Mother's Day and unmet expectations
May 14, 2018 11:52 AM   Subscribe

My mother is upset with me (>30, F) for forgetting Mother's Day. The truth is, I hadn't really forgotten about it, but I just do not care one whit about most consumer-/socially-/religiously- fabricated special occasions.

She knows this about me, and my immediate family has -never- made much of a fuss about gift-giving/cards/celebrative gestures. We haven't exchanged gifts for birthdays or Christmas in years. I prefer to show my love and appreciation for her in regular, smaller gestures - not once a year when companies and social media tell me to. But I've noticed that as she ages, she is increasingly sensitive about feeling unloved/underappreciated on those occasions .

On Sunday, I was preoccupied with things and I didn't think to call her to wish her a happy Mother's Day -- it just didn't cross my mind at all. We spoke the day before on the phone, and I had taken two days off of work the previous week to spend quality time with her. I'm a thoughtful and considerate person in the ways that matter (to me). I didn't realize she was deeply upset until I got a text at 10 pm stating that "nobody" cared about her enough to wish her a happy mother's day. She then turned her phone off and was unreachable the rest of the night. I want her to feel loved and appreciated, on holidays and otherwise. But I'm irritated by the mindset that I ought to know to do specific things on specific events, or else I don't "care enough."

I'm feeling a mix of guilty, irritated, and confused. I don't think I've done anything wrong, but I don't know how to prevent this from happening again the next time a holiday comes up with unspoken expectations. How do you navigate situations like this?
posted by houseofleaves to Human Relations (52 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I don't super care about most mandated holidays. My mom SUPER DUPER CARES about all holidays and gift-giving occasions. I have accepted it's not about me, but about her. I set the expectation in my relationships that I don't need gifts on gift-giving occasions, and set reminders in my phone to call my mom if I think I will forget. I consider it part of speaking her love language.
posted by assenav at 11:54 AM on May 14 [121 favorites]


I don't think I've done anything wrong, but I don't know how to prevent this from happening again the next time a holiday comes up with unspoken expectations.

That's not entirely true. Your mother has now told you that she wants you to call her on mother's day. So call her on mother's day. It's no longer an "unspoken expectation."

And since your mother is becoming more sensitive about feeling unloved/underappreciated on these "fabricated special occasions," consider making an effort to show her she is loved/appreciated on special occasions.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:55 AM on May 14 [68 favorites]


Yep. Showing someone you love them means showing it in THEIR preferred way, not yours.
posted by mochapickle at 11:57 AM on May 14 [144 favorites]


But I've noticed that as she ages, she is increasingly sensitive about feeling unloved/underappreciated on those occasions ...I didn't think to call her to wish her a happy Mother's Day...I didn't realize she was deeply upset until I got a text at 10 pm...

Not trying to make you feel bad, but since you know these silly occasions matter to her a lot now, you should just make more of an effort to mark them. You're aware of her increasing sensitivity to this, so it shouldn't be a surprise that she was deeply upset when the day passed without hearing from you.

Sometimes people care a lot about kind of silly stuff. I think in this case it's worth it to send flowers or something on Mother's Day and similar occasions -- it's an easy way to show her you care, even if you think it's silly.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 11:57 AM on May 14 [5 favorites]


Send flowers and an apology.
posted by jbenben at 11:58 AM on May 14 [10 favorites]


To be clear, she did not ask me to do anything special for her this year. She expected it, and now is acting out because I didn't read her mind.
posted by houseofleaves at 11:59 AM on May 14


The way you navigate something like this is to apologize, do something nice to make it up for her (take her out to lunch, buy her a plant, whatever—you know your mom) and then remember to celebrate Mother's Day in the future. Assuming she wasn't abusive or neglectful, your mother did more to help you in your life than probably any other single person. Now that you know this is important to her, celebrating Mother's Day is not much to ask.

Celebrating Mother's Day is not about you, it's about your mom. That is the point of the holiday.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:05 PM on May 14 [32 favorites]


My one question - have you called/done anything for her in the past? If so, then it is reasonable for her to respect you'd have done something this year too, and I would make some kind of peace offering. If you've never done anything for her in the past, and if she hasn't ever said anything about it before, then...agreed, she should have done.

