I see you, on Mother’s Day, alone at the family function

By Sarah Palmer

It’s Mother’s Day 2022. My son is 2 and a half. We’re at my husband’s grandparents house for dinner. I’m feeling unsure about this whole Mother’s Day celebration and whether or not I feel lonely.

I could talk about how even on Mother’s Day – a day that’s meant to celebrate the mums – all of the mothers, grandmothers and aunts are organising the day. Making plans, preparing, cooking and cleaning. But this time. I’m talking about my experience.

It’s a cold evening and everyone is sitting inside in the warmth, sipping glasses of wine and nibbling on cheese and crackers. Catching up and having a good time.

And I’m outside, in the cold, because my son wants to play outside.

On the one hand, it’s easier for me. He’s 2 and doesn’t understand that all of his Great Omie’s knick-knacks aren’t for playing with, even though they look like a lot of fun. And I’m an introvert, so even though I’ve been in this family for 14 years, it’s sometimes more socially comfortable for me to be away from the conversation. Especially when I know what the questions will be. Asking me about work (and the fact that I “don’t” because I’m “just a stay-at-home-mum”), or trying to politely defend our parenting choices to a generation who will never get it.

But on the other hand, once again, at a family function, I’m alone.

When my son was a baby, it was me alone, in another room breastfeeding him. And as he’s grown, it’s me alone, entertaining him. Or after eating my meal as fast as possible, sitting in the lounge watching Bluey while I listen to the laughter in the dining room. Just like every occasion – substitute Mother’s Day for Christmas, Easter, Birthdays – I’ll be in the same place.

When my son was a baby, it was me alone, in another room breastfeeding him. And as he’s grown, it’s me alone, entertaining him.

Don’t get me wrong, my husband often joins me, bridging the solitude – he sees what challenges I face as the primary caregiver. But it always feels like in social settings, mums are the assumed default to “happily” sit on their own, and no one even recognises it. And look, they don’t have to, I get it. This is more about our cultural setting, than about individuals.

But it would be nice if our society was structured in a way that values mothers and this invisible, quiet work we do so that others can have a good time. For mothers to be seen in the many micro-moments of entertaining a small human at the dinner table, without chaos ensuing (that will usually come later, once at home in our safe space).

It would be nice if on Mother’s Day, the mums could be the ones sipping on wine and part of the conversation (and without the side of judgement, thanks).

This is just one of the many layers of isolation and loneliness in motherhood. Where our identity becomes inextricably linked with that of our child and people seem to forget that we exist as a separate being, outside of our role of Mother.

So mama, I see you. I see you sitting out in the cold on your own, on Mother’s Day.

Sarah is your Baby Sleep Tour Guide & Mama Mentor – supporting you to understand biologically normal infant sleep, with an attachment focus. She’s passionate about challenging the mainstream narratives of baby & toddler sleep, and of motherhood – empowering mums to make choices aligned with their values of responsive gentle parenting, but without the self-sacrifice. Sarah is an Aussie mum and you can find her on Instagram @blossomandsnooze.

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