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This Mother’s Day? Take a Single Mom to Brunch

An essay I submitted to HuffPo divorce for Mother’s Day (no idea if it will run, if it does, I’ll post the link.) 

I was a single mom for most of my son’s childhood, and I have to confess to you as hokey and shameful as this is — every Mother’s Day I coveted one of those orchid wrist corsages like you get at prom. I wanted to be Matriarch for a Day, surrounded by my well-dressed family at an ostentatious, over-priced Sunday brunch. But what I really wanted most of all was what most mothers want on Mother’s Day — recognition for a job well done.

Single mothers don’t get much of that. Putting aside how vilified single mothers can be in the culture, when your kids are young, they tend to be short on perspective. You’re only as good as your last mac n’ cheese dinner. If it weren’t for the prompting of teachers crafting Mother’s Day cards, the day would go by unnoticed for many of us.

My son would make me a card at school each year and I treasured and kept every single one. Every gift — the button and pipecleaner bracelet, the photograph of a horse (I like horses, he always remembers), the mosaic trivet he made in art class. He’s a super kid. But for most of his life there was no man around honoring his mom on Mother’s  Day. I divorced his dad when he was four (and we never celebrated the holiday much when we were together, he neither honored his mother or myself.)

But kind of like Valentine’s Day can remind single people how single they are, Mother’s Day has a way of making single moms feel quite alone. It’s often seen as a celebration of the traditional nuclear family. Of the legacy that comes from being partnered, of having a spouse say, wow, I’m so happy we made these kids together.

When I was a child, Mother’s Day was always spent with four generations of women — my great-grandmother, grandmother, mother, and aunt, at an after-church luncheon at the Village Women’s Club outside Detroit. The men would be in suits, my grandfather would hold court (he loved nothing more than to be surrounded by his family suffering the discomforts of formal dress attire). From my child’s perspective it was interminable. Adults having cocktails. Children staving off their hunger with dry breadsticks. Fidgeting. Reprimands. At last dining. And then, if you were lucky, breaking free to run across the daffodil gardens outside, where it was still early spring.

Conveyed to me was this was a day of importance. It was an occasion to honor your mother, that had the gravitas of formality, of obligation and ritual.

Fast forward 25 years to being a single mother in my mid-30s. I would’ve settled for a flipped pancake and a hug.

Single mothers work so damn hard, they deserve all the honor we can give them. I know single dads work hard too, (my brother was a single dad with two autistic kids for years — he’s heroic) — but today I’m talking to the single moms out there — you rock. I admire you immensely.

I blog about infidelity, and every day women write to me who were cheated on while pregnant, whose husbands walked out them with infants, small children, walked out on their teenage kids and never called again, stay at home moms who find themselves trying to find work again with less than baseline child support and big gap in their resumes. Heart breaking stories. And yet, they get up every day and do the hard work of raising kids on their own.  Either entirely by themselves, or carrying the majority of the parenting weight. (And before the father’s rights people comment — they don’t do this by choice — but because men still exist who abandon their families.)

They are mighty — and they deserve more than a bouquet of flowers and a nice breakfast — they deserve our respect. If you know a single mom, take a moment to tell her how much you admire the hard work she’s doing. Babysit her kids for an hour or two. Cook a dinner. Fete her with brunch. Sit with her children help them make her card. Do not let this day go unnoticed. This is a day of importance.

It’s over a decade since I was that single mom with a preschooler. I’ve been remarried for going on three years. I don’t have children with my husband — we have a blended family of three young men. The first Mother’s Day we were together, my husband put on a pressed shirt (he hates all things dry-clean), he made my son put on a pressed shirt, and my step-son put on a pressed shirt — and three handsome men took me out to brunch. It was an occasion.

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  • In the interest of Mother’s Day, folks, I’m taking the weekend off. Be back on Monday. Thanks — and have a wonderful weekend! Especially you single moms out there!

  • Thank for this, CL. I’ve always done the majority of the parenting and I still do. The ex rarely made a big deal out of Mother’s Day for me…although he did sometimes call his mother and every so often would take her to dinner or something for the day.