Maybe some kind of talk with her after the fact - if this is the first you're hearing about this - to say that you're sorry that you missed this, but you felt like you were in the habit of trying to show affection other ways blah blah blah - but that you will make an effort going forward if it is important to her. And by the way, are there other holidays that she wishes you'd also acknowledge, while you're at it?....And then whatever she says, do it, even if it feels a little silly to you. But that initial talk will both acknowledge that she felt bad, point out that you legit didn't know that it's what she wanted, but also show willingness to strive to please her.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:05 PM on May 14 [9 favorites]


She expected you to call on mothers day. That is not special or out of the ordinary, nor does it require some kind of special mind reading.

I appreciate that you had just gone our of your way to spend time with her this week, and by your reasoning this is all fine. It's fine to have that opinion and that will work great in relationships with people who share that opinion. But you also know, that she cares about stuff like this. You are allowed to think it's stupid that she cares about this but doing so acknowledges that you know she does; so maybe just call her next time.
posted by French Fry at 12:09 PM on May 14 [18 favorites]


Not to put too fine a point on it, but you come across as kind of callous here. "I don't care about it because I find these sort of things silly and no dumb old card company is going to tell me what to do and I'm mad that she's making me pay attention to this meaningless day" is, well, not the greatest take on things, really. (Her turning off the phone isn't exactly optimal either, but that's not the point.) And being thoughtful and considerate in ways that matter "to [you]," but not to the other person, isn't being thoughtful and considerate in any meaningful sense. "Thoughtful and considerate" by definition considers the other person, not you.

I'm actually with you in that I think Mother's Day is kind of silly too, but I make sure to get my mother a card and take her to lunch because it's really not a big deal, and a very small thing makes her happy and strengthens our relationship. That I think the holiday is kind of forced and fake is really entirely beside the point.

I agree that you should send flowers or some kind of small gift that she'll like, and apologize for forgetting. There's literally no downside to doing that.
posted by holborne at 12:09 PM on May 14 [56 favorites]


Calling your mom on Mother’s Day is a pretty low bar. Holidays matter to your mom. Acknowledge them. I’m not sure what other kind of unspoken expectations you think could come up. This is not a weird or unreasonable expectation on her part.
posted by FencingGal at 12:10 PM on May 14 [17 favorites]


You didn't do anything wrong, per se, but neither did she. Apologize and take her out to lunch next weekend, and then next year don't ignore the day.

My family is very casual about this sort of thing - my own mother forgets my birthday half the time and I don't care, and vice versa - but the older I get, the more I realize that every single person on this earth likes it when other people pay attention to them and make them feel special. Someday your mom won't be here anymore and you'll regret not doing these very small things that could have made a big difference to her. So put aside your feelings about how Mother's Day is a stupid made up holiday and give her what she wants: Make a note on your calendar for next year and take ten minutes of your day to call your mom.
posted by something something at 12:10 PM on May 14 [8 favorites]


I completely feel you on this stuff and really hate formal holidays, don't really celebrate my birthday, etc.

A way to think about this is that if it's not actually "important", then it's not a big deal to call your mother - it's a very little thing that makes her happy.

Another thing that I tried to think about while my mother was still alive is how disregarded mothers are in our culture. Despite Mothers' Day, we actually treat mothers as boring/embarrassing and are completely willing to accept their labor while doing nothing in return. As a society, we devalue mothers, and I think that this is one reason that individual mothers may be especially into Mothers' Day and readily hurt when it's not observed. So think of it as striking a blow against the neglect of women who are mothers, even if it's not the blow you'd best like to strike.

Also, it makes people feel bad when they're left out, even if it's the stupidest thing to be left out of. Like, when I was a secretary I felt bad when I was left out of Secretaries' Day, even though intellectually I know it's total bullshit that merely covers up the poor treatment of pink collar workers, and even though my boss at the time was actually an incredibly generous person in terms of Christmas gifts, very good about letting me take time off, etc. And that was just a job.

