After Some Not-So-Great Mother’s Days, I’ve Learned How I Actually Want It To Be Celebrated

By Paula Schuck

PHOTO © DimaBerlin via Twenty20

May 3, 2022

The first time my youngest told me they were going to a friend’s house on Mother’s Day, I chalked it up to them forgetting that it was a day to celebrate with family.

People with FASD (fetal alcohol spectrum disorder) and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) often have trouble planning and sometimes remembering. The executive planning skills can lag or be sluggish. Forgetfulness is part of that.

The next year, both kids forgot entirely.

Around 3 p.m., one teen walked downstairs and produced a handmade card. The year after that one picked a fight with the other and disrupted the meal.

I recall complaining to a friend how angry I was at their lack of care or consideration.

“I worked around the clock running a small business to keep my family afloat. Hundreds of school lunches, field trips, doctor’s appointments and advocacy at the school level so that people remembered to honour their IEP accommodations equalled a last-second handmade card.”

I was upset and I felt slighted.

Paula Schuck's youngest has FASD and for years since their adoption, she and her husband have had to be translators for their child — read how they work through it as a family.

What Mother's Day Means To Me As An Adoptive Parent

For years we tried to become parents. First came fertility treatments and then we applied to adopt. And after that lengthy screening process, the call finally came. The one that indicated we’d been matched with a healthy baby.

That first Mother’s Day, when I was likely still deliriously tired from that initial sweet but draining year of parenthood, I immersed myself in feeling all the emotions associated with that long-awaited day. I’d begun to wonder if I’d ever be a mom and then there it was — motherhood fanned out before me.

"Mother’s Day represented something hard won."

Years of Mother’s Days lined up. Christmases and birthdays, too. But Mother’s Day represented something hard won. If you’ve ever adopted, had a miscarriage or undertaken IVF you probably know. In some ways after that baby is in your arms, Mother’s Day is the holy grail. And for a few years it was gummy smiles, precious printed rhymes glued to homemade cards sealed with painted pastel handprints.

Oh, I still have a drawer full of those tokens of love and I wouldn’t change much about those days, even the not-so-pleasant moments, from the late-night ear infections three or four times a year, to the upset stomachs, meltdowns and diaper blowouts. While it wasn’t a walk in the park, it was mine and worth celebrating at least once a year.

The Imperfect Journey of Motherhood

Now 20 years of Mother’s Days have come and gone, and I’ve learned a few things from raising two kids.

Sometimes the people closest to you exceed expectations and make you blindingly proud, and other times they disappoint you spectacularly. That first year of parenthood it felt as if we were always proving we were worthy of the child we’d adopted. The first time a stranger told me I was a good mom — when I was out with my daughter in a stroller, talking softly to her and naming all the things to build vocabulary — it felt good.

I still remember that and yet a part of me cringes. Why did I need that validation? Probably because new moms can feel vulnerable to judgment.

In 20 years, I have learned that I am a good mother — exhausted, happy, proud, disappointed at times, angry and imperfect at others, and drained. I don’t need a card to tell me that. Because when I think about it, I certainly don’t need or want gratitude. That is a slippery slope, especially when you are a family that was formed by adoption.

As an adoptive parent, Paula Schuck knew this was coming eventually, but she still had to figure out how to handle it when her daughter told her: "You're not my real mom."

What I Really Need For Mother's Day

It makes me wonder why so many place such weight on manufactured events such as Mother’s Day? I mean, that first card when my infant wasn’t even a year old was purchased by my husband and the next year it was too.

"If we really want to honour mothers, then we need to support women and address that on a much greater scale."

And recently, I’ve wondered why we place the responsibility for Mother’s Day in the hands of kids and partners while it seems like the rest of the days, much of society shows its disregard for women in ways like not supporting them at work and at home. During the pandemic moms sacrificed so much, often parenting and schooling kids from home during lengthy school shutdowns while still juggling all the other needs and demands of their families.

The way I see it, if we really want to honour mothers, then we need to support women and address that on a much greater scale. I don’t need flowers and cards. I need equal pay, equal opportunity, child-care and support throughout their lifespan. I need programs that support women, mothers and families — and a world that shows it values and respects women.

Until then cards, flowers and spa days are really just a nice bit of theatre.

Paula Schuck

Read more from Paula here.

My name is Paula Schuck and I have been writing professionally for over 20 years. I am a mother of two daughters, and I am a fierce advocate for several health issues. I am a yoga nut, skier and content coordinator for two London, Ontario, trade magazines. I have been published online and in traditional magazines and newspapers including: Today’s Parent, The Globe and Mail, Kitchener Record, London Free Press,, Ontario Parks blog and Food, Wine and Travel magazine.

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