Sad Mother's Day
May 13, 2018 8:18 AM   Subscribe

How do I not be so sad when my family doesn't even want to spend time with me?

Please help me to be so not sad. I try so hard to be a good mom and have displaced so much of my own self for my children as is necessary to raise children. I know that it is not all about me. I am just so sad. I said we were going to an easy local brunch this morning and no one even wants to go. I usually cook but have so many work and home projects going on right now including a bathroom renovation that I don't want to plan and implement a home meal today. I've never gone out to eat on Mother's Day. My daughter 13 says she is tired from last night. My son 16 is screaming that he wants to go but not getting ready. I'm going to meet my dad and his ladyfriend at brunch. My mom died 4 years ago. It is just so sad that I do so much for my kids and family and they don't even want to go to brunch with me. I haven't said anything - what can I say? Make them go? Ask them to stay home? Tell them it is okay (it is not) to stay home? Tell them that if they can't be pleasant then they should stay home? It looks like they are going to go but how can I even want to go with them when they don't want to be there. I feel sick and not hungry. I can't decide if it would be worse for me to say that I'd rather go alone. What I want which is everyone wanting to go with me isn't going to happen. Going by myself might be better than going and pretending to like being there with people who don't want to go. Could I, should I, have planned something better so everyone wanted to go - as usual is it my job to come up with a plan that makes everyone happy as if that could ever happen? But for the good of the family, I should have. The good of me is not the same as the good of the family. No one ever says it is okay to DTMF about the whole family. Maybe this the balance - maybe I was this way with my mom and she cried on mother's day too. I don't remember and I'm really sorry for that. I don't know how to make this all work. My husband and I aren't close. He would never make plans. Last night as I was running around like crazy and running out to buy flowers for my daughter and my dad's ladyfriend, he asked where I was going, I thought he would offer to go for me since he knew I was so busy but he actually just asked me to pick him up some soda. He printed off a gift voucher for a car detailing and gave it to me this morning. I bought thoughtful presents for my dad's ladyfriend, sent thoughtful gifts to my remaining grandma, and sent chocolate covered strawberries for arrival today for my mother-in-law's 50th mother's day with a card from all of us (my husband doesn't even know).
posted by RoadScholar to Human Relations (53 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Adding, I fee like it would be better if I was not here but can't think of a means to implement that that wouldn't be worse for the kids. I just can't imagine doing this for the next 6 years. But I don't have any alternatives. Then I think after that I won't even have relationships with my kids. If they don't want to have a meal with me on Mother's Day now. How can I look at doing this for 6 years with people who don't even want to go to brunch with me then being alone.
posted by RoadScholar at 8:25 AM on May 13

I'm sorry you're experiencing this.

If your kids are at an age where they don't want to hang out with you or celebrate mothers day (which it sounds like they are), go do something for yourself today, if this day is important to you.

In general I think that it is up to your children's dad to get them working on something for mothers day. If this day matters to you, tell your husband that next year he needs to get the kids organized to celebrate it.

Also it is just a made up holiday, so remind yourself of that? All of this work in getting all of these people gifts... This is just emotional labor that isn't needed!

If there are bigger issues with your children's behavior, focusing on one day isn't going to solve anything.

And as usual, read the emotional labor thread.
posted by k8t at 8:35 AM on May 13 [18 favorites]

Your follow up has some tinges of you wanting to harm yourself. Please seek some help. Hugs.
posted by k8t at 8:40 AM on May 13 [41 favorites]

I have two teenagers, both boys. They barely want to go on outings with me. It's like pulling teeth and sometimes I have resorted to begging. It's something that I have dealt with ever since they have become teenagers. My husband works on weekends and I miss the days that the kids and I would go to the beach or on outings. Now they want to stay home with their video games or YouTube or go out with friends. That is how the teenage years go.

I haven't asked them to go out today for Mother's Day. One is still sleeping and we went to the movies last night as a family. I don't take it personally. I try not to put so much pressure on myself or others for Mother's Day or any holiday.

I think the best thing to do, while hard, is to go alone if they protest too much. Go without making them feel bad about it. If one of them ends up getting ready and going, move on and have a good time. They are kids and the more you keep enjoying your life and do stuff without them, they might tag along some of the time.
posted by loveandhappiness at 8:41 AM on May 13 [4 favorites]

This sounds so hard for you! You are doing so much work and planning for other people on a day that’s about mothers— about you.

It sounds like beyond today, you need help. You sound very overwhelmed and not supported. This is a good time to reach out for help. Do you have a close friend or relative to talk about this with? This also sounds like something a therapist could be really helping with.

A therapist could help you build relationships with your family while taking on less work. They could also help you gain more perspective on what this one day means for your future with your children.
posted by triscuit at 8:42 AM on May 13 [10 favorites]

It’s not you, it’s teenagers.

Not to be flippant, but honestly that’s just how they are at that age. The more laid back about it you are now, the better a relationship you’re likely to have in a few years.
Echoing the advice above to go do something nice for yourself. Do something that feels like a totally frivolous waste of money, because you deserve it.

Your husband, well, that’s a whole separate AskMe.
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:42 AM on May 13 [88 favorites]

I'm so sorry. That is tough.