Also - and I recognize that I'm being the skull at the banquet here - if you're north of thirty, your mother isn't getting any younger. When I was about your age, my mother was diagnosed with a rare degenerative disease that took about twelve years to kill her, but not before it stripped away her ability to speak, her ability to understand complex sentences, her ability to walk and feed herself. You may not have as many Mothers' Days with a functioning mother as you think you do.

My advice, as someone who lost their mother too soon and too young, is to make your relationship with her as good as its underpinnings allow - it's not that people with abusive mothers, homophobic mothers, etc should put aside those issues in order to make nice, but if your relationship with your mother is basically good and functional, I think it's better to annoy yourself a little bit or make yourself uncomfortable a little bit to make your mother happy.
posted by Frowner at 12:13 PM on May 14 [75 favorites]


I get you, I really do. I am not one for all these gift giving holidays. I think cards are a silly waste of money and I rather buy my own stuff. I tell my loved ones I rather have their time than things but I agree with others. It is not about you, it is about her. If she has stated she would like a call, then tell her you are sorry for having missed it and call next year.
posted by ReiFlinx at 12:16 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


Every year on Mother's Day, my FB feed is basically top-to-bottom mothers having shitty, angry days because the effect of people not participating in this one-day-a-year Official Day To Be Nice To Moms is cumulative. If there's four people in your mom's life (siblings? your dad? grandkids?) and they all individually decide that Mother's Day is not worth mentioning, even for your individual Very Good Reasons, the reasons stop mattering and you're just left with hurt feelings.

You had your reasons to believe that she wouldn't really care, but she did. Lesson learned. Apologize, make a mental note, move forward.
posted by soren_lorensen at 12:19 PM on May 14 [16 favorites]


I'm in my mid-30s and estranged from family which has made me very, very aware that even as someone who is not on Facebook and Twitter, US culture right now has gotten big on hammering these holidays in a way I don't remember being the case 15 years ago, when certainly we did something nice for Mother's Day but I don't remember literally every store I've ever shopped at sending me frantic emails about Mother's Day sales until fairly recently. The thing about all that stuff? Since I'm already unhappy that I don't have a relationship with my mother and not entirely at peace with the fact that I don't have children, every single reminder that I get hurts a little more, and last night was... really rough as a result.

Which is all to say: If she's just feeling a little bit depressed/anxious and lonely, the social and media (and social media) emphasis on holidays like Mother's Day is likely going to bring those things to a head on that day even if she didn't necessarily intend for it to be so. If you really do have a fairly close relationship with her, I think it's better to indulge, even if it is dumb. It can be dumb and still hurt.
posted by Sequence at 12:28 PM on May 14 [9 favorites]


Nthing Frowner...I effectively lost my mother to Multiple Sclerosis when I was ten, though she didn't die until many years later. But her ability to walk, read, talk, and do everything people take for granted slipped away beginning then. I would love to be able to call my Mom on any day.

You didn't know; now you do. Do something nice, apologize for not calling, and make a point of marking the occasion in the future with at least a phone call, more if you can afford it and your relationship is good. Chocolates or brunch or flowers or whatever will make her smile and feel appreciated.

No one ever knows how much time they have; more empathy towards others' needs isn't a bad thing, even if you don't necessarily agree with their ideas. If she has friends, they probably asked her what her children did for mother's day. I can't imagine saying "nothing" made her feel good, even if she also thinks it's a dumb idea every other day of the year when you're being a wonderful daughter and showing her your love for her. Consider the Mother's Day stuff lagniappe.
posted by OneSmartMonkey at 12:29 PM on May 14 [3 favorites]


I'm a thoughtful and considerate person in the ways that matter (to me).

The thing about being thoughtful and considerate is - it's not about you and what matters to you. It sounds like your family has readily heard your feedback about consumer holidays and has accommodated it but you're not hearing your mother's feedback. You've noticed as she's aged that her preferences are changing but you're not doing anything to accommodate them which is what considerate people do. You do things that are purely about what someone else wants even if they're inconsistent and changing.

