How do I do something nice for Mother's Day when I normally try to avoid my mother?
April 30, 2011 10:26 AM   Subscribe

What do I do for Mother's Day given that (1) she has brought me quite a bit of stress over the past few years and (2) her own mother passed away a few months ago?

My mother is a primary source of stress/tension in my life. She gave up a lot of her life to raise me and my three siblings, and she thinks that justifies constant involvement in and control over our lives. While I appreciate the sacrifices she's made, these actions are seeming less relevant to our current relationship compared to the stress she now inflicts. Most of the time, I find myself doing things to keep the peace so that I don't ruin things for everyone else in the family. This is generally easy to do because I live 1500 miles away, am married, and have a satisfying personal life such that interaction with my mom can be pretty limited.

My maternal grandma passed away earlier this year, and grandma had been living with my mom (my family, really) for the past 26 years or so. I expect this will be an especially difficult Mother's Day for my mom. And I know that the pain she will be feeling this year trumps my own discomfort in dealing with my mom. (While I dislike my mother, I still care and wish her the best as long as she's not dishing out the worst.)

For holidays, my siblings and I all chip into a savings account for my parents to use for traveling in retirement. Under the circumstances, I feel like we should do more for Mother's Day, so I asked my siblings for ideas. My brother, who is feeling the same stress I am, shot back a sympathetically snarky reply. My sister said mom would most appreciate a heartfelt card. The past few years I have sent Mother's Day cards that basically say, "Thank you for everything you've done for me." I could write this again as a way to comfort my mom, but I feel like it's getting old and I'm meaning it less and less.

(1) Should I suck it up again and just write something nice that I'm not necessarily feeling?
(2) Is there something else I could do that would be a nice gesture without requiring me to say something I don't really mean?
posted by Terriniski to Human Relations (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Perhaps you could do something to honour your grandmother's memory? If you have a good photograph of her, or, even better, a photograph of her and your mother, you could have it blown up to a decent size and pop it in a nice frame.

That would show your mother that you're thinking of her and your grandma, but avoid you having to say anything you didn't feel comfortable saying.
posted by Georgina at 10:40 AM on April 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

"For holidays, my siblings and I all chip into a savings account for my parents to use for traveling in retirement."
Oh dear. while this idea is nice, this could come back to bite you in the ass. What if they want to visit YOU for a week or three? Yikes!
But that's not what you asked about. At the age your mother probably is, she doesn't need any more stuff. A gorgeous arrangement of flowers with the usual on-a-stick-card is all you need. Hell, it's all I would do.
"My brother, who is feeling the same stress I am, shot back a sympathetically snarky reply."
I like him already.
posted by BostonTerrier at 10:42 AM on April 30, 2011

Best answer: Coming from someone who has a similarly difficult relationship with her mother, I feel you.

1. No. I suspect that'll just make your resent her more, and mothers have that awesome ability to see through bullshit.

2. What if you honoured her own mother in some way? Perhaps give her a framed photograph of your grandmother, or (if you're crafty), make her a scrapbook or something? On preview, what Georgina said above...

Best of luck.
posted by Cat Face at 10:44 AM on April 30, 2011

Does your mom go to church? It's an old tradition, at least in the South, for moms to wear a corsage to church on Mother's Day ... red or pink rose if her mother is living, white rose if her mom is deceased. The framed pic of your grandmother's also a nice idea.
posted by cyndigo at 11:12 AM on April 30, 2011

Flowers are traditional for a reason. If she has a garden, fancy bulbs or seeds are a good bet. Otherwise a window pot. The same companies that do dead flowers usually handle live flowers, too. Card--something along the lines of "this color reminded me of you" or something similar and true.
posted by anaelith at 12:37 PM on April 30, 2011

Best answer: Did you attend your grandmother's funeral? Were you there for your Mom then? I ask because sharing memories at a time like that sometimes helps everyone to get closure. And that might have already gone a long way towards helping your Mom cope with her own Mom's passing.

In which case, you might just want to send a card to your Mom like you usually do, but take the time to write a personal message (all those sacrifices she made when she was a kid, I am sure you have told her how much they meant, right?). Make a point of letting her know that you appreciated all she did for you, and that you know she must be missing grandma on Mother's Day, and that they are both in your thoughts. And I think that personal connection will be an immense help to your Mom, speaking as a Mom myself.

The flowers are a lovely idea, but to me they are even less personal than a card unless you include some sentiment with them. Unless your Mom and her mother always liked lilies, or both of them gardened, or you did those things with either of them--well, without a personal connection, flowers basically say, "I got you something pretty because I didn't know what to say to you." And sometimes, like after someone dies, that's why we send them. Because there really isn't anything we can say to make things better. And that's okay.

But that shouldn't be the case here. Your Mom is just a phone call away. And yes, she gets on your nerves and interferes in your life to a degree that drives you (and your brother, too, sounds like) nuts. And you have to be the peacekeeper, and that gets old. But Mother's Day only comes once a year, and grandma died this year, so I feel the best thing you could do is actually call your Mom up and tell her you are thinking about her and ASK her how she is doing after grandma's death. And then listen, and try to be supportive and not let all the baggage between the two of you get in the way.

And that's doubly true if you didn't go to grandma's funeral and say those things to your Mom then. Like grandma, she's not going to be around forever, either.
posted by misha at 1:05 PM on April 30, 2011

Did grandma have any favorite charitable causes you could contribute to in her memory? Or is there a research foundation for any diseases she suffered with that you could contribute to? These places often have a card that can be given to someone else (your mom) that says a gift has been given in her memory. That might be a nice way to honor your family without having to do anything overly personal.
posted by BlooPen at 1:32 PM on April 30, 2011

Do you love your mother? I don't mean "like" her, that is something different. If you do love your mother, put your bitter feelings aside and do something nice for her. I can't tell you what to do, since I do not know your mother.

If you don't love her, then you are under no obligation to do anything. But if you do love her, then do something nice for her. Flowers in a pretty vase or basket are nice since they are lovely. Take her to lunch, get her some perfume. Something that says you love her in a tangible way.

I loved my grandmother, but rarely liked her. She was mean and judgmental. But when I grew up and saw her as the person she really was, I found out she was an awesome woman with a wonderful sense of humor and some major problems. Even when I didn't "like" her, I always made an effort to let her know I loved her.
posted by fifilaru at 1:35 PM on April 30, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far. My mother hates cut flowers, but she and my grandmother both loved orchids, so I may order an orchid for her, and perhaps decoupage a flower pot with some family photos. That seems a bit like a child's class project for Mother's Day, which makes me cringe, but it could be something she would like. Should I do that, or should I use photos from my grandmother's homeland? (I have some beautiful pictures from a family heritage trip I took with my mother's cousin around all the different places my family lived before WWII.)

I will also call and send a card, which is pretty customary in our family for holidays. I dislike my mom, but I do still love her. And even if my feelings of love have been waning (and could if conflict continues), they're still present enough that I want to do something nice--hence the question :) Thanks! Still open to other suggestions!
posted by Terriniski at 2:05 PM on April 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you have a place that will do it locally, having a photo printed onto stretched canvas of your mother and grandmother would be a very nice gift, and the canvas makes it more of an art piece to hang rather than the photo in a frame. It would likely make it feel a little more special, since it is not something someone can throw together with a printer at home.
posted by markblasco at 9:37 PM on April 30, 2011

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