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Two Mothers, One Mother’s Day

I hadn’t seen a case like this before. Two women were divorcing, and fighting over which parent would get custody of the children on Mother’s Day. One parent was the biological mother; the other was the non-biological, but legal and psychological mother. Each one argued that the annual May holiday honoring mothers should be her day with the kids.

I suggested that one mother could celebrate with the kids on Mother’s Day, and the other could do the same on Father’s Day. I believe it was the first time I ever heard jaws drop on the floor.

Father’s Day was out of the question. They ignored my suggestion, and instead negotiated an equal split of time on Mother’s Day.

Same-sex marriage has been legal throughout the United States since 2015, when the Supreme Court ruled that state bans against it were unconstitutional. It has been legally recognized in New York state since 2011. As gays, lesbians, and other civil-rights advocates celebrated each milestone, the focus was on the upside: loving couples could now live together and raise families with the full recognition and support of the law.

But where there’s marriage, there will always be some divorce. And for gay and lesbian couples with children, that can present some unique challenges, like who gets Mother’s Day and/or Father’s Day.

The emotional tug-of-war between divorcing gays and lesbians is inevitable when it comes to the “parent” holidays (except in a minority of cases in which at least one parent never cared for the holiday to begin with). To get past that and make it work, couples should first consider what the alternatives are.

If the symbolic significance of, say, Mother’s Day is too strong to overcome, then perhaps parents can agree (as in the above case) to split the day: you take brunch and I’ll take dinner. If you prefer whole days, consider alternating years. Now that leaves someone without a “parent” holiday each year, unless you can see fit to rename “Father’s Day” or just make another day an alternative Mother’s Day. One lesbian couple got creative with this, granting one parent Mother’s Day, and renaming Father’s Day “Mama Bee’s Day.” Or what about loosening up your interpretation of the calendar and just calling it “Mother’s Weekend”—you take Saturday and I’ll take Sunday?

After all, in the end, the parent holidays shouldn’t be days of feeling hurt and left out of something symbolic, but rather, of celebrating something real: the relationship and love between children and both of their parents.

Copyright 2017 - 2018 Joanne P. Monagan, Esq.

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