A few years ago, Mother’s Day ended in a really hard place. Things didn’t go the way I expected and it felt like a hard day. It wasn’t how I wanted to end the weekend. I started wondering how to enjoy Mother’s Day with little kids at home.
Mother’s Day can be tricky. For some, it’s really painful due to infertility, unwanted pregnancy, estranged children, difficult parental relationships, and so much more. I hope the world can make it easier for you to ignore this day and focus on other joys.
And then for others of us who generally find joy around the holiday, it can still be tricky due to challenges with kids behaving, unsupportive or unaware spouses, or just general life business. It’s rarely a perfect day.
That said, after that day a few years ago, and a few unsatisfying Mother’s Days before that, I decided to make some changes. And what do you know – the last couple Mother’s Days have been absolutely delightful. Not perfect! But really, really lovely. Here are some things that helped me enjoy the day – I hope they help you, too.
The very biggest failure point in past Mother’s Days was lack of communication. Dan and the kids can’t read my mind! They were doing their best! But it didn’t quite jive with what I wanted and there was no way for them to know that unless I told them.
For instance, there were a few years of them laboring over nice meals because they know I love good food. Which was so thoughtful! But I didn’t want to spend the day on my own while they cooked, or managing little kids while Dan was in the kitchen. And I definitely didn’t want a giant mess in the kitchen. I’d much rather have simple food and time to spend together. So I told him.
And guess what? He listened. He started doing simple foods and picked up some great things from a local bakery we love. Easy and delicious and way more pleasant for all of us. And actually, basically all of the things below tie into this, too – just sharing them and being clear about what would make for a nice day for me goes a long way.
2. Prepare in Advance
I’ve always thought that what I want is a clean home and happy kids. So beyond communicating that, we started prepping in advance to make that happen. We cleaned the house on Saturday or sometimes have cleaners come. Everyone pitches in to get everything reasonably tidy before Mother’s Day itself.
We also try to do a little basic planning and scheduling in advance so that there’s not a bunch of confusion or spending hours on research the day of. If we decide to do a hike, we pick it in advance and tell everyone the plan. If there’s a food pickup, we place the order beforehand so that it’s not stressful the morning of.
3. Put Down the Phone
Sometimes it can feel tempting to just zone out and relax and have a day filled with just scrolling mindlessly without any other responsibilities. What I’ve found for me, though, is that while it might have the short-term benefit of feeling like I can check out of normal responsibilities, it doesn’t actually feel relaxing or fulfilling. It doesn’t fill me up or enrich my day.
That’s not to say I never check my phone throughout the day. For me, I love seeing photos of women I love with their families or sharing stories. Others may not (in which case, for sure avoid your phone and especially social media that day). And that’s fine! But if I do check, I try to make it for a set, short amount of time instead of losing hours to a screen.
4. Get Outside
There are few things that are better for my mood than getting outside in fresh air and sunshine. That seratonin hit that comes from being outside often extends to how I feel the rest of the day, including in interacting with others. That’s true on normal days and it’s definitely true on Mother’s Day.
So we started getting outside! Some years it’s a hike. Sometimes it’s a picnic at the park. Or it may just be walking around the block. I used to have higher expectations for a full on planned hike for several hours but I found that that often caused more stress with timing and planning and logistics than it was worth for a day that was already busy with food and family and church. So I changed my expectations to just include a few minutes of outside time, together, even if it’s just sitting in our front yard. And we’re all happier for it (and it keeps the house cleaner, too!).
5. Get Enough Sleep
There’s almost nothing that affects my mood more than not getting enough sleep, much as I try to deny it. We’re all just happier people when we’ve had enough sleep. And I want to be happy on Mother’s Day! I want to be patient and kind and I want to want to be with my children instead of away from them. Getting enough rest is immensely helpful with that.
For me, it’s most helpful if I sleep well for several nights in a row and go to bed on time. This works better than sleeping in really late on Mother’s Day morning, which always leaves me feeling grumpy and lethargic.
6. Choose a Simple Tradition
Like I mentioned with the hike above, I used to focus on a big thing, and would feel frustrated when it either got delayed, didn’t work out perfectly, or didn’t happen at all. In the last couple years, I’ve tried to remind myself – we have 5 little kids! It’s always on a Sunday when we have church! The easiest way for me to feel like it was a terrible day is if I had a bunch of expectations in my mental list that didn’t end up happening the way I wanted them to happen.
The great thing is that’s a relatively easy problem to fix by just lowering expectations! The last couple years, we’ve had ONE simple tradition – a Mother’s Day tea. No fancy breakfast to get derailed by church timing, no need to be home at exactly the right moment for dinner. Sometimes it’s an afternoon tea that doubles as dinner. This year, I have a choir concert in which I’m singing in the afternoon, so we’ll do a lunchtime tea instead. I love that it’s something consistent we can count on, but simple enough that it doesn’t require tons of prep or rigid timing.
We always have lots of tea on hand, Dan and the kids make some simple sandwiches, and we pick up some fancy bakery treats. If we’re missing an ingredient or a whole item, it’s no big deal – we could honestly just have peanut butter sandwiches alongside tea in our fancy dishes and it would still feel special. (We purchased these beautiful three-tiered and two- tiered serving stands for a birthday party a few years ago and they’ve been worth every penny as we’ve used them for countless parties, dinners, and more.)
7. Create My Own Special Day
This sort of ties into all the rest, but I’ve realized that my attitude and behavior are actually the biggest variable in it all. It’s no one else’s job to make me happy but me. I get to decide what would make for a special and low-stress day for me, and then I can either choose to communicate that and make it happen or I can choose to just expect it and likely be disappointed.
Plus, I don’t have to love what anyone else loves! I’ve never liked breakfast in bed – I hate eating before brushing my teeth, and I dislike just eating while everyone else watches me (and I most certainly don’t want all my kids eating in my bed). So we skip that! We get up and eat at the table and that works for us. I try to think about the things that I love, especially the ones I love with my kids – being outside, reading books, chatting over a treat. And we try to care some space for those simple things.
Most of all, my attitude going into the day is the biggest factor. If I’m willing to see the effort and love from my family, it will become apparent and we’re all likely to feel happier. It still won’t be a perfect day – it almost never is – but it sure helps in feeling loved.
I hope these things help you, too!