I can’t tell you how many women I know, Mommas for the first time, or several times over, that don’t really look forward to the holiday that’s happening a few days from now. Mother’s Day is not always happy.

But it might not be because of the reasons you’d expect.

Sometimes Mother’s Day is rough for women. They might have lost their own mothers, so this holiday reminds them painfully of that loss. Or their journey to motherhood has been intense and hasn’t been what they’d hoped it would be: Infertility, loss, or estranged children can leave their hearts aching for a motherhood they always wished for, but haven’t experienced.

No, I’m talking about those Mommas who haven’t experienced a Mother’s Day celebration that they’ve actually enjoyed — because they haven’t asked for what they really want.

Now, many of you might be thinking that Mother’s Day is just another “Hallmark Holiday” and one you don’t want to buy into. But here’s the deal…

Motherhood is probably the hardest job you’ll ever have, but unfortunately it’s also the job you’re least likely to receive any recognition for! Whether you’re just starting out at an “entry level position” or if you’ve been at this for decades and have ascended to the level of “upper management”, the reality is that our society doesn’t care all that much.

How do we know this to be true?

While there might be a lot of people making claims about how important mothering is, but what kind of policies do we have in place to back those claims up? Too few, has always been the answer.

In addition, childcare costs are exorbitantly expensive, maternity leave is ridiculously short, and we’re encouraged to place the needs of our children and partners ahead of our own. All while struggling to achieve that “life-work-family-self-care” balance that’s touted as ideal, yet remains an unachievable utopian fantasy for the majority of us.

Your self-esteem takes a hit when you become a parent in large part because the work you do isn’t compensated in ways that keep our society rolling along. The media, politicians, our employer, the world tells us that our work is essential — but their lack of action speaks louder than words.

That’s why I think Mother’s Day (and Father’s Day — or you could rename either of those days Parent’s Day or even Caregiver’s Day if the titles Mother and Father don’t exactly fit you or your situation) is one of the most important holidays on our calendars. A holiday that should absolutely be celebrated so that for at least one day a year, you feel appreciated for the incredible work you do the other 364 days of the year!

But let’s celebrate the way we want to, not the way we think we should.

What do I mean?

{If you live close to your extended family, then what I’m about to suggest might cause a mutiny — especially if this is the first time you make Mother’s Day your own celebration. You’ve been warned.}

You’ve probably celebrated your own mother for decades, and I’m not telling you to stop. But if you’re now a mother — when do YOU get celebrated? And how?

If you’re still heading over to your Mom’s (a.k.a. Grandma’s) house for brunch and the focus remains on your Mom and doing what she likes to do on this day… What does that say about the work that YOU’RE doing as a mother?

I’m not saying you shouldn’t celebrate your Mom! But, maybe you decide to get together on Saturday at some point or maybe even Sunday for dinner. That way, the actual day of Mother’s Day, can belong to you. It can be your own, new celebration.

Obviously, this is a lot easier to establish and set up as the “New Order of Things” if your family’s not in town. If you live away from your extended family, you’ve probably been sending a card or calling your Mom to wish her a “Happy Mother’s Day!” for years.

But if you’re all in town and within easy driving distance, it’s important to establish these new boundaries with your family from the get-go or expectations might settle into place and prevent you from celebrating Mother’s Day the way you really want to.

Which leads me to my second point…

How do YOU want to celebrate Mother’s Day? There’s no law that says you have to have a fancy brunch on the 2nd Sunday in the month of May. That’s not an official thing, you know. It’s not even a thing. But if you’re not careful, that’s exactly what your Mother’s Day celebration might look like — for the rest of your life — unless you speak up!

Now, you might be thinking… “But I LOVE a good brunch! Am I just playing into the whole false construct of Mother’s Day if that’s what I actually want to do?!” Absolutely not! I happen to think brunch is the one of the best innovations in mealtimes ever… But it’s not what I really want to do on Mother’s Day. Not really.

What I really want to do is go for a hike with my family.

Wahclella Falls Mother’s Day Hike — 2015

I like to look for someplace we haven’t been before. A place that’s not too far away, but won’t be too crowded either. A place we can easily drive to, park nearby and get on a trail within minutes. The trail doesn’t have to be easy, but I don’t want it to be so hard that my kids can’t complete it (or, let’s be honest, won’t complain about it the entire time!) I like to finish my day by going somewhere to have lunch or ice cream or some kind of other special treat.

For me, this is the ideal way to spend Mother’s Day. But this year, I won’t get to do it… I’ve got a sprained ankle injury and my foot’s in a boot. And with just a few days to go, I’m beginning to realize how bummed I am to not be celebrating my day the way that I really want to. (And my kids are bummed out, too!)

But don’t worry… My back-up plan is lovely.

I’ll be gathering with my “framily” here in Portland and between the four families, we have 11 kids who are wonderful people and know how to love on their Mommas. There will be delicious food (because I’ve chosen well and my framily knows how to cook, ya’ll!) and probably Mimosas — which are always welcome. But I’ll miss what’s become my tradition and the way I choose to celebrate Mother’s Day.

What have you told your partner and children about Mother’s Day? Have you given them your thoughts on how you’d really like to spend this day? If not — why not?!

Clear communication about your wants/needs is the best way I know how to get them met.

Your partner and children aren’t very good at mind-reading, as it turns out, and if you don’t tell them exactly what you want, they’ll try their best. And sometimes their best will be a hit — and other times, it will be a BIG miss!

The distance between expectation and reality is equal to whatever disappointment you might feel.

Mother’s Day should never be a day of obligation or disappointment.

So what do you want to do this year? Enjoy a spa day? Go mountain climbing? Shop for yourself? Hit the zoo with the entire brood? Day-drink with your girlfriends? Sleep in and do absolutely NO mothering for the day?

All of these things — and more — are yours for the asking! You don’t have to fit a stereotype of what a “good” mother does for her special day. You don’t have to be any where near your children! Especially if getting a break would really allow you to come back to this work renewed and rejuvenated.

But you won’t get what you don’t ask for! And it’s not fair to your partner, your children and, ultimately, yourself, to assume that everyone knows how best to honor you for this work.

You’ve got to ask for it.

Happy Mother’s Day to ALL of you!

(And you might want to keep this blogpost handy — there’s this other holiday coming up in June…)

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