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Feeling Marginalized and Not in the Mood on Mother’s Day?

Many feel excluded from the celebrations on Mother's Day.

Key points

  • Mother's Day is tough for those who have suffered loss or feel excluded from traditional family structures.
  • On a day dedicated to motherhood, many will grieve over what they don’t have or never got to experience.
  • Be gentle with yourself and get through Mother's Day in whatever way feels most meaningful to you.

Mother’s Day may only come once a year, but the heart-speckled cards, chocolates, and advertisements for flowers and gifts start occupying grocery store shelves and social media channels weeks in advance. It can be tough to handle when those picture-perfect adverts of motherhood fill Facebook, Instagram, or anywhere else you scroll show up. They can pack a gut punch for those who feel excluded or marginalized or don't feel that they fit into traditional family structures.

  • Loss: For those who have lost their mothers, Mother's Day is often a painful reminder of their absence, triggering feelings of grief and longing.
  • Estrangement: Some may have complicated or strained relationships with their mothers. Whether it’s because of a recent argument or a long history of trauma and neglect, it’s common to feel sadness, anger, or guilt around Mother’s Day.
  • Infertility: For individuals struggling with infertility, Mother's Day can be a painful reminder of unfulfilled dreams, leading to feelings of sadness, failure, and isolation.
  • Exclusion: Those who don’t feel that they fit into traditional family structures, such as LGBTQIA+ parents, single parents, or individuals who have chosen not to have children, may feel sidelined, as Mother's Day often reinforces conventional ideas about motherhood and family, causing feelings of rejection and loneliness.
  • Grief: Those who have experienced tragic loss, such as due to miscarriage, stillbirth, or the death of a child, may find Mother's Day especially difficult, with many experiencing a culmination of all of the most difficult emotions—sadness, loneliness, anger, guilt, and more—as they mourn their immeasurable losses.

While many will buy flowers and cards for mothers and attend family brunches honoring motherhood, many will also spend Mother’s Day in grief and envy. Many will spend the day mourning the absence of a loved and longed-for child. On a day dedicated to motherhood and maternal bonds, many will spend the day grieving over what they don't have or never got to experience.

Coping with Mother's Day can be challenging, but several strategies can help:

  • Feel your feelings. Mother’s Day can bring up a swirl of complex and difficult “big” feelings, from sadness to gratitude, plus everything in between. It's OK to acknowledge and sit with those emotions, whether it's sadness, anger, or even a fleeting moment of joy.
  • Practice self-care. Take care of yourself in all the ways you would take care of someone else. Treat yourself with kindness and care in the ways you wish and deserve to be honored on Mother’s Day. Buy yourself a dozen roses. Make a fabulous brunch and invite friends. Get a massage or manicure (or both!).
  • Create new traditions. Redefine Mother’s Day as a day of self-love and self-gratitude. In addition to pampering yourself and doing something you enjoy, make a list of your personal achievements and qualities or jot down the things you're grateful for in your life.
  • Honor your loss. If Mother’s Day stirs up memories of loss, consider honoring their memory in a way that feels meaningful to you. Create a memory box of old photos, ultrasound or embryo pictures, and other mementos. Or participate in a ritual that celebrates and honors their memory, like lighting a candle, making a donation, or planting a tree.
  • Find support. Reach out to friends and family who bring comfort, a therapist or clergy member who helps you feel less isolated, or a support group who validates your feelings and allows you to feel less alone.
  • Set boundaries. If you are feeling triggered by all the ads, images, and people celebrating Mother’s Day, you’re allowed to protect yourself and your mental health. You can take a break from social media and decline invitations without guilt. Your well-being comes first, even if it means stepping back from expectations or disappointing others.
  • Celebrate your nurturing qualities. There is no rule that says that Mother’s Day is just about biological motherhood, or even motherhood at all. You can celebrate everything that comprises your caregiving nature. Celebrate everything you do, like caring for pets, supporting your nieces and nephews, volunteering, or simply being there for friends, family, and their children.
  • Distract yourself. Plan ahead if you know that Mother's Day will be difficult for you. Consider scheduling a weekend away, picking a movie to see alone or with a friend, immersing yourself in a good book, or simply enjoying a day of quiet reflection. Give yourself permission to focus on activities that bring you comfort and peace.

Negotiating feelings of gratitude and respect for those you love on Mother's Day with feelings of sadness and longing for what you lost or desperately desire is no easy task. Be gentle with yourself and give yourself permission to get through the day in whatever way feels most meaningful to you.

To find a therapist, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.

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