If you're childless and single, Mother's Day can push your buttons.
It's a tough day for anyone who wanted to be a mum and, for whatever reason, didn't have children, but there's something about the combination of childlessness and singleness on a day designed to celebrate family that's especially hard.
I know this from experience. I was single into my early 40s and I spent a number of Mother's Days wondering how on earth I'd ended up here, living a life that was so different to the one I'd imagined or planned, longing to be part of a family of my own.
If you've lost your mum too, Mother's Day will be even more challenging. Go gently. Take care of your tender heart.
It would be easy to say just ignore Mother's Day, but I know that's virtually impossible. The cards and flowers will be everywhere and our restaurants, pubs and parks will be filled with family gatherings.
So what's the best survival strategy? Here are a few ideas:
- Honour and feel all of your feelings
If you're grieving, allow yourself to grieve. If you're experiencing loss, allow yourself to feel that loss. I spent so much of my life running away from my feelings - escaping them, avoiding them, binge eating and binge drinking to numb them, over-working to distract myself from them. But the feelings were always there, bubbling away and often coming out sideways, sabotaging my life and relationships.
These days, I believe that the kindest thing we can do for ourselves is to feel all of our feelings, to honour them, to pay attention to them, and to allow them to pass through us and out the other side. If not, they'll get stuck. They'll turn into bitterness and resentment. They'll start running our lives, throwing obstacles in our path.
So how can you feel your feelings this Mother's Day? How can you give your heart some space? How can you be compassionate and gentle with yourself?
- Make alternative plans
When I was single, I sometimes found Sundays challenging if I hadn't made plans. Yes, I'd grown to enjoy my own company but there was something about the stillness and silence of Sundays, and the groups of friends and family units I saw all around me, that made Sundays triggering at times.
Mother's Day is a Sunday on steroids. So take care of your needs. Make plans - either to do something special and nurturing on your own that makes you feel cherished, or to spend the day with people you love and care about, and who love and care about you - people who understand you and can empathise with your feelings. Find somewhere to go where you feel included, where you feel a sense of belonging, rather than feeling like the odd one out.
- Nurture your own inner child
If the absence of children causes you pain this Mother's Day, turn your gaze inward and nurture the little girl or boy inside of you. Give your inner child all the loving and nurturing she or he deserves. Treat yourself as a precious gift - as you would treat a child in your care. Speak to your inner child. Reassure your inner child. Soothe your inner child.
- Find gratitude for the other ways in which you create and mother
I'm always cautious about prescribing gratitude to people who are hurting. That's why the first suggestion in this blog is to feel all of your feelings - the grief, the loss, the anger, whatever it is, rather than brush it under the carpet and put on a happy face. But gratitude is a powerful, transformative tool, a self-caring tool.
So if Mother's Day prompts you to think about the fact you're not a mother, find gratitude for all the other amazing ways in which you create, nurture and mother. And maybe spend part of the day creating something beautiful. I've written a book and I'm writing more. I coach wonderful women. I create and host amazing retreats. I try to make time and space to nurture and mother my inner child. And I have wonderful nephews and a goddaughter in my life. I'm grateful for all of the above.
We can also feel grateful for our mothers, whether they are still with us or have passed away. Even if we were mothered imperfectly, we can think of some of the wonderful traits we inherited from our mothers and give thanks for those traits.
- Get excited about your life
If Mother's Day prompts you to think about the things that you don't have in your life, the things that you really would like, make a decision to do something about it. What would you like to change and how can you make those changes? It might be too late for you to have children but if you're single and want to be in a relationship, what can you do to find love? How can you give your romantic life the time and space it deserves? So often we focus our energies on our careers and forget to save any energy for dating or relationships. How can you explore, address and remove any obstacles to love?
While I don't have children and sometimes feel sad about that, I've found that being in love and being part of a healthy relationship make Mother's Day so much more manageable. I can focus on the family unit I've created and on the sense of belonging I feel. But love didn't just come to me. I had to understand where I was going wrong with my relationships and make a decision to change. You can do that too, if love is one of your goals.
Wishing you a wonderful day, however you spend it.
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