The Mother’s Day Conundrum

By Published On: May 11th, 2023

Moms of littles need a day of quiet and rest; moms of big kids and teens just want some love.

In April, my husband asked me the question heard around the country this time of year: “What do you want for Mother’s Day?” My response was similar to what it has been every year since I became a mother—a look of exhaustion, a silent plea for a day to myself, and a slice of Oreo Dream Extreme Cheesecake

As a mom of a 6-year-old and a soon-to-be 4-year-old, I’m thankfully beyond the days of sleep deprivation from overnight feedings, but the fatigue of motherhood is still alive and well. I’ve traded sleeping in three-hour increments for 30-minute bedtime routines and 6 a.m. wake-ups (even on the weekends!). I don’t have to deal with dirty diapers and spit-up, but now I have to play referee in sibling fights that always end in tears. 

I’m the resident snack bitch, the parent who keeps track of ever-changing clothing and shoe sizes, the one they yell for when they wake up in the middle of the night, and the hero who can magically fix a ripped stuffed animal with a needle and thread. When we take a trip, my kiddos can feel confident that no sound machine, bathing suit, or cherished lovey will be left behind—because I keep that checklist safely stored in my brain. I am the default parent, the grocery shopper, and the health advocate, and I constantly make sacrifices that are invisible to them but hard on me.

So, understandably, all I want for Mother’s Day is some time for myself. To not have to care for anyone but myself for an entire day. To sleep in as late as I’d like. To watch whatever I want on my bedroom TV, regardless of how many swear words or inappropriate scenes there may be. And to have an entire slice of cheesecake all to myself, without any child hovering over me, hoping I’ll cave and give them a bite. Is it so much to ask?

Mother’s Day With Little Kids

As I’ve learned in my six years of motherhood, this simple request, apparently, is too much to ask. Sure, the holiday is called “Mother’s Day,” but when you’re a mom to little kids, I have found that the day tends to be less about what I want and more about what they want for me. 

Don’t get me wrong, their excitement and eagerness to take care of me for a day are all kinds of adorable, and I am grateful to have daughters who love me so much they could burst. But it would be really nice if they could reign in some of that excitement and wait until at least 8 a.m. to bring me breakfast in bed. I’d also love to be able to enjoy a cup of coffee (and maybe put on a bra) before they start shoving cards and gifts in my face, demanding that I open them right now so they can see the look of surprise on my face and hear my words of gratitude for their hard work and kind gestures (oh, the irony). 

And here’s the thing, once they’ve managed to make their way into my bedroom, it requires some serious parental power—and bribes—to get them to leave. My sweet husband does what he can to give me the time and space I so desperately want on this day, but he’s only one man, and our kids are nothing if not strong-willed. Usually, by the afternoon, we’ve both given up the fight for a little separation. By this point, the kids are snuggled up practically on top of me, and they’re feeling especially generous because they gave me the privilege of choosing which Disney movie we’d all watch together (for the record, it’s usually The Princess and the Frog). 

The day typically ends like any other Sunday—because, by the time we’ve reached 7 p.m., my kids have long since forgotten that it’s still Mother’s Day. Again, to my husband’s credit, he always offers to do both girls’ bedtime routines for the night (we usually divide and conquer this task), but this offer is always met with shrieks and looks of sadness from the girls and my mom-guilt creeps in. So instead of tapping out for the day and relaxing with a glass of chilled sauvignon blanc, I’m cleaning blue toothpaste off the bathroom counter and reading If You Give A Cat A Cupcake for the billionth time (which, at least, is far superior to If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, IMO).  

Mother’s Day With Big Kids

As much as I kind of loathe the illusion that Mother’s Day is about me right now, I think it’s important to acknowledge that I am also very aware that I’m on borrowed time. I remember back in my early 20s, I went in to work on a Monday and, as co-workers do, a group of us shared what we did over the weekend. One woman, Maureen, was absolutely glowing as she told us how excited she was because she got to spend Mother’s Day afternoon watching The Hunger Games with her 13-year-old daughter. I vividly remember her saying, “She never wants to hang out with me anymore, so this was a big deal.” 

At the time, I thought back to my tween and teen years. I was very close with my mom, but Mother’s Day still felt like such a chore. I had to make time to buy her a card and a present (so inconvenient!). I had to step away from my busy and important social life to do whatever she wanted to do for a day (ugh!). And I always had to attend a family dinner at her favorite Italian restaurant—in public (the audacity!).  

When Maureen shared her weekend news, I remember smiling because I knew that once her daughter was older, she’d come back around. It’s just the tween and teen years, after all. It’s to be expected! Now that I’m a mom myself, though, I am dreading the day that switch flips in our home—when my little girls go from smothering me with love on Mother’s Day to begrudgingly showing up out of obligation to celebrate me for a couple of hours. 

At some point in the not-so-distant future, I’ll be out of bed on Mother’s Day before my kids are even awake. I will look forward to the noise of the day because it will be a welcome change to a home that’s usually filled with quiet. I will offer the TV remote on a platter because I’ll happily watch whatever they want if it means I get to spend time with them. And I will open their cards and gifts, eager to express my surprise and genuine gratitude to them for taking time out of their lives to make me feel loved for a day. Shoot, I’ll even offer to share my cheesecake with them. 

These two pictures are such stark contrasts to each other, and I’m sure that not every Mother’s Day in my future will fall into one of these extremes. There are bound to be a few wonderful celebrations sprinkled in throughout the years, too (right?). But for now, I’ll do what I always do and make the most of where my family is in this season. I’ll play the part of the perky mom who is thrilled to wake up to a breakfast of Pop-Tarts in bed. I will appreciate the opportunity to watch Princess Tiana for a day instead of Queen Elsa. And I’ll tuck my girls into bed at the end of the day, reminding myself to be grateful for their smothering love. 

Right now, it seems like Mother’s Day is just another day of motherhood—but at least it comes with my very own slice of Oreo cheesecake.