Who doesn't enjoy getting breakfast in bed, along with homemade gifts and sticky kisses? Mother's Day should be every mom's favorite day of the year, right?
In fact, Mother's Day can be a big letdown for moms. Just Google “Mother's Day disappointment” and see. Husbands who say, “You're not my mother” are partly to blame. (Just buy your wife a present, dude!) But grandmothers can be part of the trouble, too.
In some families, it's taken for granted that grandmothers are included in Mother's Day celebrations. In other families, that's a novel idea. A mom who expects to have the celebration all to herself may be upset if she is married to someone with a different view. That goes double if there's any friction between the generations, which happens even in the most loving families.
Full disclosure time: I'm a grandmother. Still, I believe that the main focus of Mother's Day should be those valiant women who are in the trenches, dealing daily with crises ranging from diaper rash to broken curfews. They do a lot without much positive reinforcement, and they should definitely get what they want at least one day out of the year.
What Mothers Really Want
What most young moms really want on Mother's Day is what they have the least of — time off. Sure, they want to be with their children, at least for part of the day. But they'd also love to be able to sleep in or take a nap. They'd like time to read a book in peace or to get in a good workout. And they'd like a nice quiet dinner out with their main squeeze.
If Mother's Day becomes Grandmother's Day, it's unlikely that any of these will happen. Most young moms have a mother and a mother-in-law. With today's blended families, stepmothers may be in the picture, too. And some young moms are lucky enough to still have their own grandmothers. That can add up to a whole lot of grandmothers to honor, and moms themselves could end up feeling left out.
Can mothers have their day and still give grandmothers their due? I think there are ways.
Plan to Celebrate Grandparents Day
I'm a big fan of Grandparents Day, which is a real holiday but which has never really caught on. Families who celebrate Grandparents Day each year may find that grandparents care less about being feted on Mother's Day and Father's Day.
Grandparents Day falls on the first Sunday after Labor Day, which is a good time for a family get-together. September weather is usually prime, and the grandkids can share their back-to-school stories. Grandparents Day was not intended to be a gift-giving holiday but instead was conceived as a day for grandparents and grandchildren to celebrate each other. We like to have a backyard cookout or just go to the park.
Try a Mother's Day Weekend
I see young people posting about their birthday week, which strikes this old person as too much of a good thing. But I do like the idea of Mother's Day weekend. If we stretch out the holiday for the whole weekend, we might be able to fit everyone in. Why should we wait until Sunday to celebrate? If there's an extended family lunch or brunch on Saturday, mom can have her Sunday celebration all to herself. A Saturday pedicure or spa treatment for moms and grandmoms sounds like a blast. I also love the idea of finding a quaint spot for Saturday afternoon tea and inviting the girls in the family -- mothers, grandmothers and granddaughters. Crumpets for all!
This plan also works in reverse, with the young family having their special time on Saturday and spending time on Sunday with the grandmothers. Many grandmothers would be delighted to have their family with them for worship services.
I'm lucky enough to live near most of my grands, but some grandmothers aren't so fortunate. When grandmothers don't live nearby, sharing a Mother's Day celebration may not be possible, but they should at least get a phone call. A Skype or FaceTime visit is even better. Also, many members of my generation still enjoy getting cards in the mail, especially cards made by their grandchildren.
Of course, gift-giving is still a part of some families' Mother's Day traditions.
Gifts for Grandmothers on Mother's Day
Most grandparents have reached a point in their lives where they don't need more things. I know I have. Still, there are a few for whom gifts are an important “love language.” Grandmothers who value gifts are likely to be happy with something simple, because it really is the thought that counts.
My favorite kind of gift is a family photograph. It doesn't have to be a formal portrait – a framed candid shot is fine. Flowers are another sweet gift, or you can send a live plant if Grandma has a green thumb instead of a black one like mine. Other suitable gift options include a ticket to a local event or a contribution to a favorite charity.
Advice for Grandmothers
It's time for some straight talk for grandmothers. If you're a grandmother and you're not remembered on Mother's Day, you're likely to be a little sad, even if you try not to be or say that you're not. Here's an idea: If you live near your family, offer to babysit so that the young couple can go out for a cozy meal. You'll get to be with your grandchildren, which is the best antidote I know for being blue.
If you're a long-distance grandmother, be proactive. Send greeting cards or small gifts to the moms in your family. You'll probably get that phone call that you're hoping for. If you don't, pick up the phone and wish them a happy Mother's Day. Keep the conversation upbeat and don't stay on the phone too long. Then find a friend and go to the movies.
A Holiday for All Generations
Mother's Day and Father's Day are truly inter-generational holidays. When we celebrate mothers and fathers, we're celebrating children, too, because it takes a child to create a mother or a father. And when we celebrate parents, we're also celebrating the grandparents who gave them life.
Of course Mother's Day is also Grandmother's Day — emphatically so. But we grandmothers should be wise enough to let the young moms have center stage. If they can fit us in, fine. If they can't, we'll survive.
Let the young moms enjoy their pancakes in bed. We've been there before. We know they'll be cleaning up syrup later.
This article was written by Susan Adcox, a writer specializing in generational issues. She is the author of Stories From My Grandparent: An Heirloom Journal for Your Grandchild.