My wife loves getting handmade cards for various moments in the year - I honestly don't care about them one bit, feel like they're often a waste of paper and time that goes in a drawer to be seen once every five years, and would much prefer to just tell her how I feel. I make about four handmade cards per year because that's how she wants to be celebrated.

Buy her flowers, a card, and say I am sorry. You get one mother and she's probably done oodles and oodles of things she didn't want to do to make you happy over the years.
posted by notorious medium at 12:34 PM on May 14 [30 favorites]


You don't say how old your mother is - these comment are more true if she is older - but you and she are moving into a new stage of your relationship. As she ages, she is facing some really tough losses - not just losses of people she loves but losses in her own abilities, her body, her role in society including her ability to commend respect from others. As she ages, you will be called upon to become more generous and accommodating.

In an ideal, healthy mother-daughter relationship, if you were 15 and she was 50 and this happened, you would get to be all indigent about consumerism and love on demand and she would be called on to be patient with your attitude. If you were 25 and she was 60, you would be able to acknowledge her feelings and explain your side, she would recognize you had done nothing wrong and then express her feelings and preferences and you two would be fine. But if you are 35 and she is 70, you are moving into the stage where you can try have a conversation between equals but you need to be ready to let go and forgive if she is the one getting all caught up in her feelings and less able to do have an adult conversation about it.

It is only going to get harder. The best i've found it to remember that I love these people very much and I need to speak and act from that place of love because it is the kind of person that I want to be in the world.
posted by metahawk at 12:36 PM on May 14 [22 favorites]


I'm a thoughtful and considerate person in the ways that matter (to me).

This was exactly how I used to think of myself - as a thoughtful and considerate person - until I realized that my acts and words of thoughtfulness and consideration didn't always translate as thoughtful and considerate to my loved ones. It really does come down to how others perceive/receive your action that ultimately deems that action "thoughtful" or "considerate", assuming your motivation is to make the receiver feel good, and not yourself.

Everyone talks of love languages, but there's also the theory that people have different languages of apology. Your mom has clearly communicated with you that she would like to be acknowledged on this highly consumer-marketing-social-media-based holiday, so perhaps you can apologize in kind, as others have suggested, to appease this need of hers.
posted by Everydayville at 12:36 PM on May 14 [11 favorites]


You're acting like you're mum has some crazy, out of the blue, weird expectations. A phone call or even a text on mother's day is like the bare minimum a loved mother should expect on mother's day so her expectations are not unreasonable, you also say you've noticed as she ages she's become more sensitive to feeling unappreciated on these occasions, so this isn't exactly out of the blue either.

You're making this all about you - what's important to you and your feelings about commercial holidays. Its not about you, especially if you really want to be a thoughtful and considerate person. Its about what your mother wants.

Its great to show your appreciation year round in smaller gestures but sometimes people want to feel special in a way that small regular gestures don't. (I don't even have kids and mother's day makes me sad sometimes) If she uses social media, this has probably exacerbated the issue - its very common for social media to increase feelings of dissatisfaction and even isolation because people tend to post the good stuff - her feed was probably full of pictures of flowers and chocolates, fancy lunches/brunches. Those kids could be the worst, most ungrateful little shits the rest of the year, but they've made an effort its made her feel sad because she didn't even get a text or phone call and in that moment, it wont matter how many wonderful things you did for her the week before.
posted by missmagenta at 12:54 PM on May 14 [9 favorites]


I'm a thoughtful and considerate person in the ways that matter (to me)

This is not how being thoughtful and considerate work. "Considerate" means you consider what the needs of the other person are, not what you think they should be. This matters to your mother irrespective of the provenance of the holiday and acting like she's dumb to care is also extremely inconsiderate.

