Navigating Mothers’ Day as an adoptive family

Mothers’ Day is so loaded with expectations. Flowers, chocolates, meals out, cards, well-behaved children letting Mum have a rest… Hmm. That’s not our reality, nor that of many adoptive families.

Some adoptive families don’t include a mum. For some, the concept of ‘mum’ is loaded with memories of trauma. Some miss birth mums or foster mums, or both. Some don’t remember them and wish they did. Some families are grieving a mum. Society at large seems to be getting better at acknowledging these different circumstances, but some people are taking a little while to catch up. How we handle it – for ourselves and our children – needs to take others’ expectations into account and meet them with a little dose of realism about what we as adoptive families can manage, which may look a bit different for each of us.

Last year I tried to ignore it entirely. This year I have a different strategy.

School and Mothers’ Day

Primary schools and nurseries seem to love Mothers’ Day: making cards, maybe a craft or two. Some even have events to which mums are invited (which can create all sorts of issues for working mums and families without a mum). This hasn’t been too much of a problem for us so far, but for some children thinking about mums is not something they really want to be doing at school: there are too many issues there and it hurts.

Confession: I have always forgotten to talk to school about Mothers’ Day in order to pre-empt any problems. I just don’t really register it in time. Perhaps I should start, but what do you say? ‘Are you going to be getting the children to make me a card?’ Sounds a bit forward. ‘Are you doing anything about Mothers’ Day?’ still sounds as though I’m angling for them to do it. And it’s not that I don’t want them doing it. It’s that I don’t want a huge amount of discussion about it, that’s all. I think I might just email the SENCo about it and save the awkward conversations.

Mothers' Day is so loaded with expectations. Flowers, chocolates, meals out, cards, well-behaved children letting Mum have a rest... Hmm. That's not our reality, nor that of many adoptive families. Click To Tweet

My expectations

My expectations are pretty well reined in and pared down after five years. I don’t expect my family to take me out for lunch. Our girls often don’t handle meals out very well. There might possibly be flowers or chocolates, but as they struggle with any day that’s not about them, I’ll choose peace over presents every time.

What’s more likely is a handmade card or two, probably from school, and something they’ve made, such as a Lego model, or a broken toy they don’t want any more.

The cards are generally great and I treasure them. I love the thought behind the things they make, too. I struggle with their inability to think about anyone else for a few hours – whether that’s Mothers’ day, birthdays, or just someone being ill and needing some space and peace. They just can’t do it. However much I know it’s the fault of poorly-wired brains, there’s still that voice in my head that says they’re being selfish.

Social media on Mothers’ Day

navigating-mothers-day-as-an-adoptive-familyI am not usually an advocate for avoiding social media. I love connecting with others online and think that, used well, it is a great resource for making friends, sharing information, finding support and other Good Things.

But on Mothers’ Day… I may not be online quite so much.

They say comparison is the thief of joy. This is certainly true for me on Mothers’ Day. All the stuff you hear about social media being a place where people only show the best of their lives rings true on that day – the photos of angelic children with flowers, and cards and crafts that clearly took hours (not five minutes on the day when they remembered), mums generally being fussed over and told how wonderful they are? I need to not see that or I will be inclined to start comparing all that with the ‘I hate you, you’re a rubbish mum’ stuff I’m likely to be hearing here.

So. I have made a plan.

My plan for this year

This year Pete is out of the country with work on Mothers’ Day, and there is little chance of much initiative from the children, so I’m taking matters into my own hands. I’ll buy myself some flowers. I’ve booked five hours of childcare. And I’m taking my mum out for lunch. Focusing on celebrating her (she really is brilliant) is (a) no less than she deserves and (b) the perfect way to stop thinking about the children and me. The girls won’t be remotely bothered about not being with me for a few hours, so it’s a win-win all round.

Free self-care guide

A Mothers’ Day checklist

  • Talk to school about whether they will be doing any related activities and how you’d like them to handle that with your child.
  • Discuss expectations – your and theirs – with your family.
  • Brace for the worst possible behaviour.
  • Plan something nice to celebrate your accomplishments/endurance, whether that’s with your children or not.

What are you planning for Mothers’ Day? Is it a celebration or an endurance event for you? Let me know in the comments.



  1. Kathryn
    24 March 2018 / 9:53 am

    This article really summed up things well. It could apply to your own birthday just as well. Last year was a gift of something she didn’t want anymore!

    • 24 March 2018 / 7:56 pm

      Oh yes, I get those ‘gifts’ too. *sigh*

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