Surviving Mother's Day as a Single Mom—8 Ways To Have the Day We Deserve

Mother's Day seems like such a great idea, but for single moms it rarely delivers. Who's going to bring us breakfast in bed—a toddler?

There are many paths to single motherhood, and I think among my friends we cover them all. Whether we were surprised by motherhood, by divorce, or just by everything that came after the sperm bank, one thing we all share is that Mother’s Day is not all it's cracked up to be. That’s not because we don’t love being mothers—being Mom is the part we love best. And the concept of celebrating motherhood is a fine thing. But being responsible for teaching someone else—someone small and self-centered—to make a fuss over us? That feels like more trouble than it's worth. Or, to put it as concisely as one of my friends does, “Kids ruin Mother’s Day.”

Of course we're joking. Kind of. How could kids ruin a day all about our joy in having them? Maybe it's because Hallmark builds this thing up as big as Valentine's Day and makes us think that someone is supposed to shower us with champagne breakfasts and roses. In a two-parent home, the responsibility for living up to that fantasy at least falls on an adult. Of course, friends readily tell me how often the adult can fall short (I don't think the Mother's Day deep fat fryer episode ended my one friend's marriage, but it clearly didn't help). Enough dads do seem to get it right, though, to leave a single mom feeling like she's alone in a world of mimosa drinkers come Sunday morn.

There is some comfort in laughing with other single moms, and hearing them relate how they've also spent Mother's Day slamming around the kitchen, muttering incoherently. But there is more satisfaction in making a change. So this year, I consulted my most pro-active single mom friends (including two fabulous life coaches), and I have collected the following list of ideas for making Mother's Day work for us.

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1. Don't be a martyr; it's not all about us anyway.

I've tried that martyr route, and it doesn't work. You can be the most incredibly, fabulously, selflessly perfect mom in the universe, and it won't motivate a kid to hand you a greeting card. But the truth is that teaching our kids to celebrate us on Mother's Day isn't just about us anyway; it's a chance to teach our little darlings empathy and gratitude—two lessons learned much better through action than discussion. Show them how to treat you and you'll be doing a service both to yourself and to them, not to mention their future partners.

2. Direct friends and family to help.

Don't be shy about this. It will feel good to you, and to your kid, and to the friend or family member you involve. Grandparents are great for this, but you can also just hand $20 to a friend and ask him or her to take your kid shopping and plan you a surprise. (I have one friend who has even done this with her ex, because, lets face it, if he were great about thinking of this stuff on his own, he probably wouldn't be her ex...) Your child can take pride in being an expert on what you like and teach your friend a little about you. Or maybe learn a little about you. Either way, it can be a fun outing for both, and it's a chance for someone else to show your child how to treat you. That old "It takes a village" cliche sticks because it's true.

3. Help your other single mother friends.

Take a friend's kids shopping. Or call a friend on Mother's Day and ask to speak to the kids, so you can make sure they understand and are stepping up. (That's the gift my wonderful life coach friend Melissa at Creative Successful Entrepreneurs has given me some years). Of course praise their every effort. Another idea I love from a coaching mom friend requires some planning ahead: do a video or audio interview with a little one to give to his or her mom on Mother's Day (maybe along with a box of tissues!). The Simply Celebrate website has loads of other ideas for gifts with no price tag.

4. Plan a meal out with a friend where YOU want.

This is an outing for you, your kids, and an adult friend who will raise a glass in your honor at a restaurant that you love. It could be a place with a kid-friendly happy hour, or somewhere utterly decadent, but the point is for your kids to see another adult celebrating your motherhood. And for you to have a great meal you didn't cook, of course.

5. Make a fuss over your own mom.

Too many years I have quietly dropped a card in the mail for my own mom or ordered her a gift online after my son has gone to bed or while he's at school. I don't forget my mother on Mother's Day, but how does he know that? Letting our kids see us appreciating our own mothers, even if they are far away, is an example worth setting. Talk about things you love about your mom while shopping for her. It will sink in.

6. If you're a Disney mom, plan YOUR Disney day.

It's great to be the mom who really loves doing kid stuff. Mother's Day at a theme park or other kid venue might make your day easier, and even just a movie can be a treat for everyone—but make sure the biggest treat is yours. Say from the outset that this is the day Mom picks the movie or the path through the zoo, because giving Mom her choice is also a gift.

7. Let them hear you celebrating other moms.

You probably have other moms in your life whom you adore. Why not call those pals to tell them how you feel while your kids are in the room (or, better yet, car) to overhear? One friend told me she actually voice texts those message in front of her kids on purpose, so that Siri can help her surreptitiously teach the gratitude lesson.

8. Look at your gorgeous kids. You did that.

Finally, we all know this but it can't be repeated too often: our lives are repeatedly blessed from moment to moment because we are mothers. Those phenomenal little beings, maddening as they can be, are our very best gifts. Sometimes we just need to take a breath, look at them, and treasure the moment before us. Those are some amazing little people we're raising on our own.

Happy Mother's Day, Moms.

Photo credit: Syronnica via flickr

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