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Happy Mother's Day (To Me, By Me, From Me)

Happy Mother’s Day (To Me, By Me, From Me)

By Amalah

Dear Amy,

First, I would like to thank you for always steering me in the right direction; be it love, eyeshadow, or how the heck to get those cloth diapers to COME CLEAN ALREADY. So, given that you’ve proven to be a font of useful knowledge, I thought perhaps you could help me with a slightly more sensitive dilemma.

Seven years ago, my husband lost his mother to breast cancer. He loves her dearly, and to this day, can rarely speak about her without tearing up. I never had the pleasure of meeting her, but know she must have been one hell of a woman because she raised a thoughtful, kind, loving man who is a wonderful father and husband.

My dilemma is that although we have been married for three years, we have never spent a Mother’s Day together, as he is a Merchant Marine and has always been at sea for this particular holiday. He’s always been thoughtful and tried to send a card or flowers if he was able (sometimes that’s a little difficult to do from the middle of the Atlantic), but this is the first actual year we get to celebrate it together! I am so very excited! My first two Mother’s Days were, well, less than desirable. Taking yourself out for brunch on Mother’s Day with just you and your baby, watching entire extended families at the tables around you toast their moms is probably not on the Top Ten ways to spend the day.

Now that we’re finally together for it, I would love to celebrate our little family by doing something nice. And, by ‘nice’ I don’t mean a huge, fancy brunch at a ridiculously overpriced restaurant–I’m talking more “grill up some tasty grub while spending the day playing horseshoes and sipping mimosas” kind of thing.

He is, however, less than enthused. He said he would invite people, but still hasn’t. He’s dragging his feet on making any decision about when, or with whom we’ll celebrate (if we do anything at all), and right now it looks like if anything is going to happen, I’ll be planning/buying/cooking for the whole thing. I know his reticence is coming from not having his mother here, and the very last thing I want to do is reopen wounds.

Am I horrible to want to do something special for Mother’s Day, which might be very painful for him? Should I just let it go and call it a wash in favor of sparing his feelings? Or, should I just ask that, “hey, it took me nine months to grow our little bundle of joy, I don’t think tossing some steaks on the grill in celebration of that, and of our little family, is too much to ask”?

I know you recently lost your dad, and I am so very sorry about that.Your posts about him have always been filled with love and admiration, and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading them. I hope this letter doesn’t bring up any more pain for you by reading it. I truly just need some help here in figuring out where the line is between being realistic and being selfish, and how to ask (or if I even should ask) that he really put forth some effort.

(I feel like I should note in here: most other holidays we really do tend to go all out and his behavior right now is pretty much an anomaly.)

Thanks in advance for taking the time to read this, and I wish you a very Happy Mother’s Day!

Selfish Or Sane

Hmm. Unfortunately I am not a mind reader, and I really don’t know what’s going on inside your husband’s head — is this really about his mother, after seven years, plus after he apparently was at least quite capable to do what he COULD for you on the last two Mother’s Days, by sending cards and flowers? Does he have some “going all-out” surprise up his sleeve that differs from your suggestion so he’s acting deliberately obtuse about everything? Does he just not get that (despite not asking for the expensive meal out) this is really, really, REALLY important to you?

Obviously, everyone grieves differently. I fully admit that last Father’s Day — my first without a dad — was very hard, and not one of my best efforts for making sure the day was good for Jason. (Though it also didn’t help that it came a mere two weeks after I gave birth to a baby, and just a couple days before Jason’s birthday and gaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh too much too much system overload shutting down now, bye.) But I’d been celebrating Father’s Day for both my dad and Jason for quite a few years before he died, so the holiday had already been established as “both.” Losing my dad did not necessary mean losing the meaning and point of Father’s Day, because I still had the father of my children. (I plan to do a MUCH better job this year, I hope.)

Your husband’s situation is different, and while I don’t want to say what’s appropriate grief and what’s excessive, I also don’t think you’re being out of line here. You’re a mother now too. I completely understand wanting to celebrate the day, Hallmark or not or whatever. For him, it could be a new beginning, a new type of holiday. Something more like a second Valentine’s Day, I guess.

But really, the only way through this is to talk to him, not me. Be blunt and honest that you’re feeling a little hurt at his stalling and lack of effort, even though you’re doing your best to understand why. Is there something he’d like to talk about? A particular reason why his grief stings so hard this year? Is there something you guys could incorporate into the day’s festivities that would also honor his mother? Buying her favorite flowers, making one of her best recipes, sitting down as a family with a photo album and telling your toddler a funny story about his wonderful grandma? Or, if all that would make things even worse, is there a way you guys can focus on making this something completely new and your own? (Forget the calendar and celebrate on Saturday! Call it Wife Day! Vow to reschedule it randomly every year from now on so you’re never “alone” on Mother’s Day, because Mother’s Day is whatever Sunday you want it to be, whenever he’s home!)

