As a Divorced Dad, This Is How I Do Mother's Day 'Right'

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Many divorced or separated parents struggle with how to handle Mother’s Day and Father’s Day each year. But if you’re a single parent with an acrimonious ex, it can be nearly excruciating. So how does the conscientious single parent of a young child navigate this minefield? Very, very carefully.   

  • Let’s be honest -- if you have a bad relationship with your ex, the last thing you probably want to do is find a gift for them. 

    You’ve Photoshopped them out of your photos, cringe when you hear their ringtone on your phone, and have Googled whether memory erasing is a thing (it isn’t, unfortunately). You’ve also probably spent your life savings in court, so dropping another $20 on a gift for your ex really shoves that knife in your back a bit further. But at the end of the day, you’re not here for you, you’re here for your child. And in most cases, your child loves your ex and wants mommy or daddy to be proud of them. Sometimes the test of a good parent is encouraging your child to love your ex, even when your ex’s favorite shirt is a straightjacket.

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  • It can be fun to involve your child in the process and let them drive it, mostly because they’ll do absolutely nutty things. 

    When you take LO to Walmart to look for a gift and card, let them make the decisions. By going to the store together, you’re turning the drudgery of choosing a present for your ex into a bonding moment with your child. Let them pick the card they want, and buy a little present they want to give. Will it all make sense? Probably not. Your ex may or may not appreciate the weirdness of receiving a singing hamster card with a glitter unicorn attached. Remember, though, that this is your child’s present and not yours. Let them drive and take ownership or the process. It’s extremely empowering for a 5-year-old to take the reins (within reason) on how to express their love of their mom. You’ll need to guide them, of course, because a vase of flowers or a toy gun could be misinterpreted as you expressing your own issues. Best not to give the ex ammo for a restraining order.

  • If you’re on a tight budget, there are ways to make it easier. 

    Personally, I don’t care about store-bought items. Anything my daughter makes is a newly minted Picasso as far as I’m concerned, even though I have a giant box of newly minted "Picassos" that will probably wind up in a landfill at some point. I’m banking on selling them all on eBay in 20 years, once she’s famous. But not the point. Have your child draw their own card for mom or dad and it’ll have a nice personal touch. Give them paper to draw something that they really can spend time on, and buy a frame. That’ll create a lasting keepsake for under $10! Another option is to buy restaurant gift cards at various online stores such as Raise.com at a discount. Why not buy a gift card so your ex and kid can have a nice meal out to celebrate their love for each other? They get to build a memory together, you scored a discount, and everyone is happy.

  • At the end of the day, your child deserves a positive relationship with your ex as best as you can make it.

    So just get through it with a smile on, because that’s what they want. But even if you hate all this stuff, just remember that the next “parent holiday” is right around the corner.

    If all else fails, and assuming your ex has custody on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, look at the bright side … you get to stay home, watch TV, and nap on the couch for a full day! That’s probably worth the one hour of effort and $20 the present bought you right there.