Open Letter to Dads: How to Succeed at Mother’s Day!


April 24, 2014 by Julia

Okay, people. I am writing this for THE SAKE OF HUMANITY. No joke. Well, there will be jokes (I mean, not joke jokes, because those suck), but the message is no joke, got it, kapeesh?!


It’s meant for the partners of mothers with young children, but I harbor no illusions – moms are more likely to read this than dads, because we love to commiserate and nod along and be all like, “Yep, yep, yep, uh-huh.” And I love that kind of communal venting as much as the next lady.


But mothers, my sisters, I have no wish to fan the flame of bitterness under your hearts for the sake of a laugh, and then abandon you to suffer double doses of anger on Mother’s Day when things don’t turn out how you’d wished. So my hope is that this helps you to articulate what you really want for your day, and emboldens you to speak truth to power, as they say.

(Or you could go the passive-aggressive route; I don’t mind being the bad guy for you. Just leave this printed on the kitchen counter, or post it to Facebook and tag your partner in a joking way, like “ha ha, dear husband, take notes!” only you won’t be joking, and hopefully they know that about you by now. )



Reaction GIF: laugh

“Ha ha ha if I don’t get a chance to read this newspaper in silence for a full five minutes I’m going to lock myself in the bedroom for three days haha haha JUST JOKING!!!


So! (I just clapped my hands, virtually. Isn’t that annoying when people who are about to lecture you do that?) Partners, husbands, dads – are you reading yet? The mother of your children has desires and needs concerning the upcoming Mother’s Day. She most likely doesn’t want to go into great detail about these desires, because we got the message somewhere along the way that to do so makes us look like a nag, or a diva. We mothers also don’t want to be mad or disappointed on Mother’s Day, so we try to keep our expectations very, very low. We prefer to see ourselves as saints on Mother’s Day. We want to feel relaxed, and appreciated, and in love with our families, and that includes you, dear husbands.


Reaction GIF: agreeing, eating, Misha Collins, Castiel, Supernatural

See? It’s going to be a win-win!


The main problem with Mother’s Day, though, is that the majority of men and women seem to have different perceptions of what it should be. You see, dads…when you were five-year-old boys, you could make your mom a card, give her a kiss, and she was pleased with you. She is your mother, though, and you are always going to be the apple of her eye, no matter what. Also: you were five years old. Not much else could be expected of you.



Times have changed, sir. Honoring the mother of your own children on Mother’s Day is much, much harder. You might as well accept that right now.


Reaction GIF: Louis C.K., facepalm, right, despair



But you love the mother of your children, right? Or at least think she is deserving of respect for what has done for your family? And want to give her a fabulous morale boost so that she can keep on being awesome-ish? Let that be your inspiration as I spell out exactly what most moms of young kids want for Mother’s Day.

There are three main things, really:

Time to herself.

I will be very specific about this. Your wife (I will stick with that term from now on for simplicity’s sake) longs for time to herself. If she does not have a place to safely retreat from the family chaos in your home, then please send her out of the house with explicit instructions to not return for at least four hours. Suggest that she shop, or get coffee and read magazines, or see a movie, or go on a walk. Forbid her to run errands during this time. Bonus points if you have scheduled a massage or spa time for her – but if not, she will easily be able to fill the time on her own, and her gratitude will flow beyond what is reasonable.



“Four HOURS???” “Oh, you’re so lucky!!” “Oh, I’m so happy for you!!”


If you balk at the idea of four hours of watching the children alone, then you have issues and I am not even kidding. Let me fill you in on my Mother’s Day plans: I have decided to go to the beach for 48 HOURS by myself, the weekend before Mother’s Day. I feel guilty saying this aloud not because I don’t think I deserve it, but because I know how freaking rare it is for a mother to do such a thing. I have survivor’s guilt. I am leaving the other mothers behind. I want us all to go be alone and be temporarily selfish because I feel SO DEEPLY that all the good mothers of the world need this and have earned it a million times over. But we assume it is impossible. We are afraid to even ask. We begin to think we are the only ones who can handle this big crazy lovely mess we call a family and home. Only, that’s not true! We aren’t the only capable ones! You are, too, right?! So rise to the occasion. I realize there might be financial reasons she can’t take a trip somewhere. But as a parter to the mother of your children, I want you to do your best to give her time to herself. You can find a way. I implore you! (Minimum of four hours, like I said. Give her more if possible.)