What NOT to do, however, is to sit around and quietly seethe. Or go out and plan everything only to spend the whole party feeling vaguely pissed off because he made you throw your own Mother’s Day party grumble grumble silent treatment. Just…talk to him. Ask him if you’ve asked too much of him for Mother’s Day (maybe he’d be more comfortable just buying you a gift or a spa day certificate than negotiating guests lists and menus?), but also don’t feel like you need to downplay the fact that hey, honey, my feelings will be hurt if our first Mother’s Day all together ends up resembling the first two, because I was really, really excited about it. Can we talk about why you’re dragging your feet so much?

That said, the best Mother’s Day I’ve had was the one that started with breakfast in bed, and then I went shoe and lip gloss shopping completely by myself. Later we all took the kids out for pizza. IT WAS HEAVEN.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • JCF

    May 11, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    Like Amy briefly mentioned, my first thought was that maybe he has some surprise planned, and he’s trying to stall on making other plans because of that.  My inclination would be to sit back and let him do what he’s going to do and see what happens.  Of course, you do run the risk in that case of NOTHING happening and having your feelings hurt.  But since you say he is a wonderful caring husband and father, he’s probably not going to ignore the day completely, and it would be a shame to ruin a great surprise if he’s got one!

  • susan

    May 11, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    I feel for you here. My mother in law died in a car accident last fall and this is my husband’s first mother’s day without her. He was dreading the day (quietly, of course, because men and emotions are such strangers) until he realized that he could make it all about me. For him, the deflection helped.

    I think Amy’s totally right and you just have to ask him. You don’t have to worry about opening old wounds. If they’re open, it’ll be good for him to talk about it and if they’re not, it’ll still be good. 

    Good luck!

  • Melissa

    May 11, 2012 at 10:53 pm

    Here’s the thing, yes his pain might be very real and understandable. However, this is no reason to treat you poorly or as a secondary thought.

  • Natalie

    May 12, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    cautionary tale…I had a similar thing happen once except it was my B day not mothers day and the issue was that it was close to a VERY big holiday (two days out from christmas). I have always gotten the shift in the bday arena and my husband isn’t exactly a planner…or thoughtful…when it comes to holidays and presents etc.. It was a couple days out from my birthday and I asked if we were going to do anything and he stalled and then got defensive and said something like “well you know how crazy it is this time of year” …that set me on the turned into a yelling match and we were both PISSED…however it turned out he was defensive and stalling because he had a party planned all along…and I felt really awful

  • Grammy

    May 12, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    Having had the privilege of celebrating Mother’s Day as a mom forty six times now, I know something about this. Some years things happen that preclude a fancy deal, some years the fancy bit breezes in and is great. But EVERY Mother’s Day for me has been fabulous.

    That’s because my husband and kids do what they can, and it warms my heart that they do. When the kids were little, the very best Mother’s Days were when I got handmade cards and some small gift that they chose and Dad helped them buy. When they got bigger, they made or bought gifts they could afford.

    Now that they’re grown, they always know that I’m happy with whatever goes on — a phone call where my son (he’s 46 and lives far away) talks to me for an hour or more, a dinner at my favorite (very non-fancy) restaurant with my daughter giving me a heartfelt gift at dessert time, etc. Now my daughter is a mother, so I’m delighted to work in our Mother’s Day stuff to something that is more her day and everyone knows Grammy is just so friggin’ happy to have a good family it doesn’t much matter what else.

    You can destine yourself to be disappointed often if you have preconceived notions about what a celebration should be. Try to sit back and let the people who love you (and clearly your husband does) give you what they have to give. It will mean more than all the pretenses in the world.

    Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!

  • Rachel

    May 13, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    My first mother’s day as a mother came and went with nothing. Late that night I was nursing my then 7 month old son to sleep and I burst into tears. My husband was dumbfounded. When I explained he didn’t even get me a card for my first mother’s day he was truly surprised and said something like, I didn’t think you cared, I thought this was a ‘Halmark Holiday’ not something real. He felt bad and stayed up late that night creating me a beautiful photo montage of the highlights of my first 7 months as a mom. 5 years later I still have it on my wall. I agree. Talk to him. Husbands are amazing but often clueless about what we are thinking! Of course acknowledge his pain but he needs to know you care what happens on Mother’s Day because it really is a day for you to be celebrated! Let us know what happens!

  • Meredith

    May 14, 2012 at 12:12 am

    My very best Mother’s Day was when my kids were 7 and 9. My husband corralled them for 2 hours to wash and vacuum my minivan. I had 2 glorious hours of quiet and a fabulously clean car! And, no money spent on overpriced things I won’t appreciate.

