Courtesy of Samantha Shanley

My First Mother’s Day As A Single Mom

When I was little, Mother’s Day was the most carefully scripted Sunday of the year. My grandma would come to stay with us for the weekend, and we'd lay out an elaborate brunch on the family table, an eclectic array of plates and platters circling a floral centerpiece. In front of my mother, we placed a stack of gifts: painted flower pots, inked handprints on construction paper, a new pair of gardening gloves, maybe a mimosa. She would gasp in delight at whatever handmade trinket we presented her with every year. It was the one day of the year when we got to honor her for the hard work she did, and it was the one day of the year when she would take what we had to offer without hesitation, without trying to make sure everything was just right.

I look back on those Mother's Day Sunday brunches fondly. Now, 11 years into my own parenting journey, I am about to celebrate my first official Mother’s Day as a single, newly divorced mother, so the importance of the day is even more poignant this year. That's why I plan to commemorate my new single mom status by celebrating Mother's Day alone.

Courtesy of Samantha Shanley

Before we separated, it was my ex-husband’s job to ensure that I was feted appropriately on Mother's Day. That usually involved ferrying our three children off to a white-tablecloth brunch, where they would fidget and spill their juice and make me wonder if, perhaps, we would have done better to stay at home. I loved a good Sunday brunch, but my kids did not behave miraculously well during those meals, so I was not off the hook for parenting, even for an hour or two.

To really feel like I'm being celebrated this Mother's Day, I'm going to spend the holiday alone.

Now that my ex isn't going to be around to organize my Mother's Day celebration, I've started to reconsider my Mother's Day plans. And the truth is that when I think about it now, I would prefer not to be at a restaurant, doing all of the worrying, the shuttling the kids to the restroom for the third time, the wondering if we’re embarrassing anyone at the table next to us. That kind of fretting is a natural part of my own obsessive, neurotic mothering style, and it's the sort of thing I could use a break from for a day (and probably more than that).

Furthermore, as far as I’m concerned, although I love my children and think it’s important to introduce them to adult things like appropriate restaurant behavior, I’ll enjoy a nice meal out more without them. So to really feel like I'm being celebrated this Mother's Day, I'm going to spend the holiday alone.

Courtesy of Samantha Shanley

This year, without my ex-husband leading the charge to celebrate me, I won't be taking myself to brunch with my kids like we always did. Instead, I asked my kids what they wanted to do. Because of a scheduling conflict this Mother's Day weekend, I won't even have my kids for my first actual Mother's Day as a single mom. So I arranged with them to celebrate one week early instead.

When they realized that our pre-Mother's Day morning had come, my kids scuttled around the house, shushing each other and closing the door to their bedroom so they could execute their secret plan. Then they filed into my room carrying props: a bucket, bath salts, pedicure tools, a relaxation eye bag.

"Sit," they instructed me, and so I did.

From my new perspective as a single mom, Mother’s Day is a celebration of mothers' invisible work.

They placed the bucket at my feet and filled it, cup by cup, with hot water from the bathroom down the hall. They set out an array of bath salts and asked me to choose which one they'd like me to use. After I had soaked my feet, they asked me to pick from a sampling of lotions. They didn't want to touch my actual feet, but my daughter gave me a fantastic calf massage while her brothers looked on, giggling.

Then they instructed me to lie down for snuggle time, and a nap, complete with a lavender-scented eye pillow. It was heaven, and perhaps one of my more memorable Mother's Day celebrations.

Courtesy of Samantha Shanley

From my new perspective as a single mom, Mother’s Day is a celebration of mothers' invisible work. It’s a day for mothers to actually take a break from all the fixing and rearranging, the scheduling and coordinating, and all the incessant worrying about our own performance. It’s about letting others take charge of the details, of making things right and well.

I'm happy that I talked to my kids about the significance of Mother's Day and asked them to take control of planning how to celebrate me. Come the actual Mother's Day? I'll have the day off — which is just how I want it this year.