If it's possible for you - I want to say you should tell them all to just forget the brunch & just go and do something you'll enjoy purely for yourself. Something you never get the chance to do because you've always got all those whining passengers to drag along with you. It won't make into the Mother's Day that you wanted but... what would?

Then when you get back, way later... let them come to you & ask where you've been. They can get their own food & whatever else for today. They're all old enough to start to figure this out. But they'll need a kick, maybe today is when that starts.

I hope they can come around one day & give you the love & the appreciation & the respect that you deserve.
posted by rd45 at 8:43 AM on May 13 [11 favorites]

I’m sorry it’s so hard.

Your kids are at the age where the school is no longer getting them to make cards, etc., but they are still self-centred. It was your husband’s job to get them to get up and shower and take you out and teach them how to be thoughtful and he failed. You should talk to him about it.

This doesn’t have anything to do with who you are as a parent. It has to do with who he is as a parent.

I’d go treat yourself to a movie.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:44 AM on May 13 [61 favorites]

it is not your job to plan a present for yourself. at most you might help your kids think of something nice for father's day when they're under 12 or so, and your husband should have done the same with them for mother's day when they were little. but now they're teens. it isn't for you to decide anything unless they ask you what you want, same as with birthdays. they ought to know you well enough to know how you feel about the day and what gestures you like.

if they're just going through some bad teen years, it doesn't make it stop being painful for you but you can maybe look forward to the day when this phase is over and not hold it against them once they get better. mother's day, for those who consider it a holiday and like to celebrate it, is a day when a mother's children cater to her and do nice things for her. if your kids won't do that, you can make it into a day you do nice things for yourself. telling other people to do nice things for you isn't in it. it's not a possibility, isn't appropriate once they're this old, and just won't work and will make you feel worse anyway.

stop doing all this elaborate orchestration of things for your family. they don't want it, don't appreciate it, don't thank you for it, and don't deserve it. they are probably not bad kids but if they're already hurting your feelings, why set out to hurt your own even more? your husband I will say nothing about because you shouldn't be made to feel any worse than you already do, today. Think of something nice for yourself - a quiet/festive/indulgent afternoon out somewhere -- and if it'll make you depressed to see other women out with their children today, save it for next weekend or sometime. but do it. don't beg for what you deserve; go and find it.

Stop doing all your husband's familial jobs for him and stop cooking for three people old enough to cook for themselves. I don't mean just today as a special event, I mean permanently, because martyr is not a growth field and there are better careers available. start today as your mother's day present to yourself, and don't stop.
posted by queenofbithynia at 8:44 AM on May 13 [121 favorites]

I'm sorry you feel this way. I can't make you feel better about it, but I do know you need to take care of yourself. I wouldn't say one more word to your kids or husband about lunch. Go take a walk instead if the weather's nice, otherwise take a luxurious bubble bath. Then plan a spa day for yourself next week. Drop the car off for the detail. Enjoy being pampered, then afterwards buy something frivolous that you wouldn't normally get for yourself. Go for a long drive in your clean car with a friend. Don't waste your time on your husband on Father's Day. Ignore your selfish teens.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:47 AM on May 13 [4 favorites]

Then I think after that I won't even have relationships with my kids. If they don't want to have a meal with me on Mother's Day now.

if everyone was judged forever on what they were like at 13 and 16, nobody would have relationships with with their adult children. they are not considering you as a person, and that's not kind, but you are not considering them as children at a particular developmental stage and that's not rational. I don't blame you for being miserable but this is not about their forever character.
posted by queenofbithynia at 8:48 AM on May 13 [93 favorites]

he asked where I was going, I thought he would offer to go for me since he knew I was so busy but he actually just asked me to pick him up some soda.

There's a lot of wishing that people would do the things you want them to do and less agency with you saying "OK well why don't you go for me?" types of things.

You seem unhappy in your marriage, possibly for good reasons, and your kids are teenagers and out of two of them only one of them said they didn't want to go but your son didn't say he wanted to go with enough enthusiasm and so it's not good enough?

You seem like someone who is simultaneously thoughtful but also resentful that those around you do not share your thoughtfulness. I have this issue sometimes.

I'm unclear on your timeline here. You're going out with your dad and his partner and your family doesn't want to go with you? Or you're going out with your dad because your family isn't going? Was this a plan you had or something you told them about this morning (i.e. did you have plans that they are blowing off or did you ask if they wanted to do a thing and they said no?)?

In any case, you feel what you feel and that's a crap feeling probably best dealt with by remembering what it is you like about YOU. Not you-the-mom or you-the-wife or you-the-daughter. Think about what you like and go do something nice for yourself because you like things.

I've got baggage. My mom died last summer and all I could think about before this weekend is how, at the age of nearly 50, I was going to have a Mother's Day where I didn't let someone down by not doing it right. You may need to work on displacing less of yourself so you feel less subsumed in your family identity. It's a hard knot to untangle but there's no better day to start than today. Good luck.
posted by jessamyn at 8:54 AM on May 13 [41 favorites]

This question has a lot of baggage that can't be unpacked by a bunch of advice from anonymous strangers on the internet. Teenagers are assholes. It doesn't mean they don't love you. Your husband is being inconsiderate but it doesn't sound like you're communicating. You seem to be catastrophizing in this question and you sound depressed.