    My mother died when I was 12 so Mother’s Day always makes me kind of sad, not so much because I miss her, but because it emphasizes the absence. So, it’s a little hard for me to get all excited about the great things my family is doing for me when I’m trying not to focus on the little hole in the corner.

  • Caitlin

    May 14, 2012 at 10:16 am

    My husband is really not big on celebrating ‘holidays’ like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. I explained to him that I wanted a very small acknowledgement by my children of my job as a mother but his part in it was merely to facilitate our children’s plans. They’re still very young, so for now he has to do some of the work (making the pancakes, telling our daughter when the appropriate time is to give me the card she made, etc.). After all, I’m not his mother, I’m his wife.
    Plus this year, we celebrated on Saturday for the sake of our schedules – I agree with the idea of moving it around whenever suits you.

  • tasterspoon

    May 14, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    Mom’s Day has come and gone by now, so I’m curious to know how it went. For what it’s worth, I don’t know anyone who has a party on Mother’s Day, because it’s a day most people I know like to spend with just their immediate families OR when the dads all get together with the kids so the moms can have some time to themselves. So it might not be the obvious thing to your husband.
    Yesterday my husband took the baby out for the afternoon and I just kicked around doing dumb stuff on the computer and finished up a few craft projects and took a nap…then we all went to the pool and I got to swim laps and my husband played with the baby the whole time – it was GLORIOUS and it was really giving of my husband and it was just what suited me, so although it wasn’t a big whoop de do, it was a perfect Mother’s Day. That said, he knew that’s what I wanted because I was very clear. (I’m not a big Hallmark holiday person either, but a one-day license to be guiltlessly indolent?? Sign me up!)

    I really hope OP was able to talk to her husband and feel appreciated, even if it wasn’t in the particular way she was expecting.

  • Erica Douglas

    May 14, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    This was my first Mother’s Day AND my baby’s first birthday. It took us five years and IVF to have her, so I told my family months ago that this Mother’s Day was a REALLY BIG DEAL TO ME. My birthday was last month and was totally not a big deal. I refused to celebrate or even acknowledge my 30th birthday a few years ago because I was 30, had no kids and was just starting IVF treatments. I couldn’t handle the birthday, so I ignored it.
    But Mother’s Day was something I’d worked on for YEARS and it was a big deal to me. So we drove past the IVF clinic and honked and drove past the hospital where I delivered and honked the car horn. And I bought myself a special necklace on etsy.
    And it was good.
    Because I knew it was a big deal, I warned Hubby months in advance and we were all happy.

  • M

    May 14, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    Hmmm. Talk to him. Spell it out. Don’t let him walk into a trap of his own making that you can foresee and prevent. Amy’s suggestions are great – there is a way to find a compromise between his grief and your joy at being a mother.

    Well now it’s the day after what turned out to be just another day for me. My husband forgot. Our daughter is 8 1/2 months old. Things are really busy right now. We’re moving to another city next month and my husband flies all over the world for his job. Here in Germany where I live, his first Father’s Day falls on a different day than in the US and it went by with just a hug, a kiss and an apology because I was still just managing to keep my head above water.

    I didn’t think I cared that much. I had very low expectations. But he totally forgot. He remembered just before his cab came at noon to take him on a business trip. I got a one-armed shoulder hug and a text from the cab. The next text I got was from first-class, where he’d just been upgraded.

    I guess it was Father’s Day after all. 😉

    I’m waiting to talk to him until I’m not quite so upset about it, because I know he has no idea (i didn’t even). I wish we’d discussed it beforehand.

  • kimm

    May 14, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    I know I have to talk about specifics about how much holidays mean to me, and almost just tell my husband what to do- little hints, mentioning that it’s coming up soon, etc. do NOT work, and I have gotten get so disappointed and sad, then he feels awful because he didn’t realize what a big deal it was to me, then I felt bad cause I made him feel bad, whew. Yeah, talk to him SPECIFICALLY about what exactly you want him to cook for you, etc.

  • Alissa

    May 14, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    Three months ago I sent hubby a voucher for a free photo book and said “Hey, it’d be awesome if you could make a photo book of pics of me and my son, and give it to me for Mother’s Day.”  And then I forgot about it.  And then yesterday I opened up a totally awesome photo book and was flabbergasted because 1) HE REMEMBERED and he actually did what I asked and 2)  He did a wonderful job and I have a lovely keepsake.  Had I not told him what I wanted, I might have ended up with a card and that’s it.  Mother’s Day can be as big or as little a deal as your family wants, but the family needs to be “in the know” or you’ll for certain be disappointed.  How did your day turn out, OP?

