Mad about Mother’s Day? Turn Over the Reins!

By Dr. Deanna Brann

Mother’s Day is fast approaching and you probably have so many people to think about—your mother, your husband’s mother, and maybe even a stepmother or two. How do you make it all work? And when was it decided that it was your job to make it all work? Planning, coordinating, and orchestrating holidays always seems to fall to the women in the family. Whether we take this role on willingly or not, we still take it on just the same. And this can seem especially burdensome on Mother’s Day, which is supposed to be about one person—Mom.

Chances are that each of the different mothers in your life want, and often expect, something special from their families on this particular day. And taking on the role of holiday planner and coordinator can make this holiday even more stressful than usual because your mother-in-law is not your mother. It may feel awkward and even frustrating to have to buy her gift, pick out a card, plan an outing, and so on. Even if you like your husband’s mom, you may eventually begin to grow resentful toward her, and that feels awful!

Whether your mother-in-law is a high-maintenance, demanding type who wants the moon or a low-maintenance woman who expects very little, here are four tips you can use to shift your resentment to feelings that encompass the true spirit of Mother’s Day:

  1. Take a step back emotionally: Understand that this is a day that can stir up all kinds of feelings for all kinds of reasons. Recognize that your true frustration and resentment about being in charge of all the planning is mostly toward your husband, not your mother-in-law. After all, he is not taking on his responsibility to find ways to show he loves and acknowledges his own mother.
  2. Talk to you husband: Let your husband know it is important for him to step up to the plate on this. You can willingly discuss options with him for gifts, outings, and so on, including how the two of you will allocate your time on that special day. But even if your own mother is not in the picture, ultimately your husband needs to learn to honor his mother.
  3. Let it go: After you’ve talked to your husband about what you need from him and maybe even brainstormed some ideas, you have to let it go. Reassure yourself that you’ve done what you can and the matter is out of your hands. It is not your responsibility. If you’re not willing to let the ball drop, you’ll always be racing to catch it at the last minute. And that will only make things worse—for everyone.
  4. Do something for yourself: Whether or not you are a mother as well, plan something special for yourself on Mother’s Day. You are doing all these other things for all these other women, so why not indulge yourself a bit? Go ahead and plan some pampering for yourself to acknowledge all that you are—mother, spouse, friend, sister, daughter, and so on.

Using these tips works because they give you a much-needed opportunity to shift the resentment you may feel toward your mother-in-law into something that will work better for everyone. You win because you don’t feel as pressured anymore, your mother-in-law wins because she will no doubt appreciate the new heartfelt effort her son will be putting forth, and even your husband will win because his mother will probably shower him with appreciation for his efforts.

There’s one more important benefit: You will be able to see your mother-in-law in a new and different light. You will finally be able to see her for the woman she is—the mother who contributed to the wonderful qualities you now see in your husband. That really is something to celebrate!


About the Author

Deanna Brann, Ph.D., is a leading expert in the field of mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationships. She has over 25 years’ experience as a clinical psychotherapist and ran her own private practice for more than 18 years. Based in Knoxville, Tenn., Dr. Brann is a sought after speaker, author and seminar leader. She is the two time author of Reluctantly Related: Secrets To Getting Along With Your Mother-in-Law or Daughter-in-Law and Mothers-in-Law and Daughters-in-Law Say the Darndest Things.