Dear happy celebrators of Mother’s Day

Dear happy celebrators of Mother’s Day May 9, 2015


Dear happy celebrators of Mother’s Day:

I am super-glad that Mother’s Day is a happy day for you.

That’s awesome. It should be a happy day for everyone.

Sadly, though, for me it’s not.

It’s taken me a long time to be able to say that, to sort of own that my mother is someone I’ve actually had to—and will, alas, always have to—get over. To heal from.

My mother wasn’t a healthy person.

And being raised by her was not a healthy experience.

But that’s okay. The world’s a healing place if you let it be. I’ve known a lot of great people who’ve done a lot to move me away from the unhealthy mindset and self-condemning inner spirit bequeathed to me by my mother—people who showed and taught me the joy to be found in the final realization that ultimately my life must, will, and should belong to me, and me alone.

Independence Day I love.

But Mother’s Day? Maybe not so much.

If they ever have a day called, “Survived a Dysfunctional Mother,” call me! I’ll be there with bows on my toes.

In the meantime I’ll be spending this Mother’s Day in my usual fashion: at home, curled up on my couch, reading a good book or watching a movie. I won’t be sad.

Okay, I might be a little sad. But I won’t be trying to pretend to be someone I’m not, who enjoyed a wonderful childhood I never did. I’ll be being authentic to who I really am.

And every day I spend doing that is a great day.

Give your good, loving mother a kiss and a hug for me, won’t you? Would that there were more like her in the world.

See also The Mother We Never Had.

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  • SundayAM

    My mother has been gone for four years now. She spent the last five years of her life living with me and my husband. We had always had a difficult relationship. I can’t say that she was the textbook abusive parent, and I know she loved me, but I wasn’t what she wanted me to be and she made that clear every day. I regret that I wasn’t able to get past my resentment and finally have a better relationship with her, but her coolness and disapproval went on right to the end. After her death I have been able to talk with a counselor and come to a much healthier and more peaceful state of mind.

    Now I must deal with my sister, who had a much “better”, albeit co-dependent, relationship with Mom. She has never forgiven our brothers and me for not insisting upon keeping Mom alive through “heroic” mechanical measures — the outcome that terrified Mom the most. And she doesn’t understand why I am not paralyzed with grief and tears for the weeks surrounding Mother’s Day. Sometimes the mom-thing continues after your parent’s death.

  • Pavitrasarala

    I’m on board with “Survived a Dysfunctional Mother Day.” I had a really bad PTSD flare-up on my egg donor’s birthday, which comes just days before the big MD, so this time of year is a double whammy (triple if you include that I married my psycho ex in May, but I digress). It’s been a long time since it’s been this severe and I’m still trying to figure out why. I have a theory or two but nothing I want to go into here.

    I have already informed my husband (who has to work tomorrow anyway) I want to do very little if anything. We’ll be going out to eat tonight, and I’ve asked for some perfume (something I very rarely do), but that’s about it. I’m also still trying to figure out how to cope with anyone who comes up to me with broad smiles and well intentions at church tomorrow while wishing me a “happy” Mother’s Day.

  • Dave-n-TN

    I appreciate the honesty of this post.

    However I also realize I am one who is still in mourning/grief over the passing of my own mother this past February. So I am presently not objective to offer any other thoughts or opinions, but to say that I am truly sorry that you (and others who had similar experiences with a dysfunctional parent) were not involved in a relationship that makes you think of the great moments & memories with your mother and mourn that she is no longer in your life during this weekend.

    This is one difficult weekend for me, but I am also grateful that I have these feelings of loss … it indicates that I am one of the fortunate who had parents that (even thought they failed in many respects) were loving and eventually were my friends and best supporters. I am grateful and also saddened that my experiences seem to be rather uncommon for many.

  • Brandon Roberts

    sorry to hear that man 🙁

  • Vicki Maree Whateley


  • BarbaraR

    I wrote this entry on my own blog in 2007 about Mother’s (and Father’s) Day. I got a ton of responses agreeing that this is one of the worst days of the year for many people. I just re-read it and think it’s still accurate. Back then I called it “Not to make anyone feel bad,” and that’s as good a title as any.