    My kids last year made me one of the worst meals I’ve ever had. It was my first after dday and I ate every single bite, no matter how awful. 3 courses of horror and there was love from them in every bite. This year I’ve decided to take them to a nice meal. Why? Because I want to honour them on Mother’s Day for being such supportive kids while I work my ass off to the career I set aside quite a long time ago back together. The great dinners every night are now a couple of times a week and the rest of the time we wing it. I work all the time, don’t have the time to do the things I used to do and you now what? I think we’re closer than ever. This year Mother’s Day is for my kids.

    • 3 courses of horror! I laughed out loud! And so sweet that you ate it and loved every bite. If, someday, my kids cook for me this way, I hope to do the same.

  • CL – Hope you have a great weekend!

    Since I am in the pre-schooler stage, I’m happy to keep mother’s day casual. Going out to eat with my two toddlers is not fun! My crayon & sticker-decorated mother’s day card (which I received a few days early) is just what I need.

    For what it’s worth….I’m not missing my husband’s presence on this day. Maybe I will miss him (or a husband-figure) in the future, but I don’t miss it this year. Why? Because I am flooded with bad memories of last year’s mother’s day. He was in the height of his affair at that time, and gave me the most insipid mother’s day card ever, barely took the time to sign it, and then sashayed out to boink his AP while I did the heavy lifting of the weekend’s child care and chores. I was officially married, but actually a single mom when you get down to the brass tax of it. More than being exhausted, I was so lonely. His presence in my life was draining, and his gaslighting was crazy-making. I care not to ever be in that emotional place again.

    For that reason, I am *glad* to be single mom this mother’s day. And thankful. Although we aren’t divorced yet, the physical separation has made me feel like a single mom and it is *so* much better than living with him.

    • Here’s a shout-out to all the single moms and soon-to-be-single moms reading this. And yes, I know that we have single dads reading this blog, too. Your day is coming!

      I understand and respect that some women wish to be single mothers, that they want to conceive and bear a child without having a partner with whom to share raising the child. But I think that readers of this blog started the parenthood gig expecting to raise their children with the love and help of their spouses. It’s been clear in reading this blog that one of the really huge awful things about infidelity is that it’s a betrayal of the entire family, including the children. That leaves the faithful spouse with a huge shit sandwich: suffer with the cheater in hopes that the family can heal or walk away from the cheater in hopes that the family can heal.

      Of course, the first fuels the Reconciliation Industrial Complex. It also contributes to unicorn sightings. The second is like lancing the boil: hurts like hell, pus explodes all over the place, but once the wound’s been cleaned, the real healing can begin.

      So many of the single moms here are working on cleaning up after the mess of infidelity. And single dads, I know that you’re doing the same.

      Here’s to you, on Mother’s Day. Your kids may not always celebrate it the way it should be celebrated, but they’ll always remember you as being there for them.

      Hats off to all of you!

        • The sheer economics of having an affair should be reckoned with. In the case I know, the cheating husband spent quite a bit on his secret partner. That’s like robbing your kids and your spouse. Well, no, actually it IS robbing your kids and your spouse (on top of not having the guts to be transparent about what you are doing). In any case, there’s an economic crime here called stealing. I’m not saying folks can’t change, but when they do it in secret and spend a family’s money on another person, it’s pretty darned bad. Awful, in fact.

          And that doesn’t count the labor. In the case I know, hubby did very little parenting. I think his whole insistence on seeing the children post-divorce has more to do with his control issues and his trying to look good to the community than it does with any real paternal instinct.

          Anyway, the economic issues is important.

  • My husband was disdainful of “hallmark holidays.” Oh, there was the half dead bouquet from the A&P and maybe a burger at the diner. Sometimes I got a new toaster. (because the super cheap one he had gotten me two years earlier had already passed on).

