When Mother’s Day is Hard: 5 Tips on Making It Through


Every May, I find myself talking a lot about Mother’s Day in my therapy practice. For some Mother’s Day is a much-anticipated day of celebration and some well-deserved R&R, but for many, it’s an emotionally loaded day.  Lots of women are trying to conceive, are pregnant, postpartum, and are parenting young children. Then there are others that have experienced pregnancy loss or the loss or their own mother, etc. For a lot of women, Mother’s Day is hard.

So how do you cope when well-intentioned greetings feel like daggers? How do you manage when a visit to the pharmacy stocked with Mother’s Day flowers, cards, and balloons feels like navigating emotional landmines? How do you take care of yourself when the mood around you is celebratory but the last thing you want to do is rejoice? It’s tough… but read on for some suggestions to make it through.

Tips on Making It Through Mother’s Day

  1. Name Your Needs: This may seem simple in theory, but in practice, it can be difficult to identify your emotional needs. This is especially true for women who have been conditioned to sublimate their own needs in the service of caring for others. Take the time to identify what your emotional needs are – not what you think they should be, or what is better for others. Instead, ask yourself what you truly need to take care of yourself on Mother’s Day and name them.
  2.  Communicate Your Needs: Once you understand your needs, share them! No one can give you the support you desire unless you communicate what you want. It’s not selfish to ask for what you need. Loved ones are generally grateful to have guidance on how to offer support.  
  3. Take Care of Yourself: Self-care is a phrase so overused these days that it has somewhat lost its meaning. To be clear, I’m not talking about the glossy Instagram hashtag version of self-care. Instead, when I talk to clients, we talk about intentional practices of self-nurture that meets emotional needs. Self-care is deeply personal, flexible, and fluid based on what you need at a given moment or on a given day. For some great ideas on self-care, I highly recommend this book.
  4. Deflate the Day: There is nothing magic about May 13th. In fact, our modern day celebration of Mother’s Day is quite divorced from the original intention of the holiday. The second Sunday of May does not have to be any different than any other Sunday and you don’t have to participate in the holiday. It takes a bit of forethought and planning to avoid the Mother’s Day messaging and madness, but you can choose to intentionally treat that Sunday like any other day.
  5. But How Do I Deal with Other People? Lots of women struggle with how to handle questions or comments that touch on difficult emotions. How do you respond to the seemingly innocuous Mother’s Day greeting from your barista? What do you say when your co-worker asks if you will be hanging out with your mother not knowing she passed away? In my opinion, there is no right answer but prioritizing your emotional safety rather than the comfort of others is key. So maybe sometimes you respond honestly to what you are experiencing or how you are feeling. Perhaps other times it feels better to find a quick way to exit a conversation. Both responses are equally valid, as is any other response that takes care of you in a given moment.

Whatever this Mother’s Day brings, take time to enjoy the day in whatever way you choose. Furthermore, if Mother’s Day is a tough day, know that you are not alone!