Fighting Mistaken Identity on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day can be a day full of people thinking you’re someone you’re not.

You walk into church, and the usher hands you a flower. “Happy Mother’s Day!” If you explain that you are not a mother and reject the flower, they seem insulted.

The priest or minister asks all the mothers to stand for a blessing. You remain seated and feel as if everyone is staring at you, wondering why you don’t stand. You’re a mother aren’t you? Of course you are. But no, being a female of a certain age does not mean you are a mother. Must you explain that to every single parishioner when it’s easier to just say, “Thank you. You too.”

Wherever you go, it will be the same all day. Brunch, a quick trip to the store, a concert: Happy Mother’s Day, happy Mother’s Day.

Moral dilemma: if moms get a discount on Mother’s Day, should you accept it?

Meanwhile, if your mother or mother-in-law is still alive, you need to honor them, which means dealing with family. Do your relatives or friends who know you are not a mother assume you don’t want or like children? Do they hang together talking about kids, leaving you chatting with the cat, or do they keep telling you that you’ll be the next one getting pregnant when you know that isn’t going to happen?

Again, mistaken identity. They don’t understand who you are or why you might be a little weepy or bitchy on this day.

If you’re a stepparent, Mother’s Day brings a whole other kind of mistaken identity. Your friends may decide your stepchildren make you a mother, but you may not feel like a mother at all because the kids have a mother and she is not you and you might not get any recognition, not even a card, from your partner’s offspring.

The only ones who understand are the non-moms who are going through the same thing.

Every year I urge those of us who hate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day to stay away from social media and avoid trigger settings. Go for a hike. Paddle a kayak. Jam with friends who care more about music than Mother’s Day.

But part of me says why should we have to hide? Can’t we just love the moms in our lives and let them love us for the people we are?

My wish for you this year: Do what makes you feel good. Be honest about who you are and how you feel. We need to teach the world that we don’t all have the same lives and that’s okay.

So, Happy Spring!

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.

Some resources you might enjoy:

Jody’s Day’s Gateway-Women chat about childless Mother’s Days.

Brandi Lytle’s “mom-heart” perspective from her NotSoMommy blog.

Lissa Rankin’s heart-warming take on non-mothers and Mother’s Day

5 thoughts on “Fighting Mistaken Identity on Mother’s Day

  1. Sue,

    Once again you speak the truth. I experience those behaviors which I’ve
    learned to handle. As you know I
    call Father’s Day “National Chopped Liver Day”, because many times I’ve felt this way. Although, thanks to your blog I’ve learned to handle it better,


  2. Exactly!! This is exactly how I feel. I’m “just” a step mom, always unrecognized, and unable to have my own, feeling like a failure of a woman. My husband doesn’t celebrate it for me because “I’m not his mom”, despite the fact I raised his daughter. I also have a terrible relationship with my own mother, so mother’s day is always dreaded. Your words made it just a bit better, knowing I’m not alone in this. Thank you.


  3. This year my husband got in front of the holiday. He also hates it when people wish him a Happy Fathers Day, so he used Mother’s Day as an opportunity to ask his mother to NOT wish me a Happy Mothers Day. He explained kindly that while the role of godparents is important (at times) in the Catholic church – we are in fact NOT real parents. Pretending that we are feels more sad and uncomfortable than just accepting our reality.

    In earnest, she told him that she would avoid the issue all together and not wish ANYONE a happy Mother’s Day. Which annoyed my husband because then he had to explain that we’re not snowflakes. No one needs to tiptoe around us. We have zero problem with the actual day. We’re happy to celebrate everyone else. We’re actually pretty okay with our situation. We simply don’t want to play pretend to make others feel more comfortable.

    But then there are the people who just won’t give up. Via a group text, an unfavorite brother-in-law wished ALL mothers – both natural and spiritual – a happy day. So annoying because my husband told his brother last year our feelings.

    Also different this year was that my brother and sister-in-law opted out of a traditional meal at my parents’ home. Their kids are older and they wanted to take their mother out for a meal. I “get it,” but it made for an awkward day. A little sad to see it altered. And an indication of the future. Obviously when my parents are gone, I won’t expect to gather with my brother and his family on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. But will they want to include us on the major holidays? We’re definitely going to need a backup plan.

    I briefly jumped online and regretted it. It wasn’t the sweet beaming young, new mothers with babies that bothered me. It was the women my own age clutching their teenagers. Our town had prom and a huge track meet over the weekend, so there was triple gushing over pride and accomplishments. I don’t begrudge anyone their joy. But it is hard to take in large doses.


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