    Where is that bitch who was writing about what a woman NEEDS to do to hang onto her man and keep him happy? Doesn’t the husband need to do anything to keep his wife happy? guess not. And not only that, but then goes on to actually decimate her through his cruelty. Oh… dear… but THAT is the purpose of this blog, now, isn’t it? The playing field is grotesquely uneven. so be it.

    CL, please have a beautiful weekend with your sons and husband who clearly understands the important things in life and then carries them out. And not only that, is by example, showing your sons how a truly good man is supposed to act. That’s a gift.

  • My Mom died just about 10 yrs ago. This was the 1st year I could pass the card section without wanting to cry. Even though she was married for all the years we were children I can not ever remember my father celebrating M-Day. We children always did, presents flowers etc.. But here is a better one: my sister has 2 children. Her husband did not buy her a card or gift on M Day because “she was not his Mother” They are divorced now.

    • That’s precisely what my ex did. I wasn’t his mom, so it wasn’t up to him to make sure the kids didn’t forget. Of course the kids were more on top of things than he was, even at an early age (I thank their wonderful, thoughtful teachers for giving them great projects and the idea that moms deserve recognition)
      Of course I was the one remembering his mom for mother’s day, getting cards or flowers and making sure they were sent out on time, because he’d rather forget about it until the last minute, then give her a call when I prodded him to do so.

  • Thank you for this post, CL. Being a single mother is hard. Losing a twenty year marriage because the ex is a diagnosed NPD monster is hard. Not getting any of the ordered child support is hard. Scratching out a bare-bones living after being out of the workforce for ten years is hard. There is little rest or recognition in my life, and although I am glad to be out of the abusive farce of a marriage, I have to say that the day-to-day logistics of my life are much harder now.

    • Glad, You are an amazing woman, like many others here, for standing by your kids when your ex cheated on and abandoned them and you. Please make sure that you are giving yourself the props that you deserve for staying by them and doing the right thing, even if others aren’t. My ex also started cheating and then completely abandoned me and my 3 young kids (incl financially), last year when I became disabled. (He’s like a John Edwards, but without any of the success :/ Not easy being a single, disabled mother of 3 young kids, but we do the best we can, right?

      Just think, despite all the tough times, one day you will be able to look at your happy, grown kids and be proud that you, not your POS lying, cheating, deadbeat-dad ex, is responsible for their success — and they will love you and thank you for it forever.

      Congratulations on being a great mom (you did the hardest part, you showed up)! Happy Mother’s Day 🙂

  • This is my first after Dday and separated Mother’s day. In stead of moping around, I will pick up my kids and surprise my own mother with a visit. My mom, also separated from a cheater – something I finally truly understand now. My mom, who always said: I know you love me every day of the year, of course you should go to your inlaws and celebrate Mother’s day with them. My mom, who stood by me the last six months of adultery and separation hell (where was MIL?!).

    I also wrote her a card, with the hartfelt wish that my children will one day feel for me what I feel for her… I know they think their daddy is a hero and don’t understand why I decided he should move, they don’t have to understand or give me credit, I love them and that’s all that counts. This year I will celebrate my mom, for now I know what a wonderful woman she is!

  • As a single mom to two pre-schoolers, thank you for this post CL, – it, and some of the following posts, have brought me to tears. While I would like for this Sunday to be an occasion I think the only way I will get through it this year is to think of it as pretty much a regular day where I get to spoil myself a bit.

    I think the hardest part is that I literally cannot expect anything from my kids because they are really too young. I still have to do almost everything for them. And there won’t be anyone else around to take any of the load off. So, I’m just gonna order us in some dinner so that at least that’s one less thing I need to do. And maybe go to the park in the afternoon or something. Low key sounds good to me this year. I could try to get together with my parents or my brother’s family, but I’ll be seeing them a lot in the coming weeks and no one is banging down my door so it’s fine.

    I guess my “occasion” was at preschool today where we had a Mother’s Day tea and the kids had decorated flower pots for us as our gift and filled them with “dirt cake” which was very delicious (vanilla pudding with crushed oreos on top… can’t go wrong there!) The whole thing was very cute and the teachers did a great job. It might be the best celebration even the mom’s of intact families get!

