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 article on Mother’s Day gifting etiquette.

Have an etiquette question and need some advice? Email

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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 daughter, Morella.

Notice: Comments that are not conducive to an interesting and thoughtful conversation may be removed at the editor’s discretion.

  1. RobinsonSt on said:

    ::raises hand:: I qualify as being holiday-fatigued. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day have always seemed misguided because I absolutely love my parents. It is very seldom I go a day without talking to my parents for at least 15 minutes (each). I have very close relationships with both of them, and I realize I am extremely fortunate. I’ve always celebrated Mother’s and Father’s Day, but part of me thinks of the day as a cop-out. I’m sure I will view the day differently when my parents are no longer living, but there’s just something about having to call a day “Mother’s Day” that strikes me the wrong way. If all we need is a Hallmark holiday to remind us to be nice and respectful, then it’s not so bad…Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t need that ribbon around our finger?

  2. Meh on said:

    This “dudes are dumb, lol” view of things is sexist, tired, and annoying.

  3. @RobinsonSt: I agree with you (see paragraph 2). It’s way more important to be there for your family all year, rather than just on one day. Absolutely. Just wanted to make sure I answered the reader’s question as thoughtfully as possible. But this is why I think that Mother’s Day can mean different things to different people. Lots of people don’t have the ability to spend much time with their parents, so they might want to make a bigger deal of Mother’s Day. But if you already took your Mom to the movies two weeks ago, and are planning her birthday party in a couple of weeks, maybe all you need to do is have a nice breakfast with her on Mother’s Day. The point is, at least acknowledge the day. Whatever that means to you. I think 99% of guys know that making a big deal out of Mother’s Day and ignoring Mom the other 364 days isn’t going to win them a Son of the Year award, but also that letting Mother’s Day go by without even a phone call is a surefire way to win the Worst Son of the Year award. Then again, there are folks who are asking about it — so for that 1% of people who don’t know, it seemed worth writing about.

    @Meh Agreed: — I’ve found myself muttering that same phrase so many times when I’m online reading stuff. Sooo many times. See my comment above to RobinsonSt. However, this was more like a “sometimes dudes are careless” thing than a “dudes are dumb” thing. And let’s face it — sometimes dudes ARE careless. So are women, but this reader question just happened to come from a guy.

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