Dear all: Here’s what I really want for Mother’s Day. Signed, Mom
It isn’t always pretty.
(Let’s just state up front I have experience with this. Some years I’ve really felt the love. Memo to husband and kids: Just repeat last year, right down to the homemade flourless chocolate cake! But there was also the year when I had four kids under 8 and the first and only person to wish me a “Happy Mother’s Day!” was the grocery boy who carried my bags to my minivan. )
The best Mother’s Days aren’t necessarily about the stuff: the flowers, the gifts. It’s not even about brunch—though no mom I know would ever turn down brunch.
The secret to a happy Mother’s Day—the thing every mom ultimately wants and needs (and deserves!) in any form—is this: to be appreciated, without having to ask.
Dads and partners, your job is simple:
Don’t take her for granted! Notice. Show it—and prompt the kids to find a way to show they notice too. (And if your child is too young, be the spokesperson on his or her behalf.)
How to do that? Look no farther than the Froh Formula. That’s the simple, three-part way of saying thanks we learned from psychologist Jeffrey Froh, who studies gratitude (and, as a dad of two, knows something about how to step up this time of year).
Here’s how it works:
Part 1. First you highlight what the person did for you.
(Kids may need help connecting the dots of their lives back to moms on this one—to them, half the stuff we do is invisible, like air, like Wi-Fi!)
Thanks, Mom, for making it all happen: Everyone’s favorite cereal in the cupboard. The neverending toilet paper on the roll. Fresh diapers. Clothes that fit. Signed paperwork. Clean towels. Endless snacks. And for just getting more done on less sleep than should be humanly possible.Thanks for all the gross stuff you do without complaining…like combing lice out of hair and cleaning up dog accidents…and human accidents…and, come to think of it, all manner of body fluids.
Thanks for showing me how to be a hard worker and a nice person—and how to be those things even when you’re kind of stressed out.
Thanks for all the stuff that just makes us happy. Like pulling piggies and rubbing backs. Group hugs. High fives. Pinky promises. Pep talks. Sticking up for me. Story-time snuggles. Bedtime kisses.
(You get the idea—whatever it is in your house that makes it all work.)
Part 2: You acknowledge what the person gave up in order to provide it.
I can only imagine how much sleep you set aside while breastfeeding/soothing my nightmares/staying up late to make 12 dozen muffins for the school assembly/getting insomnia from worrying about me.
I’m sure you’d rather have binge-watched House of Cards after dinner than helped me do times tables and spelling words.
I wish you could have bought six new pairs of shoes for yourself this year instead of six pairs just for me because my feet are growing so fast.
Wow, it’s so cool you morphed your whole body into a different one just so I could be born.
Oh, geez, all that lost sleep.
Part 3. Finally, you express how the person’s actions benefitted you.
I’m here because of you.
I’m happier because of you.
I’m healthier because of you.
I’m good at math because of you.
I have cool shoes that let me run fast because of you.
I’m a better person because of you.
We’re a family because of you.
Pssst, pass it on….
And there you have the handy, all-purpose Froh Formula for showing appreciation. Cards are a highly recommended way to express it, though verbal toasts, lavish poetry, and art work well for the very talented.
Flowers, chores, presents, and brunch? Why, those will be the icing on her flourless chocolate cake.
Oh, and one more thing: Show the love all the rest of the year too. Every day is Mother’s Day in our book.
—Content chief Paula Spencer Scott is a mom of 4 and step-mom of 2—and the author or co-author of more than a dozen books about parenting, health, and eldercare, including Bright From the Start; The Happiest Toddler on the Block; Like Mother, Like Daughter; and Surviving Alzheimer’s.