Should Single Moms Have to Parent on Mother’s Day?

Elizabeth and her son Rory smiling and hugging at a playground

Okay, so I don’t really remember my first mother’s day. My baby was 11 months old and for whatever reason, there’s a lot I don’t remember about those early years of motherhood. 

What I do remember is, a short time after that, laughing bitterly while I told my friends the grim holiday placement schedule I got in the divorce. 

“At least I have Mother’s Day,” I said. 

A childless friend was quick to respond: “Wait, wouldn’t you want to do whatever you want to do on that day? Not necessarily parent if you’re not feeling it? Shouldn’t that be the ONE day you get to choose?”

Because I was with women who weren’t mothers, I dared to say it out loud. “Actually, yeah.” I remembered there was an article years ago that said what mothers really wanted on Mother’s Day was a stay at a hotel, all to themselves. They’d eat what they want, not poorly-made breakfast in bed.

It began to seem rather cruel that Mother’s Day was even on the holiday placement schedule. Father’s Day was, too, of course, as a given “dad” day. But as I will never stop saying, if and when you and your ex can speak to each other, you should make your own damn holiday arrangements. Chances are, you have a better idea of how your dynamic should work. 

During that first Mother’s Day as a single mom I had flashes of resentment towards the whole thing. My ex, the Wisconsin Court System in general, the very mean judge in particular, and the patriarchy of course, always the patriarchy. For a day that started out as a plea by mothers to not have their children killed, Mother’s Day had taken a sinister turn, at least as far as I was concerned. 

Now that I’ve hit my stride as a single parent, Mother’s Day has passed peacefully. My son and I go to Target and buy whatever he thinks Grandma would like, which is exactly what Grandma and my son do for me the day before. Some years, when we’re in a good period, I pick out a pair of Stuart Weitzamn shoes for my ex to get me from my son and he does. Other years I know it’s not worth asking. Some years my son is more generous (“it’s your day, Mamma!”) and other years the spirit isn’t in him (“but why can’t we do what I want?”). Every year, I’ve counted my blessings, whatever my mood was. I have the best mom and I’m the mom to the best son. What more could I ask for? 

Actually, I have a list. 

If I could ask for more, maybe on every other Mother’s Day, I’d chose a nap by myself in fresh white sheets knowing room service would be up with a cheese plate and a French 75 when I woke up.

But for now, I’ll take the Target candle, morning cuddles, and a resentment-free day. 


Addendum, from Rory, age 7: 

On your day Mama we should eat seven layer bars and wrestle.


Elizabeth Paulson is the co-founder and co-CEO of Divorcist.