Handmade cards or gifts from the children.

You know what’s lame? When you pick out the Mother’s Day card(s) from the store, and sign it for your kids, and they don’t even know what’s going on when you tell them to hand it to us. It’s lazy, and we know it. (We also do not want another miniature novelty book about The Joy of Motherhood or whatever, with the cheesy sepia-toned photos. Dennis has never gotten me one, I’m just saying – this is a bad idea.)


An example of a book that a mother will never read

Yes, it’s much more work to actually involve your children in a project for Mother’s Day. Believe me, we know, because we are the ones who have to motivate them to do it for birthdays, holidays, thank-you notes, etc. AND WE WANT SOMEONE – YOU – TO GO THROUGH THAT FOR OUR SAKE. You may have to bribe them to draw a pretty picture. You may have to use some weird psychology to get them to write “I love you, Mommy,” instead of just doing it for them. But we want it in their adorable, crooked handwriting, because we want to treasure it and remember when they were five years old and had just learned how to write.

Fiona's doodles on the back of schoolwork

Fiona’s doodles on the back of schoolwork


It doesn’t have to be perfect, at all. We just want to know you worked with them to make something. We want their little fingerprints all over it. We want the weird robot on the side, and the misspellings and the twenty cut-out hearts that you can’t really tell are supposed to be hearts, because that stuff is precious and real.


We want to not be in charge of the household for a day.

More often than not, the mothers are the cruise directors of the family – scheduling, unloading the dishwasher, laying out seasonally appropriate, matching clothes for the kids, packing up the diaper bag, making the brunch reservations while taking into consideration when certain toddlers will need their naps and what food the kindergartener won’t eat at the restaurant, and when the family will see the other local mothers or grandmothers of the family, etc.


We don’t want to do any of that on Mother’s Day. You probably didn’t even read that paragraph, it was so tedious. This means you need to make a plan for the entire day, so your wife can take a break from such details. I will help you.


An Example of a Good Mother’s Day Plan:




It should look exactly like this. Just kidding.


Let your wife sleep in. At 9:30 a.m. (no earlier), bring her coffee in bed, a simple breakfast (one that didn’t make a huge mess of the kitchen), flowers, and the handmade cards from the kids, as well as a store bought one from yourself expressing your undying awe of her.


This would also be a wonderful time for handmade gifts from the kids, or some jewelry from yourself. I say sincerely that gifts aren’t necessary; however, they never hurt. Remember, it is the thoughtfulness and time invested in the gift that matters more than anything.


The children may accompany you, and you may sit with her on the bed for up to ten minutes as she snuggles the wee angels and admires her cards. Then take the kids to their rooms, get them dressed, clean up the kitchen, and pack up the diaper bag/kids’ bag for your planned outing.*


*If you aren’t sure what needs to be packed, try to figure it out, or ask your wife the day before (as a last resort). Bonus points if you already know how to pack up the family. My husband is pretty good at it, for the record.


Late morning:

Do not be discouraged by the perfection of these pictures


It’s time for your family outing! The point is to enjoy each other, feel relaxed, and yet not so relaxed that it’s just another day at McDonald’s and the playground. Think about going to a place that isn’t going to be stressful with kids, yet has some sort of beauty or deliciousness for the adults. Something outdoors is usually ideal at this time of year. Yes, finding such a place might require research and/or going outside of your comfort zone. I am sorry. (cough) Deal with it (cough). One suggestion is to order picnic-friendly takeout from a restaurant you know your wife enjoys, and then bring it with a blanket out to a public garden or lake. A soccer ball for the kids, and everyone’s happy. Also, offer to take photos of the mother and children together.




My usual Target outfit


Get everyone home in time for nap time or quiet time. Inform your wife that she now has at least four hours to spend however she likes, in the house or out of it. Now, while she is in retreat, you must be sure not to let the house fall apart. I do not mean to imply that your wife always keeps the house together, because surely that’s not true. But if you can show her that she is not the only one capable of keeping things together for at least four hours, you will do a world of good for her mental state.