    … but with today being Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day next month, I have been thinking about:

    ~ people whose parents are dead and they are feeling badly
    ~ people whose parents are dead and they are rejoicing
    ~ people whose parents were abusive, cruel, alcoholics, absent
    ~ people whose parents were considerably less than stellar
    ~ people now estranged from their parents
    ~ people who would like to be wished a Happy Father’s or Mother’s Day but do not/ can not have children
    ~ people who have children but wish they didn’t

    …. and there are many other situations that make today a day to endure, ignore, or get through the best one can. I realize it isn’t anyone’s intention to deliberately make anyone feel bad, and yet it happens year after year. I recall numerous church services on Mother’s Day when mothers of all stripes were honored for having the most, the oldest, the newest, blah blah blah, and I thought about all the women there who would never get recognized, for whatever reason, and who were in pain.

    Same for Father’s Day. Every year the paper runs syrupy columns about “What a Father Is.” Try as I might, I never see anything remotely resembling my father in those poems. If they ran a poem titled “All Things Considered, Dad Did the Best He Could and It Could Have Been Worse,” I might be able to get behind that.

    I spent one Christmas Day all alone a few years ago and it gave me a great deal of empathy for those who spend every Christmas – every Thanksgiving, every holiday – alone; those who may not be physically alone but are suffering inside; and for those who are repeating silently to themselves, “You can get through any 24-hour period” while checking their watch to see if this day is over yet.

  • Jill

    Thanks for sharing this, BarbaraR.

    Worse in some cases is the bliss hangover that greets you the following days/week after. “How was YOUR Easter/XMas/Obligatory Family Gathering Day?”

    Maybe one day I’ll respond: “Just tell me how thrilling yours was, since you’re splitting at the seams over it, and I’ll try my best not to compete.”

  • I lost my birth mother when I was six, my step mother in 2003. I was never very close to my step mom, even though she was a good, generous person and I did love her as my own parent. We were just too different. It has never been one of my favorite holidays for obvious reasons, even if I am myself a parent.

  • Snooterpoot

    My mother died this past Christmas Day. I know how you feel. She made plenty of mistakes, and for many years we were like fire and ice. The last several years of her life, however, brought us a closeness that I never thought I would experience.

    I am grateful and also saddened that my experiences seem to be rather uncommon for many.

    So am I, Dave.

    Last week, and particularly yesterday, was very difficult for me. I think it will get less painful as time passes, but right now it is very raw.

    [Edited because I am a grammar geek and I saw a mistake]

  • Dave-n-TN

    Snooterpoot ~ So sorry for your loss. Yesterday was a bittersweet day for me with several moments of pain & grief and then other times of chuckling at things said (mom had dementia) or good moments remembered.

    I responded to one friend (who contacted me asking how I was doing) with the very same words you used in your last sentence – right now it is too raw, but with time I will be fine.

  • vj

    “All Things Considered, Dad Did the Best He Could and It Could Have Been Worse”

    Yup – that’s about where I’m at (for my mom, too)… When my father-in-law passed away, I was somewhat baffled at the beautiful eulogies given by his 4 children (he was a very decent guy), and realized that I simply did not feel that connection to my own (still living) father (mainly because he chose to leave the country when I was a baby, and his valiant attempts to establish/retain a relationship with me inevitably foundered). However, last year I finally got my late mother’s photo albums, and in them were a couple of photos of a man who had been in Mom’s circle of friends when I was very young. I have only a vague conscious memory of him (we moved across country when I was in elementary school), but I do remember being told (as a teenager, when he passed away) that I had been very attached to him. Seeing his photo evokes such a strong sense of loss – I guess that’s what my husband and in-laws feel about their dad, and I am so grateful that I at least had that connection to this man, as it helps me to understand what a real father-child bond should feel like.

    So, for all those who don’t have the best connection/memory to their own parents, I hope that at some point they have at least had a few other special people to connect with…