If you're one of the 1.96 million custodial fathers1 raising children in the United States today, you may be wondering what exactly you should do for your children -- and/or their mother -- on Mother's Day. Knowing just how to address the issue of Mother's Day is especially hard when your children's mother is not an active participant in their lives. Here are some ideas for honoring Mother's Day when your children's mother is absent:
Consider Your Children's Needs
You know better than anyone what your children need right now. Think back on the conversations you have had about their mother. What questions have they asked? What has most comforted them when there seemed to be no answers? You may even find that if you have multiple children, the needs of one child will be different from the needs of another; and that's okay. Tap into what you know about each child and address Mother's Day in a way that honors where they're at, while continuing to nurture any healing that still needs to take place.
Honor the Memories You Share
Mother's Day can be an appropriate time to help your children record and honor the positive memories they have of the times they spent with their mother. Even in circumstances where each of you may have a right to be angry with her, it's still important for your children to find a way to honor the part within themselves that still yearns for their mother. You can do this by putting together a simple scrapbook, drawing pictures, and sharing stories with one another. Remember, too, that encouraging your children to hold onto the memories that were good does not convey an approval for any behaviors you may disagree with. The act of recalling positive memories is solely for the children, and it can be a healthy and important part of moving forward.
Let The Children Express Themselves Creatively Through Cards and Gifts
This would include making a gift or a card, even if these items can not be mailed. In addition, it may be helpful for older children to honor Mother's Day by writing a personal letter to their mother. Again, even if this can not be physically sent to her, it can be a therapeutic activity for your children. Keep in mind as well that the action you take by even suggesting these activities to your children tells them that you recognize - as their father - that they still ache for a person who is not a part of their lives at this time. That in and of itself invites healing.
Honor Other Women Who Have Been Influential in Your Children's Lives
If your children are in school, it is likely that they will at some point be faced with the question of who to give the typical Mother's Day cards and crafts to. You can make this somewhat easier on your children by anticipating the issue and helping them decide ahead of time whether they would like to make the crafts for their mom or choose another influential figure in their lives to honor. Keep in mind that there is no "right" or "wrong" answer to this question. Even in situations where your children's mother has died, it can be healthy for your children to continue to make gifts for her at holidays. At the same time, there may be situations where the children have little contact with their mother and may express a desire to honor a grandmother, an aunt, a neighbor, or a friend at Mother's Day. What's important is that the children have the opportunity to express what's on their heart in a way that feels best to them.
Do an Activity Together
Finally, consider doing an activity together on Mother's Day to honor the changes you have gone through as a family and the people you are each becoming. For example, you might decide to plant something outside so that you'll all have the opportunity to witness new growth over time. Another idea would be spending the day doing something active, such as taking a hike or going for a bike ride. Again, you know your children better than anyone. Let them know that you understand that Mother's Day may be especially difficult for them, and that as their dad, you're there for them with a hug and a shoulder whenever they need you.
Source: "Father's Day: June 16, 2013." Facts for Features. US Census Bureau, 27 Apr. 2013. Web. 27 Apr. 2013. <http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/facts_for_features_special_editions/cb13-ff13.html>.