Mother’s Day is a time when we slow down and appreciate the moms in our lives. Moms often receive lovely handmade art projects from their kids, breakfast in bed, flowers or a meal out. But is that what we really want for Mother’s Day? It's not that we’re not grateful. It's just that in my coaching work and interviews with moms, the resounding answer is, while all of these gestures are lovely, this is what she really wants:
Family life can be fun, loving, messy and stressful. Kids battle each other over who was there first, who gets the remote control, who took whose toy... the list goes on and on. Parents and kids argue over screen time, messy rooms, getting out of the door to school on time, finishing homework and eating vegetables. When it comes to Mother’s Day, some families even argue over what to do to celebrate mom. Here’s the thing: mom wants peace, so give her that.
2. Freedom from planning.
Moms are needed. A lot. By a lot of people. All. The. Time. A weekend where she is not expected to make plans in order to meet other people’s needs would be a stellar gift. Mom wants to sleep in, have someone else plan the never-ending meals and snacks required to sustain a family through a weekend, not have to plan who's going to wash the dishes (heck, she may just stay out of the kitchen completely) and not have to answer any questions about what the family is going to do that day. Her Mother’s Day wish? Not to have to plan a darn thing.
3. Emotional space.
Moms receive and absorb a lot of baggage, needs, stresses, anger and disappointments from other people. Giving mom time to herself and space to be completely off emotionally is invaluable. To give her this space, it probably means someone else needs to take the kids out for a day — or maybe the weekend. (Also, don't text mom to ask questions or to complain about how things are going.)
4. Mental space.
Moms often juggle everyone’s daily schedules, lists, assignments, and, in most families, most of the logistics related to home and life. This massive responsibility and often invisible work, termed the “mental load," is a 24-7 weight. Gemma Hartley’s book, Fed Up, does a great job of unpacking the mental load and explaining how it affects women’s lives. Stepping up to take some of this load off of her plate — without her having to ask — would be a great gift.
For example, you might make a list of all of the majors tasks that are required to run the family, and then ask each family member to take responsibility for specific tasks. Maybe mom usually makes the grocery list, the doctor’s appointments, the school lunches, the vacation plans and the carpool schedule. Or perhaps she makes sure there is clean laundry, the kids have required clothes for school/camp/performances, forms are signed, homework is done, birthday presents are purchased and parties are planned. Stepping up to own chunks of responsibility that are usually on her plate, and ensuring that all important tasks are completed, would be an awesome gift.
5. Better care for other moms.
Nearly 1,000 women die every single day from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth. The organization Every Mother Counts (EMC) is devoted to raising awareness about the barriers and solutions to maternal care. Through their site, you can donate or use your purchasing power to help make pregnancy and childbirth safer for moms.
6. To do what she wants.
Moms research and plan activities that would appeal to all members of their family, often putting their personal preferences last. For Mother’s Day, mom would like to do activities that she loves. Every mom is different. For some this means a family hike, a trip to a museum or brunch with girlfriends. For others it means a day at a spa, volunteering for a cause they support or doing nothing at all. Bottom line, let her do whatever she wants.
So buy the flowers, make the artwork and write the heartfelt cards. She will love and cherish each of those. And then, give her some peace, space, and the freedom to do whatever the heck she wants. The value of that? Priceless.