The Washington Post

Mother’s Day: Time to honor the woman who does, and asks, for too much

This is the week leading up to what’s known in my home as The Day of Dashed Expectations, also called Mother’s Day.

The holiday designated by Congress in 1914 to honor mothers, and later promoted to boost the greeting card industry, is problematic for everyone.

Is this enough for Mother’s day? (ROMEO RANOCO/REUTERS)

Then there’s the eternal debate over what to ask for.

Will we be in the mood for a full-on family day or a stretch of leave-me-alone-ness? Will we want a professionally catered breakfast or an adorable kitchen mess?

Will we want a break-the-bank gift or something homemade?

Does this all sound too greedy? We’re set up for it.

We get a single day when everyone has to say thanks. This appreciation is supposed to last us until next May. Those bundles of flowers have an awful big responsibility.

When perceived as a single day of payback for a year’s worth of caregiving, the sense of entitlement can quickly get out of hand. Case in point: is encouraging mothers to broadcast to family and friends what they most want on Mother’s Day.

Yes, you can create a Mother’s Day registry.

I, more than most, have entitlement issues with a day that I can’t help but consider as a now-it’s-MY-turn spree.

But 24 hours is not enough for my turn to sleep in, read the paper in peace, go for a long run, enjoy a gourmet breakfast in bed, depart early for an Old Rag family hike culminating in a Tiffany box waiting at the peak, sit back for a spa pedicure, paddle through a family kayak to Roosevelt Island, linger in a bookstore, nibble at a picnic that concludes with a Godiva box, visit a kid-friendly working farm, get a massage, listen to a Kennedy Center performance, order in an Indian feast, dine out with my female friends and cap it all off with a romantic moonlight stroll past the monuments with my exhausted husband.

Oh, and I’ll need to be in bed before 10:30 because I want to start the next week well rested.

What inevitably transpires is by 8 a.m. each Mother’s Day, I am angry that four of the above activities are not underway and the rest of the day goes downhill from there.

The funny thing is that the vast majority of Sundays are, for me, far more fun and restorative. They tend to be the single day of the week with no pressure, few expectations.

An expert (or my dreading-this-weekend husband) might say the key is to try to expect less from “My Day.” To look at it as an ordinary Sunday and be thankful for anything more than that.

There are two problems with this proposal.

First, there are only so many of these Mother’s Days that I am going to be able to dictate.

The “it goes so fast” cliché applies to both a child’s miraculous growth and Mother’s Days. Before long, I’ll be the runner-up mom or mother-in-law to whom only Hallmark and Skype look forward to pleasing.

The second is that it adds more pressure — the day should now be fun-filled, gift-laden, relaxing AND expectation-free.

Better idea: Maybe I will stretch out my Mother’s Day wish list over the year. I can make a registry that includes a sleep-in Sunday in August, a family kayak trip in October; a massage in March. Yes, I’ll try that.

And, for this Sunday, all I’ll ask fora single item on the list. Maybe a chance to read the paper.

Well, maybe two. It is Mother’s Day, after all.

How do you plan to celebrate Mother’s Day?

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