There’s no denying it, Mothers Day can be tough for single mums.
When your kids are too small to say thank you and there is no partner around to say it for them it’s easy to feel the familiar tide of loneliness welling up.
I remember my first few Mothers Days as a single parent so vividly. I loved them, occasionally hated them, often cried at some point both happy and sad tears through the messy, lovely chaotic times we had.
As I have journeyed through single parenthood and am moving into my new blended family life, I have learned a lot about how to survive the ‘special’ days. There will be times when self-care means saying thank you to yourself, because there isn’t anyone else there to say it for you. Other times you will be so abundantly blessed you won’t know how to express how lucky you feel.
I have tried and tested many ways of making it through the inevitable weirdness of birthdays, holidays and mothering Sundays with your young children when you parent them alone. So let me share my experience with you!
I’m talking to you, Mother of a baby, toddler or pre-school child. You, who is parenting through the years before your children will ask you for a pound to spend on a card at the local shop or try to sneak one into the shopping trolley without you noticing.
The years before they will thunder in to your bedroom in the morning, beaming as they bring you a slice of slightly cold toast and slop a cup of tea on your bed first thing.
The years when they love you and need you relentlessly, and you love them right back but wish for a moments respite or recognition for the neediness you tend to day and night.
- You can let these days slide and pretend you don’t really care. This was my first approach. I don’t recommend this, especially if you really do care, unless sobbing into a glass of wine at the end of the day isn’t utterly depressing for you.
- You can embrace the moment, sit with them while they make you a card with some pasta shapes, glue and glitter, and write a note to yourself inside the card with them by your side, ready to date and slip into a memory box later on. Just make sure you remind yourself that it’s normal for a two year old to get bored before they have finished making a pasta necklace for you to wear, and it’s ok if they try to lick the glitter or cry because they get hangry and you don’t want them to eat the uncooked pasta. I look back on this experience fondly, it was actually pretty fun, despite the strangely narcissistic vibe of writing my own card, and the tedious month of hovering up glitter and lentils that escaped the craft box afterwards.
- I absolutely recommend buying yourself a takeaway, a box of chocolates or a bunch of flowers to say ‘I deserve this’. Because you do, you’re doing an amazing thing, raising beautiful kids, and even if they can’t tell you this yet, the moment they are able to show you how much they appreciate you they will try. Burned toast and hedgerow flower posies will be forthcoming. I actually make a point of doing this for myself now on random days as well as special ones, because self-care is so good for the soul.
- Let your family or friends help them to share special days with you. Take up the offer of a babysitter, or let a friend help them do the homemade card and pasta necklace for you. There are almost certainly more people in your circle than you know who would love to do this for you and your kids – try buddying up with another single parent and swap kids for a morning to make sure you both get to help your children do something they will enjoy, and you both feel valued and loved in return. My kids and I are so grateful to the magical souls who were there for us and helped make our holidays sparkle.
Last year, Mothers Day stood out as a particularly special one. My older kids were with their Dad for Mothering Sunday. It’s just how the schedule fell that year, and I didn’t want to take back a day they could spend with him. So when they came home with a huge box of chocolates and home made cards I was extra surprised, because I’d written off trying to celebrate with them, choosing to enjoy a day of peace and quiet with my partner instead.
On the doorstep my ex thanked me for being their mother, and I realized that after years of struggle, conflict and grief after our first family fell apart. Through the years of moving on, rebuilding, forming new relationships and starting out in our respective new families, something had shifted. I’d finally arrived at a place where I didn’t need to hear him say it, because I knew.
I learned (through years of trial and error, snot, tears and laughter, wine and chocolate) how to love myself enough to be grateful for my family exactly as it is. I wish this for you, new single Mum. Know you are special and loved just as you are. Happy Mothers Day.
Nina Farr is a Leadership and Parenting Coach who works with parents who are raising their families alone.
She is a TEDx speaker and author of I am the parent who stayed – joyfully parenting alone.