The Mother’s Day debate: Stay in or go out?


NEW YORK (AP) — Leslie Young is the California mom of four kids 9 and younger. For her, Mother’s Day is far from serene.

“Just because it’s Mother’s Day doesn’t mean the nurse, chauffer, chef, janitor, hair stylist or activity coordinator get the day off,” she said of all the hats she wears.

In fact, her Mother’s Day will begin the Saturday before, when she’ll organize a gathering for her own mom, then a Sunday, after-church affair for her mother-in-law, typically in a fancy restaurant around Carlsbad, north of San Diego, where she lives — and the 36-year-old Young considers a fancy restaurant “nothing short of a circus.”

“I would love to spend Mother’s Day at home, where my kids can run amok and it doesn’t matter because no one else is there to judge me,” she said.

Sorry, Leslie, but do know that you’re not alone.

Staying home for Mother’s Day versus going out for a special meal is befuddling for others as well, and especially families with small children. On the one hand, yay! Fancy outing. On the other hand, yikes! Who’s got the energy and wants to spend it chasing little ones around a restaurant? And it’s not always just about little kids around white tablecloths and spillable drinks.

Denise Wilson, 47, has two teens, 13 and 15, and still wants out of the restaurant outing for Mother’s Day. In New York, where she lives, that usually means a hectic chase for a reservation, long lines and huge crowds. This year, they’ll head to their weekend house in East Hampton on Long Island for relaxing, family fun.

“Life is super hectic and not being beholden to a clock or having to make a decision, and enjoying simple and relaxed moments, feels almost a luxury,” she said. “It’s essentially a weekend of no obligations. My husband will cook.”

Another New Yorker, cookie-baking entrepreneur Zenobia Dewely, builds her family’s collective sweet tooth into her Mother’s Day. For six years, the 44-year-old mom of three — ages 18, 16 and 12 — has been on the opposite end of the Mother’s Day spectrum.

“I look forward to going out with my family every year,” she said. “We have an Outback and Dylan’s Candy store tradition. We usually get ice cream and then we dip strawberries, bananas and rice crispy treats in the chocolate fountain.”

According to National Restaurant Association research last year, the latest available from the trade group, 35 percent of Americans said they planned to dine out on Mother’s Day, with 13 percent choosing buffet style restaurants. About 13 percent said they would opt for breakfast, 26 percent brunch and 46 percent dinner, with some planning multiple restaurant or order-in options.

Casual dining prevailed among 69 percent of Mother’s Day diners surveyed, while 21 percent went for fine dining. Fewer than half — 45 percent — were eating out with children under 18.

Liz Vaccariello, mom of twin girls and editor in chief of Parents magazine, hears a lot from readers on the stay home versus go out Mother’s Day front these days.

“I often hear that Mother’s Day is more stressful for mothers than you would think,” she said. “Often, they are caught between celebrating their own mother, their mother-in-law and some big shindig that their husband might have planned. I’ve had readers tell me that they’d enjoy a pass on the day, just stay at home and be with their children for some quiet time. It’s rather counterintuitive, but I’m hearing this more and more.”

Personally, Vaccariello said, her favorite Mother’s Day was several years ago, when her girls were 5. Her husband packed a surprise picnic and they passed the day in a park near their suburban New York home in New Jersey, just hanging out and eating grapes, cheese and bread.

“It’s one of my fondest memories,” she said. “Better than any restaurant.”

Kari Catuogno, 40, shares the feeling. She has two boys, 5 and 3, and describes the in-or-out debate this way: “It’s like flying first class or on the wing of plane! A real treat is just letting me sleep in, waking up to my favorite Starbucks and giving me as much time as I want for a shower with no interruptions. Heaven!”

In Alexandria, Virginia, Amanda Ponzar is still mired in the debate. She has two boys, 5 and 9, and nephews who are 3 and 5. Her sister-in-law and her own mom know one thing — they don’t want to cook come the May 14 holiday.

“A restaurant with four very busy boys is a mess and hassle. We’ve tried buffets, Chinese restaurants and others before. The boys can’t sit still, or if they do, gobble their food and half of it ends up on the floor,” said Ponzar, also 40. “They eat too much dessert and then after 10 minutes are itchy and want to run around.”

As for a fancy restaurant, well, “I can’t remember what that’s like,” Ponzar said.

They’ve discussed letting the men grill, but that doesn’t solve the entire problem, she said.

“The ladies still get left with sides, dessert, etcetera, and handling the kids on Mother’s Day, plus who is washing the dishes and cleaning up the mess? Now we’re talking about getting pizza or some other easy takeout food. This is what it’s come to!”

So what does she really want?

“For them to bring me a Starbucks venti mocha light Frappuccino and call it a day. Of course, it’s nice when the kids make a card,” she added, “as long as it says, ‘You’re the best mom in the world,’ not ‘Mom I hate you.’ I have cards that say both.”

By Leanne Italie

Associated Press

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