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Advice from Dr. Stanwix – Mother’s Day

Advice from Dr. Stanwix – Mother’s Day
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Dear Dr. Stanwix,

I am a fifty-two year old mother of three teenagers who will be celebrating her first Mother’s Day as a single mom. My husband has decided he does not want to be married to me anymore. He has left us to fend for ourselves while he gallivants around with his new thirty-something girlfriend.

This has completely changed my concept of Mother’s Day. We used to celebrate this day by going out to brunch and then spending the rest of the day together as a family. We often went to a local park to pass the day and then later to dinner to cap off the celebration.

Although it is Mother’s Day we are celebrating, it doesn’t feel like a special day without my ex-husband with us. We seemed like so much more of a family back then. Now we are this splintered group that tries to avoid the issue of our divorce and sometimes tries to continue on as though things were the same. Well, they’re not and it doesn’t seem like we’ll ever have the same unity and balance in our family again.

I try to maintain a stiff upper-lip in front of my children, but this Mother’s Day is going to be difficult for me. Do you have any advice on how I can make this day and other family gatherings, a positive thing? I want to enjoy spending time with my family and set an example so they understand that life is difficult but life goes on.


Single Mother’s Day Mom


Dear Single Mother’s Day Mom,

I realize that a recent separation can be very hard on a spouse and his or her family. Every new family event is a first in itself. We have our first Christmas separate, our first Mother’s Day, etc. When these celebrations come up, it is hard to maintain a happy outlook when the dynamic of our relationships has changed so drastically. As the whole family is not together, it often feels like there is a huge void that cannot be filled.

However, it’s important to focus on what is there rather than what is not. Your husband may not be there and the pain of your separation might still hurt a lot. However, try to focus on who is there. You will be spending the day with your three wonderful children, so there is plenty to occupy your time and plenty to share.

You might even think about doing something different this year in order to start over fresh. It may be late for this Mother’s Day, but you can always try an activity or way of celebrating you hadn’t before. As your children are teenagers, why not take them to a mountain, a museum or an amusement park? If we engage in different activities, we won’t be as easily reminded of our missing spouse. If we have a lot of fun together, we might even forget that our spouse isn’t there, altogether.

Another option is to discuss your situation with your children. They may also feel the pain of your separation. You can make use of important family days to address family matters. However, don’t dwell on things. Speak openly with your children if you feel it is necessary. Do not engage in any negative commentary about your spouse, though. This should be an opportunity to express your feelings so you can move on rather than a gripe session. If the conversation drifts to negative things, be sure you redirect it. Tell your children that if they have issues with their father, they should discuss them with him, not complain about him when he isn’t around.

A separation is not always an easy thing to overcome. A dramatic change in the family dynamic may be painful, but it can often be a new opportunity that will bring your family closer together. Make sure a desire to exploit that closeness is forever at the forefront of your thinking during family celebrations. Make the most of the time you have with the ones you love. Remember you are a mother and, although times may be difficult, that is enough for you to overcome the greatest difficulties life can throw your way.

Happy Mother’s Day to you and all of the mothers in this world!

Dr. Michael Stanwix

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