    • OP

      May 17, 2012 at 10:18 am

      That’s great–what a lovely keepsake! The day was wonderful, and we had a great talk beforehand. I’m glad you had a good one, as well!

  • JayelleMo

    May 15, 2012 at 11:53 am

    I just don’t understand the pressure for the HUSBAND to have to do something for his WIFE on Mother’s Day. She is not his mother. All I want from my husband is to encourage the kids to do something for me – and since they are only 3 and 1, it’s a cute homemade card and maybe the chance to sleep in.
    Where did we get these expectations that Mother’s Day and Father’s Day have to be another anniversary/birthday? I think that, as my kids get older, maybe they can be encouraged to do something bigger, but it is only up to my husband to encourage them, not to get things himself.
    Setting up these massive expectations just seems like you’re setting yourself up for things kids and a husband can’t possibly live up to.

    • Becki

      May 15, 2012 at 3:37 pm

      Totally agree with JayelleMo – my husband is NOT child and I am not his Mother so the day is not a big deal to me.He is not my Father so I have never bought him a card. Before we had a child we would each spend the day with our own mothers and could interact WAY more deeply with them that way After that, as long as he made sure my da – ughter made a card and maybe helped with her idea of a gift that was enough. Amalah is right though – no one is a mind reader and often we are clueless about the expectations of others nor do we often share ours. TALK to each other – and understand that some people never cope well with the loss of a parent and Mother’s day might be a day one has to cede to another’s emotional status.

  • Tracy

    May 16, 2012 at 4:13 pm

    I’m with Tasterspoon. Having a party on MD would be so unusual (unless it’s family-only) to me that I wonder if he was just confused or reluctant.

  • OP

    May 17, 2012 at 10:15 am

    OP here, wanting to thank Amy for the great advice, and for all of your thoughts and comments. (Just to clarify re: the party, most of our friends are childless and hail from various places around the globe. Not only are their families very far away, but they are, for all intents and purposes our extended family. Having a Mariner husband who is gone 6 months out of the year, you tend to develop very close friendships. We spend almost every holiday together :). I took Amy’s advice and just asked him: “Hey, is everything ok?”

    He truly was clueless that it was THAT SUNDAY. We had a great talk about his Mom and even created a tradition that honors her every Mother’s Day. (Thanks for the suggestion!) All in all, it was a great day with family and friends, and, most importantly, the beer was cold, the wine was tasty and the food was perfectly grilled. 😉 We all spent the day trading stories of all our moms, and even some great recipes that they used to make for us. I think Mother’s day is a celebration of ALL mothers, not just our own. It makes sense to me for a husband to celebrate the mother of his child(ren), just as I celebrate what a wonderful father he is on Father’s Day, as well as my own dad. I’m very glad we talked beforehand, thanks everyone for the advice. I hope you all had great Mother’s Days! ~A

  • Karen

    May 17, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    I always celebrate my husband on Father’s Day because he is my children’s dad. They are too young to celebrate him alone and he works hard to provide for all of us. He celebrates me because I gave him 2 sons and work hard in and out of the home to provide a great life for us all as well. My husband gives gifts or special attention through the kids – i.e. gifts he buys with their names on them and takes us all to breakfast out because I usually make breakfast on weekends.
    As much as I would love some quiet time, I feel too guilty and end up doing things the kids enjoy.

  • Emily

    May 20, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    I think it’s weird to invite people over for mother’s day? Because wouldn’t all the families be celebrating on their own?

    On that note, I told my husband that I was not his mother and didn’t want anything for mother’s day except to sleep in and not make lunch. We ended up doing that the Saturday before as Sunday mornings are not relaxing with getting ready for church, etc. When my kid is older, I want them to make me something, etc. But, I personally don’t understand making it yet another gift-giving holiday. Especially from the husband – I am not his mother!

    FWIW, it took us 3 yrs to concieve and we are very happy, but it still didn’t change my mind about mother’s day. The only thing that changed was that my own mother gets a much better gift from me because now I understand what it’s like to be a mother.

    • The gold digger

      May 21, 2012 at 3:11 pm

      We don’t have kids, so that part is not such an issue for me, but we both have mothers who expect attention on MD. I send a card to my mom and he sends one to his. I think his mother is ticked that I don’t do anything for her (she has a long list of things I do wrong), but she is not my mother! As a matter of fact, I don’t do anything for her birthday or Christmas, either. She is not my mother – she is my husband’s mother and he’s in charge of his parents.

      I’ll stop because I am getting way off topic here. But I always thought that MD was for your own mother. That said, it is very nice when a husband does something for the mother of his children.

  • caitlin

    May 31, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    Just chiming in to say I LOVE when we hear back from the OP… for some reason I just thought to come back to this and see if there were any updated comments. Keeping the updates coming, Amalah!