You unexpectedly hurt your mom's feelings which isn't your fault if you had no way to know this would be important to her but you control how you act know that you do have this information. I really think you should apologize and call next year and make sure you call on her birthday too. It sucks to feel like no one cares about your feelings and it sucks even more when you feel guilty for being hurt.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 1:00 PM on May 14 [26 favorites]


my mom thought mother's day was pretty dumb so I'd just call her, usually, because she didn't mind that. She appreciated flowers but never made a thing out of it if she didn't get them. if she had minded even that much I wouldn't have done it. but it's like birthdays, you can tell everybody to ignore yours and they'd better respect that, but ignoring other people's is an entirely different thing.

mother's day expectations are as spoken as expectations get, media won't stop speaking about it all month. you call or send flowers unless you're angry with your mother or she's told you not to or she's told you it's a bullshit holiday she hates. you can't decide that for her. you say you didn't think to call, but also that you didn't really forget. but it sounds like you always made a token gesture before and this is the first time you didn't. otherwise this would have happened every year. small, frequent, meaningful, non-commercial gestures are great, but calling someone on a special day is both meaningful and the smallest possible gesture one can make.
posted by queenofbithynia at 1:14 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


To be clear, she did not ask me to do anything special for her this year. She expected it, and now is acting out because I didn't read her mind.

Neither of you can change what happened in the past. But now it no longer takes mind-reading abilities to know that your mother wants you to call her on holidays. She has now voiced that desire loud and clear.
posted by craven_morhead at 1:17 PM on May 14


Is your mom on social media? I think that the expectations for celebrating holidays increases if you see what other people are up to... Maybe she has some peers on FaceBook that are showing off their celebrations, and this accounts for the increasing importance she is starting to place on Mother's Day. Not your fault for not realizing it, especially if your family didn't typically celebrate in a big way before. But in the future, maybe give her something to crow about?
posted by Knowyournuts at 1:19 PM on May 14 [4 favorites]


I'm sorry to pile on but if you've noticed and internalized
But I've noticed that as she ages, she is increasingly sensitive about feeling unloved/underappreciated on those occasions .
Then her expectation of some day of acknowledgement for mother's day shouldn't be a surprise to you. Also nthing various up thread comments about what being considerate means.
posted by toomanycurls at 1:28 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


> US culture right now has gotten big on hammering these holidays in a way I don't remember being the case 15 years ago

I was just talking with another mom about this. Our oldest kids are in high school, and we don't remember Mother's Day being such a big deal even when our kids were little. It's definitely ramping up, or at least our perception of it is, and maybe your mother's is, too. So: annual reminder in your phone to send her a card and give her a call. There's no down side to this, other than that you're supporting the Hallmark industrial complex.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:36 PM on May 14


But I'm irritated by the mindset that I ought to know to do specific things on specific events, or else I don't "care enough."

If you genuinely didn't have any clue that she might want a call on Mother's Day, then I agree, you're not a mindreader and she's being unreasonable. But, sometimes people we love are unreasonable and we accommodate them anyway. Apologize, call, get her a belated gift or take her out for a meal.

(Though this would indicate that you probably *did* have some clue that she might want a call...: But I've noticed that as she ages, she is increasingly sensitive about feeling unloved/underappreciated on those occasions .)

I don't know how to prevent this from happening again the next time a holiday comes up with unspoken expectations.

It seems like your mom wants more traditional wishes and celebrations nowadays. So, from now on, on Mother's Day, her birthday, and Christmas, call her and send a card/gift or take her out for a meal. Problem solved.
posted by whitelily at 1:57 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


If you, like me, get really irked at paying $4 for a card, you can buy $0.50 cards at Dollar Tree that are mostly indistinguishable from the $4 cards and have higher prices marked on the back. I do this because my mom's love language is quantity, and especially when my grandmother (for whom my mom was the primary caretaker) was alive, I sent each of them a separate card from me and each of my two children. My mom got to feel extra special when six pink envelopes arrived in her mailbox at once, and I didn't have to spend $24 on cards.
posted by telepanda at 1:58 PM on May 14 [9 favorites]


A little advice from a highly possible future: When your mom's gone, you're really going to wish you'd gone just a little bit out of your way to make her happy on Mother's day.
posted by invincible summer at 2:23 PM on May 14 [7 favorites]


Sending a text and then turning off the phone is more of a teenage thing, not something an emotionally mature adult does to make their needs known. To do that after you took two vacation days to spend time together, for me, is churlish. I would approach her after she's not so acutely feeling the hurt and see what she does want, to try and meet her halfway. Honestly, if I knew my kid was highly averse to "Hallmark holidays" I would prefer an authentic gesture to one that has to be produced, but she may feel the opposite. Is she really into social media?
posted by wnissen at 2:23 PM on May 14


I sympathize. I really do. When I was growing up both my parents (they were divorced) talked about how pointless they thought the "invented holidays" like Mother's Day and Father's Day were. So I never did anything on those days for them and everybody was happy about it.

