From Boise

A word of advice for Mother's Day

Published 17 days ago • 9 min read

Mother’s Day is this Sunday, May 12, and our writer Amanda Patchin has a fun lil story for you today filled with some advice for the holiday. You may remember Amanda’s Christmas gift giving advice story - it was one of my favorites. Since Amanda is a mom, I asked her if she could give us her advice for Mom's Day. You can listen to me read this story on today's podcast. Enjoy!

A Word of Advice for Mother’s Day

By Amanda Patchin

First, a warning. Mother’s Day advice is all well and good and I have some for you, however, no extravagance, no thoughtfulness on the third Sunday of May can possibly make up for neglect and inattention the other 364 days of the year. Typically, though not universally, mothers spend most of their days considering the needs of everyone else in the family. Mom knows that Michael doesn’t like onions, that Julie prefers her sandwich cut in triangles, that the dog will throw up if he eats too fast and he needs to be fed in two stages a half-hour apart, that the laundry needs to be shifted from the washer to the dryer right away to prevent that faint musty smell, and that the milk is about to expire and so needs to be drunk before the day is out. This is a weight that she carries, one that comes because she is paying attention to her family.

Attention, of course, is another word for love. A loving mother is continually, almost involuntarily, pouring out this attention, this love, and its very reliability means that she and her efforts are often, if not always, taken for granted. In one sense this is a good thing. Children ought to be able to count on their parents for love and attention and being in doubt of that love would be tragic. In another sense, though, it is terrible. Being taken for granted is devastating and anyone whose love and attention is assumed will eventually suffer from emotional starvation, with their capacity to love shrinking as they themselves are not noticed, not cared for, not loved.

So. Whatever you do for your mother or your wife for Mother’s Day, know that nothing you can come up with, nothing I can suggest, will make up for daily, ordinary, attention to Mom. See her. Notice her desires. Think about her needs. Listen when she speaks. She is a person too, and people fundamentally need to be seen and heard. Without attention our stress reaction kicks in and we feel like we are in danger. That sense of danger destroys mental peace and damages the body. It is a big deal! Attending to one another, caring for one another is foundational for human flourishing and it is a daily thing, not a holiday thing. Holidays are an opportunity to increase or intensify our loving attention to one another, not a get-out-of-jail-free card for not doing so.

That said, here is some advice for making this Mother’s Day a wonderful day.

Balance Togetherness and Downtime

Unless everyone in your family is a fully committed, 100% extrovert, a whole day of togetherness will cause frustration, a meltdown, a fight, or some other disappointing conflict. Honoring Mom can and should include some kind of physical and temporal space for everyone.

If Mom wants breakfast in bed, then perhaps leave her to it by herself so she wakes up slowly and peacefully. If you have lunch out together, follow it up with a quiet afternoon nap for her and anyone else who needs the rest. If you spend the morning at the Zoo or BAM together, or go shopping, then plan time for her to take a bubble bath alone.

Likewise, even if everyone is a 100% introvert, balancing the quiet Mom craves with some affectionate attention, will prevent her from feeling forgotten or neglected in the midst of her rest. If she asks for a morning of alone time, then follow it up with a short walk down the Greenbelt to get donuts at Pastry Perfection or just some fresh air. After a quiet afternoon of reading at her favorite coffee shop, meet up with Mom and take her to ice cream at the STIL or Negranti before heading home.

Take Responsibility for a Chore

Taking over something Mom ordinarily does is a double gift. First, it gives her the rest and relief of not having to do that thing. Second, it will make everyone involved more aware of what is otherwise invisible. It is incredibly common for someone’s workload to become invisible to others, especially if that person is particularly good at it. Of course, this is not exclusive to mothers, but it is endemic to motherhood and worthy of attention on a holiday devoted to them.

There is much more public conversation about the “mental load” now than in our grandmother’s time, but it seems to me that this sort of invisibility is not necessarily gendered and not necessarily part of some larger system of oppression. It may be that humans universally become blind to anything that is functioning well and that we will inevitably have to combat this tendency no matter if we live in a patriarchy, a matriarchy, or a technopoly. I don’t see the work that goes into keeping the internet up and running and so I take it for granted and am personally offended when a video won’t load or my files don’t back up.

So, practice awareness and sharing the mental load and, if it seems right and balanced to do so, maybe take over something permanently. Taking over must include all the planning, learning, and labor of the thing. No fair cooking dinner and asking Mom a dozen questions about how to saute the onions! She wasn’t born knowing these things, you too can learn them! In ordinary life it is wonderful to learn from her, but it is not restful to teach, so don’t demand that of her on the one day she is supposed to be at ease.

Cooking (and the accompanying grocery shopping), laundry (being extra careful not to ruin anything of hers!), dusting, cleaning (especially stuff that gets overlooked like the fronts of the cabinets, the grimy edge at the back of the counter, the shelves of the fridge, the seal on the washing machine door, the clutter and grime around the trash cans), are all good options. Do it well, do it thoroughly, and don’t ask her if she wants it done or how she wants it done. Then, don’t point it out. Just let it be better for her sake whether she notices it or not and then think about how many such things are made better for your sake without your noticing!