    And hopefully someday someone will force himself and my boys into some pressed shirts for me!

  • To all the moms out there who have raised little boys, Melba Montgomery’s 1974 hit, “No Charge”:

  • Reminds me of our father’s day celerations growing up, spent at the “Junior Sons of Hercules Club”.
    Happy Mother’s Day.

  • I am in tears. I remember 30 years of a blended family. All the wonderful Mother’s Days my h and our blended children made “special” for me. All gone, never to be again. All I have left are the memories. My daughter will drive to another town, in another state to make her grandmother (my mother) feel special on this Mother’s Day. I will spend it here with a very ill h, whom I can hardly stand to be in the same room. I will care for him, feel sorry for myself, but I will have a clear conscience, he won’t, and my daughter is doing duty she should not have to do. Hope her children and grand children can spend some precious time together.

    • Wait…..WHAT? I haven’t been on this blog long. What happened to the AP? .

      I have a friend who went through something similar, and it’s my worst nightmare. The boomerang ex. Without a big pot of gold waiting to be inherited, I doubt the new woman has what it takes for the long haul.

      My friend took the high road with regard to it all and I don’t know how she did it, but I’m sure she doesn’t regret it.

      When I imagine myself in that spot I try to get myself in a more positive frame of mind for dealing with it by reading the lyrics to “Men With Broken Hearts” (Hank Williams Sr.) What was done to me wasn’t really about me, but what his MOTHER did to him. I just get to be the scapegoat for him and his sisters to dump their shit on so they can “heal” I didn’t ask for that, but I did marry the guy knowing he hated his parents, so those are the cards I was dealt when on my own, I took a place at the table. Guess we’ll see how it all plays out.

  • shout out too for wonderful stepmoms – which ain’t an easy trip either! My crappy Ex married a woman after we divorced (she wasn’t OW) and I made sure my kids had card and flowers in hand for the Mothers Days she was in the picture. They loved her and she was wonderful to them. The A-hole Ex treated her like crap too so she wasn’t their stepmom too long, unfortunately.

    Wish my current husband’s Exwife had been half as gracious to me considering I raised her kids – set up their college funds, made the dentist appointments, sat through countless sports games in the rain, bought their underwer, hugged them in good and bad times, picked out prom tuxes, ironed graduation gowns, made birthday cakes, and never ever said a bad word to them about their mother ..all the things you do for your kids and all the things you do for step kids because you love their father and because they need to know they’re loved by all the adults in their life – she would never so much as even acknowledge me when I answered the phone on the once a month calls they got from her.

  • Happy Mother’s Day to each and every one of you good and true moms. I’m thinking about you today and hoping all the best for you and your children. XOXO

    • HearthBuilder, thank you. My daughter and granddaughter stopped by with a very cleaver card. On the front is a darling little girl asking all the ageless questions of children, “Why”, “When,” “How,” Why…Why…Why. On the inside, it says, “Happy Mother’s Day, for the one who always had all the answers.” And written by hand, “And still does.”
      Made my Mother’s Day incredibly special. I will survive. This afternoon I will plant flowers. It is a good day. H gained two pounds, getting better. Maybe it won’t be too long before I can leave. It is a much better day than I thought it was going to be a few days ago.

  • Happy Mother’s Day!

    If you got the kids out of a bad marriage, you did the right thing. A narc father can really do some damage, particularly to teens. So Single Mothers Day Heroes are real Heroes in my book!

  • It’s over a month after mothers day now, but i happened to stumble upon this post and for some reason I now can’t stop crying. I’ve been a single mom since the day my daughter was born. It took her dad over 5 years to decide he did want to be part of her life after all and now he thinks he is an infinitely better parent than I am and wants shared care. And mothers day just depesses me. I never felt sorry for myself because of my single parent role. It’s rewarding and fun and worth all the hard work. But just once a year I would love for someone to look after me. Even just for a couple of hours.

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