As a psychologist, there are always certain times of the year when universal topics come up in the therapy room regardless of a client’s age, gender, demographics or presenting issues.
For example, around the holidays in late fall and early winter, there is a lot of talk in the therapy hour about coping with family dynamics and stress. And since I work with a lot of parents, in the summer I hear about the stress of not having time to oneself or the challenges of keeping kids busy enough in the summer along with managing the everyday roles and demands.
One such time of year is now, the month of May. For over a decade, in the weeks preceding and after Mother’s Day, I have noticed this trend in the therapy room: clients talking about all things related to mothers and motherhood. And it’s not all celebration, honoring and anticipation of a great day. For many, Mother’s Day stirs up intense emotions including grief, loss, and yearning.
- Grief because one’s mother has passed, is ill or in physical and emotional decline.
- Loss due to infertility and a strong desire to become a mother and inability to do so.
- Sadness from having an estranged relationship with one’s mother.
- Stress and feeling overwhelmed because of life events such as job loss, separation, divorce or a health related event.
All of these situations can contribute to putting celebrating Mother’s Day low on the priority list, which is understandable.
There is no one way or right way to celebrate Mother’s Day.
As a psychologist, I spend a lot of time in the weeks after Mother’s Day helping clients debrief and process the highs and lows of the weekend. What often becomes apparent is the importance of thinking, planning and making one’s preferences be known, before the day.
Here are some of the suggestions I often encourage women to think about regarding Mother’s Day:
- Reflect on the Day. Before the actual day, spend time thinking about how you want to spend the day. Do you want to spend time with the kids, extended family or by yourself? How would you ideally like to spend the day? Do you want a gift, cards, flowers, or simply thoughtful gestures and home-made gifts? Be clear about what you want.
- Make a Plan. Next question, given the circumstance in your life, what is possible for how you can spend the day? Perhaps it’s impossible to get a full day alone, and finances are limited, making gifts out of the question. Define what it is you want and what is achievable. And finally, not to be overlooked, what are you willing and not willing to do?
- Talk About Your Desires with Family. Communicate your desires and wishes to your partner, family, and children. To assume people will read your mind and just figure out what you want is a set-up for conflict and disappointment. Be clear, specific and don’t be intimidated to ask for what you need and want to make the day meaningful.
- Take Care of Yourself. When we come from a place of caring for our needs, for example-getting enough sleep, nourishment, and exercise, we can cope with stress and the unexpected more efficiently. Being a mother means a lot of unexpected moments and demands, and by caring for ourselves, we can juggle the stress and strain as it arises.
- Reach Out to Supportive People in Your Life. If Mother’s Day stirs up mixed feelings of wanting to celebrate but struggling with grief, loss or sadness, please reach out to a supportive friend, family member or therapist to get support.
- Create a Meaningful Mother’s Day Tradition. I am a sentimental person at heart. Years ago, when my twins were three, I started a tradition of taking two specific pictures every Mother’s Day with my girls. One picture is a full frame shot of us, and the second is a picture of simply our hands. This tradition has been by far my favorite Mother’s Day activity. As the years have passed, it’s heartwarming to see the addition of another set of hands, then another and watch the growth and development of our family. Many mothers create traditions in their families from cooking a special meal, planting flowers or exchanging homemade cards and gifts, the options are endless. Choose a tradition that speaks to your heart. By doing so, it can bring a special tradition as a lasting memory.
- Keep a Sense of Humor. Even the best of intentions to celebrate the day can be curtailed with unexpected situations and stressors. Last year, I spent most of Mother’s Day close to home recovering from the flu! Try to keep a sense of humor, and know, that no matter what happens on the actual day, Mother’s Day is one day of the year, in many years of Mothering.
Motherhood is a powerful, life-changing role with moments of exhaustion, love, joy, frustration, laughter and at times, fear and sadness.
However you choose to celebrate Mother’s Day, I hope you have a day of peace, love, happiness and appreciation, spending the day as you desire. Because what you do as a mother, caring and nurturing your family is important, noble work.
© Copyright Dr. Claire Nicogossian 2017