Ask Richmond Proper: On celebrating Mother’s Day

A reader writes: is it proper for dads to celebrate Mother’s Day for the mothers of their own children? My dad dismisses this and refuses to wish my mom a happy Mother’s Day, saying “She’s not my mother.” Which is ridiculous.

A reader writes:

Is it proper for dads to celebrate Mother’s Day for the mothers of their own children? My dad dismisses this and refuses to wish my mom a happy Mother’s Day, saying “She’s not my mother.” Which is ridiculous. Also, do you celebrate Mother’s Day with your wife if she is expecting? Thanks for your thoughts on this.

First, I’m so glad you’re asking for clarification on Mother’s Day. It’s a credit to your character that you’re even thinking about these issues, and wondering how best to go about celebrating Mother’s Day with your loved ones. It shows that you’re attuned to the feelings of others, and frankly, that strikes me as going above and beyond. Insert long-winded lecture about “guys these days” here.

I absolutely sympathize with folks who are a little holiday-fatigued. Sometimes it seems like the idea of a holiday snowballs until you’re expected to prepare for it for a solid four months, and recover from it for a month afterward. Thus, we spend most of our lives in preparation for some fest or another. Which can be either extremely pleasant or extremely unpleasant, depending on your outlook. Even Anna Jarvis, the woman who popularized Mother’s Day in the US, was dismayed by how commercialized the holiday became.

That being said, her acknowledged goal was to make Mother’s Day a day to honor all mothers. This could mean any mother or mother-like figure you can think of, including:

  • Your mother
  • Your grandmother(s)
  • Any other mother-like figure in your life (for example, if you were raised partly by wolves, this would be the time to honor your wolf-mother)
  • Your significant other, if she’s a mother or a mother-to-be
  • Your friends and acquaintances who also happen to be mothers
  • The Queen Mother

So your father is in error when he refuses to acknowledge his wife as a mother, because she’s just as much a mother as your grandma.

Of course, you can’t throw a party for every single mother you’ve ever met, so it’s up to you to decide who (besides your own mother) to focus on when Mother’s Day rolls around. Keep in mind that honoring someone on Mother’s Day doesn’t necessarily mean showering her with gifts. It might be appropriate to give your pregnant wife a small gift first thing in the morning, call your grandmother around midmorning, orchestrate a family picnic for your mother in the afternoon, and hug your friends who are moms throughout the whole day.

Still there are mothers who would scoff at your picnic and who would expect very specific material gifts like a full bottle of tequila or cold, hard cash. To avoid confusion or last-minute panic, just ask. “Hey, what do you want to do for Mother’s Day this year? Any particular items on your wish list I should know about?”

Now, go forth and honor some mothers.

Be sure to check out our Mother’s Day gift guide for gift ideas, as well as this emilypost.com article on Mother’s Day gifting etiquette.

Have an etiquette question and need some advice? Email tess@rvanews.com.

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Tess Shebaylo

Tess Shebaylo is a freelance writer, crafter, history geek, and compulsive organizer. She works at Tumblr and lives in Church Hill with her husband, Dan, and their two cats.

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