How to cope when Mother’s Day or Father’s Day is difficult

Card shops, adverts, and Facebook tell us that Mother's Day and Father's Day are meant to be lovely, celebratory days. But what if you don't have a mum? Or a dad? What if you have two mums? Or what if Mother's Day or Father's Day just bring back bad memories? The Mix spoke to therapist Ruth Alborough to help you out.

A young woman and her mum are having a cup of tea. They are discussing Mother's day. This is a wide-angle image.

T/W: This article contains references to bereavement and abuse.

I’m adopted and it’s Mother’s day/Father’s day

Some people who are adopted feel totally at home with their family, and don’t think twice about celebrating Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. And that’s totally valid.

But others struggle, feeling like they’re not allowed to celebrate. And that’s totally valid as well. These days might even be triggering for you or prompt questions about your biological family, whether you know them or not.

The best thing to do in this situation is talk. Whether that’s to your adopted family, biological family, counsellor, or friends – just talk and talk until you’ve got that weight off your chest. Remember, it’s ok (dare we say normal) to feel awkward, sad, or angry on these days.

Ruth says, “celebrating with one set of parents doesn’t mean you are being disloyal to anyone else so do what feels right for you.”

My mum/dad died 

Everyone deals with grief differently, and for some these days can be a painful reminder of your loss, no matter how long ago it was.

“Do whatever feels most comforting,” says Ruth. Just because your parents are no longer here, it doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate. “Go for a walk in a park that you used to go to together, buy yourself a new lipstick they would have loved, or play their favourite music and just let yourself feel close to them.”

But you should also be aware that other family members may not want to celebrate. Try and have a chat beforehand to see how you all want to spend it. Nothing is obligatory so don’t feel pressure to feel a certain way or do something that you’re not ready for. It’s completely up to you.

I don’t get on with my parents 

There’s probably little worse than opening Facebook and Instagram on Mother’s and Father’s Day to a timeline full of soppy posts when you have no intention of doing the same. And that’s fine! You don’t have to join the social media frenzy.

If you’re currently arguing with your parents, Mother’s/Father’s Day can be pretty awkward. Maybe have a think. Is the argument worth holding a grudge? Can you forgive and forget just for one day?

If this row is more like, ‘we never get on, I cannot wait to leave this house and never speak to them again’, then Ruth has some wise words: “There are no hard and fast rules here and for some people cutting off contact with their parents is the healthiest thing. If you’re still at home, remind yourself that the day will end. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Family conflict is never easy and you are doing the best you can.” 

For some extra advice on problematic parents, click here

My parents are gay, how should I celebrate Mother’s Day? 

You love your parents with all your heart, but Mother’s and Father’s Day are a little too archaic for your family of two mums or two dads. Honestly, it’s kind of arbitrary to only have these two specific days when we know that there are so many different ways to be a parent. 

So, you hereby have our permission to do whatever the hell you want to celebrate your parents. Whether you ignore Father’s Day and go all out for Mother’s Day, vice versa or just create an entirely new holiday… just make sure you’ve saved double the money.

I live away from my parents

Whether you’re abroad, at university, or just live away from home, it can be hard to feel like you’re doing your best on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. But sometimes that’s just life, and hopefully your parents understand that.

“A small amount of effort can go a long way in showing your parents you still care,” says Ruth. “Taking the time to ask how they are, remembering what’s happening in their lives and telling them you love them can mean a lot.”

Thankfully we live in the age of Zoom and Facetime, so you can contact your parents from anywhere, while adding some cool filters as a convo starter of course. Just be careful not to get into an argument about how you’re using technology. This article on talking to your parents about tech might help with that. 

What about step-parents on Mother’s Day/Father’s Day? 

Sometimes a ‘broken home’ can turn into an overcrowded one; you can easily go from having two parents to four within a few months. Hopefully you get on with everyone and it’s not an issue, but sometimes you could feel pressured to treat everyone equally.

Ultimately, it’s up to you who you celebrate! For some people, a step-parent can feel like a biological one. If you’re unsure about what to do then talk to any siblings you have about it as they may be feeling the same. Or ask a friend who also has step-parents to get the down-low.

My parents are abusive 

If you’re suffering with abuse at home, don’t feel like you have to put up with it, let alone celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Put yourself first. If you can’t speak to somebody about this, such as a teacher or a trusted adult, then you can always get in contact with us here at The Mix or Childline if you’re under 18. Remember: You’re never alone and deserve to be treated well.

Next Steps

  • You can talk to Childline about anything. Call them for free on 0800 1111 or visit their website.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.

By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 20-Jan-2023