Mother’s Day: Dread or delight?

Mother’s Day can create a mixed bag of emotions for oh, so many reasons. Maybe you had/have a bad relationship with your own mother. Perhaps you’re dealing with secondary infertility or multiple miscarriages. Some moms are frustrated by expectations that never come to pass, and others resent and feel awkward about choosing a gift for their mother-in-law. And there are always those who believe they don’t deserve the accolades or “forced” expressions of gratitude because they aren’t that good of a mom anyway. 

We could dwell ad nauseum on all the legitimate reasons to dread Mother’s Day, but the truth is, it doesn’t feel very good! Whatever your reasons for struggling with Mother’s Day, why not make this year different? Transforming your Mother’s Day experience can be as easy as making a simple mental switch. (Though I do realize how hard it can be to rewire mental switches, so I don’t say this lightly!)

I’ll briefly share my own experience. My first child was born three weeks into what would become nine years of my husband’s medical training. We had three children by the end of that time. As thoughtful as my husband was and is (he always buys me a little something and attaches a card with sweet words of thanks), it seemed that every Mother’s Day during those demanding years he was either at the hospital or one of us had responsibilities at our church taking up a good portion of the day. In other words, I ended up with very little time for myself. This was frustrating for me because I had it in my head that Mother’s Day should be a “day off” for Mom, and that type of Mother’s Day never materialized during those grueling years. Mother’s Day became a day of dread for me because of unmet expectations.

Finally, after child number four, I figured it out. Mother’s Day didn’t have to be about me sleeping in, being served breakfast in bed, having the day to myself to do whatever I wanted, topped off by a basketful of cards and gifts telling me what a great mother I was. Mother’s Day could be nothing more than me thinking about each of my children, how much I loved them, and what a gift it was to be their mother. I even started using the day to spend some meaningful one on one time with each of my children instead of trying to be alone. Once I made this simple mental switch, Mother’s Day became a delight.

Going back to those reasons some mothers dread Mother’s Day, following are a few suggestions that may possibly help (though I don’t pretend to understand each of these situations):

  1. If you have a strained relationship with your mother, try focusing on how you’re creating a better relationship with your own children and take joy in that success.
  2. If you’re struggling with secondary infertility or multiple miscarriages, you may find comfort in reaching out to another mother in your same situation and focusing on the children you do have.
  3. If you have certain expectations for the day, ask yourself which of them are realistic and, if you feel comfortable, make a request of your husband and children. (And if you don’t feel comfortable, don’t be surprised or upset when they don’t read your mind! Last year, after almost 14 years of motherhood, I finally told my husband I wanted a corsage to wear to church on Mother’s Day. He was happy to oblige and I felt special all day. How else would he have known it was important to me if I hadn’t asked?)
  4. If you really think no one in your family will do anything for you and you’re not happy about it, go ahead and do something special for yourself or get together with another mother friend in the same boat and celebrate in your own way. (You don’t need anyone’s permission!)
  5. If you dread finding an appropriate gift for your mother-in-law, do something revolutionary: Let your husband get his own mother a gift!
  6. If you’ve got hang ups about not being a good enough mom, stop making Mother’s Day about you, and turn the spotlight on your awesome kids and the love you feel for them.

Finally, in the spirit of focusing on the positive aspects of Mother’s Day, I’d like to ask our readers to send in their best Mother’s Day memories to be compiled for next week’s post. Whether it was something you did as a child for your own mother, something your spouse or children did for you, or even something you did for yourself, share your best memories in the comments section below or email me at allyson at

QUESTION: How do you feel about Mother’s Day? Dread or delight? What are your reasons? How have you overcome your own negative associations with Mother’s Day?

CHALLENGE: Make the necessary mental switches to turn this Mother’s Day into something delightful. (And please send in your favorite Mother’s Day memories!)


  1. Tonya

    I spent years waiting to become a mother. I thought Mothers Day would be a welcome celebration once I did. Now though, it feels wrong to be honored for something that I count as a gift. The one thing that got me through my years of infertility on Mothers Day was thinking of it as a day to honor the idea of good mothers (and since I count my mom and mother-in-law in that category, for me that meant honoring them and being thankful for them).

  2. Whitney Anderson

    Secondary infertility? Really? What about infertility infertility? Just total and complete infertility? Yea, that’s me. The one who desperately wants to be a mom, but can’t. Mother’s Day is really rough for us. I would think that those going through secondary infertility might count their blessings on Mother’s Day.

