If you’re a solo parent to a toddler, Mother’s Day sucks. No one buys you flowers, no one makes you breakfast, and no one takes the kids so you can go get a massage and a foot rub. Mother’s Day more often than not turns out to be exactly the same as all the other days — you make all the meals, clean up all the messes, and negate all the tantrums. In fact, if you really think about it, the Mother’s Day pampering myth is completely perpetuated by TV advertisements and the partners who buy or do these things — our kids are too young and self-absorbed to even notice! Is Mother’s Day just for moms with partners and/or older kids or what? Are single moms even allowed to have a Mother’s Day?
A quick survey of my solo parent groups agreed that yes, it totally sucks. Still, people’s responses to this dilemma were varied. “Mother’s Day is banned in our house,” one mom fiercely proclaimed. “The last thing I need is yet another reminder that I do everything around here, even buy my own presents.”
Other parents took a different approach, seeing it as a chance to legitimately splurge on unique Mother’s Day treats they wouldn’t normally buy. One parent said they even do this for both Mother’s and Father’s Day — if there’s only one of you, why not double-dip eh? Not that these things were necessarily luxury items; one person said they bought a new hoodie every Mother’s Day, and another said it was always a new plant for the garden. It seems moms are just so used to the selfless act of parenting that they’re really bad at spoiling themselves! Which is part of the problem of Mother’s Day: You kind of need someone else to do the spoiling for you.
Of course, as the kids get older, things do start to improve. They bring cards home from daycare covered in scribble-art, “I love you Mom” cotton-ball and popsicle-stick craft projects, and then when they hit elementary school you really hit the jackpot; you can give them five bucks for the Mother’s Day stall and it magically transforms into lavender bath salts. Or you can circumvent the bath salts and do what this here parent does: Take your kid to the shops and pick out three or four things you like; then, give your kid some cash and find a friendly sales assistant to help kiddo choose one of the gifts in secret. Again, this only works once they’re a bit older. (My three-year-old would walk straight past my line-up of perfume and chocolates and pick me out a Buzz Lightyear toy, knowing my luck.) So until then, you’re on your own, and unfortunately you’re most alone in those early years, when the day-to-day acts of parenting are at their most draining.
For this very reason, I want to urge all solo or single parents out there to suck it up and do something nice for yourself. Take the kids out to dinner at a restaurant of your choice. Buy yourself that thing you’ve been really wanting. Get the kids to help you make a cake that says “I rock.” Or organize a babysitter for the day. As plenty of moms will admit, all they want for Mother’s Day is some time alone. If this is you (of course it is — everyone wants child-free time) then swallow your pride and ask a family member or a child-free friend to babysit. Take yourself to a movie, and buy yourself an ice cream too.
The best thing about realizing that Mother’s Day sucks for singles is that you are not the only one who feels this way. Find some other single parents and organize a gift exchange between you. We do this in my “queer single parents by choice” Facebook group every year; similar to a Secret Santa, anyone wanting to participate writes their name and address down, and then everyone gets assigned another parent so they can all mail an anonymous gift to each other. It’s not just the element of surprise that makes this such a heart-warming exercise; it’s the sense of solidarity between solo parents. Community is a wonderful thing.
My second solo Mother’s Day started out as rubbish as all my other days at that time in my life. My toddler was teething, and neither of us were sleeping much. I was stupidly also trying to potty-train, and my carpet was a soggy stinky mess. But funnily enough, it turned out to be an absolutely perfect day. Another single mom friend called and invited me out to breakfast — at a café where the kids could safely run around while we sat and had an actual conversation. We had a cheeky spiked hot chocolate, and the day started to look up. Then, my friend presented me with a mug that said “Best Mum Ever,” and at that point I possibly started sobbing.
“You’re doing an amazing job,” she said, giving me a hug. “We both are. Happy Mother’s Day.”
I still have that mug today, and so far it’s the best Mother’s Day present I’ve ever received. Though I do see lavender bath salts on my horizon in just a year or two more.