Deep breath. This is a LOT of sadness and I think it runs way, way deeper than one mother's day. I really think you need to talk to someone and try to work through your feelings. We can't make this better for you.

Please consider talking to someone.
posted by Amy93 at 9:01 AM on May 13 [41 favorites]

It sounds like the holiday has brought to a head all your stress and unmet expectations and fears into one pile of horror and crisis. Clearly you are in an untenable situation for way more than just today, but for today I think the best thing you could do is to get out of the house and spend the day (and maybe night) doing something just for yourself. Avoid restaurants if at all possible, pop into a fancy grocery store with a great premade section and grab a picnic's worth of delicious stuff. Go for a scenic drive, visit an art museum, make choices for yourself and only yourself. Don't feel like you have to do anything either, maybe just go to a library and read a book all day, or sit in a park and a coffee shop and listen to music. Just go be by yourself away from the physical obligations of your family and home. Everything will be okay for one day without you. Your family is of an age where they can all feed themselves, your house won't fall down if you're not there to hold it up. Give yourself a day to just exist with no expectations.

Maybe you could ask your dad if you could stay with him for occasional evenings while you work on untangling a lot of the mess you're wrapped up in. This isn't something you need to or should be trying to do alone. Take stock of your allies, who you can ask for help, and remember that a group of people each doing a small thing can amount to something huge - namely, you regaining self-worth and joy - you don't have to find one person who is perfectly able to help you with everything, delegate stuff one thing at a time. Maybe your mother in law is aware of how ungrateful her son is and would love to help you out. How will you know unless you communicate clearly with people?

But that's not for today. For today, just give yourself some time to exist and breathe through your crisis.
posted by Mizu at 9:05 AM on May 13 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry for the several replies but I do want to say that a lot of this is probably about your recent loss of your mother and nobody appearing to care about it. four years is recent and not having a mother doesn't necessarily get better as it goes on longer. If you were to set up a nice thing for yourself, a one-time appointment with someone you could talk about your mother with might be good. might even be good as an ongoing mother's day observance. not the traditional spa day, but maybe better. you may not have the time or energy for ongoing therapy (or the interest) but someone whose job it is to worry only about your feelings for a set period of time might be a welcome respite.
posted by queenofbithynia at 9:09 AM on May 13 [17 favorites]

Drop this plan of taking them to brunch. Go alone, and tell them why. Let them see that you’re hurt — I don’t mean making a production out of it, that would be passive-aggressive. Just don’t deny your feelings or try to mask them. Say: you don’t want to go, so I am going myself. If they are good kids, they will feel terrible.

Afterward, treat yourself to something, if you can. Don’t hurry home.
posted by Countess Elena at 9:14 AM on May 13 [3 favorites]

Oh gosh, I get this! But look, as everyone is saying, they are teenagers. We have to drill them to do the social niceties and this is not exception. It's not a measure of how they love you. I really notice that the kids who do things for their mom on Mother's Day learned to do so from the mother's partner -- both actually helping them, and more important, modeling to them that they should honor her. Your husband hasn't done this, so there isn't a model for your kids to treat mothers day this way. I am a single parent and I just asked my teenager to make me a Mother's Day card because I really want one from her!. She was going to, and then got caught up in texting one of her friends. Then I went and asked her if she needed paper. We discussed what paper she should use! It was pretty comical by this point. She came over and gave me a hug and is now either making it or not. I know asking for something isn't the same as just getting it spontaneously but I think that's more true about a partner than about a kid; I decided to model asking for what I want.
What I'll do for myself today: go into the woods and meditate, and offer gratitude that I am a mom to my beloved offspring, with all the thanklessness that labor entails, of course, but also all the amazing depth it's added to my life; and I'll stay off FB so I don't have to see all the mothers showing their dozen roses and brunches etc that their partners helped their kids get them. Don't look on FB, don't compare, and yes, when this day if over, take a good look at your spouse and reevaluate what you expect from him.
It is OK to feel a little blue and moody and tender about this. Sucking it up and expecting nothing without allowing ourselves to feel that we have needs too is really not another thing we mothers have to do today! Just try to gently guide yourself towards humor.
posted by velveeta underground at 9:16 AM on May 13 [19 favorites]

I try so hard to be a good mom and have displaced so much of my own self for my children as is necessary to raise children.

I'm not a mom, and I'll let the moms here speak about the norms of teenage behavior, though my opinion is that this is just normal idiot teenage behavior, but I am a woman, and I understand this impulse to give and give to people you care about and then feeling the bitter sting of rejection when the same level of devotion isn't returned.

Your Mother's Day gift to yourself is that this ends today. Start putting yourself first and rediscover yourself. If you've given up your friends and hobbies, it's time to get them back. At 13 and 16, your kids don't need you the way they did when they were little. Read the threads on emotional labor and make some changes. You deserve it. And ultimately, in the long run, your relationship with your children will probably be healthier because you're not looking to them to fulfill all your needs. You'll also be setting a good example for your children about what healthy motherhood looks like despite this fairytale societal narrative that having children is the pinnacle of womanhood from which all satisfaction will be gained.

