Today my daughter came home from daycare with paint on her hands. Not an uncommon occurrence and I didn’t think much of it, but when I was helping her wash it off, she looked at me with a big grin and said, “I was making you a Valentine’s card mom!” Well….Valentine’s Day isn’t coming up…but I can think of one day that is…
It makes me smile to think of the sweet little cards my kids will probably be bringing home this Mother’s Day weekend; smudgy pieces of construction paper with writing that obviously came from their teachers (my 3 year old once brought home an especially clever Christmas card in which her teacher actually transcribed what she said…”This one/ Yeah/ I want my card”…it was fantastic). And I remember thinking back on the gifts that I gave my mom as a kid; crummy little handmade gizmos that I made with such care and they still came out like such crap…yet she still has them on her shelves.
Still…as wonderful as our hand-made kid-gifts truly are, the gifts that adults give to the moms in their lives are special in a totally different way. Like, they can actually be used. While I’m not going to speak out against the typical chocolates, jewelry, and flowers, mamas with mental illness have our own sets of special needs. If you want to go the typical route, I’m sure she won’t mind. But if you want to do something truly special for the mentally ill mother in your life, try one of these tips. Whether she’s your mom, partner, sister, daughter, or friend; whether she lives with PTSD, PPD, Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder, or something else; these Mother’s Day tips from one mentally ill mama to you should give you some ideas of ways that you can really help her this Mother’s Day.
I understand that if you are economically tied to a mentally ill person, you may not have a lot of extra cash. For that reason, I have provided budget friendly alternatives to the more expensive suggestions, and several inexpensive-but totally awesome-options.
Please note: Like all of the other Mother’s Day guides floating around, this one uses affiliate links. You can read my full legal disclaimer on the bottom of any and every page, or in my Mission+Legal page, but basically: if you make a purchase via one of these Amazon links, you will be helping this mentally ill mother by gaining me a small commission at no extra cost to you. Woo-hoo!
7 Soothing Mother’s Day Suggestions for the Mentally Ill Mama in Your Life
1. Spa Day
I know this is a pretty typical one, but I think it will really benefit mentally ill mamas in a special way. Often we neglect ourselves. Most mamas do, mentally ill or not, but mamas who battle with a mental illness have one extra barrier preventing daily self care. A trip to a relaxing spa could really help her ease some of the built-up tension in her body, while partaking in some much-needed and likely lacking self care.
One issue with a typical “spa day” gift, however, is that, depending on her mental illness and the severity of her symptoms, she may have difficulties going outside, being around people, being touched by strangers, or being nude around strangers. If she has anorexia or body dysmorphic disorder, for example, she may feel triggered or uncomfortable in an environment where she will likely be around other bodies. A way to get around this, and which should also cut the price considerably, is to create a spa day at home. As much as I love the idea of going to a spa, I would realistically appreciate a homemade spa day a lot more. Some ideas for a homemade spa day:
-Fill up a tub with Dr. Teal’s Foaming Lavender bath or Rocky Mountain Mud Bath (this one’s not an affiliate link, just a personal favorite that’s not available on Amazon). Set up some Mini Mason Jar Scented Candles or an aromatherapy oil diffuser. Maybe set up a way for her to listen to some of her favorite music. Then lead her in and leave her to soak for as long as she likes.
-While she’s in the tub, prepare a comfortable, clutter-free area in which to give her a full body massage. If she is uncomfortable with touch, set up a foot massage instead. If she is highly uncomfortable with touch, maybe just leave her some soothing lotion that she can apply herself. If you’re going the massage or foot massage route, I recommend using sweet almond oil; it’s relatively inexpensive compared to branded massage oils, it boasts some pretty impressive health benefits, and it both smells and feels great!
