went out - without our kids! - for a beverage.

All in all I am very satisfied with my celebration. And I offer these ideas as a jumping-off-point for anyone who wants to have - or to help a Mother have - a fantastic Mother's Day next time around.