The truth is, I don't really remember my first Mother's Day. To be fair, it was a long time ago (my oldest is almost 18), but I'm guessing the reason I don't remember it is because nothing all that eventful happened... maybe brunch? And whatever did happen, as with most things that happened during that first year of motherhood, I was probably so sleep-deprived and out of my mind with new mom anxiety that I barely even noticed. So if you're trying to figure out how to make your partner's first Mother's Day really special, I'm the first to admit you've got a considerable challenge on your hands.
Because you're not just honoring all the hard work she does as a mom, you're also celebrating the biggest transition she's ever made in her life: non-mom to mom. And she might be too exhausted to even realize that it's an important day (as in, a day she might wish she could remember 18 years later). On the other hand, it could be that she's been looking forward to her first Mother's Day for years and her expectations are fairly high: Jewelry, flowers, breakfast in bed, etc. Because motherhood tends to change one's feelings about almost everything, there's really no way of knowing how a new mom wants to spend Mother's Day without asking her.
"One of the first things we always tell Dad is every mom is different and know what makes her happiest,” Kristen Chase, publisher of Cool Mom Picks, told Real Simple. “She may want a day with the baby or without the baby.”
“Any way to acknowledge the hard first months of motherhood is wonderful,” she added.
Indeed, no matter what kind of expectations she has about her first Mother's Day, she'll most definitely appreciate the gift of a cleaning service (or, if hiring professionals isn't in the budget, you could always enlist the help of another family member or friend and clean the house yourself.) Will a clean house make her first Mother's Day super special? Maybe not on its own, but it will absolutely help. The point is to take away some of her stress so she can focus on herself for a day — and doing this on her very first Mother's Day is the perfect way to start a tradition of self-care that will last for decades of Mother's Days to come.
Which brings me to the one generally foolproof present that has the potential to make her day more special than anything else: The gift of time. “Everyone should spend time alone — at the spa, in the bubble bath,” Jennifer Borget from Cherish 365 told Real Simple. Give her as many hours as you can spare all to herself: Whether she chooses to spend those hours taking a nice long nap or getting a massage or reading a book on a park bench, the point is that she has a window of time to check in with herself and contemplate all the changes this year has brought (or to just pass out face-first in a mound of fluffy pillows, whatever's more important to her).
Because yes, Mother's Day is a holiday that was established mostly to sell greeting cards, but as long as it exists we might as well use it to our advantage. So if there's one thing that new moms need on their very first Mother's Day, it's to learn that treating yourself with the same love and kindness you give to everyone else is an extremely important part of maintaining your own health and well-being as a mom.
"We think of Mother's Day as an opportunity for everyone else – your kids, your spouse, the cashier at your local store – to show you the love, support, and appreciation you deserve," Kate Lynch Bieger, Ph.D., wrote for Psychology Today.
"But it's a call to you as well. While you gobble up those poorly made pancakes, sip that mimosa at brunch, or tape a homemade card to the fridge, remember to show yourself appreciation and love as well. And then keep doing it. The gift of self-care is not a self-indulgent treat you get once a year. It's a necessary part of a happy family and something you can practice every day."
Make her first Mother's Day an opportunity to learn how to make self-care a priority all year round, and you'll be giving her the most special gift of all: A lifetime of knowing how to take care of herself, not just everybody else.