I'm sorry you are hurting. You sound like a considerate and caring person. Direct some of that impulse toward yourself.
posted by unannihilated at 9:27 AM on May 13 [25 favorites]

I try so hard to be a good mom and have displaced so much of my own self for my children as is necessary to raise children.

I am coming at this through my own life experiences.

My mom definitely put too much of her identity in her role as mom and wife. As a teenager, this frustrated me. It was too much pressure to have her self-worth be reflected in my reactions to her. It made me push back. I needed her to create her own identity that wasn't around being a mom, because it was suffocating. If I didn't react to her "thoughtfulness" in the right way, it could lead to a meltdown. Was I sometimes just being a jerk and could have approached this in a more delicate way? Yes, but as a 16 year-old, often the default is just jerk.

Your kids are teenagers now. Maybe you need to start being more selfish. Carve out your own space, your own identity beyond mother and wife. And your teenagers are old enough to be cooking for you now, to go run errands that help the family out, etc. Give them those responsibilities so that you have time for you and you will stop resenting them for all the sacrifices you make (and I am sure that you make way more sacrifices than they deserve).
posted by Blissful at 9:28 AM on May 13 [45 favorites]

Adding to the voices above. Take care of yourself today.

This hurts so much because you are loosing yourself in supporting/serving your family at a time when you don't have the reserves to do so. Tomorrow, start thinking of what changes need to happen in your life so you are built up sufficiently to not pin your worth on their actions/inactions around a single day.

This might take a combination of doing less for them, doing more for yourself, therapy and/or communicating more equally and openly with all your family.

Hugs to you today (if you want them).
posted by Sauter Vaguely at 9:31 AM on May 13 [1 favorite]

I'm not a mother, but I can speak as a former teenager whose father wasn't around to help guide my behavior when I was a kid (he had died before I was a teen). I can't remember doing much, if anything, on Mother's Day when I was a teenager. I mean, maybe I did? Or maybe we all went out to eat? I honestly have no memory of Mother's Day during those years. I remember doing some nice little kid things for her when I was younger than that. And I remember having typical jerk teenage feelings about my mom, not wanting to do stuff in public with her because she wasn't cool and didn't understand me, etc.

I know she worked so hard as a widowed mom to raise my brother and me. I had no appreciation for everything my mom went through and did until I reached adulthood. Our life was normal to me, even though it was pretty abnormal, and I totally took my mom for granted until I reached adulthood. I think it's just how many if not most teenagers are.
posted by wondermouse at 9:32 AM on May 13 [3 favorites]

I'm so sorry you're going through this. It's very painful. Teenagers are, generally, horrible little shits. Sometimes I look back on how I behaved toward my mother at that age and feel terrible. But also, I was normal. Teenagers are selfish. We have a good relationship now.

I want to add to the chorus that you need to start being more selfish. Motherhood shouldn't be 18 years of putting yourself last. Your kids (and your husband) are old enough to do a lot of the stuff you're doing themselves. They'll be better adults if they learn now (especially your son). You need and deserve time to do things that are only for you.
posted by Mavri at 9:54 AM on May 13 [1 favorite]

I'm a mom who raised three kids by myself (therefore I deserve extra rockstar treatment) but I have always found that unless I do one very specific thing, Mother's Day is always filled with unmet expectations and seething undercurrents of sadness and sometimes hostility (I'm talking about you, teenage years).

Jessamyn speaks truth: Think about what you like and go do something nice for yourself because you like things.

THIS is the secret to a lovely MD: you tell everyone all the treats that you're demanding. No surprises, no unmet expectations, Mommy gets what she wants because once a year she is allowed to demand things.

Having said that, ensure your demands are entirely selfish and things you want, not compromises between your kids who won't eat seafood and your spouse who wants to watch the sports on TV. No. You decide and say in no uncertain terms that these are your MD demands.

Here's what I told my kids:"I don't want flowers or a manicure or fancy eggs. I bought myself new running shoes and I'm going to get up early and take the dog for a run, then I'm going to a cafe for coffee and then I'm going to the store for peanut M&Ms and sushi for lunch. After that, I want to have the entire couch for myself and eat M&Ms and watch Top Chef until I feel like ordering delivery. I'll see you around 5 for dinner."

I have created a day filled with all the things I like, and I super-selfishly told the family this is exactly what I'm doing for my special day.

I have found that it's the only way to get the day I want--otherwise, it's a day of unspoken and therefore unmet expectations. And if I'm the kind of mom who expects everyone to read her mind and then looks pissed that nobody got it right, I'm a pretty crappy mom, and I am not that person. I will not do that to my family.

So you decide what YOU want and do those things and rejoice in your ability to have a special day of your choosing.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 9:55 AM on May 13 [42 favorites]

As a kid who was a teenager: please disabuse yourself of the notion that “my teenagers don’t want to do an event with me now.” means “my kids will hate me forever.” Teenagers can be jerks. Mostly we end up not jerks later. Can’t speak to the rest of it, but hopefully that perspective from a 30-something helps.
posted by Alterscape at 10:11 AM on May 13 [2 favorites]

I'm going to meet my dad and his ladyfriend at brunch. My mom died 4 years ago. It is just so sad that I do so much for my kids and family and they don't even want to go to brunch with me.