One little side note I’ll make here…if you’re in an intimate relationship with this mama, it’s not my place to speak about your relationship, but in my personal experience, I always enjoy a massage much more if I don’t feel like the person giving it to me is hoping for sex as an endgame. I know massages are sensual and are associated with foreplay..and hey I’m not telling anyone they can’t screw on Mother’s Day…but I urge you to let her lead all that. Women deal with a lot, and even if you’re in a happily intimate relationship, I’m sure she will appreciate a day off from expectations.
-After the massage, post her up in a cozy nook for her to dry off, relax, and read a book, watch a movie, or listen to music (or however she likes to relax). Include lots of cozy blankets and pillows and general fluff. Take over whatever parenting duties arise and give her a couple hours to just relax.
Frankly, that would be an amazing Mother’s Day to me.
But if that doesn’t sound appealing or feasible to the mentally ill mama in your life, here are a few more suggestions:
2. A housecleaning service
I think that I have proven (am proving, if you follow me on Instagram), beyond a doubt, that cleaning and mental illness do not walk hand-in-hand. There’s a good chance that her home is messier than she would like it. As Jacqueline pointed out in the Spring-Cleaning Challenge I hosted, the energy in a messy home is clustered and claustrophobic, while the energy in a clean home is far less stressed.
An outside housecleaning service may be problematic, depending on your mama’s disposition. Personally, as much as I love having a clean home, the idea of having a stranger come in and see my mess, handle my dirty panties, etc incites a lot of anxiety. Mother’s Day is not about making Mama anxious! If you think she’d react the same way, an alternative is to clean the house for her! Let her relax into a book, movie, or other favorite activity while you do a really thorough cleaning. If even that makes her uncomfortable, if she insists on helping, just direct her toward the easiest chores and you do the rest.
3. A kickboxing membership
Sound weird? Stick with me. I’ll be honest: I haven’t fully tried this yet. Not in a class setting. But my husband started teaching me some kickboxing moves, as well as the very basics of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. When a stranger attempted to rape me in the street, I was able to use these super basic techniques to scare him off and stop the rape. Seriously. That happened. I’m not saying we should constantly live in fear of assault and spend our holidays centering around self-defense mechanisms, but if your loved one has PTSD or any kind of abuse history, there’s a good chance she kind of already does that.
I don’t believe that women should have to arm themselves against rape. I think our society should better teach men not to rape, however; learning some basic kickboxing will help the trauma-mama in your life feel secure and empowered within herself; it will make her stronger, which she will be able to feel; and, because it is a form of exercise, it will release all those awesome depression and anxiety releasing chemicals that will help lift her general mood. Make sure to research the gyms in your area. Look up the reviews, maybe make a visit; just ensure it’s quality and there are no complaints about shady, overly competitive/aggressive, or sexualized behavior. This is supposed to be empowering, not re-traumatizing
If a gym membership isn’t time or budget feasible, I honestly wouldn’t recommend home-training unless you already know it yourself. But number four could be a good replacement..
4. A yoga membership
You may have heard the news already…Yoga has a ton of mental health benefits. It helps ease stress, clears the mind, reduces joint and body pain (if you don’t know how that helps with mental health, you’ve never lived with chronic pain), aids in breathing (which also helps with stress), promotes healthy weight, and makes you stronger (an incredible feeling for abuse survivors). This one is more safe to practice at home if a studio membership is problematic. If that’s the goal, gift her a cushy yoga mat, maybe some accessories like a yoga block, mat cleaner, or some grip socks, and of course a reputable yoga DVD.
5. A “day off” coupon book
Free, easy, super valuable, and a classic Mother’s Day favorite for the economically challenged…but you’re going to customize this one to benefit your mentally ill mama specifically. I recommend that, if you really really care for her, you give her Mother’s Day off by default and do all those cute, typical Mother’s Day type things like cook her breakfast, dinner, etc, and also give her the coupon book. Of course the book has to include the requisite no-restrictions “day off everything” coupon (or two). For the rest, be creative. Some suggestions from my life are: “day off diaper duty,” “hour to yourself,” “day off cooking,” “day off chores,” “nap time,” etc. If you know some of her favorite modes of relaxation or needs when triggered, add in some coupons relating specifically to those. Some other, mental-illness specific coupons include “talk to me about your feelings,” “tell me a traumatic memory,” or “cuddle without talking or doing anything more.”
