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Who is Mother’s Day really for? Moms and grandmothers sound off

“It’s Mother’s Day, not Grandmother’s Day.”
Mother's Day debate
A social media debate asks: Who gets priority on Mother’s Day? emily_wehner, mellissawith2ls via TikTok
/ Source: TODAY

Who comes first on Mother’s Day — moms with young kids or mothers-in-law and grandmothers?

“So, let’s talk about Mother’s Day,” Mellissa Grice, a 53-year-old mom in North Carolina, said in a TikTok video, referencing a younger creator who declared the holiday solely for “moms in the trenches” of parenthood.

“I am so tired of moms and mothers-in-law and grandparents being sh*t on, on this app ... When did the younger generation just totally throw us to the wolves?” said Grice, adding, “I don’t understand — it’s just the moms of young kids that should really be celebrated for Mother’s Day? That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”

Grice added, “As a mom, how am I going to celebrate my son or be thankful to be a mom if my children aren’t around me because I’m older?”

Every year, moms with young children, grandparents and mothers-in-law fight for recognition on a holiday that historically celebrated each family’s “one and only mother.”

Moms with school-aged kids frequently say Mother’s Day should honor those actively parenting, whether they’re changing diapers, driving kids to sports games or helping write college essays. They’re tired, touched out and touchy: according to a 2023 poll, 62% of mothers want “alone time” on Mother’s Day versus 38% who want “family time.”

“Trouble for me is that I don’t get to celebrate being a mom with my kids because we spend 100% of our day with our moms,” a TikToker commented on Grice’s video. “It’s another exhausting holiday for us.”

Another added: “I’m a young mom of three. I don’t want to run around to make the grandmas happy that day. When do I get a day to do what I want?”

Meanwhile, moms of adult children say motherhood is a lifelong duty, despite an update of their title to “grandma” or “mother-in-law.” They don’t want the whole spotlight, but say that decades of parenting deserves a phone call or a brunch reservation. Others observe Mother’s Day with multigenerational events.

“It’s about all moms,” someone wrote under Grice’s post. “We never stop being a mom.” Another person: “I’m 56 and have two boys, (ages 18 and 21). Mother’s Day has always been about my mom and mother-in-law as the matriarchs of their families.”

Other grandmothers are happy to step aside.

“Time for my annual reminder to grandmothers to shift the focus from you to your daughters and daughters-in-law who are mothers,” TikTok user “More Than Grand” said in a video. “Instead of expecting the family to gather to honor you, it’s time to make the day about the next generation of mothers.”

“When did the younger generation just totally throw us to the wolves?”

This year, Grice hopes to enjoy her annual Mother’s Day brunch with her 32-year-old son, his wife and their new baby. Grice says she wants her daughter-in-law to feel utterly loved and appreciated on her first Mother’s Day. She’s also hoping for a little recognition.

“It’s more about balance ... and trying to fit everybody in on that day,” Grice tells, adding, “I’ve always run around everywhere to where my mom or my grandmother were ... they were usually together on Mother’s Day.”

Grice has noticed that some younger moms on social media claim Mother’s Day all for themselves.

“My son has his own life but as a mom, you don’t want to feel like you’re being pushed aside,” she says, adding, “No mom wants to feel unneeded.”

“It’s Mother’s Day, not Grandmother’s Day.”

Three years ago, Emily Wehner, a 30-year-old mom in Indiana established “Mother’s Day rules.”

“It’s Mother’s Day, not Grandmother’s Day,” Wehner explained in an April TikTok video with almost 2 million views.

Wehner, whose children are 1 and 3, recalled her first Mother’s Day as “pretty sad” while the day “coordinating grandparent visits.”

“I didn’t get to do anything for myself,” she said in her video. “I was like, ‘I’m not doing this again.’”

Wehner said she celebrates her parents and in-laws on different days that mimic Mother’s Day and Father’s Day around the official holidays.

“This may ruffle feathers for some people but that’s what I want to do and ... I’m the one deep into the mothering right now,” she said in the video.

Wehner tells she was “sobbing” on her first Mother’s Day.

“I needed to get to my mother-in-law’s (house) at a certain time but I really wanted to get my nails done,” she says. “I didn’t get to do that because of my child’s nap schedule and all the things of mothering.” Topping it off, Wehner, who eats a gluten-free diet, didn’t have much to eat at the family meal. “At that point,” she says, “I was done.”

During the celebration, she didn’t feel celebrated. So Wehner and her husband agreed to opt out of future Mother’s Day events in exchange for an intimate brunch, followed by gardening at home.

Wehner said “mean” comments on her video largely came from older moms.

“I don’t think (many) .... took a second to do what they wanted so it’s very off-putting that I’m saying, ‘I want time for myself,’” says Wehner. “The more we do it, the better we are as moms.”

“Mother’s Day can be a minefield”

According to a @todayparents Instagram poll, where 2,366 people responded, 51% say mothers of young children and grandmothers should be equitably honored on Mother’s Day. Forty-eight percent said newer moms should get the spotlight while 2% voted for grandmothers to take top billing.

“Mother’s Day can be a minefield, as both older and newer moms feel unacknowledged for the hidden labor that has contributed to the well being of their families,” Rachael D. Robnett, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, tells

“It seems that newer moms and matriarchs are fighting over a piece of pie that’s too small to begin with.”

“It seems that newer moms and matriarchs are fighting over a piece of pie that’s too small to begin with.”

Rachael D. Robnett, associate professor of psychology

Robnett proposes that in heterosexual relationships, male partners should lead Mother’s Day plans and handle communication with in-laws.

“It’s a little unfair to frame (the debate) as between moms if men can step up and orchestrate Mother’s Day,” she says, noting, “Boys aren’t usually socialized to proactively celebrate others so men don’t have the practice.” 

With parents of children under 18 needing more mental health support, Robnett suggests that matured generations approach Mother’s Day with flexibility.

“Mother’s Day can still honor and celebrate the previous generation,” she says. “It’s not necessarily a zero-sum game.”