Mother's Day Is Different After You're Divorced

mom and son walking along pier

Most of my friends are married, and many are parents. Mother's Day is an online parade of wonderful things that children and spouses do to make Mom feel valued on her special day.


Mom gets flowers or a fancy brunch with mimosas. Spouses buy mom-gifts, sometimes really going the extra mile to show how much they value all the work she does with the kids all year. They help little ones make cards, or help the kids make breakfast, which Mom eats with gusto even if it's spaghetti with syrup. They're making memories, these families, and it's lovely.

I don't have these things, as a single mother. I'd be lying if I didn't admit I have been jealous when I see all the nice stuff families do for each other on this holiday. Yes, I know it's stupid and selfish.

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My ex and I got divorced when our son was 5. He's 7 now, so I don't get gifts "from" him. He can't go shopping by himself. He doesn't have any money and doesn't think of such things. There are no flowers, no surprises, nobody waking me up with breakfast in bed saying, "Take the day off, we got you a spa day!"

Last year, though, I did get the day off. Mother's Day didn't fall on my custody week for the first time since the split. Sunday is our transfer day, so I dropped him off at his father's in the morning and didn't hear from him for the rest of the day. This was very horrible. All the pictures on social media and friends texting me what their husbands and kids gave them, and I couldn't even hug my boy.

I later suggested to my ex that we edit our agreement so that no matter whose week Mother's Day and Father's Day fell upon, the kid would be with the respective parent on that holiday. He agreed.

There is still school. The teacher helps kids make cards or write something. Sometimes there's an event with muffins and juice, and they show a video they made in class where each kid says something they love about Mom. Last year, my son's teacher held such an event, and the kids sang songs and were adorable. I was an embarrassing, crying mess. I am a complete sap for this sh-t. My kid told everyone his mom was a great cook, and every food she makes is awesome. Should have worn waterproof mascara.

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I know I shouldn't be jealous. I know the real thing is that I'm lucky to be a mom. That's the gift, every day. I know some kids don't have a mom, or don't have one who can be around. Or they don't have a dad, so no Father's Day. Or neither, and they're being raised by a relative. Or they live in a war zone, or in abject poverty, and there are no presents. I hate when I see my own privilege this way, but seeing it and walking through it is the only way for me to get to the other side. I am a work in progress.

My kid is almost done with second grade. He is an avid reader, has an incredible palate, and is obsessed with sports statistics. He talks a lot about places he wants to travel, and about what downtown might have looked like in prehistoric times before everything was built. I never had that kind of awareness; he awes me. I can't wait to see who he becomes. I work hard to find ways to help him on his journey. We play, we laugh, we watch movies, we listen to and analyze music. I help with his homework (not too much). I take him to the playground as often as I can because I know he really wants to play with other kids, not me. I pack his lunch every schoolday. I fold each piece of his still-little, clean clothes, and tuck them into his dresser.

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I treasure all of it, as I know the time is flying by. Sooner than I am ready (for I will never be ready), he will be grown and gone, the holiday marked with nothing but a call or text.

So this year, I will remind myself that the holiday is about my luck, not gifts. That I get to be my son's mom every day, whether he's under my roof or not. That's the best gift I could have ever asked for -- and truly all I need.

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