Multiple Moms

Multiple Moms (Karen Kellams, Tribune Newspapers photo illustration)

Keeping it simple

Most importantly, says Mogel, don't get swept up in a pre-Mother's Day anxiety-peer pressure-retail whirlwind. Instead, think about how you want to celebrate.

"This is something for the parents to figure out together and for the kids not to be weighing in on too much," she says. "Take each person's temperament and tempo into account. Choreograph it without feeling that there are only three hours that count, and that is Sunday from 1 to 4."

"All these rituals in our lives, they were invented. The world wasn't created with these," says Imber-Black, co-author of "Rituals for Our Times: Celebrating, Healing and Changing Our Lives and Our Relationships" (Jason Aronson, Inc.). "Here we are in the 21st century with much more complicated family forms."

Which means a massive gathering of a family's mother figures may not be in the stack of Hallmark cards you purchased.

"Is it something to aim for that people can be together? Sure it is. But sometimes it's possible, and sometimes it's not. Certainly there are times when there's too much water under the bridge. You have to figure where you want to put your energy," says Imber-Black. "I wouldn't push it.

"Or say, 'You know what, I'm declaring that the entire weekend is Mother's Day, and I'll see you on Saturday and you on Sunday.' That's perfectly fine.

Managing Mother's Day

A few ideas for managing Mother's Day:

Don't limit interactions to one day, advises Wendy Mogel: "Stretch it out over the year. Mother's Day can get particularly fraught if a mother's felt neglected throughout the year." Has she been getting phone calls? Has she been hearing "Grandma, I thought of you when they were talking about this in school, and it reminded me about what you told me about your childhood?" Parents can coach the child.

Send: A photo of the child. Or a letter. "Something handwritten, not dashed off. Something that comes early," Mogel says, adding, "It's a way to handle multiple grandmothers. It will be a delightfully shocking surprise if something came in the mail, neat or in a frame."

Friday pizza? Why not?: "Early is nice. It shows you've been thinking about the person ahead of time."

Skype: Contact those who live far away by exploiting the technology, Evan Imber-Black suggests, and have the kids read a poem, play the piano, etc.

— J.H.