Your dad and his ladyfriend are meeting you for brunch? Your son says he wants to go? I'm confused--why not just be, like, hey kid, you've got ten, you can pick the CDs in the car.

This question is hard to read because I'm currently on the outs with my narcissist mother, but I think clear communication and appreciating your family for what and who they are would go a long way to feel happier here.

It looks like they are going to go but how can I even want to go with them when they don't want to be there.

This kind of deep unhappiness is probably more about a gulf in your own life than what your kids are or are not doing. They want to go, they're imperfect (because they're humans) and so it's not enough that they want to go, they have to seem enthusiastic in a specific way, too.

Can you talk to someone--therapy, maybe? No matter what I did for my mom, it was never enough, and I can tell you that that damaged our relationship more than just ordinary old adolescence.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:20 AM on May 13 [7 favorites]

Have you talked to your kids and reminded them it is Mother’s Day? Sometimes they honestly forget. My daughter (teenager) was like “hey Mom am I doing anything this weekend?” and I was just like “for Mother’s Day?” and she was HORRIFIED and was like “forget the other thing I am so sorry” and has been super good as good all weekend.

But also I second that your partner is the problem here, not the kids. Kids learn from their parents. Let your kids see you doing things for other people’s mothers days. Talk about it. Give them a chance to overcome your partner’s terribleness (a voucher for car detailing? I kind of feel like you should go on strike).

And actually it occurs to me that at some point I also helped start the Mother’s Day tradition we have now in my own house, but by specifically asking - “Hey, I do a lot around the house. Do you think on Mother’s Day you guys can take over the cooking/cleaning?” And then just sit back and don’t do it. And then it becomes a tradition.
posted by corb at 10:21 AM on May 13 [8 favorites]

Thank you.
posted by RoadScholar at 10:36 AM on May 13 [5 favorites]

I'm a mom of school-age kids and am currently, in other tabs, chatting with friends who are also moms, and we pretty much all agree that Mother's Day sucks. I don't have concrete advice for you today but want to let you know that you're not alone. Stay off Facebook and Instagram today, it's a terrible day for comparing your insides to other people's outsides.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:40 AM on May 13 [12 favorites]

Just a bit of perspective: kids that age, developmentally, don't really understand "special days" unless it's for them: their birthdays, their special school days/graduations/awards, holidays where they get candy and gifts, if they're in a religious culture they have probably registered the general specialness of the highest holy days because it's a big disruption in their routine but probably also they get candy and gifts, if they do a sport or other scored/bracketed competitive activity they understand wins and big wins. But they barely register any empathy around those things even for their peers (people they can relate to/imagine themselves in the shoes of) until mid-late teens, or not until their 20s in some cases.

They have no idea what being a parent means. It is sort of your job to keep them from knowing the worst of it, so if you're doing it right they're a little unclear on what a holiday like Mother's Day is about. All they know is they've always had a mother, which is fantastic but also kind of camouflages your work. It's on the parents to somehow keep them in the dark but also clued in, and let's be real: in our culture it's still fine for fathers to do about 10% of the parenting and most people will only rise to their lowest held standard, so it's on you to teach them if you want them to know. It isn't going to appear magically in their heads and their father's too basic.

To that end, I think you should semi-politely tell all three of them to go fuck themselves and go on strike for the day. Tell them you'll be home at X:00 and if they want dinner that's their problem. I do not think it's passive-aggressive to tell them, once, that what you had actually wanted was to spend some time with your appreciative kids, but *gestures around* so see you later. Go out (go between primary meal rushes and you won't have to fight for a table by yourself) and eat whatever you want, go to a movie and have the popcorn to yourself, read a book in a coffee shop. Like, I know it's not the day you want but it does kind of sound like the day you need, to just spend a few hours not having to fly the 747 of your family all by yourself.

This is one way to help them appreciate what you do and teach them something about self-care with regards to other people, and to make a resolution to shore up your own identity and put on your own oxygen mask and start the move toward putting yourself first again because they are now basically capable of handling their own food/elimination/hydration/hygiene without you having to be on duty 24/7. And they are old enough to live with a parent being upset and disappointed in them for being tiny assholes, because yes they are that way because it is completely developmentally appropriate but then again they're both creeping real close to the real world that they are going to have to live in and it is time to start getting dinged for it.

But this phase? This isn't the forever phase. You probably felt this way before, at other terrible developmental stages too, right? The fear that you were going to have to go to college with at least one of them because they were never going to fall asleep without holding your elbow or something like that? It will pass. Some of it will suck, like this stage where they're beginning to develop independence but are laughably bad at it. They will also surprise you eventually with flashes of insight into their future actual (good!) adult human qualities. They're just not going to do it today, apparently, and I'm sorry because that really sucks when it's the one thing you really wanted.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:40 AM on May 13 [18 favorites]

There is so much good advice above, I don't want to add to it, but my formerly jerky teens are now wonderful young people, and I want to tell you this is just a phase and it will be alright soon. Just breathe, and help yourself to something nice.
posted by mumimor at 10:44 AM on May 13 [8 favorites]

Sometimes you can't judge yourself based on results, especially when considering the actions and reactions of others, but on your own heart and your efforts, regardless of results. You pass magnificently on both counts in my book.
posted by davcoo at 11:16 AM on May 13

First - It's okay to be sad, you get to have your feelings.

