By Domenica Ruta
Mother’s Day gives us an opportunity to celebrate all the women we know who raise children, not just our relatives. There’s a surge of love online, and it’s common to send sweet texts and even paper cards to our friends and family members who are moms. But typically, Mother’s Day gift giving falls to the partners.
So what about the women who, by choice or by circumstance, are parenting without a partner? I became a solo mom two years ago when my son was born. Now a toddler, he can barely share his toy trains without hysterics, so the concept of giving a gift is still a way off.
Last year, two of my friends bought me Mother’s Day cards “signed” by my son (who was an infant) and slipped them into my purse when I wasn’t looking so I would find them later. Another good friend who lives out of state looked up a bodywork studio near me and bought me a gift certificate for a massage. The thoughtfulness of these gifts – the planning and the effort and the surprise – moved me to tears.
We talk a lot about the importance of self-care and celebrating ourselves as mothers, but it’s really nice to have someone else think of you. Mother’s Day gives us an opportunity celebrate the solo moms in our community because there’s a good chance no one else is. Here are some ideas to fit every budget (as well as some that cost only time) to show a solo mom that you care.
1. Early morning babysitting
For me, one of the hardest times of day is that hour in the morning when I just want a little more sleep. (Some mornings I would donate a lesser organ to sleep another 45 minutes!) But my energetic boy is wide awake and raring to go early, and there is no one across the bed I can ask to do the breakfast routine while I sleep. Here’s where you can step in, Super Friend!
Get house keys the day before and tiptoe in before anyone is awake, then take the kids out for an early breakfast. This simple act would feel like a dream to a mom who wants nothing more than to stay in bed.
2. Take care of dinner (including the dishes)
The end of the day can be just as exhausting, and you can be a real hero if you handle dinner. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive, but cooking (or ordering) dinner, serving it, and cleaning up is a welcome break at the end of a long day. And if there’s enough left over to pack for lunch the next day, so much the better! To a hard-working solo mom, this small gesture can be huge.
3. Provide housecleaning
Arrange to have your solo mom friend’s apartment professionally cleaned, or do it yourself one day while she and the kids are out of the house. It’s such a great feeling to come home to clean floors and a toilet you don’t have to scrub for at least another month.
4. Yoga or Pilates classes
If you are a mother in the modern world, then the odds are good you suffer from back pain. Solo moms can feel the strain even more, as they literally shoulder the entire load of parenting. A good massage does wonders but long-term pain-relief and prevention takes structural help. If it’s in your budget to gift a solo mom a class package to a local Pilates or yoga studio, you’ll be giving the gift of not only relaxation but of the core strength she needs on a daily basis.
5. A more traditional gift
Giving a material object like shoes or jewelry on Mother’s Day may seem trite, but everyone enjoys a little luxury. Practical gifts are always appreciated as well, but sometimes extravagance just makes you feel special.
6. Chauffeur for the day
If you know a solo mom without a car, offering to give her a ride to the grocery store or take her kids to and from activities one day can be a welcome break from public transportation. (If you don’t have a car either, companies like Uber and Lyft offer gift cards.)
7. Ask her what she’d like
Maybe she’s had her eye on this vintage lamp at a thrift store for a while. Maybe she wants someone to go with her to an open mic night. Just asking the question can lead to a warm, connected conversation about what she needs or wants.
People love to applaud moms’ efforts: the masterful multitasking, the mind-bending endurance, and of course the fierce love we have for our kids. But these responsibilities can be that much harder when you always have to do them on your own. That’s why the simple act of someone lightening your load or treating you to something frivolous, lovely, and unexpected can make Mother’s Day so wonderful for a solo mom.
This article was originally published on the Seleni Institute website and is reprinted here with permission. Seleni is a nonprofit mental health and wellness center providing clinical services, provider training, research funding and online information and support for women and mothers. Domenica Ruta is the author of the New York Times best-selling memoir With or Without You. You can follow her on Twitter at @DomenicaMary and Seleni @selenidotorg.