Celebrating Mother's Day when Divorced; Once their Mother always their Mother

10 May 2015

Mom and daughter huggingI work with many couples that support each other’s parenting style and strive very hard to ensure that their divorce does not negatively impact their ability to co-parent. These people will go out of their way to ensure that both Mother’s and Father’s Day is a sacred day for thanking each other and ensuring the children, in turn, do the same. Celebrating Mother's Day when divorced still has its challenges, but for these couples, it is pretty easy and also a non-negotiable.

However, for many couples, it may not be easy to honour an ex on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. When working with divorcing couples, I will often hear complaints about how one party does not respect or agree with the other party’s parenting technique(s). 

Regardless of their opinions about their ex, the children are the number one priority. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day is not just a day to thank a current or past spouse for their contributions in raising the children. These days demonstrate to the children that their mother or father is valued and respected. The children feeling this goes a lot further and deeper than would be anticipated.

Children are one half of each spouse and all actions on this day say more to the children than anyone would expect. The parents are subconsciously telling the children that they are not important when negative actions are displayed. Children feel they are not valued and that they do not meet the expectations of the parents.

Holidays are difficult to figure out when you aren't married to the mother or father of your children. Whether you like or dislike an ex– you did choose her to bear your children with them and the message that you send your children is an important one – you need to honour Mother's Day when divorced.

Mother's Day when Divorced

For divorcees with children from your ex:

  • Send her flowers – just do it
  • Remind your children to get her a card and do something special (even if you do not think that she is a good mother)
  • Ensure that she has the day with them (if they are too young to drive, go above and beyond to schedule that day between your children and your ex)
  • Never bad-mouth her, on this day or any other day.
  • Highlight what she did/does well, especially in front of your children.

For divorcees where there is a stepmom to your children:

  • Buy her flowers – a step mother’s job is not an easy one
  • Encourage your children, do not force them, to recognize this day as they see fit
  • Remind your children this is your new kind of family but that does not negate from any other kind of family
  • Remind your new wife that while Mother’s Day is all about her, with stepchildren it is not. She will have to understand that. You may want to be a bit extra special to her as it can hurt her feelings.
  • Being a stepmom is hard work. She is putting in a huge effort and it can be a thankless job. Do not forget these children are not hers
  • Ensure she knows how much you appreciate the efforts – even if little “Sally” does not really like her

For divorcees who are the stepparent:

  • Buy her flowers – seeing a theme?
  • Remind her that you love her children. While they are not yours biologically, they became your family when you married their mom
  • Encourage her children to do something special and if they forget organize it with them

We can never change what happens  to us but we can change how we perceive, process and act about it. It can be a learning obstacle and a blessing if you learn to change the way you look at it. Remember the only power there really is – is the power of perception.