I was pretty selfish as a teenager, I'm sure. Now I am fairly thoughtful, but I don't remember ever doing anything special for mother's day unless it was instigated by my parents. Kids being selfish and unaware is so typical that Billy Collins wrote a poem about it:

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.

It sounds like you spend a lot of time and effort being thoughtful, and hoping that some of that will circle back to you without your having to ask. But sometimes you kind of do have to ask. I also think it might be good to involve your family in the nice things you are doing for other folks - ask for help picking out cards, discuss gift ideas, have them actually sign cards themselves. Kids (and sometimes adults) have to be taught to be thoughtful ... though sometimes it's adulthood before the lesson clicks.

And lastly - if you feel like this often - maybe talk to someone about it. Good luck and I hope your day ends better than it began.
posted by bunderful at 11:20 AM on May 13 [9 favorites]

N’thing it is a teen thing, and in the case of your son, a lack of appropriate male role models.

This is on your husband. He dropped the ball, big time, and you have my permission to go to him RIGHT NOW and let him know exactly how awful of a father and husband he is choosing to be on “your day” (seriously, he couldn’t put the effort into getting the car detailed for you and gave you a CHORE to do on Mother’s Day???) Are there any big indulgences you have been holding back on (a trip, a car, a new waredrobe) because you are being safe with money for your kids’ college fund? Blow that money on yourself. (I love the visual of you returning in a two seat convertible that is just yours. Feel like getting away from everyone? Go to a hotel for the night. Ya, you CAN’T make your husband want to do something nice for you today, but you can let him know how badly he fucked this one up. Personally, I would skip brunch for your dad (and keep the flowers) because that relationship sounds like a whole ‘nother bunch of emotional labour, and today you get to do what you want. If you would rather have the house to yourself today tell your husband he has five minutes to collect the kids and get out and he can come back with them at 10. And don’t suggest how he can entertain them - he has to put on his big boy panties and figure that out for himself. (Don’t spend the day cleaning though). Let them know they fucked up today really bad. Your daughter needs a role model that shows that “women” does not equal “doormat”. Sometimes people don’t learn from their mistakes until they are confronted with the consequences of them.
posted by saucysault at 11:25 AM on May 13 [9 favorites]

I’m a new mom - my son is six months old. I just wanted to say I had NO IDEA how hard being a mom was. Not even a little bit. And I’ve only been doing this six months so far, not 16 years, and I still have a super cute baby to snuggle with, not grumpy teenagers to parent.

I should have been more thoughtful to my mom on Mother’s Day and every day, especially when I was a grumpy teenager. I’ll do my best to show her how much I love her from now on.

You are a freaking rockstar. Your kids will understand someday, and until then, hugs and the warmest wishes from this internet stranger.
posted by bananacabana at 11:41 AM on May 13 [8 favorites]

My mom died 4 years ago.

I am so, so sorry. Were you able to grieve her passing, or did the time after her death turn into funeral arrangements and taking care of her estate and all the other million things that happen when a loved one dies (and usually falls on a daughter or daughter-in-law)? Does Mother's Day remind you of her -- especially given that your plans are are to have brunch with your dad's new girlfriend?

Regardless of whether or not that's playing into your feelings today, many hugs.
posted by basalganglia at 12:22 PM on May 13 [4 favorites]

Your children are old enough that you can tell them they have hurt your feelings. My mother did that to me when I was a "normal" callous/insensitive teenager and it made me cry and feel like shit, and it was good for me.
posted by gatorae at 1:02 PM on May 13 [19 favorites]

I don't have any wisdom on this front. I just wanted to say I wish I could give you a hug and make you breakfast. I hope when your kids are no longer teenagers, they develop better ability to express their love and appreciation. Try a Gottman certified therapist for growing closer with your husband if that's something he'd be open to.
posted by namesarehard at 1:06 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]

Brene Brown to the rescue. Blog about her books here.

You can listen to her 2 oprah podcast interviews anywhere you listen to podcasts. Her amazing TED Talk is on youtube.

Part of this is teenagers, the rest is self-care. You are a great mom, take care of you today.
posted by jbenben at 1:36 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]

I've found that for holidays, pretty much all holidays, the best way to have it match my expectations is just to outline the plans. Last weekend, I was like "hey maybe we can get the weeds cleaned up, then on Mother's Day, we can go to the nursery and buy some new flowers to plant."

That said, I don't have a teen, so that might stop working at a certain point. I think the best play is just to non-angrily demonstrate respect for yourself. It's not like what they do changes whether or not you're deserving or worthy, if you can keep that bigger perspective in mind. So if they're being jerks, can you just take yourself out to the movies?

You do sounds like you're dealing with a lot of grief, or maybe depression, and / or that things in your family are deeply not working for you. Whichever of those it is, if you can afford therapy, I think it would be well worth it.
posted by slidell at 2:04 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]

Can you tell your husband how you are feeling? Your kids are teenagers, but they also pick up on signals they get from their dad (and society at large) and frankly, neither of those parties treat your labor and love as the precious and valuable things they are. My father disrespected my mother growing up in a similar way, and as a teenager, I was so wrapped up in my own adolescent drama that I did not notice it and just went along with it. They will come to see this in time, but your husband is a grown man who needs to know that he needs to do more. You deserve more! Can you show him this thread? He needs to see it.