And then a couple of years ago, my now-septuagenarian father said "You know, kiddo, I'd really like to get a card or something from you on Father's Day." So now I grit my teeth and buy a card for him, and do my best when we're together to let go of residual resentment and be glad we can spend time together. I may still be wrangling with my cranky inner adolescent who resents this and feels like it's some kind of bait-and-switch, but he doesn't need to know that. So I remind myself that people's wants and needs change over time, and this is what he wants and needs now.

I suggest keeping an eye out for opportunities to help her feel loved and appreciated, especially since you say she's increasingly been "feeling unloved/underappreciated on those occasions". And now that you know she'd like something done on Mother's Day, do something nice on Mother's Day.
posted by Lexica at 2:39 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


You don't send a gift on Mothers Day because you believe in the holiday, you send the gift if your mother "believes" in the holiday & you have a good relationship & you love her enough to make her happy. Seriously I think birthdays for people over 16 are ridiculous, but I turn up to family birthday dinners for all family members with a present because that's what they like & I like them.
posted by wwax at 2:42 PM on May 14


On Mother's Day there are always people asking, either in complete innocent curiosity or passive aggressive competition "Oh, did you get a call/gift/visit for Mother's Day?" Some mothers can only hear that translated as "Oh, is there anyone out there that loves you?" and if the answer is no, it hurts. As my mother gets older I realize what I do for her and the gifts I give her make her feel good in part because it shows other people that she is loved. It would be great if we didn't need these sort of things but some of us do. One difference between Mother's Day and other holidays is many mothers have doubt and guilt about the job they did and can never get enough reassurance.
posted by InkaLomax at 2:53 PM on May 14 [4 favorites]


A little advice from a highly possible future: When your mom's gone, you're really going to wish you'd gone just a little bit out of your way to make her happy on Mother's day.

Or you might not. My mom died this past year. It was a blessed relief not to have to mind-read what she wanted or have to navigate nonsense with my foster brother (who she called "son" and who me and my sister did not call "brother" which always made her pissed) yesterday.

Like you, I have some pretty serious feels about how stupid a lot of holidays are, but that's me talking to me. I also enjoy living in the world and realize that many, most, people are not like me and they have their own feels which are just as real to them. So I try to walk my own path while acknowledging that others' are on theirs. And if I'm really trying to be considerate and empathetic, I have to see these things through other peoples' eyes as well.

So you're annoyed because your mom turned this into drama when you were being true to yourself. That's annoying but, hey, fixable! Call her next time, and if you guys are close-ish explain that it was just a mistake on your part. You thought she felt more like you did and she doesn't. Maybe have a larger conversation about holidays in general if that's useful.

Different people feel more or less part of a social pack and have feelings and expectations related to that. I concur with everyone else that having a thing to say/show/do on more holidays has become more of a thing in the age of social media and maybe that, in addition to not hearing from you, is important to your mom. I think it's okay to be annoyed but also realize that annoyance is more just a misalignment/conflict of thoughts/feelings/actions and not anything your mom specifically did. Sometimes we just need to sit with the weird feelings.
posted by jessamyn at 3:07 PM on May 14 [7 favorites]


In an Ask from the opposite side of this fence yesterday, someone posted this poem, which I find really on the nose.
She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-clothes on my forehead,
and then led me out into the air light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.
If your mother has been a good mother and you have a good relationship with her, you owe her more than you could ever possibly repay in slightly tacky consumerist Mothers Day cards. If your feelings about her mothering are complicated, that might explain your ambivalence - you say you remembered it was Mother’s Day and knew she wanted this but still chose not to. To me, that speaks of at least mild familial trouble - which is okay, but it means the conflict isn’t really over the cards.
posted by corb at 3:50 PM on May 14 [13 favorites]


