The Reality of a Single Mom’s Mother’s Day

single mom and child figurine on Mothers DaySunday is Mother’s Day, the day where Mom gets breakfast in bed, celebrates Mass with a picture-perfect family, is given flowers, cards, and macaroni necklaces, and then sent to the spa for a massage or mani-pedi before being treated to dinner. You know the deal. Mother’s Day is the stuff Hallmark thrives on!

Mother’s Day is the one day all year mom gets off. It’s the one day kids don’t squabble, and if they do, dad steps in to quiet them down. Dishes are magically put away. Even messes are made with mom in mind; remnants of glue, glitter, and scrap paper may litter the dining room table, but Mom doesn’t raise her voice or lift a finger to get it cleared up.  Somehow, this one day a year, things get done.

Not every Married woman’s Mother’s Day is like this. I know many most of mine were not, but even my disappointing, less-than-perfect Mother’s Days as a married woman were better than most Mother’s Days as a single mom. It’s not that kids don’t try. They do, but they are still kids and somewhat clueless. They lack the understanding of the significance of the day or what goes into being a good mother. They lack a good man to show them the way. As one single mom put it,

Mother’s Day is coming up, and that is a hard one for me. I miss having someone to recognize and celebrate my motherhood. My kids are still kind of young, so there is a limit to what they can do to make the day special. I feel selfish for feeling this way, but it hasn’t gotten better in the past 5 years.

Another single mom remembered her disappointing Married Mom Mother’s Days and said,

My Mother’s Day is usually all about my mother and what she wants to do. This was true even before I was a single mom, but at least my then Hubs would make sure I got a gift. Since the separation and then divorce it seems like any other day, but I am super resentful ?

Admittedly, Mother’s Day will always be difficult for me now no matter what my children do to try to celebrate. May 10th 1996 was the day I found out I was losing our first child to an ectopic pregnancy, and May 10th 2009 was actually Mother’s Day, and the day my husband announced out of the blue he was leaving me pregnant with our fifth little boy. Mother’s Day is often hard for me.

Yes, Mothers Day, especially when the boys were young, can be a difficult holiday for many reasons, but it is not just difficult for me. Many holidays are difficult for single moms. Another single mom said,

I spent my birthday and Christmas in my room crying. For Easter I had a dozen activities planned for the kids so I was distracted. It worked well. That’s my plan for Mother’s Day.

For many single moms, Mother’s Day is just another day planning activities for the kids, cleaning up messes, cooking meals, and doing everything for everyone. While it may be just another day stuck in the hamster wheel, Mother’s Day is touted as a day FOR mom. That adds significant weight to a single mom’s special day. She experiences Mother’s Day as another day her ex gets to relax, golf, and have fun while she is left cooking, cleaning up after, chauffeuring, and disciplining children. Here’s what single mom said about Mother’s Day,

I have a bunch of single mom friends and some of them have siblings or parents who help make their Mother’s Day special or some have older kids who take it upon themselves and one even has an ex who plans something, but the majority it seems do not. It seems they are still doing for others in that day as well. They do for their mother and grandmother and they seem to get acknowledged, but otherwise nothing is different. I know for me personally, it’s a very hard day. It’s the one day a year that I feel like a child and want to throw a tantrum because it’s not fair. I don’t of course, but I wish I had one day a year that I could do what I want without having to take children or prepare for them or cater to other people or throw a party at my house.

Mother’s Day is a day where a single mom’s imagination runs wild as she pictures white picket fence families. She envisions husbands acting as they were created to act as role models and guides, protectors and providers of little ones. She longs for a husband to show her children the need to appreciate mom, to teach them how to show love and affection, and to help them learn how to treat their own wives, the mothers of their own children, when the time comes.

Technically, a single mom knows most family don’t live this perfect ideal, but the fact that her family will never live this ideal, strikes home. The fact that she alone will do all the work for the next several years, seems to implode on Mother’s Day. Single moms know a day at a spa or an hour spent on a mani-pedi means taking time she doesn’t have and money better spent on new baseball cleats. A single mom friend said this comparing married Mother’s Days to single mom Mother’s Days.

It’s a day so many moms get to go to the spa or have breakfast in bed or do something fun and relaxing. For single moms, I sometimes in my very uncharitable moments (and) think it’s another day I have to watch my kids play on their iPods. I’ve learned to not get my hopes up.

Deeply feeling the need to teach her children not to do this to their wives while also understanding she can’t say too much leaves the single mom feeling powerless, depressed, and silenced on a day others demand she feel happy. This adds to the isolation the single mom already experiences. She feels even more deeply like something may be wrong with her for feeling this way and she is reluctant to talk about it knowing many will not understand or will judge her poorly. Two moms I heard from said this in conversation to each other about this idea,

I’m so glad I’m not the only one. I feel immature and foolish for feeling this way, but I just can’t turn off that response. It helps not to be alone.

I feel the same way. It’s the one day a year I feel like a complete child, but I have a really hard time turning it off too.

There is much that goes on in the heart of a single mom on Mother’s Day. Many single moms feel even more alone on holidays as people call out cheerily assuming the she should also enjoy this day. They do not seem to realize that for many single moms, not only are they not treated as a queen, they also must wait on others in addition to their own children.

Mother’s Day for the single mom often means preparing a Happy Mother’s Day for her own mother too. That means the single mom cooks, cleans, and buys or makes gifts for more people than she usually does. While she loves and appreciates her mom and cannot imagine surviving without her mom’s help, the single mom cannot escape the touch of disbelief that comes from going virtually unrecognized. Here’s what one single mom said,

We live with my parents. Mother’s Day is 100% about my mother. I rarely struggle with envy, but this is a case where I do. I bend over backwards to make sure she has gifts from my father, my sister with autism, and my kids and me. I bake (which I love so I shouldn’t complain) and cook. And now this year she’s going away…for a long weekend, so I won’t be doing any of that, and I’m kind of at a loss. Now I’m not spending the day being a mother or a daughter. And my H will be celebrating his “wife” and it makes me angry and sad.

I know this woman. I know the beauty of her heart, how well she cares for her children, and how grateful she is for her mother and family. I know how much she loves the Lord and trusts in His plans. She is not one to whine or complain, but this one day of the year, the burden of motherhood is extra hard.

Her words, “I won’t be doing any of that, and I’m kind of at a loss. Now I’m not spending the day being a mother or a daughter. And my H will be celebrating his “wife” and it makes me angry and sad,” sum up the cross of many single moms.

Whoever you are, Married or single, male or female, please reach out and do something special for single moms you know and their children on this day. Be a role model, give mom a break, and at the very least tell her she is appreciated.

You may be the only one who does so.

God Bless…

Men, I’d like to do a similar post for Father’s Day. Men write and speak with me less often, but your voice is valuable. If you’d like to share confidentially and without judgment, please let contact me at Thanks so much. You are also prayed for.

If you would like help celebrating the woman you are created to be, whether you are single or Married, I’d love to help you do that! Want to know what makes you special? Want to discover how and why to celebrate you for once? My coaching can help you discover yourself, find your passion, and learn unique ways to celebrate.  

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