Sponsored by the Idaho Wine Commission

Boise is big on supporting local - it's one of my favorite things about living here. We’re lucky to have so many Idaho businesses that make some of our favorite wines and ciders, and even luckier to have events where we can find more vendors rooted in Idaho to support, like Savor Idaho.

Presented by the Idaho Wine Commission, Savor Idaho is a wine tasting event happening on June 9. There’s more than 30 wineries and cideries to sample! The best part is, you’ll have the opportunity to pick the brains of the wine and cider makers and make connections with them all while learning more about the industry. The more you learn, the better your wine tastes (so I’ve heard).

Savor Idaho is basically a day spent sampling wine in the sun, taking in the views at the Idaho Botanical Garden, hitting a food truck when you need some grub, with some fun activities to take part in! It’s guaranteed to fill your cup (in more ways than one).

Find all the details at

Make One Thing Permanently Better

This one goes along with my Christmas gift-giving advice and I think is a good way to look at all kinds of things in life. Rather than something temporary (although flowers and chocolates are quite enjoyable!) the best kind of gifts are the ones that improve everyday life for everyone. This kind of thing takes enormous creativity and attention. It is definitely not the kind of thing that can be picked up at the convenience store at 8pm on Saturday.

Think of something that is a source of frustration or discomfort in everyday life and then think of some way to make it better in the long term, and then make or buy or fix it. A simple three-step process but not an easy one. It is even hard for me to think of good examples to illustrate the point!

It could be something like noticing how the bathtub drain keeps getting clogged. Could you buy one of the three or four dollar strainer plugs at Grover’s Plumbing to catch the hair? Or perhaps it is a leaky faucet that needs a new seal. The seal itself is probably pretty inexpensive but if you’ve never taken a faucet apart it could be a bit more of a project. Perhaps it is buying new and higher quality bath towels for everyone and just throwing out the old, worn, and too small ones you have. Maybe it is finding someone to weld the wobbly handle on that pan or getting (or making!) a really nice blanket for Mom’s reading chair.

It is really important here, to do a good job. “Trying” isn’t enough and, paradoxically, it’s because it is “the thought that counts” and the thought that you put into doing it right is what will matter in the long run. Having a nice thought is easy and not really all that loving. Having a nice thought and then putting the mental and emotional and practical effort into doing something thoroughly, carefully, and correctly is.

So figure out if she needs good knives and then go to Nordic Knives or one of the restaurant supply stores and buy the really good ones. Check her shoe size and then go get her good wool socks that fit and are the right style for the shoes she actually wears (boot socks and running socks and ankle socks and hiking socks and dress socks are all different!). Get her a new bookshelf that fits into her space and then help rearrange things and set it up. Make a better space for the outdoor trash cans, dig up and replant the old unused garden bed with low-maintenance food or flowers (berry bushes can be really nice!), clean out the gutters and then install guards so they don’t get full again. Do the dishes and then replace the sponge with a clean one. Wash the shower curtain and hang it up again.

Further, notice some problem and then try to notice a second problem and then come up with a creative solution that addresses both of them! This is where creativity and individual attention really shine! It is also impossible to offer any kind of one-size solution because the nature of these situations is their utter individuality and the profound uniqueness of their solutions. The particulars will be very different for every individual person, and it is in figuring out the particulars of your situation that you will be giving a good gift!

Remember: You Live in a Flawed and Complicated World

Look, life is hard, and if there is one thing that our culture is bad at, its nuance and complexity. Not everyone has a mother or mother-figure. Some of us have lost them to cancer, to addiction, to their own demons. Some have mothers but have a strained and difficult relationship with them. Perhaps we are the ones who have failed them, perhaps they have failed us. Some wish that they were mothers and have not been able to become a mother for one reason or another. Some of us have perfectly fine mothers but are uncomfortable with the pressure to perform on a holiday.

My advice on this point is to be an open and attuned person, both to yourself and others, in light of this flawed complexity. If you have hurts around this holiday, make space for those hurts and work through what you can and forgive yourself for what you can’t. Further, in your conversation with others, remember to make room for their hurts and limitations. Avoid making any kind of declaration about what others should or should not be doing with the day. Also avoid making blanket statements about how wonderful or terrible mothers are! It is usually healthy and fair to express your own experiences, but people tend to have a habit of universalizing them to others and that can be quite hurtful! A little sensitivity goes a long way.

I’m looking forward to the old-fashioned donut that is my traditional Mother’s Day breakfast (along with a nice cup of Aeropress coffee), lunch out at Bittercreek Alehouse, and having my sons take me book shopping in the afternoon. I expect to spend the evening reading, enjoying a quiet bath, and probably going to sleep early! I hope your day is lovely as well!

Celebrating Mom's Day in Boise

Here's a list of 15 local Mother's Day gifts from Boise With Kids

A few fun brunch/lunch spots:

A few places to get flowers or plants:

A few other ideas:

Thanks for reading! Happy mama's day <3

With love from Boise,



From Boise

by Marissa Lovell

A weekly newsletter & podcast about what's going on in Boise, Idaho. Every week we share stories about people, places, history, and happenings in Boise.

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