As I sat watching women shop for gifts at a spring art show near my home, I decided to use my social statistics skills from college to take a little unofficial poll, the results of which have inspired some important things to consider while preparing for Mother’s Day this year.
I briefly surveyed one hundred women, ages 20 to 65, and simply asked them a seemingly uncomplicated question: “How do you feel about Mother’s Day?” Remarkably, 72% of the women polled expressed negative feelings about this annual event. (Read LDS Living's Facebook discussion on this very topic.)
Their reasons for disliking Mother’s Day varied, but the facial expressions these women used when describing their feelings were surprisingly similar. I observed plenty of grumpy grimaces with furrowed brows, and forced smiles with rolled-back eyes, as almost three-quarters of the women I surveyed expressed unenthusiastic feelings about observing the upcoming holiday.
“It’s a hard day for me, quite frankly,” one woman shared, “because I have to do all of the work. I cook, I entertain, and I try to celebrate my own mother and mother-in-law, but I usually end up feeling exhausted on the very day that I should be given a break.” Ironically, several other women said they typically dread Mother’s Day because it’s a sad reminder that their own mothers are no longer around to dote upon.
Sheri Robison from Salt Lake candidly acknowledged, “When I was single, Mother’s Day reminded me of all the things I wanted, but didn’t have. People tried to lump me into a group where I didn’t feel like I belonged, and it always made me feel uncomfortable.”
“Uncomfortable” was a word I heard repeatedly while conducting this survey. In fact, more than half of the women I interviewed expressed apprehension about standing to receive the traditional Mother’s Day potted begonia or long stemmed rose at church. And nearly all of these women mentioned feeling more discouraged than inspired after hearing fantastic stories and poems from the pulpit about mothers who “never spoke a cross word” or who “never missed a baseball game.”
“No mom thinks they have it all figured out, or that they’re doing it well,” said Shauna Hoj, a Holladay mother of four. My own mother fit squarely into this category while I was growing up. I remember sitting next to her in church, passing along a steady stream of tissues as she quietly wept through all of those “I had a glorious and perfect mother” talks. At that particular time in her life, my mom was a single parent and her family was certainly not what she had ever envisioned it to be.
Undoubtedly, it is a rare woman who thinks her life has actually become what she had once anticipated, or that she is actually doing “enough” for her family day to day. All too many women mistakenly believe that their efforts must be grand to be great, and that small means insignificant.
I have wrestled with similar feelings myself while mothering my own seven children. But, over the years, my family has helped me to realize that it hasn’t been the big things I’ve said or done, it has generally been the little things that have made the largest difference in their lives--those outwardly insignificant things we moms so often taken for granted. Like helping our loved ones begin a brand new day with warm, fluffy pancakes in the early morning hours, or providing clean, soft pillows for them to sleep on at night. I call these small efforts “mother’s mites,” and I believe they are the very things every self-sacrificing caregiver should be honored for offering this season.
So, this Mother’s Day, consider using these simple ideas to help show the women you revere just how important they are:
1. Plan Ahead. Instead of going shopping the day (or the night) before Mother’s Day, think of ways to show some much-appreciated attention in advance. Make a list of needed supplies. Assign tasks to various family members. And make it a stress-free, memorable day for everyone involved.
2. Be Aware. Take some time to reflect upon the many ways your wife, mother, grandmother, or nurturer shows her love for you and your family. Write your thoughts down. Try to become more aware of the little things she does that make a large difference in your life.
3. Get Specific. Tell her what you’ve noticed. Detail the things you’ve seen her do and say that you appreciate. Instead of writing generalities on a Mother’s Day card, make your comments specific and personal. She’ll love hearing about the meaningful memories and moments you’ve observed.
4. Give Her a Break. If there’s one thing women truly appreciate, it’s a helping hand. Better yet, it’s ten helping hands! So let the women you love take the day off. Plan, purchase, and prepare the Mother’s Day meals. And, most importantly, CLEAN UP the mess afterward.
Making this Mother’s Day a genuine “holiday” for the nurturing women in your life is easy when you simply focus on little, thoughtful gestures. After all, it’s usually the smallest efforts that matter most.
Visit MothersMite.com for more ways to celebrate and affirm those who mother.
(DeAnne Flynn is the author of The Mother’s Mite: Why Even Our Smallest Efforts Matter and The Time-Starved Family: Helping Overloaded Families Focus on What Matters Most from Deseret Book. She is also a “Time Out for Women” presenter and the mother of seven.)
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