When a Holiday Hurts—Coping with Mother’s Day as a Divorced Mom

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Everyone wants to celebrate mothers! It may seem like a sweet, harmless occasion—a holiday largely promoted by greeting cards, candy, and flower companies. But for many women—and for many different reasons—Mother’s Day can be agonizing.

Some women have lost a mother or child or are estranged. Some struggle with an unfulfilled longing to become a mother. There are birth mothers who have placed a child with an adoptive family. Others are going through a bitter divorce or have custody arrangements that keep them from being with their children to celebrate this special day.

In situations like these, Mother’s Day can provoke feelings of sadness, anger, loss, loneliness, fear, and even worthlessness—a sense of being unrecognized, undervalued, and unseen. And no floral arrangement or charm necklace will make up for that.

We see you if you’re a divorced mom or in other circumstances that make this holiday difficult. We know there’s no quick fix or simple solution. It’s harsh and unfair stuff. But there are things you can do to shift your experience a bit and begin to reclaim the day in a way that works for you.

Here are eight expert tips on coping with Mother’s Day after divorce.

Don’t just grin and bear it.

Negative emotions aren’t “bad,” you’re not bad for having them, and you’re not alone in this experience. Permit yourself to experience your feelings, to name and acknowledge them. Be gentle, patient, and careful with yourself. If it hurts to see pictures of friends’ celebrations, stay off social media. Ask for support from a friend, family member, or professional if you need it.

Make the day your own.

If you can’t spend this Mother’s Day with your child, find something to do that will be a gift to yourself. Indulge in some much-deserved self-care, whether that involves taking a weekend away, going to a fitness class, getting a massage, enjoying dinner with friends, or curling up with a great book. Don’t let outside forces—advertisements, social media, family traditions—dictate what your Mother’s Day entails.

Stay flexible.

Suppose Mother’s Day doesn’t fall on your weekend with the kids, then set aside a different day! Any day is a good day to be together to celebrate you and motherhood.

Get creative—ahead of time.

Especially if you have young children, they probably can’t buy you a gift or plan something for you on their own. If you’re not on good terms with your co-parent, they may not be helping the kids prepare anything. Figure out how you’d like to celebrate and plan it with your children. Gather some art supplies and have a creativity date where you craft together, or they make you cards or pictures; go shopping to help them pick out a little gift for you, then let them wrap it; plant some flowers together; set out some simple foods the night before so they can bring you breakfast in bed. Remember that Mother’s Day after a divorce can also bring up complicated feelings in kids. Focus on quality time together spent celebrating your relationship and love.

Celebrate ALL women.

All women deserve honor and recognition for the diverse and countless ways they “mother” and positively impact the world. Get together with friends, maybe other single moms or influential women in your life who don’t have children, or focus on celebrating your mother. Do something festive in the spirit of sisterhood.

Give back.

Though it may sound simplistic, helping someone else makes you feel good—volunteer at a women’s shelter, food service, or senior center.

Create new traditions.

Mothers are often the keepers of family tradition, doing the bulk of holiday preparations—gift buying, meals, invitations, etc. Especially after a break-up, you may have no one to do that for you. But it can also be an opportunity to reframe the holiday. Think about what makes you feel recognized, valued, and cherished. Maybe you’ve never cared about the fancy restaurant brunch, but you’d love a picnic in the park, a long bike ride, or game night.

Plan ahead.

If you’re currently in the divorce process and sorting through logistics with your ex, consider building Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthday schedules, and so forth into your separation agreement. Though it can be a challenge, remember that this is an opportunity to demonstrate to the kids that you can work together and still value each other as co-parents even after your marriage is over.

If you’re going through a divorce or custody battle and are concerned about how it will affect family traditions and holiday schedules, contact the attorneys at Schoenberg Family Law Group. We aim to keep the legal proceedings amicable and straightforward in these complex and contentious disputes. Our family law lawyers at SFLG have decades of experience helping clients define their goals and bring them to fruition.

By Debra Schoenberg


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