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Mother’s Day is about being sweet to your Mama, right? Telling her I Love You and Thank You and You’re The Best. Giving her flowers and mushy cards and making her breakfast in bed. Taking her out to lunch so she doesn’t have to do any work today.
But what if it’s not? What if your kids came to you from hard places, and Mother’s Day triggers big fears and hurts for them, and they ruin it and hurt your feelings every year?
Understand Their Discomfort & Dysregulation
Kids who learned very early in life that adults, and Moms in particular, can’t be trusted to take care of you, or put your needs first, have deep-seated issues with trust and fear. They don’t trust you’ll stick around. They don’t trust that you really love them. They fear losing another Mom.
Sometimes, ironically, that mistrust and fear manifests as behaviors that actually make their fears come true – they’re mean to you and drive you away and say they hate your guts. On your special day.
Maybe they really do hate your guts. Or maybe they don’t. Or maybe their memories and fears and feelings are just so gigantic, and their ability to regulate their emotions so lacking, that it all just sends them into panic survival mode and they end up focusing on self-preservation at all costs.
Acknowledge Your Feelings
It’s ok to feel hurt. It’s ok to cry and be mad. The whole stinkin’ thing is unfair – to them AND to you. You’ve given up so much to be these kids’ Mama. They need so much from you, and you love them immensely, so you give and give. And then they wreck your day and say mean things. Again.
You’re not made of steel. It’s ok to crumble and fall apart sometimes. Even Supermoms can only take so much. And your feelings are valid. Just like we tell the kids about THEIR big feelings…it’s ok to HAVE these feelings, it’s what you DO with them that matters.
Change Your Expectations
Really. Maybe the traditional Norman Rockwell Mother’s Day scene is just going to have to be one more thing we give up. If it’s just not going to happen, why hang your hopes on it every year? I know, I’m in this place too. I don’t want to give up my dreams of what our family life would look like. But hitting my head against the wall hasn’t been working, so it’s time.
So instead, I’m going to avoid the ramp-up of expectations and count it a win if the day includes a few of these:
- Child 1 doesn’t try to replace me with a friend’s mom.
- Child 2 gives me a hug. I’ll even take a sideways one.
- Child 3 doesn’t suddenly turn into a screaming banshee at bedtime for no reason.
- Children 4 & 5 don’t fight ALL day, and don’t call me bad names.
- Hubby understands, and does something sweet for me (something small though, so as not to upset the apple cart)
Notice I’m not hoping for ALL of those. Just a few. A couple. Ok, one is fine.
Look for Evidence That They Care
Just because having a great big special day centered around All Things Mom triggers your kids and culminates in chaos, doesn’t mean they don’t love you. Maybe this day is just too much, and the love and trust they do have just doesn’t show. But do yourself a favor and start looking for evidence now, before the anxiety starts to build. Write it down. Then pull that list out and look at it on Mother’s Day, when the chaos starts to blur your heart’s vision. You’ll see it.
He shared his candy with you, voluntarily. He noticed you looked sad and asked why. She apologized. She did two minutes of extra chores just to help you out. She chose you to hold her stuff. She made you something in school. He spontaneously hugged you. She wrote “I love mom” on a sticky note and left it where you’d find it. She didn’t worry when you were 3 minutes late picking her up – because she knew you’d come. He let his guard down and shared a smile with you.
It’s there, Mama. And likely growing, little by little.
Bind Your Wounds (Self-Care)
We spend so much time and energy helping our kids develop coping strategies for their big feelings, I honestly think we forget that we need that help too. Atleast, I do. So let’s do a little self-therapy:
- Journal. Scribble when you feel angry.
- Hammer a rock to smithereens.
- Scream into a pillow.
- Hide in the closet with your favorite blanket.
- Take a walk. Kick all the rocks.
- Call an understanding friend and see who’s having the worst day.
- Play your favorite sad song over and over til you’re all cried out, then crank up your favorite get-happy song and belt it out til your kids are embarrassed.
- Take a bath, go for a massage, give yourself a footrub
- Dig a big hole in the backyard. Throw dirt.
- Climb a tree and stick your tongue out at everyone below who can’t find you.
- Diffuse your favorite essential oils.
- Vicariously live someone else’s life via your favorite book or movie.
When All Else Fails, Skip It
Mother’s Day, like every other holiday, has become increasingly commercialized. In fact, the founder of the Mother’s Day holiday in the U.S., Anna Jarvis, spent much of her life working to remove it from the calendars for that very reason. Mother’s Day was meant to honor mothers for the sacrifices they make for their families, and to promote peace.
If Mother’s Day doesn’t look like that for your family, skip it. Just remember to throw out those falsified expectations, too. The perfect kids on the greeting cards are NOT real kids. There’s no such thing as perfect kids. Honor your feelings, and honor your kids’ needs, and your Mother’s Day has a much better chance of being a calm, peaceful day you will be happy to look back on.
Strong Mamas of Hard Kids
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