This will be an amazing gift for the mentally ill mama in your life because she undoubtedly needs time off. She is going to have days when she gets triggered, when her symptoms flair up worse than others; when she just can’t anymore. But mothers are socialized to power through those days. How many times have you heard the phrase “mothers don’t get a day off?” Which means that even though it’s totally okay and legitimate for a person with a mental illness to ask for help when she needs it (or anyone else for that matter), there’s a good chance she won’t. Maybe you’re awesome and you are already committed to giving her breaks when she needs them. This coupon book will help her ask for it, or for the space to speak-something equally important to mental wellness-if you include those options. Make sure it comes with a “no conditions” and “no questions asked” clause. That last one is so important. It means that she can hand you this coupon and get the break she needs, without having to explain herself if she doesn’t want to. I can’t tell you how freeing that prospect will be to a mother with a mental illness.
If you’re not in a position to offer all of these break-times, an alternative is a “lift up” coupon book. You can easily make this by hole-punching a series of envelopes book-wise on the sides (vertical), and tying them together with ribbon or twine. Each envelope has a not-so-fun emotion written on the front, ie “sad,” “angry,” enraged,” “anxious,” “disappointed,” “unfulfilled,” “slighted,” etc. Inside, write something you love about this mama, something which can directly combat the connected emotion. On the top one write “Mother’s Day,” and put a full letter inside, which describes everything you most love and appreciate about her, and the “rules,” which are that she can’t open the others until she is genuinely feeling those emotions. If you have a little extra time but not a lot of money, this is a really meaningful gift that the mentally ill mama in your life will definitely love.
6. Any of these books.
That links to my Book of the Weeks category page. All of the books listed there are my personal favorites for a number of reasons, and all, with the exception of the most recent, deal with mental illness in unique, captivating, and respectful ways. The current selection is “Steering The Craft” by Ursula K.Le Guin, and is a fantastic choice for any kind of aspiring writer.
If she’s already read all of those books, hopefully you know her well enough to pick out one or a few books that she will love. Books are awesome for mentally ill people because reading promotes brain plasticity, which will help her overcome a whole host of symptoms including anxiety, resistance to change, and other forms of rigid thinking. This simple gift will help promote all those awesome things while providing her with a form of healthy escapism that she can use to get away from reality when she needs to, without harming herself. Such a simple gift, which so many amazing benefits!
Make that dark chocolate. Scientific studies have actually shown that dark chocolate helps the brain release endorphins and serotonin, which are neurochemicals necessary for healthy brain function and happiness. It also helps reduce stress. And it’s chocolate. You can’t go wrong with chocolate.
So there you have it. This trauma-mama’s wish-list..um, what? I mean guide! The Betty’s Battleground guide to making Mother’s Day 2017 super special for the mentally ill mama in your life. I hope it helps, and I wish all you mamas out there an extremely happy and fulfilling Mother’s Day.
Are you a mother with a mental illness? Is there anything you’re burning to add to this list? Leave it in the comments! Or leave me your post-Mother’s Day reaction stories if you followed the advice!
If you’re like me and holidays like this make you depressed, try to treat yourself this year. Whether you get outside gifts or not, make sure to get something for yourself. Even if it’s just your favorite chocolate. Or some happy thoughts. I’m not making promises as to quantity, but I’m going to try to Tweet some gratitudes this Sunday, so follow me and join in if you want to try to take charge of your self-worth this Mother’s Day.
It would also mean the world to me if you could take a moment to share this. Hey-maybe you’ll help a mentally ill mama get what she really wants this year! I’ve got share buttons down below the post, and floating up there on the side 🙂
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Til next time! Happy Mother’s Day!