How Did Your Mother’s Day Without Children Go?

Mother’s Day is over, hallelujah. How did you do?
One reader told me she had a nice get-away day and was able to ignore the mom’s day hysteria. Another attended a family gathering. When her godchild wished her a happy Mother’s Day, her niece corrected her with “She’s not a mother.” Ugh. One of the guests handed a rose to every woman in honor of her motherhood. Awkward.
Mother’s Day is tough, and not just for those of us who are childless. People whose mothers have died or who have difficult relationships with their mothers struggle through the day. People who don’t get along with their children, whose children have died, or whose stepchildren fail to recognize them as mothers all have a hard time with Mother’s Day.
I don’t think anybody has the kind of Mother’s Day we see in the TV commercials. First, the mothers are pictured as gorgeous young women. Whose mom looks like that? Second, the family drops everything to honor her. Third, they buy her gifts that cost hundreds of dollars, like jewelry and iPads. It was never like that in my family.
I did pretty well on the actual holiday this year, although I had a meltdown the night before. A friend had been complaining that her children didn’t honor her properly, so she hated Mother’s Day. She wanted me to comfort her by taking her to brunch. No freaking way. Then she posted a picture on Facebook of the gorgeous roses her husband bought her. Hello? No kids, dead mother AND no husband over here. Yes, I was a weepy mess.
I played piano at the Saturday evening Mass. Our pastor really tried to be inclusive, offering his blessing to “all women who serve the role of mothers.” He didn’t pass out flowers to the mothers or make them stand while those of us without kids sat in shame, but it was still painful.
I stayed too long on Facebook. After the third friend in a row posted pictures of her Mother’s Day flowers, I got offline and stayed off until Monday. I didn’t miss anything except endless Mother’s Day posts.
On Sunday, I stayed home from church and piddled around the house until time to join friends for a music jam. We had a small group. Some were absent because of Mother’s Day, but that gave the rest of us more chances to sing and play. We had guitars, fiddles, a mandolin, harmonicas and three great female voices to harmonize. It was so much fun I forgot to feel bad.
Afterward, I watched a rerun of the movie “The Bucket List.” Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. So good.
That’s how I survived. How about you? What will you do differently next year?

14 thoughts on “How Did Your Mother’s Day Without Children Go?

  1. I'm planning on going away for the weekend and spending the day avoiding the internet (like you I was over the 'beautiful' people posting shit everywhere, oops think I am not quite over this) and not expecting anything to be done for me. Denial and disappointment were my friends this year and I'm not going there again!


  2. It wasn't a good one for me this year. I was planning on staying completely off Facebook from Saturday through Monday, but Saturday I saw a very poignant post elsewhere about dealing with infertility/remembering the childless on Mother's Day that I just wanted to share. Many of my friends were supportive (they know what I've gone through) but one was like, “you think you've got it bad, try losing a child and see how you feel on Mother's Day!”

    I know this friend is going through a bad time herself – in recent years she's lost two adult children (with children of their own, mind you, she's a grandmother quite a few times over now). But it's not the first time I've gotten a comment from her like that and it hurt. I know I can't know her pain, but she can't know mine, either. And I don't understand why grief should somehow become a competitive sport; can't we all just accept, as you said here, that MANY of us find Mother's Day painful for various reasons?

    I don't know what I'll do different next year. Part of me wants to say hide away from social media completely. On the other hand I feel like we will never see more understanding and acceptance of the pain of childlessness by remaining silent and shamed.


  3. I also forgot one thing that made me absolutely livid at work yesterday. One of my coworkers, who has three young children, was whining about how Mother's Day in her family was “still more about her mother and grandmother instead of her.” Boy, would I have loved to have told her what I thought of that selfish sentiment!


  4. I'm also planning on going away next year. I stayed around home this year for my mother-in-law's sake, but that is not taking care of myself. I am a stepmother, and I do not expect my stepchildren to recognize me, but I do expect my husband–their father–to do so. He did bring flowers from our dog, but said nothing about all the mothering that I do for his kids.


  5. Thank you guys so much for sharing these anti-Mother's Day sentiments. Michelle, I love what you said about grief becoming a competitive sport. That is so true and so crazy. And yes, if we all go hide, maybe things will never change. As for your co-worker, she needs to grow up. Anon May 14, at least your husband brought flowers from the dog. Next year maybe he'll get something from his kids for you. Keep it coming, readers.


  6. I had a wonderful Mother's Day! I honored my deceased mothers and grandmothers by praying for them at Mass. I bought fresh flowers to place in front of my statue of the Blessed Mother, Mary, my spiritual mother.My church is very sensitive to the pain experienced by women who have lost mothers or were unable to have children, so all women who nurture life (including aunts and spiritual moms) were given a blessing as well as lifted up in prayer intentions.One of my spiritual children (friend's daughter) gave me a box of chocolates and said, “Happy Mother's Day.” The three of us spent Saturday, before MDay, exploring an old convent, visiting cloistered nuns, and then went off to shopping and lunch.God was so good to me in my poverty. I can only smile and return such immense favor with simple praise and thanksgiving!


