Mother’s Day isn’t actually about you

"I won’t deny that every mom could use a break, but Mother’s Day isn’t about that."

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“I just want to spend Mother’s Day without my kids!”

If you hang out with other moms, you’ve definitely heard this. Ask a mom about her fantasy day and, before she even gets started on how Jason Momoa plays into it, she’ll launch into describing a day alone where she isn’t responsible for any of the usual things she’s responsible for—a day where she can sleep as long as she wants, eat the food she craves without sharing, read her book uninterrupted and drink her coffee while it’s still hot. There’s surely nothing wrong with wanting a day to yourself, so why not Mother’s Day?

Mother’s Day isn’t just about you.

On Mother’s Day, it’s your “mothering” that’s being celebrated. It’s a day to recognize and appreciate the relationship you have with your kids. I won’t deny that every mom could use a break, but Mother’s Day isn’t about that.

Sure, you may bear the bulk of the mental load, which can be exhausting and feel unfair. You are probably tired and desperate for some time alone. Did I say tired already? Shouldn’t you be able to take one freaking day to yourself without the responsibilities of feeding, clothing, planning and disciplining?

Yep. But again, Mother’s Day is not that day.

A woman yells with her face covered in post-it notes reminders All the things that swirl through a mom's head in any given momentI read an extensive thread on my moms’ group page where moms detailed their perfect Mother’s Day. Dream days ranged from spa treatments to lunch with girlfriends to alone time at home while their significant others took the kids out. Very few included the kids. But aren’t they the reason you get to celebrate Mother’s Day in the first place? I worry that in our rush to stake out a bit of time alone, we risk losing sight of why we are even entitled to the day. Mother’s Day is a day for your kids to celebrate you, not a day for you to celebrate yourself. And to do that, you need to be with them.

Mother’s Day was created by Anna Jarvis in 1908 to honour the sacrifices that mothers make. Although she didn’t have kids of her own, Jarvis was moved by the commitment of her own mom and the moms in her community. She realized that the role of these women is worthy of recognition with a special day. While Jarvis didn’t support the commercialization of Mother’s Day (and later suggested that it be removed from American calendars), I imagine she would not be in favour of mom-only spa days for Mother’s Day.

I’m not here to guilt you. I cherish my time alone and kidless moments with my husband and friends. I know the joy of escaping your parental shackles for a bit and, honestly, I am a huge proponent of taking the opportunity to miss your kids and giving them a chance to miss you.

But not on Mother’s Day.

I should point out that my kids are seven and 10. They go to school full-time. Their neediness is not the same heavy weight that I felt when they were tiny. I asked around and there seems to be a divide between moms of babies and toddlers and moms of older kids when it comes to how they’d like to spend Mother’s Day. Little-kid moms are more likely to gasp for a day off, whereas moms of older kids (who are often out of the house) see spending the day with their kids as a treatplus, older children have a better understanding of how to “spoil” their moms.

I remember the joy of carefully making Mother’s Day breakfasts for my mom when I was little. I would boss my younger brother around the kitchen while we made toast and instant porridge, ordering her back to bed when she emerged to check on us. I loved taking care of her. Now, as a mom, I think, Why did we only do that once a year? It never occurred to me that she would rather spend the day without us.

Now I’m the mom, listening as my kids clank around in the kitchen, whispering furiously at each other not to wake me up before bursting into my room with breakfast. I can never get enough of that exuberance. I think about their expectant faces as I open their carefully crafted gifts and I know that, as overwhelming as motherhood can be, I wouldn’t trade it for all the luxuriant sleep-ins and lingering restaurant meals in the world.

I recognize that my opinion may be unpopular. Mother’s Day may be the day your kids act up or your partner acts sullen, and there’s a good chance you will have moments of regret while spending the day with your family. But I’m willing to bet that, despite some bumps in the road to a perfect day, you are going to find joy. You are going to revel in that unbounded love that kids have for their moms and you have for them—and then you can treat yourself to a day off next week!

Read more:
99 Mother’s Day gifts you’ll actually want

19 Mother’s Day brunch recipes

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