    • Allyson Reynolds

      Hi Whitney. Thanks for your honest comment. I have to be honest with you as well and say I deliberately left off from giving any glib suggestions for what is surely a tough situation. I thought it would be potentially more grating and offensive from a mother of four to hear something like, “Be grateful for the mother figures in your life!” than to say nothing at all. What suggestion would you give for someone in the same boat? I am sincerely asking and sincerely sorry for your situation.

    • Amy C.

      Well said Whitney. With no children of our own and having suffered miscarriages it is always a painful crappy day for us. In the beginning we would go to church, listen to the talks on the importance of motherhood, and sit silently annoyed while I was the only woman (seriously…) in our ward that would not be given flowers, a treat, or a plant for mothers day. Since then, and this may sound like some high school rebellion, we blow off church for the day, drive up to midway with our dog, then go to Grand America or Market Street for brunch. Much better way to try to spend the day. And if we feel like it, pick up the nephews and head to the park. Hope your day this year can be better than the last. You are not alone.

  3. LAL

    I thought the exact thing when reading the article. I agree with you Whitney, and even years after finally becoming a mother, it’s still difficult because of the memories of the many years spent in that lonely, desperate place. Thinking of you this year and hoping next year will be different.

  4. Connie

    I think Mother’s Day would be difficult for those desperatly wanting to be a mom. There is probably no real way around that heartache. My heart goes out to women in this situation.


    I have been blessed to be a mom and I learned early on not to have expectations from my family, and to not dwell on the things I feel I don’t do well.

    Like this morning ….getting angry at my teenagers for not getting up in time for school and creating a crazy and stressful start to their morning – regularly! I didn’t handle it well – threatening to dump ice water in their beds at a certain time if they did not get up to their alarms. (Sigh*) OK, when they all get home from school today I will speak more calmly – the way I should have in the first place – and just lay out the consequences in a rational way and with a calm voice.

    I’ll also need to apologize to my 12 year old for my exasperated reaction to his not bringing the whole package of toilet paper upstairs and leaving the plastic wrapping on the floor in the storage room (for me to take care of later). I guess he needs clear instructions when sent to get the t.p. in the first place….I did however, tell all 4 of them I loved them as they walked out the door. (I said it with a smile and not a grimace.) So on the “good mother” scale this morning maybe I broke even.

    Motherhood is messy – let’s have a nice Mother’s Day by knowing that while we are not perfect, we try and while our family will likely not meet our expectations, they try too.

  5. Janine

    Oh gosh! Sorry that it turned a little more into a comment on infertility. People are especially aware of that, and I understand why…but we can be mothers in many different ways.

    Anywho- I don’t know that I really LOVE mother’s day. I don’t love all the attention. I know my kids SO enjoy it and can hardly wait to give me their gifts that are lovingly handmade, but it just seems that I have the opportunity to celebrate “mother’s day” on several other occasions where my children have done things that make me a proud mama. I’m not saying breakfast in bed isn’t nice, but a day set aside for that just seems forced to me sometimes. I love the various homemade clay “things” that can’t always be identified, and I appreciate my children’s efforts. I’m just saying that I think the biggest reward I receive as a mother is when my kids make correct choices, or do something above and beyond…and that doesn’t happen on a certain Sunday in May; it’s the small things and accomplishments in their personal lives that I celebrate as “mother’s day”. I will never turn down a home-cooked breakfast from my lover with the cutest cards ever that my children have spent hours on, but I like to look for other opportunities to celebrate motherhood.

  6. Sarah O

    Mother’s day has been kinda tricky for me sense i can remember. I was usually with my dad on mother’s day and my mom on father’s day (the wonders of divorce). so usually it was a card and a phone call. Even though I didn’t live with her full time, i always had a good relationship with my mom. When I was 17 she lost a lengthy battle with breast cancer. I was hit with the conundrum of what to do on Mother’s day. I saw her suffer so much, so i am very at peace with the fact that she’s has moved on from this earth life. I have always felt that just because she is not here, doesn’t mean i shouldn’t do something. but what to do? i guess it kinda changes every year but basically I make sure to take some time and remember the good times we had together, and make sure that I’m living in a way that she would be proud of. My goal (mother’s day or not) is that she is remembered. I will make sure that when (if) I am blessed to have children that they know their Grandma Treasure. My mom wasn’t perfect, she made mistakes. but she loved us with all she had. I don’t think Mother’s day is about being perfect, that’s not what being a mom is. it’s all about love. It’s not just about your mom. Their have been and continue to be many wonderful women in my life who are like mother figures to me : aunt’s, female church leaders, dear friends. I look forward to mothers day. It’s one more day the world shows love.

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