  7. I accidentally found this blog and honest to goodness, until I started reading your posts, I thought I was the only woman on the planet in my situation. I hate stupid Mother’s Day. I hate being told Happy Mother’s Day. And I'm so tired of the insensitive comments by people when they are shocked that I don't have children and say, “Oh, but I'm sure you've been a mother figure to someone.” Ummmmm….. That's a big no. Or comments like, “Well, you are a mother to your pets.” Like that's the same as feeling the first kick in your stomach. Or all the other firsts. Sorry. Got off on a tangent. So enjoying your posts, everyone!


  8. I just met a lady through work that doesn't have children. We had to spend quite a bit of time together this week due to a project we are working on together. It was such a joy to spend time with her because we talked about everything but children. She has cats and I have a dog and bird. It was great sharing pictures. Sadly there is an ocean between us, but when I do see her it will be fun. I just don't meet enough childless women and the few that I have met just aren't friend material. This was a nice week!!!


  9. My large family likes to get EVERYONE together for these sorts of celebrations, which didn't bother me in the past when the focus was mostly on my own mother/grandmother. But last year sucked hard, as I am the only remaining childless woman in my family, and I got to spend the day at the joint party in honor of my sisters, sister-in-law, & mom. It was complete with present exchanges, stories of praise, and awkward repeated congratulations from my clueless brother-in-law to me, even when I had to tell him more than once, “Remember, I'm not a mom.” He tried to change it to “congratulations on having a mom,” but I noticed he wasn't congratulating the men in the family for the same thing. If we could have kept the focus of the celebration on the other women, it wouldn't have bothered me as much, but I really DID NOT want to have attention drawn to me in that way.This year, I resolved to take control of the situation, so I wasn't just passively and resentfully carried along in the wake of the mothership. I sent cards in the mail to my sisters/sis-in-law/mom, and invited my mom over for dinner at my house on the Saturday night before Mother's Day. Mom & I had a more relaxed, conversational time than we can at our big family gatherings.I skipped the family Mother's Day BBQ on Sunday, and my husband & I spent the day at the coast, where we walked on the beach, watched seals play in the water, & ate lunch at an awesome seafood place. And I only had to deal with “Happy Mother's Day” greetings from strangers, not family! It made it much easier to come home & find that my sister & brother-in-law had left me a Mother's Day gift for some reason.


  10. I have four stepchildren, whom I have helped raise in a 50/50 custody arrangement for almost ten years now. Every year – whether the day fell on our weekend or not – we would pass the kids back off to their mother, as if the whole world wanted me to acknowledge that all the love, nurturing, and education I give to these children really doesn't qualify me as someone worthy of a “Day.”

    But every year for the last ten years, the kids would report back that their Mother's Day experience was pretty horrible. We would learn that the day erupted in anger and tears when their mother would snap (every year! like clockwork!) because she didn't feel that they had honored her the way she expected to be honored. I'm not sure what she expected, but whatever it was, she didn't get it.

    Our oldest is 17 now, and this year she decided that she would stay with us for Mother's Day – and her three siblings stepped right up and decided to stay too. I was beside myself from the moment they told me. Mother's Day!! I would have my first (kind of) real Mother's Day with (kind of) my own children! It would be the first Mother's Day in ten years that I didn't cry myself to sleep!

    But you know the funny thing? The day came. I knew it was here. It was all over the place – in church, on Facebook, all over Walmart. BUT – and here's the kicker – NO ONE else in my family seemed to remember it was Mother's Day. And it wasn't because they didn't see me as “mother,” or because they didn't care enough to *celebrate* my efforts. But it just didn't matter to them. Nothing was different. I cooked all the meals, as I always do. I did the laundry, as I always do. I think that might have even been the day we struck a deal to buy our 17 year old a used car from a mechanic friend.

    Sometime just before dinner, they remembered the day. They scrambled together and made pretty little flowers out of printer paper and pipe cleaners, and then gave those to me just before they tucked themselves in for bed. And that was it. For ten years, I had hyped the day up so much that I thought I had been missing out on something wonderful. But it was just another day. That was some comfort, for what it's worth. Kind of like discovering your childhood role model has belly rolls and crow's feet, just like the rest of us.

    I hope that helps a little. 🙂


  11. Jossalyn, thank you for sharing that. I applaud your upbeat attitude. I was so pissy when my live-in stepson didn't acknowledge Mother's Day until the last minute. It sounds like you have a pretty good situation.


  12. Wow! Not even sure how I landed here but I am so glad I did! I took myself off Facebook for the month of May two years in a row just to avoid seeing all those smiling mothers and reading the praise for the “best mother in the world” a million different times. My husband and I wanted a big family but learned 10 months into our marriage that at the tender age of 22 we would “never be parents,” I'm quoting the urologist here. For the next two decades, we fended off all the snide remarks about why don't you two want any kids? My favorite: you're trying too hard! I was lucky to have four childfree married women in my life back then who were good role models for me. But medicine and technology have made the childfree by chance a very tiny minority. What did hurt more was that my husband's two brothers fathered children on their honeymoons. My husband feels about Father's Day like we do about Mother's Day. Adding insult to injury is the next generation that has once again celebrated their first wedding anniversary holding a child. Thanks for letting me vent to sympathetic ears!


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