When Mother’s Day Crashes & Burns. {And a Movie}

mother's day w text

Mother’s Day 2013. Also known as The Day Mom Snapped.

I’m really not the sort of person who has high expectations over Hallmark holidays. I don’t expect diamond heart pendants or fancy gifts or gourmet meals. Valentine’s Day, for example, has become more about our family than about a romantic evening with just the husband and me. We buy chocolates for the kids and a heart-shaped pizza from Papa John’s and all watch a movie together. I’d rather go out for a grown-up date on a night when every restaurant in town doesn’t have a line out the door.

But Mother’s Day is different. It sort of morphed into something important for me over the years. Back when I was a working mom, I got paid for my work. Institutions compensated me with actual money. And then I took “early retirement” at the age of 33, had another baby, and decided to professionalize motherhood by homeschooling my kids for the next five years. The institution known as my home did not compensate me with actual money and though I doubted my qualifications and sanity each and every day, I was still working full-time as an educator. My identity therefore seemed legit.

And then I took early retirement for a second time, this time at the ripe old age of 38. I kissed my babies goodbye in the morning and sent them off to public school. For a year I rested and recovered. I was still a wife and a mom and writing here on the blog, but for the first time in forever, I was a woman without a professional label.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re a mom and it’s the “most important job in the world.”

You’re raising up the next generation.

You’re keeping tiny humans alive.

True. True. And true.  

I also realize that idolizing my own identity is all sorts of wrong. But I did it anyway. Performance is woven into my DNA and guess what? No one is going door to door handing out awards and paychecks for being a mom.

And all of this means I may have put just a tad too much expectation on Mother’s Day 2013.

The day started out just fine. Coffee and breakfast in bed. Going to church with my family. We also made plans to go out to dinner with my grandparents, parents, and sister’s family. I always enjoy time with extended family, especially when food is involved. But this particular restaurant {that none of us had ever been to} was not exactly conducive to a quiet Mother’s Day brunch with culinary and aesthetic appeal. Because our party was so large, they stuck us in a back room with frightful paneling, long tables with folding chairs, and electricity that kept going out. For real.

Also? It was a buffet.

Buffets are fine and good. They can even be fancy. I don’t always have ill will toward the buffet. But I’m a mom and that means I fix several meals for my family of five each and every day. I stand in the kitchen until my back hurts. So when it’s a special occasion, I prefer that the food be delivered to me. How do I say this diplomatically? I prefer to be served instead of serving myself with community serving utensils. {I’m aware of how bratty that sounds. Raise your hand if you want to nominate me for sainthood.}

As we headed home, I just knew that there would be more celebration coming later in the day. Cake or going out for ice-cream and a gift or three. But as the evening wore on, I sensed that breakfast and church and the crazy buffet place was all that was going to happen.

And this Mama lost it.

There I was, standing in the kitchen crying the ugly cry and asking my bewildered husband,

Is this really what you think of me? All that I’ve given up and nobody pays me anymore and I suck at being at mom and feel like I’ve lost my identity this past year and a half…and what you think of me is the equivalent of coffee and toast and fried food on a buffet line eaten in a room with PANELING?!?

{If you didn’t cast your sainthood nomination ballot, there’s still time.}

I don’t remember what he said and I don’t remember any more of what I blubbered on about either. What I do know now is that this husband of mine was neck-deep in planning a surprise 40th birthday party for me just a week and a half after Mother’s Day. He had secretly gotten me the best gift ever and collaborated with my friends on everything from food to how the surprise was going to go down to all of our friends getting in on the big gift.

After the party he told me that the plans almost became un-secret in that ugly moment when I roasted him over the coals for a Mother’s Day that was less than I’d hoped. Let’s be honest, he’s really the one who deserves the sainthood nomination. I can’t believe he even remembered Mother’s Day in the midst of the many details of the upcoming party.

I don’t know how you plan to celebrate Mother’s Day this year or how you hope to be celebrated. But I do have a tiny suggestion. Well, three tiny suggestions.

1. Be honest about your expectations. My husband had no idea that a “perfect” Mother’s Day for me is a picnic of yummy food from the grocery store deli enjoyed at the local botanical garden. Gifts can be simple: cards and cake and maybe time by myself to read or watch a movie in bed. My expectations were simpler than he realized but he can’t read my mind. Just like I can’t read his.