And hard agree with what was said upthread about your self-harm risk. Get yourself a mother's day gift and find a therapist. You deserve some emotional support and some solace! You're amazing. Hang in there. I am so sorry you're feeling this way.
posted by pazazygeek at 2:05 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]

Here is the super important thing that everyone is saying that is absolutely essential for your children to grow up into great friends, wonderful partners, and brilliant parents: You have to TELL THEM how they are fucking up. They have to understand that their actions have not only material consequences, but emotional consequences. If they keep on learning that a lack of adult-level consideration (modelled by their father, apparently) is not going to result in any negative outcomes for themselves, they are going to continue doing it, and that will have knock-on effects throughout their lifetimes, and on into the next generation. It sucks that it's on you to make them hurt because they're hurting you, but that's your job as a parent.

That said, you have as many hugs from this internet stranger as you want. This sucks, it really does.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:11 PM on May 13 [15 favorites]

You sound so stressed and burnt out. It seems like Mothers Day is a lot of shit coming to a head for you.

It would be beneficial if you communicated directly with your kids and husband. It sounds like there are a lot of uncommunicated expectations. It sounds like you are the emotional dumping grounds in your family and you wanted this day to be different. Completely understandable but not realistic if you don’t tell anyone this. Yes, ideally kids and husband would be moved by the Spirit of the Day and appreciate you all on their own but it doesn’t work like that in real life.

I also want to say that, at 29 and 31, my sister and I have legit great relationships with our mom and I know it’s partially because she puts no pressure on us to validate HER as a mom, and never has. She has a huge identity outside of motherhood and we feel like the icing on the cake, not the plate holding the whole thing together.
posted by pintapicasso at 2:29 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]

I am really sorry. I am not a mom but as a daughter, kids are fools. Their brains literally aren’t developed enough for them to self-regulate and (sometimes) do things selflessly. If there is discord and stress in the family they will sometimes act out even more. Take care of yourself, leave your husband if you have to, and consider yourself responsible for shepherding your children through awkward and difficult teen years and into an emotionally mature adulthood. You definitely need to take care of yourself and not sacrifice for them more than necessary; teach them what a self-regulated, responsible adult with autonomy and self-regard looks like in the hopes they will some day be the same.
posted by stoneandstar at 2:41 PM on May 13 [4 favorites]

I've been thinking about you all day, OP. (My own mother's day involved my 9-year-old trying to make me breakfast and giving up, but then we did it together, then running laundry, then going to the beach (I had to pack everything of course), then kid washing my car.)

It is never too late in life to make a change about emotional labor around gifts. For example, a few years ago I decided that sending greeting cards was a lot of hassle. They mean a lot to my mother, but now we Facetime and usually my kid draws a picture. To me that is way more meaningful than a $4 card. I also stopped doing holiday cards. In this day and age we don't need them anymore to get updates on people's lives. A lot of the gift giving stuff is invented by some industry and stepping back from it doesn't hurt anyone. Heck, if you want to, tell the women in your life that you sent all this stuff to that you appreciate them year-round and that you are no longer going to buy into this stuff.

My child is a bit younger than yours, but he is really capable. He does a lot of household chores and gets his own snacks and food ready. No longer do I pack his sports bags. I just stopped doing it. You can too.

But most important in all of this is making sure that you plainly and clearly communicate how you are feeling. This is probably also the hardest thing to do. Your husband probably should have known better but your kids aren't mindreaders. Setting forth clear expectations is good for everyone.
posted by k8t at 3:03 PM on May 13 [3 favorites]

If I could shout what seanmpuckett said off the rooftops, I would. A hundred times. My kids (21 & 18) are thoughtful, wonderful people because their father and I have taught them to be that way...from day one. It's never too late!! But you really need to lay down the law with your husband, especially. To be frank, it sounds like he's making you do all of the emotional labor of your relationship and that is not okay. And I hate to say it, but if he's not showing your children AND YOU that you are an incredibly important person to him, why are you with him?

It is 100% okay for you to have needs and wants, and to want those things to come from your family. I disagree that a mother has to put aside everything of herself for her children. I don't think that is healthy for anyone. Your kids, both of them, should see that their mother has a life outside of them. It's not too late for that, either.

Also, stop doing your dad's emotional labor, if that's what you meant by buying his lady friend a gift. If you bought it for her from you, that's really nice.
posted by cooker girl at 3:40 PM on May 13 [6 favorites]

Forget doing something special for just the day. I say plan a solo vacation for yourself for a whole week. Force your husband and kids to take care of everything. Your husband is also their parent and should be able to do just as much as you. And your kids are teenagers so should know how to get function as humans. And if your husband can’t parent and your kids can’t act like people, then a week without you should give them some time to figure it out and some time to recognize your value. Take care of yourself and let them do the same for a little while.
posted by greta simone at 4:01 PM on May 13 [4 favorites]

Your mom died four years ago? That is hard. It's been longer than that since my mom died but Mother's Day is still sad for me. Your family's behavior is not stellar either. No wonder you feel sad. I wish I could have taken you to brunch today.
posted by BibiRose at 4:41 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]

Your husband, presumably your children's father, needs to do some parenting here. As a father, if my kids behaved like this, I would just explain to them that they are behaving hurtfully, and they should be quite happy to go to brunch. And then they would go to brunch. This particular brunch would be uncomfortable, but next time around things would be better.

