by Catie Hayes, editor of WomanLinks.com
In a perfect world, motherhood would be universally valued, the phrase "just a mom" would not exist, and all mothers would be acknowledged on Mother's Day.
Also in a perfect world, I'd have glimmering fairy wings, a sparkling crown of early morning dew, and would never have to clean a litter box. That's another story entirely, though.
Most women were raised to not plainly ask for something, to think of others first, to be polite, to be (gasp) nice. Now this baggage, coupled with the realities of single motherhood makes a rather uncomfortable situation. The reality is that we all want to be acknowledged. It just feels good to receive validation.
Single parenthood, by definition, means you are the sole adult responsible for younger creatures devoid of the awareness of others. Kids, especially younger ones, though miraculous and occasionally perplexing, do not innately think "What can I do to show my appreciation to others?" One of the responsibilities of parenting is to guide children to consider their relationship with others and the world around them. Ideally, in a two-parent family, dad would step up to this duty on Mother's Day as Mom would on Father's Day, out of respect for each other, as well as modeling values to the children. So what happens when your family isn't of the ideal Ward and June Cleaver variety? What happens when you're the only one modeling respect to the kids?
There are two ways it can go here. Single moms can either grin and bear it or stop being nice and call for a reality check. Think about it, women. Haven't we all grinned and bore enough? In my own case, even when I was married, any recognition was of the last minute "I better buy something, anything it doesn't matter what" variety, when a simple heart-felt "thank you" would have been more than enough.
Now that I'm on my own, even that is gone. I will continue to make sure my kids mark special occasions for the father, out of respect for his role, but I've given up hope that the same courtesy will ever be returned. It's no surprise really, it's right in the 'Single Moms Guidebook to Reality'...
You want something done, adopt 'The Buck Stops Here' as your mantra, and just do it yourself
So how do you build the kind of Mother's Day where an already overburdened Mom feels acknowledged, the kids don't feel guilty they couldn't do anything for Mom, and the bank account does not turn a nasty shade of red? Personally, I recommend referring to another rule from the 'Single Moms Guidebook to Reality'...
The old rules have little to do with you now. Build new ones
Some of my personal favorites include :
Enlist the help of girlfriends, sisters, neighbors, parents (can you help Joey make a card/bake some cookies/pick out a small gift?)
Tell the kids you as a family are going out to dinner/to the park/to a movie to celebrate Mother's Day (sure, you foot the bill, but you model self-respect to the kids, say what you need, and get an outing in one fell swoop)
Arrange a plant swap with friends. (a cost-free way to repopulate your garden and build something of beauty for yourself)
Enlist the kids' help in making pampering things for you. (check out Pampering Tips and Recipes at OldFashionedLiving.com for great ideas.)
Use the few bucks you save on not buying junk food for a week and spend it one something frivolous just to give yourself pleasure (a few bottles of nail polish, a bouquet of flowers, a journal, new writing paper, a shade of lipstick your mother would never let you wear, the raciest pair of panties you can find)
So, to my fellow single Moms, a gentle reminder accompanied by my deepest respect and admiration: We are all doing the most significant thing possible with our lives. We protect and nurture the future with a solitary pair of hands. It doesn't matter if society considers motherhood brainless work. It doesn't matter whether or not our exes pull their share of the parenting load. It doesn't matter that it feels hard and embarrassing to have to ask for help.
What matters most is that WE ROCK. No matter what kind of garbage is tossed our way, if we expect respect from the world, we have to give it to ourselves first.
Copyright 2004 WomanLinks.com
Catie Hayes is founder/editor of WomanLinks.com; a community of support, spirituality, growth and empowerment for women. She is a freelance writer, the single home schooling mom of two, and an avid fan of laughter, spontaneous dancing, cats and chocolate (not necessarily in that order).