Celebrating holidays as a single mom isn’t easy. And boy, was that true on my first Mother’s Day post-divorce. I’m not sure why I thought my ex would remind our child to acknowledge the day in some small way, but he didn’t, and that hit harder than I’d like to admit. I wasn’t feeling festive, and since my son was only eight at the time, making a big deal out of the day felt like throwing a party for myself – and one I was too emotionally raw to attend at that. 

“Many mothers feel resentment post-divorce because their ex doesn’t remind their child to make them a special card or gift,” said Aurisha Smolarski, LMFT, an individual, couples, and co-parenting therapist in Los Angeles, California, and author of “Cooperative Co-Parenting for Secure Kids.” While that can be frustrating, she emphasizes the importance of not letting it ruin your Mother’s Day. Instead, take the opportunity to make new memories and traditions with your child.

I did my best to make the most of Mother’s Day that year. We kept it simple by riding our bikes to a pond in our neighborhood, setting up a blanket with our favorite snacks, and playing cards in the company of sunbathing turtles. It was a lovely afternoon, but I felt so utterly alone. At the same time, I realized that I had the power not to let sadness or disappointment ruin such a meaningful day. I would take a different approach to Mother’s Day in the future.

Moving forward means leaving the past behind

It’s easy to dwell on what’s missing, but that won’t make you feel better (take it from me). Instead of sulking about what you don’t have, focus on the love and joy around you, said Christine M. Valentín, LCSW, a therapist based in Middlesex, New Jersey who works with children, adults, and parents. Mother’s Day is the perfect opportunity to tap into the love expressed for all mothers who nurtured and cared for another being, she said.

According to my custody agreement, my son is with me every Mother’s Day weekend. That’s everything to me. Still, I wanted to find a new way to show him the day’s importance without making it all about me, which felt phony. Valentín said a good way to do that is by reaching out to other women who may be in similar positions. “When you’re around other people who ‘get it,’ you can support each other,” she said.

It’s also a powerful way to feel less alone. “Social connections cultivate a sense of belonging, which is so important to healing, empowerment, and general well-being,” said Smolarski. Mother’s Day is a great time to foster community and connection. 

Heidi Borst and son Brody walking on the beach
Celebrating Mother’s Day with two friends allowed Heidi and Brody to experience an uplifting day of connection and celebration. (Photos by Stephanie Savas Photography)

I started a new Mother’s Day tradition

I met two wonderful neighbors (both widows) after moving into my current home shortly after my divorce. Though our situations are different, our lives have many parallels. We get together occasionally for wine nights, commiserating about our losses and sharing life’s joys and triumphs. I appreciate how open and honest they are about their feelings and how they listen without judgment. I cherish their friendship more than I can express. Last year, I knew they’d be alone on Mother’s Day, so I invited them to brunch with my son and me. 

According to Smolarski, not only does reaching out to others foster togetherness, but it also prevents feelings of isolation. She said we form bonds by sharing experiences, relaxing, and laughing. That was true of Mother’s Day brunch with my son and neighbors. The day was uplifting – full of connection and celebration. By coming together, we shared a sense of camaraderie and support that we all needed. And my son got to see his mom experiencing true joy.

Making the most of Mother’s Day as a single mom

More than anything, Mother’s Day celebrates the gifts of nurturing and love we provide to our children, said Valentín. “Wherever you look, every person on this earth is here because of a mother.” 

“The ups and downs are all part of that journey and deserve to be honored and celebrated,” said Smolarksi. If you’re struggling on Mother’s Day, she offers the following tips for making the day special:

  • Create new traditions: This is a wonderful time to create new traditions for yourself and your kids. 
  • Focus on the present: Stay present in the moment and experiences, love, and people you have now. Don’t dwell on the past or fears for the future.  
  • Practice self-love: Care for yourself as you would a friend. You deserve it! 
  • Surround yourself with friends and family: Community is key to combat feeling alone.
  • Practice gratitude: Focus on being grateful for what you have—your children, your time with them, and the positives they bring to your life.
  • Give back: Help others, volunteer, or perform other acts of kindness.   

The bottom line? Create the day you want to have instead of waiting for others to remember or do things for you, said Smolarski. “Think of Mother’s Day as a time to celebrate your journey as a mother. You know what you want, so go out and get it. You do you!”