My SO does not like to receive or give gifts. His mom really does. On mother's day he took on the emotional labor to gather siblings together and make a nice dinner and spent time for her and with her. There are ways to honor people without traditional Hallmark defaults, but also - if she really wanted flowers he'd buy her flowers. He used to resent this whole ordeal until he realized (I pointed out) that it is about her, not him. That she has accommodated his desire to get coffee or snacks instead of knick-knacks, and he can return the thought and effort. They have a better relationship now, and she also doesn't send as many passive-aggresive/hopeful-pining texts before a holiday.

Think of all the times she cleaned your poop and give your mom a call on mother's day.
posted by hapaxes.legomenon at 3:54 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


I feel the same way as you do, I think. But all of a sudden I am 40 and my mother is 64. Lately it's gotten a lot easier to call her!
posted by 8603 at 3:58 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


This seems unnecessarily combative. A phone call and acknowledgement of the day is not out of line and, it seems in your case, not even an imposition. You just didn’t feel like bothering.

Probably not the best decision.
posted by _Mona_ at 4:05 PM on May 14 [4 favorites]


She knows this about me, and my immediate family has -never- made much of a fuss about gift-giving/cards/celebrative gestures. We haven't exchanged gifts for birthdays or Christmas in years. I prefer to show my love and appreciation for her in regular, smaller gestures - not once a year when companies and social media tell me to. But I've noticed that as she ages, she is increasingly sensitive about feeling unloved/underappreciated on those occasions.

It's entirely possible this is how she has felt all along, but she felt like she had to suppress her actual desires and go along with the group to preserve harmony. However, now that she's older, maybe she's more comfortable with expressing her true desires.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 4:06 PM on May 14 [15 favorites]


I was so you - I was so wrong.
posted by Gnella at 5:20 PM on May 14 [5 favorites]


I totally understand a fraught relationship with both your mother and holidays. Unfortunately, holidays are bigger than us all. It's part of the social contract to participate in them if you can, and it sounds like you could have and chose not to. Choosing not to do something is still a choice, sadly, and this time you made the choice that hurt your mom. And I get it, there's no "kid's day" where we get cards for putting up with our mom's bullshit forever, but oh well, maybe next lifetime. This is the tax we pay for having moms.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 5:31 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


When I was 20, I forgot about Mother's Day. I was in college, and was in the habit of calling my parents every Sunday evening, so I called and talked with her and then, at the end of our conversation, she said "hey, you just spent the last 20 minutes talking about yourself and didn't even wish me a happy mother's day." I was mortified, but also got defensive, because neither of my parents have ever made a big deal about it. I think I said something like "but you always said it was a corporate Hallmark holiday to sell stuff!" And she said, "no, that's what your father says. I'd like to be acknowledged on Mother's Day."

So ever since then, I always make sure to send her at least a card, though in the last few years I've taken to donating to the Black Mamas Bailout on her behalf instead because she's a lawyer who cares about social justice. But the point is, she told me she was upset that I hadn't remembered, and that was all she had to do. I apologized, and haven't forgotten since.

She expected it, and now is acting out because I didn't read her mind.

This seems unfair. "Acting out" makes it sound like you're talking about a child having a tantrum. Unless she has a history of holding you to unstated expectations and then punishing you when you don't meet them (in which case there's a larger issue that would be good to discuss with her) it sounds like a very human moment of being disappointed in someone you love, and expressing that disappointment. And yeah, it feels shitty to be on the receiving end, but you'll both be ok.

Just tell your mom you're sorry, and send her a belated card. Your personal feelings about consumerism don't matter here - it's not your holiday, it's hers. Now you know she wants to be appreciated on mother's day, so act accordingly.
posted by lunasol at 6:39 PM on May 14 [6 favorites]


Don't you want your aging mother to feel loved and appreciated? You don't mention a history of abuse or severe estrangement or anything, so...of course you do, right? What a silly question of me even to ask! Now that you know what helps her to avoid feeling unloved or underappreciated, isn't that enough to tell you what you should be doing?

