When Your Past with Your Mom Has Been Tough
Many people don’t have the kind of relationship with their moms that can be captured by a Hallmark card. In fact, Mother’s Day can be downright painful if you and your mom are estranged, if your relationship is conflict-ridden, or if she passed away when the two of you were on bad terms. Mother’s Day emphasizes that you don’t have what other people have, and that you don’t get to celebrate your mom in an uncomplicated way. Looking at Facebook, it can also feel like everyone else you know has a storybook mom. You know, the kind who didn’t ruin family gatherings with her alcoholism, or criticize everything from your choice of a shirt to the person you married?
People who have strong, positive relationships with their moms usually mean well but don’t understand. They may think you are just being disloyal or complaining, when in fact, there may be a lot of trauma associated with your upbringing, you may not have felt loved by your mom, and your mom may not have upheld her responsibilities to keep you safe. It can be hard to talk about why you are not close or why you aren’t rushing to take her out to breakfast to celebrate.
Surviving Mother’s Day
While no blog post can pretend to have a quick fix for resolving a problematic parent-child relationship, there are ways that you may at least be able to get through the day itself a little better. Here are five ways to cope with the Mother’s Day blahs:
- Remember that you are the expert on what happened in your own life. No one should shame you for not being close with your mom when they have no idea what you went through growing up. And just as you may have had to live with different expectations of what a mom does and how a mom acts, you get to adjust your expectations of how an adult child with a lot of scarring copes with Mother’s Day. You can even turn the tables and celebrate your own resilience.
- Use the day to find ways to celebrate mother figures or important women in your life. Had a teacher who was instrumental in your choice of a career? Send her a nice note of thanks or donate to a school in her name. Have a sister who is a new mom? Send her an email telling her you are thinking of her.
- If you are still in contact with your mom and will either call or see her on Mother’s Day, give serious thought to how you can make the situation better for yourself. Consider getting the contact out of the way early. Find a way to limit the amount of time and set those expectations in advance. Enlist the moral support of your significant other or a sibling. Finally, book-end the experience with good self-care. Do a quick meditation before the visit or call. Take a hot shower afterward to wash away the trauma residue that gets dredged up. Or find your own ways to celebrate that you did the best you could with a tough situation.
- Stay true to yourself. You don’t have to choose a card that expresses your thanks for your mom doing “everything”; it’s fine to choose the blank card and write your own message. It’s okay to send something instead of seeing your mom in person. And it’s also okay to decide that you just can’t take on Mother’s Day at all. You are an adult and it is entirely up to you.
- Avoid social media. Mother’s Day is not the day to park yourself in front of the computer and monitor social media. Instead, get out and do something that makes you feel good. Time enough to return to those sites when there aren’t quite so many potential triggers.
No one can take your pain away about not having the relationship with your mom that you want. But there are people who can understand that not every family story is happy and not all moms were healthy and available.
If you need more support around your relationship with your mom or want to work on the guilt, shame, sadness, and anger you may feel, please reach out. The therapists at Nova Terra Therapy are here to help.