This relatable story comes to us from Sarah Ezrin, a world-renowned yoga educator and the author of The Yoga of Parenting based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Sarah loves guiding people along their wellness and parenthood journeys, ensuring that individuals feel seen and heard. She has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and NBC News.
When I told my family I wanted to spend Mother’s Day alone they went through an array of emotions. First they laughed, thinking I was joking. Then they were shocked and disappointed to learn I was most certainly not.
It was technically my second Mother’s Day (my son was 17 months old), but we had just spent the previous year locked together in our tiny San Francisco apartment due to Covid-19 restrictions. I hadn’t been away from my toddler or my husband for more than a handful of hours and our state had started to reopen. I couldn’t think of anything more appealing than going to a hotel and sleeping in a big, clean bed, by myself. Unfortunately, that is not what happened.
Instead, the morning came and went like most mornings. I was tasked with primary caregiving for wake up and breakfast, and then asked what I wanted to do that day to celebrate. What proceeded was a day of decision-making and leadership, just like every other day of the year. This was not for lack of thoughtfulness, as my husband genuinely wanted to make it a special day, but more from a lack of clarity on my part and, frankly, initiative on his (sorry, babe!). Even though it ended on a high note with a lovely dinner by the water (a location I picked), the whole experience reinforced that what I had really wanted for Mother’s Day was to be totally and completely “off the clock.”
I wish I could tell you that I got my wish for a solo hotel stay the following Mother’s Day, but I was a few weeks postpartum with our second son, so leaving for extended periods was out of the question. But I did communicate more clearly with my family about my desire to be removed from any decision-making or preparations and I got four glorious hours on the couch alone to binge watch the new Gossip Girl. It has been my best Mother’s Day so far.
What Moms Really Want For Mother’s Day
There are always exceptions, of course, but it seems that even the moms who appear to have very traditional Mother’s Days often end up the events coordinator for their own special day. For example, after my initial Mother’s Day let down, I direct messaged Chelsea Parrish, a Los Angeles-based mother of two who’s holidays always seem picture perfect on Instagram. I wanted to see what her secret was and any advice she had for me and my family. I was surprised to learn that she was the driving force behind her family’s grand gestures, sending all the gift ideas and activity suggestions herself.
Another Colorado-based mom, who requested not to be named to protect her partner’s feelings, said that even though her family buys her a lot of gifts, it’s not actually what she wants and she often has to redirect them toward the day that she actually desires. “My partner’s default is to show affection through gift-giving but I don’t like a lot of material gifts,” the mom told me over the phone, “I just want quality time with my family. And food.” As simple as her requests are, they are still things she has to remind her family. There is still an effort on her part.
It is no question that these mothers’ families love to celebrate them and are putting in effort to make the day special, but even in the families who appear to have Hallmark-like Mother’s Days, the mother is carrying some part of the mental load of planning and organizing. The one day of the year that is meant to be our day off, becomes yet another day we end up orchestrating.
The Invisible Load Of Mother’s Day
According to my very unofficial poll of friends and fellow moms, the invisible mental load of Mother’s Day is why it has become much more common for moms to ditch their families altogether for some much-needed alone time or to hang with friends.
Families may be disappointed that their matriarch has chosen to do something individually without them, but if the onus of preparation falls on the mom, why bother celebrating at all?
Momfluenced author and mother of three, Sara Petersen, found that shifting her mentality to a place that she calls, “F- Mother’s Day,” has been the most helpful tool for getting through the day. Sara admits to once having tacit expectations of her husband and children, but those only led to disappointment.
“I wanted the kids to create original art and little books about why they love me and I want these things to be rooted in specifics. I think I also put a ton of pressure on my husband in the past to orchestrate the fulfillment of these dreams, which is maybe fair, maybe not, but almost always ends in [my] tears,” explains Petersen. “My new stance is to be as explicit as possible in communicating my desires and to keep these desires rooted in things guaranteed to make me happy rather than nebulous fairy tales contingent on children suddenly not acting like children and caring more about their adults than themselves!”
For Petersen, something meaningful can be as simple as a hand-written note filled with earnest sentiment versus the canned “You’re the best” or “I love you Mommy” that is pre-printed in most store-bought cards. “It can be nice for friends or family to write out very explicitly why they appreciate the moms in their lives and to directly acknowledge how unsupported these mothers are. Mothers are starved of external validation. Our labor is invisible and unpaid. None of us are rewarded with raises or bonuses,” suggests Petersen.
Of course, while a genuine card is moving and kind and a morning of breakfast in bed feels luxurious in the moment, they don’t really move the needle on reducing the greater overwhelm and burnout most American mothers face.
Something that has been helpful for Petersen and many other moms around the country is to spend Mother’s Day unapologetically opting for what feels most nourishing for them as individuals, instead of worrying about taking care of the whole family. For some women that might still be a traditional brunch with the kids, but there are a growing number of moms who have been taking a less conventional approach.
3 Unapologetically NourishingWays To Celebrate Mother’s Day
01 | Channel your mom rage at a smash room. In 2022, a group of women who met in a Mommy and Babe group through San Francisco’s Kinspace community, traded in sunglasses for safety goggles and clinking glasses for smashing them at a rage room. “Regulating your own emotions is hard enough, let alone helping tiny illogical humans regulate theirs as well,” explained one of the moms, “The plate smashing was actually the most satisfying part of it. And then I went for a massage right after.”
02 | Stay at a hotel, alone. Since becoming a mom four years ago Annie Van Roo, has opted for yearly solo hotel stays. Van Roo works a high-powered, full time job and has two young children. She chooses to do her stays before or after the actual holiday, because her family has childcare on the weekdays, which lightens the load for her husband, but Van Roo shares, “I would definitely spend the day there if I could. It’s just a much larger ask!”
03 | Staycation while the kids get out of the house. If there are cost concerns with staying elsewhere for the day, you can ask friends or family to take your kids out for an extended period of time. They get to go have an adventure and you get your much needed break. Just be clear that you will not be setting up the diaper bag or choosing where they will all go. And resist texting to check in every 10 minutes, if you can. Looking at pictures is okay.
Going to work is also an option. Single mom by choice Erin Donnelly usually works on Sundays, so Mother’s Day is no exception. The Austin-based mother considers herself neutral about the holiday in general, reasoning, “It’s not like I became a mom to get breakfast in bed.” Though, she adds, “I will say, I am a sucker for anything my son is forced to make me at school.”
One Day For Mom Just Isn’t Enough
I have no doubt our families genuinely want to make our Mother’s Day celebrations special. Buying flowers and serving breakfast in bed are, of course, kind gestures. but I do have to wonder if this holidays would be even more impactful if moms were well-supported the other 364 days out of the year, too?
Petersen agrees saying, “I think it’s important for people to actively educate themselves about why so many moms are utterly burnt out. A little validating rage shared on our behalf would go a long way.“
What I do know for sure is that Mother’s Day should be enjoyable for moms more than anyone. If the idea of a rare and unapologetically nourishing day alone appeals to you, talk with your family and consider changing a few traditions! That is what I plan to do this year.