My mother threw me out of her house when I was 15. It was the week after Mother’s Day and just after she married her live-in boyfriend without telling me. I’ll spare you the details of the actual night, and the events leading up to it, when she literally told me to get out around 10 pm on a school night. Fortunately, gratefully, my father took me in to live with him, his new wife and her three kids (but that’s another story).
About 3 years later, I attempted a reconciliation at the behest of my grandmother. Let’s just say it went poorly. We parted ways again and that was the end of that. It will be 40 years next week that I have been motherless. Before you feel sorry for me, let me tell you that it was the best thing she could possibly have done for me. Without her toxicity – and through a whole lot of bumpy years followed by counseling – I was able to learn and grow and thrive and become who I am now. And I like the me I am now.
For the first decade or two, Mother’s Day was a challenge. I was full of anger and resentment and bitterness and my thoughts were always about her and how she abandoned me…even after becoming a mother myself, I still focused on her. Then…I didn’t anymore…partly as a result of counseling, partly as a result of my own motherhood, partly as a result of aging out of it.
Now, Mother’s Day is a day to think back on my own motherhood. To remember my children as they grew up and how they are now. To take pride in the fact that without my own mother’s guidance, I (well, my husband and I 😉 ) raised two awesome adults. To rest in the knowledge that my sister and I broke the cycle of toxic mother-daughter relationships.
Getting to a place where Mother’s Day is no longer painful for me took the following:
- Find people who understand. You will hear this from many people when they learn that you no longer communicate with your mother or don’t like her: “But she’s your mother!!”, or “But you only have one mother!”. Gah. These people are not your tribe. The ones who – even if they don’t fully understand – don’t judge you and listen empathetically are your tribe. It’s not like you have to form a crappy mother’s club, but it helps to have people around you who at least try to understand.
- Consider counseling. I found a great counselor many years ago, when I was in my late 20’s, and I saw her weekly for almost a year and then every two weeks for another year. It helped. Oh, how it helped! We were very very poor then and really couldn’t afford it, but we agreed that the investment was worth it, our marriage was worth it, my life was worth it.
- Find other women to help fill the void. Now, I’m not suggesting to go out and find another mother. I found myself naturally attracted to forming relationships with older women. If there was someone 20 years older than me in the room, I wanted to talk to her. Before we go and get all psychoanalytical here, let me say that I wasn’t looking for a mother replacement, I was looking to glean wisdom from them. There are just some life lessons that can’t be learned from people our own age or from a counselor (and that hurts to say since I’m a counselor!). I’m simply suggesting to have a conversation, whenever you are given the opportunity, with someone older and wiser and from whom you might learn something.
- Focus on other mother’s on Mother’s Day. Are there mothers in your life that you might like to compliment? Are there women in your life who have helped you along the way or supported you or guided you? Reach out to them and thank them or simply acknowledge what a great job they are doing as a mom.
- Pamper yourself. Your needs are just as valid as anyone else’s needs. If Mother’s Day is painful for you then acknowledge that. Marinate in it. Take the day for yourself. Have a good cry. Binge on Netflix. Take a hike by yourself. Surround yourself with people you love. Do whatever brings you peace.
- If you are a mother, try to stay in the moment with your own child/ren. Enjoy them, enjoy being a mom, enjoy those sticky hands and the messy kitchen from breakfast in bed and the joy on their little faces when they try to make you happy.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of how to help yourself through a Mother’s Day, but these are some of the things that helped me get through them when they were hard.
If you had/have a crappy mother, what are some ways that you cope with Mother’s Day?