How to Celebrate Mother’s Day This Year

Social distancing and sheltering in place doesn’t mean you can’t connect in meaningful ways with the most important women in your life.

by Eric Alt
A woman celebrating mother's day by talking to multiple friends and family members online
J Longo for Fatherly

This story was brought to you by Pandora Jewelry, a gift that tells Mom thanks for always being there, even if you can’t be together.

One thing is certain: No matter your plans, Mother’s Day 2020 will never be forgotten. Much of the world is on lockdown, with people encouraged to stay inside except for essential circumstances — “social distancing” is the new law of the land, and moms are feeling it right now. Whether it’s a mom trying to keep sanity in check with a job and childcare suddenly sharing the same four walls, or a grandmother isolated from those whom she loves, this is one of the most important Mother’s Day celebrations in memory. So, the pressure’s on to make this the most special Mother’s Day possible. Here’s how to do just that.

Celebrating Mom Remotely

Grandma is lonely right now. I mean, we all are, but being distanced from your children and grandchildren on Mother’s Day seems especially cruel and lonesome. So in the ways you do connect, you need to go a little above and beyond with your Mother’s Day celebration. You don’t just show up, you have to show up with a grand display that communicates all the love, appreciation, and respect you have for the woman who raised you. How to do that? Make a day of it.

A Virtual Day With Grandma

As the world is quickly discovering, video conferencing isn’t just a corporate time suck anymore. Everyone is turning to video chat to host group get-togethers and virtual happy hours. Reaching out for the occasional video chat goes a long way even on an average Tuesday, so for Mother’s Day it is imperative that you get creative. Don’t just crowd around the camera and scream at Grandma over one other — try to make it as memorable as you can.

Text or email Grandma ahead of time so she can be aware, but explain that you have a multi-part Mother’s Day “experience” planned for her special day. Break it up into 20- or 30-minute intervals (we’ve given an example itinerary below) to give you time to “reset” and prepare for each installment. It stretches out the experience and makes it fun for everyone.

9:00–9:30 AM

Start With a Walk

If you have a tablet (and the weather permits), invite Mom on a virtual stroll outside. You don’t have to go far — just around the block or even around the house. Show her some projects or something you’ve been working on.

11:00–11:30 AM

Open Presents

You’ll need to plan for this one in advance. Have everyone send Mom a letter — handwritten, personalized, and full of details that show her you know her (see more for what to say, below). Then send her a gift that shows her you know her — personalized Pandora Jewelry is just right for the occasion.

How to Write a Mother’s Day Letter She’ll Keep Forever

A store-bought card with a simple “Love ya!” might do on a typical Mother’s Day (just barely), but this is the time to really dig deep (greeting cards are hardly essential shopping, anyway). Writing can be intimidating for some, so here are some tips to keep in mind.

  • You’re writing for an audience of one. Don’t worry if it’s not flowery or polished. Your mom knows your voice. If it sounds like you, she’ll love it.
  • Give details — as many as possible. Don’t just say, “Thanks for everything.” Focus on a specific anecdote or piece of advice she gave you and tell her a quick story of how it helped or influenced you. You have no space limit here, use as much as you want.
  • Include a personalized gift. Flowers are great and all, but you have an opportunity to really show her you know who she is. Maybe a birth-stone pendant? Or a charm bracelet themed around a significant family milestone or event — perhaps an animal-shape to represent a beloved pet or a startfish to symbolize that family trip to the beach. Choose something that shows you’ve been paying attention all these years.
12:30–1:00 PM

An Afternoon Treat

Bake two batches of cookies and again, ahead of time, send her one and enjoy the treat together. Sing a song like it’s her birthday. An appropriate Mother’s Day song? Any feel-good tune that you can sing along to. For She’s a Jolly Good Fellow, Amazing Grace, or You Are My Sunshine are solid choices. If Grandma has a special song she adores, go with that.

3:00–3:30 PM

Then Have a Family Chat

The best way to chat if you have kids over the age of 5 is with multiple access points in your home (desktop, laptop, tablets). You can have your partner and kids all occupy a different square on video chat so everyone has a chance for some virtual one-on-one time with Grandma. Take turns. Let everyone speak. If you have a toddler on your lap, bring them in, but also let them run around so they don’t suck all the attention out of the room.

7:00–9:00 PM

Watch a Movie Together

Share your screen and show new movies of you and your family or old family vacation videos if you have them digitized — invite Mom to do a running commentary on that road trip to Nashville you took in ’88. If you don’t have home movies handy, share the screen and watch a favorite movie together instead.

Video Chat Tips to Make Mother’s Day Special

  • Some video chat platforms allow you to change your background image. Maybe pop in a picture that’s meaningful to her — the place where she and your dad honeymooned. A former, beloved house.
  • Dress up for the occasion. Who says you have to sit at your work desk in an old hoodie? Sit outside or on a porch and wear a nice shirt and tie. Make it feel festive.
  • Don’t overtalk. It just makes for a jumble of noise.
  • Teach everyone to use the mute button. This should feel intimate, not chaotic. If someone is in a noisy area, encourage them to mute until they want to pipe in.
  • Take a break. You have a day-long chat, so feel free to leave the video chat running and take bathroom breaks or schedule an hour recess.

Celebrating Mom at Home

Making Mother’s Day special for Mom at home — the one who has been quarantined with you and the kids for months now — is a different challenge. She’s likely been playing the role of mom, remote office worker, substitute teacher, lunch lady, and cleaning crew (you should be as well, but, hey, this isn’t your day). Mother’s Day is a chance to give her all of the thank you’s — but also, importantly, to give her a freaking break. Here’s what to do.

7:00–9:00 AM

Clean While She Sleeps

If you have little kids, there’s no way anyone in the house has slept in for some time. This is your chance to have one of you do that. While you’re at it recruit the kids for a cleaning crew and have her wake up to … less of a mess (that’s probably the best any parent can do right now). Take control of everything that needs to be done for the day. Cleaning? Food? Projects? Take it all on, unless she insists that doing some kid-free chores is a gift.

11:00–12:00 PM

Give Her the Spa Treatment

After you’ve cleaned the bathroom, set it up with candles, soothing music, her favorite tea, maybe an iPad or a favorite book. Just make it a shrine dedicated to her relaxation and then give her all the time she needs to soak and unwind.

3:00–5:00 PM

Coordinate a Mom-Only Party

Set this one up in advance. Text her friends’ husbands and get their help in organizing a virtual get-together or cocktail hour. Give her plenty of her own space (inside or out), occupy the kids, and let her have some time to just chill and chat with friends.

5:30–6:30 PM

Open Presents

Does Mom want a lot of stuff right now? Probably not. We all could use love and appreciation more than knick-knacks or even flowers. So write her a letter. Have the kids write her ones too. Dig deep and show her you know her and appreciate all that she brings to the home and family. Like a letter to your mom, it doesn’t have to sound like Shakespeare. It just has to sound like you. Then get her something special that shows you know her … like a timeless necklace that speaks to her.

7:00–8:00 PM

The Mother’s Day Dinner

Depending on the age (or presence) of your children, maybe plan a “restaurant” evening where you prepare a fancy meal and the kids help you out as waiters and hosts. Have them make menus. Play some nice atmospheric music. Light some candles. Dress up. Have multiple toasts. Make sure these words are said at least a dozen times: “Happy Mother’s Day!”