How to survive Mother's Day when you are still longing for a baby

Mother’s Day is here again. If you are struggling with infertility or stuck in the long wait as a hopeful adoptive parent, you are probably wondering how you will survive Mother’s Day. There are tons of complicated emotions and expectations to face when you are the place of longing for a child. Based on conversations among members of our online community, we think that planning now for how to handle difficult days like Mother’s Day can be empowering.

12 Tips for Surviving Mother’s Day

1.  Give yourself ten days of extra care.

Once you’ve finished reading this, make a plan for how to focus on extra self-care for the next few days. Indulge in a little extra sleep tomorrow morning. Take that class at the gym that you just never seem to find time to take. Read that novel you’ve been itching to read. Think about what it is that feeds your soul and fill your calendar for the next ten days with those things.

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2.  Take it easy on the alcohol.

Overdoing the mimosas during brunch when all three generations of women in your family have gathered might cause you to feel even more down in the dumps. It might also make you too unfiltered under challenging moments with friends or family. You want to protect yourself from saying things you’ll regret later. Plus, who needs a hang-over on an already tricky weekend?

3.  Identify past stressors.

Think about past holidays – not just previous Mother’s Day events – to understand what the significant stressors were for you. Bring your partner or spouse into your process so that you can create a management plan – or even an exit strategy – together. Choosing to be proactive and identifying those trends with a concrete action will give you a sense of control over your reactions, rather than feeling as if you are subject to them.

woman reading a book and holding cup of tea

4.  Be ready for repeat offenders.

Once you identify those past stressors related to family gatherings or specifically the Mother’s Day celebrations, have a code word or signal ready. That way, either of you can reach your limit and communicate to each other discreetly that you’ve had enough for the moment. You can also come up with some fun, snarky responses to the questions that Aunt Ethel always asks about your fertility life.

5.  Use “I” statements.

Talk with your parents or in-laws about how the day (or weekend) feels for you. Acknowledge the difficulty of the expectations and the emotions that Mother’s Day evokes. Assure them that how you feel about the day it isn’t their fault and they didn’t make you feel this way. Use “I” statements to express your thoughts and feelings: “I find it hard to sit through church when the whole sermon is about the blessings of motherhood.”

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6.  Set limits in advance.

You might even consider a limit to the time you spend this weekend with your family or friends who have children if it is too stressful or painful. There’s nothing wrong with deciding together that you will only attend the big family luncheon for 2 hours. At that point, you can have a united response when it’s time to excuse yourselves.

7.  Opt out?

Could you consider skipping the day altogether? Go camping together or with friends. Treat yourself to a quick trip for the weekend. Go out to dinner with friends who are also struggling with the whole “Mother’s Day” experience.

8.  Give to others.

Ask around for organizations that need volunteers that day. Homeless shelters still need meals served. Nursing homes are full of women who might not have a family to join them on this day. Find ways to brighten someone else’s day. If your work needs people to staff the weekend, sign up and enjoy the overtime or the flex-time later!

9.  Something to look forward to.

Plan one activity over the Mother’s Day weekend to which you can really look forward. Think of a fun indulgence that you don’t ordinarily enjoy. Maybe a guilt-free shopping trip or visit to a spa. Make a list of this year’s Oscar winners and plan a weekend-long movie marathon. Make a reservation at that swanky new bistro you’ve been wanting to try.

10.  Plan a date with Mom.

If the larger family gathering is just beyond you this year, call your mom or mother-in-law and make a date. Sometimes these gatherings include family members who may not be understanding of, or sensitive to, your pain. Or this year, all those cute grandbabies make your heart weep a little more than usual. Give yourselves a separate meaningful time so that you can fully honor her in a way that supports you both.

11.  Accountability works.

If you know you react badly under stress, decide in advance how you want to behave. (Again, try to avoid excessive alcohol.) Talk through your behavior plan with your partner or spouse. Tell your parents in advance that it is hard for you, but you have committed to controlling your tongue or behavior. Consider asking “your person” to help you navigate the hard emotions of the day. The accountability of putting it out there is often all the reigning in you will need.

12.  What brings you inner joy? Do that.

Woman at the sea side

Be sure to incorporate into your plans for this Mother’s Day something particularly meaningful. Again, think about what brings joy or peace to your spirit. Think about what you can do to honor yourself and your journey. For example, you could start your own tradition of planting flowers in your garden each Mother’s Day weekend. Frame an empowering quote that reminds you of who you are.

These tips take planning and forethought. The very act of planning how to care well for yourself is yet another way that you are caring for yourself in this journey. Intentionality in that plan can be one more way that you keep your emotions and expectations in check.

Don’t let infertility or the long wait for a child of your own rob you of the joy that is already present in your life, even if Mother’s Day is the hardest day on the calendar for you.  (Remember, the guy in your life probably has his own sense of dread or disappointment to face, so feel free to pull these tips back out in June to prepare for Father’s Day!)

This post was adapted for Mother’s Day from 10 Tips for Surviving the Holidays.

What kind of plan will you make for yourself, starting today? Share your ideas or experiences in the comments – who knows, it might help another woman who is struggling.

Image Credit: John Beans; Best Picko