Too many moms? Celebrate simply

Chicago TribuneMay 7, 2013 

Mother’s Day should be simple. Dad helps kids make homemade cards and serve mom breakfast in bed. Or everybody takes her to brunch and calls it a day.

Hold on, you say, that doesn’t sound anything like your family’s celebration.

Your family has multiple “moms.” Maybe stepmoms, grannies, stepgrannies, great-grannies plus an aunt or two.

This proliferation of mother figures is not surprising, with divorce, remarriage and longevity part of the equation. But it means that Mother’s Day can completely overwhelm kids faced with so many moms jockeying for attention.

Helping kids navigate the challenge, experts say, is best handled when parents sort out their own issues with all these “moms” long before Mother’s Day.

“It is OK for a child who has a mom and a stepmom to feel connected to both. If they are competing with each other, then it is the adults who put that kid in a terrible triangle,” says professor Evan Imber-Black, director of marriage and family therapy in the school of social and behavioral sciences at New York’s Mercy College.

“What kind of relationships do they value their child having? … One would hope that a kid can have two or sometimes more than two grandmothers and grandparents. That’s a good thing. These are people who bring new resources into a child’s life.”

A few ideas for managing Mother’s Day:

• Don’t limit interactions to one day, advises Wendy Mogel, author of “The Blessing of a B Minus” and “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee.” “Stretch it out over the year. Mother’s Day can get particularly fraught if a mother’s felt neglected throughout the year.” Has she been getting phone calls? Has she been hearing “Grandma, I thought of you when they were talking about this in school, and it reminded me about what you told me about your childhood?” Parents can coach the child.

• Send: A photo of the child. Or a letter. “Something handwritten, not dashed off. Something that comes early,” Mogel says, adding, “It’s a way to handle multiple grandmothers. It will be a delightfully shocking surprise if something came in the mail, neat or in a frame.”

• Friday pizza? Why not?: “Early is nice. It shows you’ve been thinking about the person ahead of time.”

• Skype: Contact those who live far away by taking advantage of technology, Evan Imber-Black suggests, and have the kids read a poem, play the piano, etc.

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