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'When Does Mother's Day Get to Be About Me and Not My Mom?'

If you have been dealing with a self-absorbed parent for your whole life, any day that is explicitly designed to be even MORE focused on them is going to make you feel angry, resentful, and depleted.
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Caucasian mother and children cooking in kitchen
Caucasian mother and children cooking in kitchen

Reader I'm The Mommy writes,

I have a question I'd like your feedback (and readers' feedback) on. Mother's Day: I hate this holiday for many reasons but my main question is, once you have kids yourself, when does the day get to be about YOU and not your own mother? I spend my Mother's Day planning and doing stuff for my mom. My kids are young (8 and 13), so they don't do anything, and I'm divorced so their dad does nothing. I end up hating the day, tired and resentful because my mom is hard to please and I'm always trying to think up great things for HER. Will the day ever be about me?

Dear ITM,

All the people whose lives are like the above free image will not understand you, and will vilify you for being self-centered. But there are people who get you. If you have been dealing with a self-absorbed parent for your whole life (and read this book if you have), any day that is explicitly designed to be even MORE focused on them is going to make you feel angry, resentful, and depleted.

You are a mother, and if your ex doesn't care about honoring you on Mother's Day, then that's his loss. He is missing an opportunity to model respectful behavior for your kids. At least he's your ex, not like this woman whose current husband refuses to get her anything for Mother's Day. Your children, however, are 100% old enough to make your Mother's Day special, and not with some dumb card that they were forced to make in school, either. 13 is old enough to menstruate, or, if the child is male, to get tall and smell bad when sweating. This is old enough to be nice to your Mom.

To this end, I suggest you have a sit down meeting with your kids and tell them, "Hey, you know how I make all your birthdays and Christmases special? There's a day coming up called Mother's Day, and I would really appreciate you making a big deal out of it. Here are some things I like: breakfast in bed, flowers from the garden, drawing that took you actual amounts of time, handwritten letters that express love and appreciation, you doing all the chores that day, et cetera. I'll be here to answer questions for another half hour and after that, I expect you guys to be pow-wowing in your rooms every night over how to make Mother's Day nice for me."

You need to model assertiveness and the ability to express your needs. I am assuming that because your own mom has always been self-centered and demanding, you may have shoved your own needs down below the surface for years out of fear that expressing them would make you come off as irritating as she does. But you're doing your kids a disservice if the only models of behavior they see are narcissists or people who never ask for anything. (I'm thinking if your husband, even if divorced, does jack for Mother's Day then he might be a bit self-involved.)

Now we turn to your mom. Write her out a nice card for Mother's Day and bring her over some food or something. Stay for two hours and then go do whatever makes you happy. I don't care what it is, do it, as long as it can involve the kids and they get to see you putting yourself and your happiness first for some of this day. If your mother complains about anything, tell her, "Oh Mom, I love you but this is Mother's Day, so I'm trying to have a fun and stress free day. Let's not fight. If you're unhappy with something I've done, I'm sorry, but if you can't let it go, I'll just go so I can enjoy my Mother's Day with my kids." If your mom pitches a fit, excuse yourself and leave with the kids, thereby modeling assertive behavior and not getting treated like a doormat.

In 10 or 15 years when your children enjoy their own Mother's Days (either for themselves or creating a great one for their wives), you can thank me. Till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Says, Also Tell Your Kids That If They Wake You Early, They Will Be Summarily Executed.

This post was originally published here on Dr. Psych Mom. Follow Dr. Rodman on Dr. Psych Mom, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Order her book, How to Talk to Your Kids about Your Divorce: Healthy, Effective Communication Techniques for Your Changing Family. Learn about Dr. Rodman's private practice here. This blog is not intended as diagnosis, assessment, or treatment, and should not replace consultation with your medical provider.