In this case your husband is not supporting you. You could try some "I" statements: "I felt this way when you did this" etc. And then explain what you need.

If your husband doesn't step up, then it'll be up to you, unfortunately, for as long as you remain married to him and you are part of the household.
posted by JamesBay at 5:08 PM on May 13 [3 favorites]

Thank you, thank you, thank you for the amazing comments. I hope this helps other people in the future too.
posted by RoadScholar at 5:19 PM on May 13 [15 favorites]

I'm sad too today, my mum died a couple of months ago. I have no helpful advice, just that you're not alone and I think tomorrow will be better.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 6:30 PM on May 13 [4 favorites]

My husband and I aren't close.

This is the big red flag for me. Your kids are just teenagers being teenagers: it sucks, but in all likelihood, they'll grow out of this particular kind of self-centeredness, and when they're 20+, you'll get flowers and cards and presents and nice meals out. But your husband? That's a yikes. When you're admitting that you're not close with your own husband, that's a giant warning sign. Are you happy in your marriage? Do you still love your husband?

Everything else, time might well ease: your kids will grow up, your grief for your own mother will grow easier to bear, how overwhelmed you feel by multiple projects will pass when those projects are over. But your unhappiness with your husband...that needs to be addressed. I think you need to communicate the way you're feeling to him, and possibly consider some form of counseling.
posted by yasaman at 6:37 PM on May 13 [12 favorites]

I’m so sorry it was a disappointing day. You do a lot and deserved far better from your family. I agree with everyone who says this is on your thoughtless husband, who is currently setting the tone for the teens in your home to keep taking your many efforts for granted.

Take him aside and address this immediately. “Hey Husband, help me understand why on earth you encouraged our kids to treat me so invisibly on Mother’s Day. Do you have some unspoken beef with me that you’d like to air? If so, I’m all ears. Because what happens in healthy families on special days like this is for the other parent to ask the teenagers ahead of time to write mother a heartfelt note, and then plan to give mother a day off from waiting on everyone hand and foot and organizing all the things.... This is what I am going to need from you all from now on. This year, I’ll accept a one time do-over rain check from you all for this upcoming Sunday to give me a decent day. It’s the least you can do given all that I do. I hope you can agree, and if not, I’ll take that as a sign we’ll need to start making other life plans. If you’re in agreement, I’ll try to reciprocate on Father’s Day.”

I say this as a now-happily divorced mother of 3 who has straightened my entire family out on issues like this— you have to teach these people how to treat you and start standing up for yourself, or you are going to remain depressed, used, and a shell of yourself. Show them who you are. Go watch some of Tyler Perry’s Madea movies for further badass matriarch/finding your voice inspiration.
posted by edithkeeler at 2:14 AM on May 14 [6 favorites]

Your job is father's day. The kid's father's job is mother's day. To fix this next year start a month early and inform your spouse that you want him to organize the kids into doing nice things for you, and stress that this is important for you. Repeat this on a once a week basis. Be very specific about what you want. They haven't done this successfully before and can't wing it. "I want you to take me out for brunch. I want flowers. I want the kitchen clean and breakfast in bed, and that means you also have to make sure there are eggs and bacon in the house before Sunday morning rather than allowing me to buy the breakfast ingredients. I want the kids to make me cards. I want a store bought card that has been carefully picked out."That's how specific you have to be.

Your spouse may not care at all about father's day, but it is still your job to make sure your kids show him appreciation in a way that costs them some effort anyway, for their own sake's.

"I need you to show me that you love me, right now." This is a useful statement.

You also need to have more emotional labour being done for you, and to be doing less of the executive work, errands and planning. Being stuck running everything without cooperation is a very isolating position. You might want to give some serious thought to cutting back on what needs to be done. Your family isn't stepping up. So for example you might want to delegate making supper once a week to the sixteen-year old, with the back-up that if he doesn't make dinner the family still gathers at the dining table and eats toast. It's even okay if your sixteen-year-old feeds you all on toast that he butters and hands out and the package of pork chops he was supposed to cook goes in the freezer. You didn't worry about it, you didn't solve it, you just show up at dinner time.

You might declare one entire day a week Mum's day off and ask the family to sort out the chores between them. Who cleans the cat pans on Monday? Who runs the washer and dryer? Who cooks?

Or you might plan a week's vacation retreat without any of the kids or spouse around, such as going to visit a girlfriend a short drive away, even three blocks away. Before you go let them know that they need to do all the chores you would have done.

But you need a bit of space and a bit of help. And to get it you need to step up and say exactly what you need and want without being non-specific. I need to feel loved is not enough data. You have to tell them that you are feeling neglected and taken for granted and what would make you feel like you belong and that you are valued.
posted by Jane the Brown at 9:42 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]

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