Mother’s Day is just around the corner, and for some grown women, that means only good things and all the happy feelings. And for others, it’s a day filled with mixed emotions. Maybe you are a mother yourself, so you know you’ll get to experience the joy of sweet handmade cards and a meal that you don’t have to cook. But maybe your own mom has left frustration and hurt in your life, so your celebration on that end won’t exist at all.
Maybe your mom left. Maybe she battles a harmful addiction. Is in prison. Has broken promises time and time again. Suffers from a psychiatric illness that makes it difficult to connect. Is cold and has shut you out for reasons you don’t understand. Has said words or done things have have cut you deeply. How does Mother’s Day look then? How do we feel when we walk past the greeting card aisle that expresses umpteen heartfelt sentiments towards the women who gave us life when all we want to say is, “Mom...why?”
My own relationship with my mother is a very difficult one to explain or understand, and one that would probably be better described in a full memoir rather than a concise essay. As a social worker admitted years later, I somehow slipped through the judicial system’s cracks, and was raised by a mother who was not mentally well enough to care for a child, but yet, there we were. After a brief stint in a foster home and with my grandparents when I was 5, I was sent back to live with mom, who battled various psychiatric diagnoses and had a history of being neglectful. I was usually the more responsible one in the family, taking care of myself and of her more than the other way around. So it wasn’t much of a surprise when it became official and at the age of 21, to protect her safety and health, I became my mother’s legal guardian. Our relationship now is so different than when I was a child and a teenager. Not perfect, but different. Not ideal, but I guess I could ask the question: what relationship is? For the longest time, I did not understand her illness or the reasoning behind her cutting remarks or erratic behavior. After years of trying to learn more about who she is and what she goes through, mentally, I understand so much more now than I did when I was younger. But I’d be lying if I said that that I never get frustrated, or that the dynamic between us is all happy and carefree these days.
So how do we celebrate Mother’s Day when our relationship with our mother is on rocky ground, or does not exist at all? It’s complicated, that’s for sure. But I’ll start with this: we still have a great reason to celebrate. We are here. We are alive. We were born from this woman, no matter the circumstance and no matter the relationship that we have with her now. We were given a chance at life, and she played the most pivotal role in that. Because of this, we have a chance not only to live but also to create a life which leaves a legacy that is vastly different than the one we were accustomed to as children. Now, as mothers ourselves, and as human beings in general, we can make a difference and choose to love, to nurture, to protect our relationships with our own children and care for them the way we wish we had been cared for ourselves.
Your rocky past with your mother does not dictate a rocky future for the rest of your life. Your legacy will be different and will make an impact. I am not bitter or angry about the way life went when I was younger, because it all led me to where I am today, which is a good place to be, surrounded by a strong support system and a spouse and children I wouldn't trade for the world.
Remember that life’s challenges create courage. Your messes become a message to others. A message of hope. A message that says, “You will get through this. I know, because I did, and I’ll help see you through it.” And that is something to celebrate any day of the year.
I also can’t talk about the topic of troubled mother-daughter relationships without mentioning the big F word.
I know. I know. It’s hard to give away. What if they’re not sorry? What if you don’t communicate at all anymore? What if they are so far gone that there’s no way to even have a decent conversation with them? How can you forgive then? You see, here’s the thing: Forgiveness has much less to do with their heart and more to do with your own. It’s not for their sake, but for yours. All of this hurt, all of this bitterness, all of this anger that you are carrying around is like a suitcase full of bricks. The weight of this is too much. Can you go through life carrying this baggage day after day after day? Yes. But is it a heavy burden? Of course. Lay it down. Forgive her for you. Your heart. Your mind. Your relationships. Your children. It’s a powerful move to set down that suitcase. Your arms (and every other part of you) will thank you.
Maybe your Mother’s Day won’t be 100% sunshine and roses, and maybe your wounds are still somewhat open. And I get that. Boy, do I get that. But the healing has to start somewhere. And this day comes around every year without fail, so why not start now?
Follow my Facebook page to view my weekly vlog series, Minivan Confessions, where I hash out common motherhood topics from my mom-mobile, aka, my minivan. This week's episode will be about the same topic as this blog post, and I'd love to have you join me.