I've recently been going through some difficult transitions in my own relationship with my mother as she gets older, and, let me tell you, you will never find that your prior relationship was excessively caring and respectful when it comes to having resources to cope with the thousand natural shocks, etc.
posted by praemunire at 6:53 PM on May 14 [5 favorites]


The truth is, I hadn't really forgotten about it, but I just do not care one whit about most consumer-/socially-/religiously- fabricated special occasions.

That's not the point. Your mother does. Do it anyway, because it would make your mother sad if you don't. That's why. Not because of the rules of the occasion or whatever.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:34 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


On Mother's Day there are always people asking, either in complete innocent curiosity or passive aggressive competition "Oh, did you get a call/gift/visit for Mother's Day?" Some mothers can only hear that translated as "Oh, is there anyone out there that loves you?" and if the answer is no, it hurts.

So it's basically Valentine's Day except for moms.

Consider yourself fortunate she wanted so little. Seriously, you can spring for a card/call compared to the things you could have to do.

Signed, She Whose Mother's Birthday Is Also On Or Around Mother's Day And You Have No Idea.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:36 PM on May 14 [3 favorites]


I felt the same way you do about the commercialism of cards but I sent 'em anyway. Mother usually kept the cards on display in the living room for weeks so all her visitors could see them. Then she put them carefully away in a box and took them out on occasion and looked at all of them. I don't think she ever threw any of them away.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 10:53 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


You don't buy into the holiday, but your mother does, and you love your mother, so you do something on the holiday. It isn't an unspoken expectation any more because now she has spoken it. Lesson learned for next year.
posted by davejay at 11:40 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Maybe reframe the way you think about holidays. You can make those choices for your own celebrations and let everyone know that's what you prefer. As for others, help them celebrate in the way that's meaningful to them.

So the question isn't whether you care about commercialized holidays - it's whether you care about your mother.
posted by Miko at 6:01 AM on May 15


Just in case you look at this again, House of Leaves - I should tell you that I too forgot Mothers' Day and birthdays (partly because I am hugely forgetful) and I too had to apologize and struggle to do better, and there were definitely fed ex overnight charges for shipping treats and presents some years.

Also, have you thought of getting your mother something that you enjoy buying? When I had a flush year, I sent French macarons because they're pretty and when I had a tight year I sent Serious Artistic Animation. I mean, these were both things that my mother actively enjoyed - I didn't just pick some random thing - but I found that the "oh goodie I get to pick which flavors of macarons" thing helped motivate me to send presents instead of just think "I should probably send a present".

This stuff is fraught. Families are fraught, holidays can easily have a very strong power struggle or affective subtext even in families where people basically care about each other and have good relationships. Some folks have relatively uncomplicated family histories around this stuff, some people don't, and basically it's okay to have complicated feelings. Just like it's okay to have complicated feelings about being left out of Stupid Commercial Holiday The Fifteenth, it's okay to have ambivalent feelings about performing Being A Good And Tractable Child.

Basically it doesn't make you a bad person - one of the problems with these !@!@#@! holidays is that they're designed to make you feel like the choice is participating with bells on or being a terrible human.

Signed, I had a lot of feelings around holidays and birthdays and I still do.
posted by Frowner at 6:27 AM on May 15


I fucking hate Mother's Day, because it just reminds me that I'll never be a mother. My best friend hates it too, because her mother just died, and we commiserate every year on just how much we despise it.

I still took my mother out for the day, because it makes her so happy, as other people have discussed. I pick my battles.
posted by Melismata at 8:47 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


I just do not care one whit about most consumer-/socially-/religiously- fabricated special occasions.

I prefer to show my love and appreciation for her in regular, smaller gestures - not once a year when companies and social media tell me to.


I feel you, but if every day is special, then no day is special. A phone call on mother's day is a pretty easy way to mark the day as special for your mom, and a conversation doesn't feed into a consumerist black hole. I don't think your mom is wanting for anything that would compromise your principals.
posted by WeekendJen at 11:42 AM on May 16


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