2. Don’t be a brat about the whole thing.

3. Go see Mom’s Night Out, the movie.

You weren’t expecting that last one were you? I’m sneaky like that. Mom’s Night Out opened in theaters yesterday but I was lucky enough to attend a special screening {with my sister} a few months ago. We experienced our own Mom’s Night Out hilarity and may have stuffed Wendy’s cheeseburgers in our purses to eat during the previews. Things don’t always go as planned when you’re a mom. You can freak or you can find the funny. Sisters are good at keeping it funny.

MNO movie

This film is hilarious and heart-warming and just delightful, one of those movies that’s relatable and familiar but with crazy far-fetched chase scenes that make movies fun — like moms hanging out the windows of speeding cars and Patricia Heaton getting tazered at the local police station. Yep, she’s in it — as well as Sarah Drew, Sean Astin, and Trace Atkins.

So grab a girlfriend or even your whole family and treat yourself to this movie on Mother’s Day weekend. You’ll be encouraged. And you’ll also laugh a lot. That’s a winning combination. Throw in a box of Junior Mints and it’s a Mother’s Day Treat Trifecta.

But before you go on with your Saturday plans, watch this video. Grab a Kleenex because you’ll tear up a little at the beginning. And then you’ll laugh so don’t watch while you’re drinking your coffee.

And now, a Mother’s Day Blessing: May you enjoy a day with those you love. May you not have to fix anyone’s lunch or clean up their dishes. And may the food be brought to you.


  1. Mom says

    You have outdone yourself! I didn’t know I could still cry and laugh hysterically at the same time at my age. Thank you. Thank you. Thank. You. Love you forever!!!

    PS. And that buffet last year? It was pretty horrible.

    • Marian says

      Thanks Mom. Also, if I remember correctly–the fried okra was good. And who doesn’t love a dessert sitting atop a styrofoam plate and smushed tightly with saran wrap? : )

  2. Brittany says

    Thank you so much for this post. A baby born in another country away from all our family, a car accident that led to collar bone surgery in another country, trying to get back to teaching {but not really loving it or being very good at it with 2 kids}, deciding to move back to America, losing 5 little babies before I really even had the chance to be excited about my connection with them, and feeling like my 2 kids had to feel all my raw emotions on a daily basis through all my crazy…I had my Mother’s Day melt-down about 45 minutes ago. It’s been a rough, rough year, and I basically felt exactly how you described. Like all I’ve done hasn’t been appreciated or worth it. I think I was looking for my pay check without even realizing it, yuck! Thank you so much for the reminders {and for the encouragement to talk to the Hubs}. Great conversation and I think Mother’s Day can potentially be salvaged :) You’re truly an inspiration! I seriously can’t get enough of how honest you are about real life and the way you experience it. It=genuine, something you don’t hear from people enough.

    • Marian says

      Brittany, join the ranks of mothers everywhere who have or will have a meltdown this weekend. : ) Know that your presence and love and meeting the basic needs of your kiddos is enough. I think we overcomplicate motherhood. And even if no one else seems to notice or appreciate the sacrifice and service of your days, God sees. What you do matters. It really does. I hope tomorrow is a wonderful day and that you don’t have to fix your own food. : )

  3. Emily says

    Oh, that buffet! Today, we went out to a real restaurant, and Tabi crawled all over me a lot of the time, but someone else definitely cooked and brought me the food. Also, a nap and then a book in the hammock while the kids got muddy in the sprinkler (Matt cleaned them up, too). So now, I almost feel guilty for how lazy I was. No end to the mommy guilt, I guess :) Thanks for the great post and Happy Mother’s Day!

    • Marian says

      That sounds so wonderful! I’m so glad. I’m glad for last year’s crazy dinner–totally worth it for the hilarious story. {Now that we can laugh about it.} : )

  4. says

    Oh, how I can relate to this. My dirty little secret is that the best Mother’s Day gift is a day ALONE. Yesterday my dear man took the kids golfing and I napped. Amen and Amen.

    • Marian says

      Jeannie, that dirty little secret is mine too. I don’t even make it a secret anymore! Yesterday we went to church, then out to lunch. And then? I went to a local lake with a beach. Alone. With my fold-out chair, sun-hat, and novel. Best gift in the world! And amen to your nap. : ) So glad for that.

    • Marian says

      Kari, I love you. This is SO showing up in my next Treat Yourself blog post. I’m dying. Thank you for that. : )


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