Mother's Day is a worthy time for celebration, yet it also creates need for your own self-care given your relationship to the concept of motherhood.
Most individuals in the adoption community (and beyond) encounter mixed emotions when it comes to celebrating family-oriented holidays. Mother's Day is certainly no exception. Mother's Day encompasses our birth mothers, adoptive mothers, our journeys toward motherhood and potentially our non-traditional family roles, our family's loss and other related challenges. Fortunately, with increased awareness, intention and support, there is room to acknowledge the challenges and celebrate the joys. Below are some curated resources and ideas for observing Mother's Day intended to help guide you in whatever way you may need as you and your family approaches this holiday.
Honoring Birth Mothers & Their Relationship to the Child
First, it is necessary to consider the child’s willingness to participate in activities to love and acknowledge their birth mothers in a developmentally appropriate way. This may include stage telling/re-telling their adoption story while intentionally emphasizing that the child/children were loved and considered important, above all else, in the creation of their family. It also may include acknowledging any pain of the child's losses and previous memories and/or traditions as it relates to celebrating mother figures in their lives. Subsequent family activities may include:
If possible, asking the birth mother how she would like to be recognized and honoring her desires.
Selecting and planting a flower in honor of the birth mother
Sending a homemade card and a collection of the child's artwork or recent photos with a letter
Scheduling a phone or video call to connect with the birth mother
Talking to your child's teachers about how to best honor the holiday during activities in the classroom based upon your unique family dynamic
Reading a book together with your child about adoption and discussing their unique family history.
Allowing the child to make a list of all of the wonderful ways their life has been altered by their adoption
For older children and adult adoptees, writing a letter to their birth mother may provide a therapeutic way to honor her as well as their own feelings. Even if it is never shared, the letter may serve as a form of therapy.
Self-care for All on Mother's Day
Although the day is culturally selected to celebrate the joy of motherhood, it is important to hold space for all emotions (even the hard ones!) on this day. For many, feelings of sadness, regret and disappointment arise when they are asked to focus upon their mother's or their desires to become a parent.
For those grieving a loss of their mother, allow yourself the space to celebrate in whatever capacity feels possible. Maria Shriver has many suggestions based upon her own experiences of celebrating her mother at various life stages as well as her changing need for support.
For those feeling a mix of hope and/or desperation in their journey to become mothers, you deserve to be recognized for your desires, efforts and losses. Parents.org, Dr. Madeline Feingold (reproductive psychologist) and Carolinas Fertility Institute listed a few practices you may find helpful in the days leading up to the holiday.
For the mothers who birthed their child, but no longer hold them in their arms after trusting others to raise them through adoption or foster care, all your (likely mixed-up) emotions are valid.
For the mothers who may have lost a child, know that you are still a mother and worthy of celebration. Still Mothers, an online resource for all mothers who have lost a child, consistently publish ideas and resources for honoring your survival story. They wrote a beautiful tribute several years ago that still rings true for many bereaved mothers today.
For the LGBTQ fathers who serve as the mothers to their child, this holiday centered on celebrating female-identifying individuals may feel somewhat confusing. Or perhaps it feels comfortable to celebrate the day honoring the other women in your and your child's lives. No matter what you choose is right for your family, we hope that you can celebrate proudly with the support of your community.
For those with a difficult relationship to their mother (past/present), self-care may look like holding boundaries and your sense of identity outside of that foundational relationship. Perhaps you are in need of nurturing your inner child or letting go of the "shoulds" that surround traditional celebrations. There are so many valid ways for you to honor your own values independent of your circumstances and reclaim your future.
For those mothers walking alongside their children through difficult journeys, there is no shame in acknowledging that being a mother is hard. Even when your child may not have the ability to understand or express their appreciation, your daily sacrifices do not go unnoticed.
For all those included or not included by the descriptors above, self-care is also important for processing any form of grief.
Self-care for Mothers
Many of us have likely seen the memes or heard the jokes about the improbability of self-care amidst the many responsibilities of motherhood. Add that to the stressors of COVID and an inability to participate in any self-care practices outside of our homes and many parents are feeling depleted. Although it is not often easy to find time and/or energy to hold space for yourself, we want you to know you are deserving of care.
It is not just about taking care of yourself so you can show up for others in your life. Rather it is healthy to instill these practices to honor your own worthiness.
No matter your relationship to Mother's Day and the corresponding emotions that are attached to the holiday, we hope you feel seen and supported. Although there are many other factors not highlighted here that may influence one's experience, we hope at least one of these resources can serve as a starting point for how to honor the mothers in your life and yourself this season.
Over the next few months, we will begin offering community-led support groups designed around meeting the needs of all members in our circles. Email email@example.com if you are interested in learning more and joining in with other individuals touched by adoption to provide further encouragement and resources.