Whether you’re estranged from a parent or child, have lost a child or parent, or are coping with infertility, holidays such as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day can bring up a range of complicated emotions. Not everyone wants reminders of those holidays constantly showing up in their inbox either. So several brands have taken the initiative by offering customers the option of opting out of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day emails.
And it’s clearly struck a chord. When Twitter user Lana Schwartz shared an email from the bedding company Parachute offering customers the option of opting out of those holiday emails, the tweet went viral, garnering more than 31k likes.
Other brands — including Etsy, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, Aesop, Kitsch, Away and Women for Women International — have given their customers the same option and are being lauded on social media, with some calling it “really cool,” a “top tier move for brands,” and “a generous thing” to do.
“Thank you to every retail company who has emailed me asking if I want to opt-out of Mother’s Day emails,” Twitter user Renée Dalo wrote. “More of this energy, please. It’s not a happy day for everyone.” While giving a shoutout to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream for being a “compassionate company,” Twitter user Jill Donovan wrote: “I wish more companies realized how painful it is to get email after email talking about moms. Hope they do this for Father’s Day too for those that need it.”
In a statement to Yahoo Life, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream said the company spends “a lot of time thinking about how we want people to feel. And we want to make people feel good, feel loved. We want to be the bright spot in someone’s day, never a point of pain. So, we started offering email opt-outs a few years ago. It was an easy decision that really came down to listening to our customers and understanding that Mother’s Day and Father’s Day can be a difficult time for all kinds of reasons.”
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream says the response to the opt-out has been “really positive,” adding: “We have people who opt out every year — and many who take the time to send us a thank you for the option.”
Parachute founder and chief executive officer, Ariel Kaye, tells Yahoo Life that more than 2,000 people opt out of their Mother’s and Father’s Day emails. “While that is a small percentage of our overall subscribers, we want to make sure we are thoughtfully communicating with all our customers,” says Kaye. “This gesture made a big impact on this group based on the responses we’ve received through email and social media.”
Kaye says that the company is “always listening” to its customers and taking their feedback into account. “Whether it be about product development, where to open a new store or how difficult some holidays are, we listen and do our best to take action,” says Kaye. “Our team is made up of compassionate people and over the past year, we’ve done our best to be in tune with what our customers have been going through. The opt-out email came about because, in a year when so many of us lost loved ones, we wanted to be especially sensitive.”
Kristina M. Scharp, PhD, assistant professor at the University of Washington’s department of communication and director of the Family Communication & Relationships Lab, tells Yahoo Life that offering people choices like these is “positive,” adding: “I’m glad more people are becoming aware and sensitive to the fact that certain holidays can be painful for people.”
Being estranged from a parent or child while other families celebrate these holidays “can be hard in a variety of ways,” Joshua Coleman, a clinical psychologist and author of Rules of Estrangement: Why Adult Children Cut Ties & How to Heal the Conflict, tells Yahoo Life. “Feeling envious toward those who are close to their parents; feelings of shame, guilt or social isolation; and feelings of loss may be common.”
Of course, opting out of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day emails doesn’t mean that some people still won’t struggle with mixed emotions on those holidays — or on other days of the year. Scharp explains that while it’s “often the case that most holidays are difficult for adult children who have either lost a parent or who are in the estrangement process,” she says that “actually, any day could be a difficult or triggering day. In other words, while holidays can be hard, it’s also important to remember that we live in a culture that emphasizes the parent-child relationships to such an extent that any day might be a challenge.”
Scharp has some suggestions for getting through those tough days, though. “First, it’s okay to feel sad, angry, joy, or however you want on those days,” says Scharp. “Often, people tell me how conflicted they feel, which can sometimes make the day even harder because they are unsure what to do with their contradictory feelings. Estrangement is complicated, and it is okay to have complicated feelings.”
Scharp points out that “just because a person might not have a strong or close relationship with a biological parent does not mean they do not have other people in their lives who have fulfilled parentings roles or provided the love and care one might want from a parent,” adding: “Mother’s or Father’s Day might be a good day to celebrate the people who have shown up in your life in meaningful ways.”
Spending time with a supportive partner, family members or friends also helps. “It’s important to get support from those who understand you and won’t criticize you for not being in contact,” says Coleman.
Scharp also suggests finding ways to reclaim the holiday, such as thinking about “how you might make a positive difference in a younger person’s life,” such as by being a mentor. “There are many ways you might consider reclaiming these days by backgrounding the difficulty to focus on productive action,” she suggests. “Creating a new network of people can go a long way to boosting a person’s resilience.”