Mother’s Day without a Mother

Opting out, frustration and recognising other maternal influences – Jess shares how her interpretation of Mother’s Day has changed since her mum passed away.

Arguably Mother’s Day means more to me now than it ever did when my Mum was alive. When surrounded by loved ones, it’s easy to take them for granted, and though we’d acknowledge it was Mother’s Day and probably help her cook a roast dinner, I would never shower my Mum with gifts or even put that much thought into buying a card.

She died almost 11 years ago, and in that time I’ve had very mixed feelings about Mother’s Day. In the first few years, I’d be easily angered and upset by shop window displays and endless beautiful flowers lining supermarket entrances, all for the ‘Best Mum Ever’. I found it insensitive, cruel and painful to have it so obviously marketed everywhere, without any consideration for those who have lost their mothers or perhaps never knew their mothers at all. I’d avoid the high street in March, and even replied to a few Mother’s Day marketing emails telling them never to send me Mother’s Day marketing material again – to which I actually received a fair few heart-felt apologetic responses.

This all changed a few years ago when in late February I received an email from a well-known company asking if I’d like to opt-out of Mothering Sunday emails, acknowledging that it isn’t an easy day for everyone. This email did two things:

  1. 1. I felt heard, relieved and recognised. Finally, a company that gets it!
  2. 2. I realised that though it wasn’t easy for me, it’s actually a really wonderful time for children and mothers to share love and appreciation for each other, and that’s a beautiful thing. Who am I to be angry about that?


It certainly shifted my mind set, and since then I’ve seen a lot of brands recognise that Mother’s Day could be a challenge for some families. However, I also now recognise that that shouldn’t distract from those who want to celebrate it.

I also realised that just as it’s hard for me and my siblings, it would also be difficult for my Nan who would have usually received a card from my Mum on Mother’s Day. I’m very lucky that my Nan and I have a wonderful relationship. Her quirky Welsh ways and endless support is incredible. I now write her a Mother’s Day card and purposely look for a Grandmother one – to which there is usually an abundance. Why not celebrate that maternal relationship, even if she isn’t my ‘mother’?

I now have two dogs, and to me they are my ‘babies’ – does that make me a ‘dog’ mother? There are certainly high street cards nowadays especially for pet parents on Mother’s Day, whereas ten years ago I’m fairly certain these didn’t exist either.

This shift in what Mother’s Day means and how companies now approach it more sensitively has made it so much easier for those who don’t have mothers to share it with. Mothering comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and, while I totally understand and respect those who choose to opt out totally, to me that’s now what I choose to believe Mother’s Day represents.

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