Put your partner first.
If you’re lucky enough to have more than one mother in your life—your sweetheart, your MIL, your own mother, maybe assorted stepmothers or mentors or beloved aunts tossed in there—there will be a lot of moms who expect to celebrated, all in a single day. What are you supposed to do if these moms don’t want to celebrate together?
Answer: You prioritize the mom of your own kids. “Don’t make your partner compete for her Mother’s Day by spending it with her mother-in-law,” says Allison Slater Tate, a contributing writer at TODAY Parents. Sinead Smythe, a therapist in Alameda, California, and a master trainer for the Gottman Institute, says “As a couples therapist, I would say that celebrating the mom of your own kids has got to be top priority, just in terms of what you’re creating in your own relationship and your own family.”
One workaround: Offer to celebrate Mother’s Day with your partner on a different day entirely. If she’s preparing a celebration for her own mom, she might be pleased to take her special day the Saturday before, or on the following weekend. Laura Venuto, a New York City psychotherapist specializing in postpartum mental-health issues, said in an email, “Many families have traditions that make it difficult for moms to take a break on Mother’s Day. All too often, there’s a mother preparing a celebration for her daughters and grandchildren or her mother and mother-in-law on a day that should be an opportunity for respite for all mothers.” If this is the situation in your family, your partner might appreciate 1) your taking over that celebration of the other mothers and 2) offering her a rain check for her own special event.
Make Mother’s Day part of a bigger conversation.
Mismatched expectations around Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays—all the holidays—are really mismatched expectations about values, family, and celebrations. These kind of conflicts are best resolved, say Smythe, through “intentional conversations” about how each member of the couple feels valued and appreciated, how you demonstrate your affection for each other, and how you want to include (or not include) your other relatives in your immediate family’s celebrations. “Couples that tend to be successful—that are happy, that have high degrees of emotional connection—actually do have intentional conversations about traditions, holidays, and rituals that are meaningful to them. They talk about why things are meaningful, and they’re working together to create a sense of shared meaning within the couple and for the family as well.”