Mother’s Day is a day of celebration, but there’s a ritual element as well. Most follow a similar pattern: breakfast in bed, cards store-bought or handmade, flowers, chocolates and dinner out. If you’re a mom, you probably smile and say “Thank you” even during moments that aren’t to your liking. It’s not about me, you tell yourself. Don’t complain. They mean well.
Millions do, but it comes at a cost. In May 2016, Fortune reported estimates from the National Retail Federation on what Americans planned to spend on Mom: on average $172.22. That’s a total of $21.4 billion. The top five expenditures were greeting cards, flowers, personal services (spa, facial, massage), special outings (a meal or activity) and jewelry.
If moms nationwide could be honest without hurting anyone’s feelings, many would say, “Don’t waste your money” — because it’s rarely stuff that Mom wants.
I reached out to real-life area moms of all ages and stages for a reality check. In an email with the subject line “What do YOU really want for Mother’s Day?” I asked two dozen women from their 20s through their 70s for their thoughts. Although I tried to nail them down with phone calls, those who responded did so via emails sent late at night or early in the morning — the only free time they had.
The short answer to what moms really want is time: more time with family, more time for themselves. Nearly every answer below reflects that wish. From new mothers to grandmothers, here are eight opinions from area women.
Emily learned she was pregnant at the same time as she started a new career as a dental assistant. Her daughter was born in August 2016 so, as Emily writes, this is “my first Mother’s Day as a mom. At this point, I’m confident my baby loves me — she’s seen me at my absolute worst and still gives me the best smiles. I don’t need a day to be worshiped. Mother’s Day this year to me celebrates my joining of the sisterhood that motherhood is.”
Like many working moms, Cathy prioritizes work/life balance as she and her husband raise their 3-year old son. That means juggling three jobs: adjunct professor at Cayuga Community College, social media manager for entertainment industry clients in Los Angeles and managing director of Auburn Media Regional Access television. Cathy’s email reflected her wish for the simplest of things: peace and quiet and a moment to catch her breath.
“For Mother’s Day I would like nothing. I would like to be able to enjoy nothingness without guilt or anxiety. No dishes, no toys to be picked up, no food to make, no laundry, no work, no deadlines, and no obligations. Just a moment to do nothing. In that moment of nothingness the whirlwind of motherhood can rest and so can my mind. Also a HOT cup of coffee!”
A former project engineer with Lockheed Martin, Terri is the mother of two young men, but for 15 years she thought her younger son was her daughter. She shares that story in a book co-written with her husband, Allies and Angels: A memoir of our family’s transition. For Terri, who recently moved back to Syracuse, family is what matters. “For Mother’s Day I would love nothing more than to spend the afternoon with both of my sons (and their significant others), my grandson and my husband. I don’t want to cook, clean, or prepare for the visit; I just want to show up and enjoy our time together. I don’t need a fancy meal, or chocolate or flowers or jewelry. Pizza, or other takeout, is fine with me.”
A humorist, educator and mother of three daughters, Lisa is a lifelong resident of Syracuse. For Mother’s Day, she’s not asking for much—just one of the following: “A willingly given back and/or foot rub; someone to do one week of grocery shopping; have others cook for a day; receive a letter or poem or story or artwork that somehow reflects how the giver feels about our relationship/life/history together.”
Another lifelong resident of Central New York, Carole landed in Syracuse in her late teens and never left. She’s the mother of seven, grandmother of nine, a writer, photographer and activist who now makes her home on the Near West Side.
Carole says, “I always wanted, and still do want, time with my kids. When they were younger we would go on hikes, go to the Everson, go on picnics if warm enough. As they got older, sometimes we would do projects around my house and have a meal together. Time was always what I wanted, more than cheesy Hallmark cards or knickknacks.”
Fran grew up in Marcellus and now lives in Rochester, but still returns for Mother’s Day with her own mother, who resides in Skaneateles. Fran is a medical editor who telecommutes from home, enabling her to work and parent her 11-year-old daughter.
She writes, “I want to preface by saying I am not someone who is usually big on formalities. (My husband and I don’t even exchange cards for our anniversary or Valentine’s Day.) However, I am very particular about Mother’s Day (and to a lesser extent my birthday), and I expect my family to dote on me. My perfect Mother’s Day consists of a nice homemade breakfast, cards and presents from my husband and daughter, not having to do any chores, and getting to spend time with my mom. I appreciate her more than ever now that I’m a mom, and I don’t want to take for granted time we have together on earth.”
A teacher and writer in Rochester, Monica has become something of an expert on moms, motherhood and Mother’s Day. She is co-director of Listen to Your Mother Rochester, an organization that gives local women across the country the opportunity to share tales of motherhood through live stage performances in their respective communities. For the past five years Monica has heard hundreds of women audition with their stories, and it’s shaped her own Mother’s Day wishes into a unique and intensely personal vision:
“I want someone to say to me that I’m beautiful no matter what my hair looks like or how tight my pants are. I want someone to hand me a plane ticket to San Francisco to see a friend I haven’t seen since before I had kids. I want someone to rent me a room in a motel under a pseudonym that sounds like a rock star’s name so that I can read a book in peace, and without anyone calling for me to make them a snack. I want a night’s sleep to last for more than four uninterrupted hours. I want a massage that lasts for two uninterrupted hours. I want a manicure. I want someone to hug me and tell me that selflessness is really worth it, that the people you love appreciate that my body literally aches . . . for them (I know this will likely not happen). I want someone to walk into my classroom on a busy day with flowers. I want to feel beautiful for the first time in six years. I want to road trip with my mom, Joni Mitchell, Patti Smith, and some good friends who love to cuss, drink bourbon, and wake up late to just-made coffee. I want someone to tell me to stop beating myself up. I want to stop living with mother guilt.”
Yes, I’m including myself. Becoming a mother has been the greatest accomplishment of my life, but it carries burdens of worry, fear, concern and focus that no woman can lay aside once she becomes responsible for a child.
For Mother’s Day, I want to have one experience—however brief—that strips away every sense of responsibility, maturity and caution, and returns me to a pure, absolute and childish state of wordless joy. As an adult, I’ve felt this a handful of times: under a canopy of fireworks at Disney World that turned the nighttime sky white, at the foot of Niagara Falls bombarded by water spray and air currents so fierce they muffled my shouts and knocked me off my feet, and in the Pacific Northwest in a temperate rain forest where trees 200 feet tall dwarfed me. I want to feel awe and wonder, surprise and delight; I want to giggle and smile until my face aches. I want to unearth the child buried deep in my mother-self, and carry just enough of her back to the surface so that I never forget what it’s like to feel young.
This is what I want for Mother’s Day, and for every other day of the year as well.