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Mother’s Day is Family Day

Mother's Day is Family DayIt’s May and Mother’s Day is around the corner. However we may feel about the holiday, the greeting card and floral industries make it impossible to ignore. Mothers are supposed to be treated with breakfast in bed, a bouquet of roses, time for bubble bath and pampering, right? But often the day doesn’t live up to the advertisements.

There are many good and not-so-good reasons that the fantasy of the ad campaigns can’t and doesn’t match our realities. Little ones don’t know what to do. Adult kids are so wrapped up in their own lives that a phone call may be all they can manage –- if that. So what can a mom do to be sure she feels good about that second Sunday in May?

I’m for a little rebellion! The idea of Mother’s Day was radical when it was founded in 1908 by Anna Jarvis but it’s more than a little dated. Moms were pretty powerless back then. Men still ruled the roost. Women didn’t even have the vote. A ditty from that period was “Man may work from sun to sun but woman’s work is never done.” No wonder a little appreciation and a day off seemed so important. These days, I don’t think we need to be Queen for a Day to feel special. Most families understand the importance of mothers to their children’s development and the significance of women’s contributions –- both in and out of the family.

So: Let’s redefine the day. Let’s make it “Family Day” –- a day to celebrate our families and the love and sense of home they provide for us. After all, Mother’s Day can’t exist without our children (and their fathers too). Why not honor motherhood by spending the day with the people who made it possible? Ask the family to set aside some time on Sunday to celebrate your family-ness. Tell them you don’t need gifts and cards. The only present you need is their presence for a few hours. Get some input about what they’d enjoy. Delegate whatever you can. Plan some family time you can all look forward to.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Declare a moratorium on electronics for at least a few hours. Plan on going for a walk or hike together, playing a game, doing a craft project or baking cookies. Togetherness happens at times like these.
  • Pull out the picture albums or call up photos on your computer. Find the baby pictures and talk to the kids about the day each was born and how cute they were when they were little. Yes, the baby years are exhausting but they are also a time of innocence and joy. All those firsts — roll over, sit, stand, walk, words — are the stuff of memories. Most families have a cute story or two per kid. Emphasize the positive. A little nostalgia is good for everyone.
  • Do you have a hundred pictures in a box somewhere? Sort through them together and remind each other of what was going on when the picture was taken. Put them in an album or make a family collage by mounting special pictures on a piece of cardboard.
  • Pretend you are a tourist in your neighborhood or town. Is there something you’d be sure to see during your visit? Many of us neglect to go to the local museum, park or historic place because we’ll “get around to it” someday. Make that “someday” happen on Family Day. Make a new memory to share.
  • Make a meal together. Keep it simple. Stick to family favorites. This isn’t the time to try out a gourmet recipe unless that’s always part of your family thing. This is a time to celebrate the familiar. A favorite meal, whatever it may be (even if it’s takeout from a favorite pizza place), is part of what makes a family unique.
  • Make at least part of the evening special. Make popcorn and watch a movie that everyone enjoys. Turn down the lights and tell stories. Make a tent in the living room and camp out. Younger kids will love anything that’s unusual and special. Ask older kids and teens to indulge you for an evening. Often enough they enjoy it too, once they get into it.
  • If the kids can’t be with you, you can still be with them. Don’t wait for a phone call if not getting one will break your heart. Call, text, Skype, email –- whatever. Post a picture of them when they were little on your Facebook timeline. You could even send them a card! There are too many ways to communicate these days not to be in touch. Tell each of the kids what makes him or her special to you.

Mother’s Day founder Anna Jarvis was eventually appalled at the commercialism that erupted around her holiday. Later in life, she advocated removing Mother’s Day from the yearly calendar altogether. I think she’d approve of renaming and reframing the day to a time dedicated to family togetherness and love.

Mother’s Day is Family Day

Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D.

Marie Hartwell-WalkerDr. Marie Hartwell-Walker is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. She writes regularly for Psych Central as well as Psych Central's Ask the Therapist feature. She is author of the insightful parenting e-book, Tending the Family Heart.

Check out her book, Unlocking the Secrets of Self-Esteem.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, M. (2018). Mother’s Day is Family Day. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 8, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.