Ask most mothers of young children if they enjoy Mother’s Day and they’ll smile sweetly and say ‘Little Elsie made me a beautiful card, with flowers on and hubby helped her make me a cup of tea in bed’.
Generally the rest of the day is spent with mum either cooking dinner as normal, or being taken out for lunch. The reality is that they will be trying to eat whilst supervising young children in a packed, over worked restaurant where the staff are run off their feet and dodging kiddies in various stages of tantrums or sugar overload. It’s a stressful day for most mothers and step mothers and it’s really Grandmas that appreciate the day with gifts and lunch from older children and grandchildren.
However, if you ask the average foster carer about Mother’s Day, they will come out in hives and start pulling out great chunks of hair.
Along with Christmas, it ranks high up there with days to get through on the foster carer calendar. Like Christmas, the TV is full of adverts showing the perfect family enjoying a beautiful meal together with mum being spoiled with yummy treats and flowers. The online card TV adverts are the worst with smushy messages of love and devotion from faultless little angels receiving big hugs from teary eyed mums.
In my house, the build up to Mother’s Day starts with the TV adverts and the subliminal messages the children take in. The adverts point out the differences in their lives and every trip to the supermarket with rows of pink cards and over flowing flower pots is another reminder that they are not with mum.
J reacts to Mother’s Day with heightened stressful behaviour and reverts back to how he used to be when he first came to us; lots of internal humming, twitching, foot shaking and signs of agitation. He has done a wonderful job of learning how to deal with difficult situations and usually manages to find his own strategies for calming down but contact with family, Christmas and days such as Mother’s Day are really too much for him. At 9 years old, he doesn’t really understand why he’s in care and has different memories of events than other people in his family.
M, at 14, is also affected but keeps her feelings to herself, growing more subdued and isolated as the date approaches. As she is growing in independence and will be 15 in the summer, her contact with mum is less formal. She follows the rules of prearranging the meetings and as long as I know when and where she is going, the occasional meetings are straightforward. M’s mum suffers with mental health issues so M never really know what frame of mind she will be in and has grown used to the mood swings and promises that never materialise. She is always quiet after any contact and sometimes she will tell me what’s been said but only offers positive information. Mother’s Day is stressful for her (and Mum) and last year Mum was unable to manage to keep to the arrangements, however, this year, she was waiting for her at the cafe and was happy with the flowers and card I picked out for M to give her.
J’s Mother’s Day experience was another let down for him and ended in tantrums, followed by sobbing. Contact had been arranged and confirmed but J’s mum was a no show. She didn’t show up for her other children either and the social worker said attempts had been made to contact her but she was unavailable. J was inconsolable and lashed out at Hubby and me throughout the day. His behaviour deteriorated to a level that we were worried about his safety and M didn’t help by chipping in with snide comments to him. Normally J and M get on well enough; in so much as they mostly ignore each other and being 6 years apart, they don’t have much in common.
The day ended with J finally falling asleep, M listening to music with headphones on and me being grateful that another’s Mother’s Day was over and that it wasn’t as bad as last year. At the end of a long day, I sat down with a cup of tea and caught up on emails and social media. My Facebook page was filled with other people’s pictures of flowers, gifts and stories of devoted children and handmade cards and I closed the page fed up with the perfect picture of families and reached for the TV remote control to switch from one mushy family film to another.
We have all bounced back quite quickly and M and J are back to being full of chat about school, who’s said what and our weekend plans and this is already an improvement on last year. However, the surprising fallout I’ve received is whether I did the right thing by buying flowers for J and M to give to their mums (incidentally, I ended up keeping J’s flowers). I was trying to save them both from the emotional vulnerability of buying a gift and decided to provide flowers to avoid their potential angst. It seems I have divided opinion; should I have left them to pay for flowers and a card out of their pocket money or did I do the right thing by providing them? What do you think?