This year my husband is flying to Japan on business on Mother’s Day. His flight leaves at 9.30a.m. I’m not one to make a big deal of the day, but it is nice to feel a little pampered. Normally we do activities as a family on Mother’s Day, but I also get a bit of time off. It’s always nice to go for a massage or a run alone. One year I got to go out for lunch on my own just so I could enjoy my food in peace and quiet and while it was still hot!
This year I plan to embrace the fact I’ll be with the kids all day. Instead of waiting to escape, I plan to be fully present with the kids and use the opportunity to really connect with them. To have a great day doing things with them that we all love.
I’ve been thinking recently about the fact that self-care, which in our culture normally means time away from the family, has to be rethought, and I’m looking at ways to practice self-care while I’m with the kids. It’s a novel thought in our world that you could embrace the time with your children and come out of it relaxed. In such a consumer-driven world, it’s easy to fall into the trap of buying just one more product or experience to help ‘fix’ the stress of parenting. Being stressed, and seeing parenting as something we are barely coping with, are part of the marketing strategies. What if, instead of spending our time with the kids wishing we were somewhere else, we could find that peace and fulfillment. There are always times when a break does us good, and I will definitely plan some time for myself when my husband is home. Until then, however, I’m going to experiment with getting what I need during the day while I’m with the boys.
So here’s my list of things we will be doing (and not doing) this Sunday:
1. Eating Out (or not)
Eating a meal is more of a cardio activity for me than anything – I’m constantly up and down getting more of something, changing cups, finding the next course. While Red can do a lot of things for himself, Smalls is barely three and so this is going to be my life for a couple of years yet. Eating out has become somewhat of a tradition for most families on Mother’s Day, and I can understand why, but it is often a stressful event for a family with small kids. I spend my time shushing them and trying to get them to follow the expected rules of dining out, and they spend their time bored of waiting and frustrated by the requirements to sit still and be quiet. Is anyone enjoying this experience?!
If everyone’s in a good mood, we’ll go out to eat, but that is sort of down to the sleep schedule and whims of a toddler. Instead, I’m hoping it will be sunny and warm and we can pack a picnic to eat at the park or even in the garden. A bit of work to prep all the picnic foods will mean I should be able to sit and relax once we are ready to eat. The boys and I love eating outside – it is different enough to the normal routine to feel special and I’m always amazed at the quantity of whatever I produce they will eat if they can’t spot the refrigerator and cupboards and all the other foods I didn’t offer them! And the biggest bonus is that they can be as loud as they like at the park, they won’t be expected to sit still in chairs, it won’t matter if they spill on themselves or anywhere else. Young kids are not designed to do those kinds of things, at least not often or for long.
2. Limited chores
Sunday is usually a day when we try and catch up with house chores before the onslaught of work and school and daycare. Some things will still have to be dealt with, but I’m going to do my best to get caught up on laundry and cleaning before my husband leaves so that the boys and I can enjoy the day. I appreciate the irony of loading all this work into another day and making it busy just so I can create an illusion of a day of no housework! But this will have a huge benefit for me while my husband is out of town anyway, so I’m happy to put the work in early and then reap the reward on Mother’s Day. Come Monday, I’ll be cajoling the boys into helping me with it all again, but taking a break from nagging them to participate will be good for all of us.
3. Physical activity
This is an obvious one! Sometimes the boys will complain about getting out on the bikes, and it takes a little persuasion. I wrote about this in Taking a Mental Picture: How to Help Kids Transition to an Outdoor Activity and we’re definitely still struggling with it. Red finds it hard if we make a last minute plan to get outside, which can often happen at the weekend. This weekend I plan to make a list with them of the things I want to do for my special day, and I’ll include a bike ride. Fingers crossed this staves off some of the negotiating. Especially if we follow it up with a picnic!
We all feel the benefit of relaxing in the fresh air and sunshine, and I know the boys will love it once we arrive at the park. I know that any physical activity, but especially outside time, tires the boys out and helps with the bedtime routine. I love to watch the creative games they come up with when we just hang out near some grass and trees for a while! If we have very few other plans, I won’t need to put a time limit on our trip, and we can just see where we end up. Our local park includes the greenbelt where we can ride our bikes or walk, the MK Nature Center with a great pond we love to search for sturgeon, and a huge green expanse dotted with trees where we love to run and play. Add in a playpark and sandbox, and the boys could stay there all day!
4. How does your garden grow?
I’m not big on having flowers in the house – it’s lovely to receive them from time to time, but equally, I’m not sad if I don’t get any for birthdays or other celebrations. I have a friend who told me about their Mother’s Day tradition of buying plants for the garden. This is one I can definitely get behind, not least because we have a new deck extension that’s just calling out for a herb planter and possibly some flowers to brighten things up. This year I’ll suggest to the boys that we plant some herbs and flowers. I love the idea that this will be something to look at and use all summer, and that the boys can be heavily involved in planting, and then harvesting the herbs as we need them. We eat pretty healthily as a family, especially in the spring and summer when we load up on seasonal fruit and vegetables, but the boys are very hesitant to try new things. Especially if I end up planning a dinner last-minute, I often go for the tried and tested favorites, and this can get boring, at least for me. I want to make an effort to get the boys more involved in cooking with me, and picking and adding herbs that they have helped grow should (fingers crossed!) encourage them to try something new. I definitely want basil, parsley, and cilantro, but I’d love to find some lemon verbena to make tea, and maybe some other unusual herbs. If you know of any I should try, let me know in the comments!
5. Connect with all the mothers
It’s not Mother’s Day in the UK, where my mum and mother-in-law live, and so in our family, this is a special day, just for me. But I like to think about and connect with them too, and it’s a great opportunity to remind the kids (especially Smalls) of the family relationships. He still has a hard time understanding that his parents have parents of their own!
I know a couple of moms who lost their spouses this year, and a couple of moms who have lost children in the past. Mother’s Day means something different to everyone, and I’ll be thinking about them and making some contact so they know they are on my mind. It’s common to feel embarrassed and unsure what to say to someone who finds Mother’s Day painful. As a result, it can be easier to put off getting in touch with someone than working through that discomfort and reaching out to them. But even when it’s painful, all Mother’s want to be remembered as such and want to talk about their loved ones. So send a text or email, share something you remember about their child or spouse. Don’t expect them to reply, they are undoubtedly overwhelmed on Mother’s Day, but they will definitely appreciate the memory, and the thought you put into getting in touch.
While getting time away for a spa trip, or even a cup of coffee on your own can be relaxing, what activities do you have planned with your kids this Mother’s Day? How can you use the time to connect with your kids and have fun, mix up the routine and do something new?