Why Mother’s Day Can Be Hard When You’re a Divorced Mom
By Janice Quirt
Photo © ashim/Twenty20
May 9, 2018
It was Mother’s Day a couple of years ago. I stood staring at the screen of my phone, trying to think what to write to my two sisters. I was telling them that we wouldn’t be joining them at Mother’s Day dinner.
That was for a variety of reasons – too long a drive, too late at night, school day the next day – but the biggest reason was that I could not get it together that morning. I wanted to lock myself in my room and sob, and for no obvious reason. Except – maybe there were a whole lot of reasons.
Maybe it was because Mother’s Day is a different kind of holiday when you are divorced with little ones, one that I found and still find particularly challenging and tinged with sadness. Maybe it’s because the person who made me a mom is not really in my life in a positive way. Or maybe it’s the fear that the kids will feel that they are totally responsible for doing something magical on that day. That morning two years ago I was on my own with the kids, and the sweet factor had lasted for five minutes, followed by three hours of bickering.
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I quickly wrote a group text: “Can’t make it tonight – too late and kids are squirrelly. Plus, I’m feeling blue.” I reviewed, and then deleted the last word. “Blue” would sound the alarm bells with my sisters. “Blue” would suggest depression — and it probably was a mild form of depression, exacerbated by hormones and fatigue.
I rewrote the text:
"Can’t make it tonight – kids are tired and I’m feeling out of sorts.” Send.
There — that was vague and somewhat happy sounding, right?
My phone rang immediately. It was my sister, the “sensitive” one. I eyed my phone, wanting to pick it up and talk. But I had the kids and my kids were young. Too young to lose their mom for an hour to a conversation that would for sure result in a crying jag over the phone. And how could I explain to my sister why I was upset? I was inexperienced at identifying and verbalizing these types of emotions stirred up by my divorce.
I let it go to voicemail. I felt tears well up and I quickly faked a coughing fit before the kids noticed I was crying, and before they asked me in their crystal clear voices "what’s wrong?”
I was inexperienced at identifying and verbalizing these types of emotions stirred up by my divorce.
For the next two hours, I kept busy. I played with the kids outside. I ate some food — low blood sugar always makes me moody. And during that time I received two texts that made me smile, not sob.
One was from my sister, following up on her phone call. “Wanted to make sure you were OK. Will call in a bit.”
And then, from my eldest sister, the business-like, efficient one. It read, “We’ll miss you.” Even though we didn’t really “do” emotions in my family, she sensed it was a rough day for me. And her showing unexpected emotion made me feel better, as did the unanswered phone call. I had sent a mini distress signal pinging through cyberspace, and they had listened. They had my back.
And so when my kids presented me with their homemade cards, stories and dandelion bouquets later that day, I once again had to hold back tears. But they were the happy, sentimental tears that are part of the landscape of parenting, so I treasured them.
I’ve kept those homemade cards, of course. And I also kept the texts from my sisters. Because they had reminded me that I wasn’t alone.
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I’ve learned a lot over the past four Mother’s Days as a divorced mom. And I have a sort of action plan to get through this, one of the tougher holidays.
It includes sharing my feelings with my partner and my family so that they can understand why it’s a tough day for me — and doing so before I feel overwhelmed by sadness. It involves letting my kids know that my favourite things to receive from them are big hugs and homemade cards, and that they don’t need to buy me a thing to make the holiday complete. Sometimes it involves pizza on the couch with my kids watching whatever we fancy, followed by lots of chocolate.
My Mother’s Day doesn’t need to feature breakfast in bed, lavish jewellery from a doting husband or Instaworthy snaps of it all. But, neither does it need to be marked by tears and denial all day. As I own my Mother’s Day action plan, I in turn own my response to this holiday. Because I’m proud to be a mom. So I’m going to take back the day doing it my way.
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