In the case that you have EVER implied that it is easy to keep the house clean while watching kids, there is the possibility that she wants you to try and fail, so that you will be forced to show some freaking understanding of how freaking hard it is. But I’m pretty sure her desire to return to a clean house on this day outweighs her desire for that. So pay attention to your surroundings. Keep things straightened up. You must operate on all cylinders. You can do it, I promise. The day is more than halfway over at this point.




Your wife will be returning from her break, and might actually be craving the company of her kids at this point. She will want to cuddle with them and take a moment to absorb their cuteness, which will be especially potent now that she’s been away from it for more than two seconds. She probably doesn’t want to make them dinner or get them ready for bed. She doesn’t want to deal with the practicalities. She just wants to enjoy them, in all their beauty.


So let her and the kids hang out, giggle on the couch or whatever, but DO NOT take this as permission to check your email or catch up on the game, because guaranteed, one of the kids will get hungry or poop their pants or have to go potty but they’re scared of the toilet paper roll. You stay totally on top of that shit, for this one day. Let her have just the good stuff, if possible. I swear to you, she will notice such details, and the points you rack up will go through the roof.


Pretty much like this


Now put the kids to bed after they’ve kissed her and possibly performed an “I Love Mommy” show in your living room, and come downstairs and watch her choice of movie or TV show with her on the couch. She probably already has her glass of wine, but you may offer a refill. Your job is done.

Reaction GIF: smile, Nicolas Cage, Face/Off

Yes, you may breathe freely now.



Oh, wait – one last point. You may have a local mother of your own, or a mother-in-law your wife feels she should see. If your wife enjoys their company (as I do) and if both in-laws get along with each other, it would be nice to all celebrate together during your family outing. I realize this might get complicated, though, and possibly be a little less than ideal for the older generation of mothers.


In which case, I suggest bringing the children with you to visit with your own mother while your wife takes a break, or scheduling another time – not on Mother’s Day itself. Your wife gets top priority on the actual Mother’s Day, because she is in the trenches with the young children, and is probably in more dire need of a morale boost. I know some men might consider going off to see their mothers while leaving their wives behind with the kids for extended periods of time. Barring some dramatic life-or-death situation, this is NOT OKAY. I realize that it’s a confusing situation, with all these beloved women deserving of your honor. But it is not a matter of whom you love more, or any such thing. It’s just that mothers of young children usually need more support than mothers of grown children. There are other ways you can show appreciation for your own mother. I repeat, DO NOT ABANDON YOUR WIFE WITH THE YOUNG CHILDREN FOR YOUR OWN MOTHER ON MOTHER’S DAY.


Well, guys, that’s it. I’m exhausted just thinking about it; how about you? You’ve got a week and a half left. Get ready. It will be worth it. Really, it will. Thank you for sticking with me, if you’ve made it this far. High-fives? No? Okay.


I should also mention that if you do all this for Mother’s Day, you might be lucky enough to get similar treatment on Father’s Day (because, as you are surely well aware, we keep track of this stuff). And suddenly, you might be treating each other to breaks and encouragement and helping each other beyond what is necessary and your partnership will be like a whole new world!

I may be overstating things a tiny bit


Dear Husband Dennis (what I call him at home, too, of course), I know your birthday weekend always coincides with Mother’s Day, and so there are some exceptions to these guidelines for you. And this year, I am so happy to get away to the beach by myself that I hardly mind what happens on the actual Mother’s Day, as long as there are HANDMADE CARDS from both children.


And dear mothers, let’s be strong and vocal about what we need. Easier blogged about than done, I realize. For me, too. But let’s give it a go.

And then let’s release our expectations for Mother’s Day because, well, life. I realize that might be in contradiction to what I just said, but so many things are out of our control – except for how we choose to deal with what life hands us. Let’s continue to keep our expectations low, and our gratitude meter high, which pretty much almost guarantees a good Mother’s Day.

After all, we get to be parents! I mean, I look at these two every day and wonder how Dennis and I got so lucky. Yep, even on the rough days. That feeling never goes away.

IMG_9253 IMG_9259 IMG_9270 IMG_9274



And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.


So love on, mothers and fathers and parents of every kind.





Mother to Fiona (age 6) and Jack (age 2)


One thought on “Open Letter to Dads: How to Succeed at Mother’s Day!

  1. Brigid says:

    Love it!

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