In most families as I’ve known them, Mom knows what’s going on. She is the keeper of the schedules, the appointments, the relationships between the kids and their friends, the homework, the extracurricular activities. She plans, shops for, prepares the food. Perhaps she nags for someone else to do the dishes, or perhaps it expends less energy to just do it herself.
Mom knows the things that the kids like, that the spouse likes. Mom makes sure that birthdays are special, even when there’s a pandemic and we can’t do it the usual way. Mom does Christmas, often including her own stocking. (There’s a popular meme about dads seeing what the kids got for Christmas when the kids open everything.) Mom makes sure the kids have clothes that fit, even when she just bought those pants three months ago, how can they be too short already?
Mom talks to the other moms to see what’s going on at school, to set up playdates, to get tips on events going on around town. In pandemic, moms have been managing school at home.
Mom is the one who delegates the work around the house, fulfilling the expectation that no one else needs to use their energy to notice and take care of things. Mom is the one who nags, fulfilling the expectation that “Mom is just bugging me again” instead of “it’s generous of Mom to use her energy to keep track of everything, and all I have to do is some chores.”
So when she says for Mother’s Day, she wants the house cleaned, and you laugh and take her out for breakfast and give her chocolate, you’re missing the mark.
The chocolate is appreciated (probably). But if Mom gets up from her well-deserved Mother’s Day nap to a sink full of dishes or the kids (or spouse!) asking what’s for dinner, it’s more like Business As Usual Day.
Listen to her. What does Mom want? With all the work she does the rest of the year, you can take over everything for a day.
(And maybe start to take over some of it the rest of the year, too.)