Having been a parent for three years now, I can say without hesitation that Mother’s Day is steadily rising as one of my least favorite holidays. To use a term from my Catholic upbringing, it often feels more like a holy day of obligation than an honest celebration of parenting, one that thrives on a master checklist to make sure dads and kids get it right. Card? Check. Gift? Check. Champagne brunch? Check. Squirmy kids that would rather be doing anything else? Check.
Don’t get me wrong: the intention is superb. Celebrate Mom. It’s so simple in theory. Moms have a really tough gig, wearing many hats to raise time-sucking, attention-hogging, mess-making little people into decent human beings. And much like the hamsters we call “interns” in the entertainment industry moms are universally overworked. So why shouldn’t we give them a day to revel in their awesomeness and reward their efforts with pancakes and art projects? Well, I can’t speak for moms with kids of all ages, but I’m a toddler mom, and what we toddler moms mostly crave is time to ourselves. I blame preschool and Hollywood for perpetuating any myth that leads you to believe otherwise.
To be brutally honest, the last thing I want to do on a day that is supposedly celebrating me as a mother is, well, mother. I don’t want to go to a nice restaurant for brunch and spend the next two hours trying to keep my toddler from breaking all the dishes on the table. I don’t want to have a family outing where I have to pack the kitchen sink (sunscreen, healthy snacks, Epi-pen, snacks that will actually get eaten) and then negotiate smiles and positive attitudes when my toddler decides she disapproves of the destination upon arrival. And at the end of it all, I don’t want to work even harder to get my now overtired toddler to eat dinner and go to bed because she had a bigger day than usual and is irrationally grumpy as a result. You’re really saying this is all for me? Seriously, no thanks.
Wait, there’s more? I also have to acknowledge my own mom, mother-in-law, grandma, and every other older female relative that’s a mom and make time to also celebrate their contributions to parenting me? Listen, I LOVE all those women and I’m indescribably grateful for all they did to shape me as a human, but I’m the one on active duty here. Just today I caught barf in my bare hands and convinced my toddler that she cannot use the dog as a pillow at naptime in lieu of her real one. Can I put myself on a timeout?
I understand that there is value in Mother’s Day once your kids reach a certain age of independence where they can show their love and appreciation in their own adorably creative way or just sit still long enough for you to finish those frickin’ pancakes. I look forward to those Mother’s Days in my not-so-distant future. But toddlers are selfish little creatures. All food on your plate is actually for them to eat, touch and squeeze. (Technical term: “sensory activity.”) All gifts are for them to open, even if they have no use for that new cookbook. (New cookbook? I haven’t had time to cook from a book in three years!) “And why,” the toddler wonders, “doesn’t this cake have candles on it for ME to blow out?”
A toddler mom’s life is pure chaos from sunup to sundown, so let’s get real and stop pressuring her to participate in a holiday that only makes her life more stressful. If you really want to celebrate a toddler mom, just give her a break. She doesn’t want any of the typical Mother’s Day celebratory outings. Not yet. She’ll get there eventually, but at this exact moment in time she just wants to lay on the beach alone with a book, hit the movies with a girlfriend, or even go on a date with her hubby, no guilt attached. If you can give a toddler mom that gift, she’ll be singing your praises all year long.