As a Mom of 5 Kids Under 13, This Is All I (Really) Want for Mother’s Day

published May 2, 2022
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someone is drawing on a happy mothers day cake with edible markers
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

This year’s will be my fourteenth Mother’s Day and while I’ve never, ever taken for granted that I get to celebrate the holiday as a mother myself, to be honest, it hasn’t always been my favorite day. 

I attribute this to that roller coaster of expectation and disappointment that plagues so many occasions that are “supposed” to be a certain way but aren’t. In my case, the issue was compounded by the fact that I didn’t even know what I wanted! So at the end of the day, I’d feel let down, with tinges with guilt and shame. 

Over the years, through experiencing the things that do fill my cup and, hopefully, through some growth as both a mother and a person, I’ve discovered what makes me happy on this day that, commercialized though it is, makes me wish for a special kind of love and acknowledgment. 

At this stage of motherhood, when I’m still squarely in the middle of a chaotic household and days filled to the brim with noise and activity, here’s what I’ve learned I really love to receive each Mother’s Day and what I tell my family I hope for: 

Hand-made notes or drawings.

These are my favorite, and it’s probably because one of my love languages is words of affirmation. I love not only seeing my children’s artistic expressions made just for me, but savoring the loving (and often funny!) things they say about me too. For those old enough to write, I’ve told them that I love to read about how I make them feel loved or what they love about me or special memories they have of times we’ve shared. 

I prefer notes and cards over other projects not only because they convey sentiments that don’t often get articulated, but also, on a super practical level, because they are easy to keep and store. This is in contrast to items like the painted pillar candles my husband had the kids make for me one year. The thought and the act were full of so much love, but if I received gifts like this every year, there’s no way I could hang on to them all the way I want to.

I should mention that I also love to receive a note from my husband on Mother’s Day. Hearing from him what he notices and appreciates about my role as the mother of our children is something I always cherish and is also a wonderful infusion of gratitude and connectedness in the middle of our whirlwind stage of life as parents. (I do the same for him on Father’s Day.) 

Food that I don’t have to think about. 

In our family, though my husband always jumps in to cook if I ask him to or he sees the need, I’m the main person responsible for the food. This means meal planning, shopping, and cooking and everything that goes along with all of those. As much as I enjoy feeding my family, I also enjoy a break from it. Whether we go out to brunch or feast on takeout from our favorite Indian restaurant, I’m definitely grateful for a day when I don’t have to think about what to make or what we’ll eat. 

Often, my family likes to make me a special breakfast, complete with decorations and homemade pancakes or waffles with all the fixings. I also love this sweet expression of love and seeing my kids’ proud faces. 

Time together.

I really like doing something a little special or different together on Mother’s Day. One year we went to explore some local gardens; another year we went inner tubing at a spring with another family. Spending quality time together on an out-of-the-ordinary outing never fails to fill my heart with the joy of motherhood. I deeply treasure these years when we’re all together, when my children are all still with us under one roof. Marking each of these years with a special activity and a picture or two of all my little ducklings with me is a favorite tradition we all enjoy. 

Time alone.

I used to swallow the lie that the desire to be alone on Mother’s Day was wrong. I translated the message that “one day all my children will be gone and all I’ll want is to be with them” into feeling like I should want to spend every second of Mother’s Day soaking up being together.

But not only is this too much pressure, it’s also another flavor of mom guilt that I refuse to receive any more. The truth is that in this season of motherhood, a few hours to myself gives me time to think and relax and just be. The day will come, all too soon, that to be all together will require a great deal of complicated plans to gather. For now, though, a quiet house for an afternoon or a peaceful couple hours to read at a cafe is rare and valuable and, honestly, makes me a better mother. 

While your ideal Mother’s Day may look drastically different from mine, my hope in sharing my own favorite Mother’s Day traditions is that you can think about what really makes you feel loved and special on the day. Crystallizing this and then — this is key — communicating it to your loved ones helps ensure that the day is fulfilling for everyone.