Mother's Day Blues
For many people, Mother's Day can be a difficult and challenging time. Not everyone is fortunate to feel a warm fuzzy glow when they think about their mother. For some who have been parented by a woman who may have been abusive, neglectful, inconsistent, critical, excessively overbearing, domineering, or emotionally controlling - to name but a few mother-struggles - Mother's Day brings a painful reminder of what they do not have.
Some people go out of their way to avoid it, whilst others dutifully perform their roles towards their mother whilst inwardly seething with resentment. "I will search and search for a card that is the least sentimental, preferably one that is blank inside that just says "Mother" on the front - at least it gets her off my back for another year". Some, when discussing Mother's Day with friends, may even make things up about all the wonderful things they will be doing with their own mother, just so that they can "at least pretend to be normal". I remember an exchange of words in a busy gift shop several years ago, in the days leading up to Mother's Day, where the harassed shop assistant mumbled to her colleague that she did not know what all the fuss was about, which elicited this angry reply from a male customer: "You should be ashamed of yourself. I feel sorry for YOUR mother!"
These examples illustrate that there seems to be some kind of taboo or shame about openly admitting that you might not have a great relationship with your mother. Admitting such a thing puts you in the unenviable position of being the bad and ungrateful child. Generally, mothers are placed as paragons of virtue, beyond reproach. If you have a good mother, you can shout it from the rooftops; if you don't, you feel you have to keep it a secret. Speaking negatively about our mothers can make the listener feel uncomfortable, hostile even, and this in turn can make the speaker feel deeply ashamed and guilty.
Mother's Day can be challenging for other reasons too, perhaps your mother has passed away, or, still alive, your mother may be lost to you through dementia or other illness, maybe even drugs or alcohol addiction. You may be separated from your birth mother due to adoption or fostering. And what of the mother's themselves? Mothers whose children are lost to them due to relocation, estrangement, illness or death. Mothers who have yet to bear children despite years of trying. Mothers who want to put things right, but it's too late.
At times it can feel difficult to find a way to cope with the sadness, regret or longing that many are consciously aware of; that feeling that there is something missing. Even when the pain sits unnoticed in some dusty corner of our minds, it can be churned up on Mother's Day. This is when many people feel on the outside of things, as if they are not "normal".
The first step is to try to embrace and accept that you are feeling this way because you are missing something that is important to you. It is important not to label your feelings as being "bad" or "wrong", "normal" or "not normal".
The next step would be to get support from someone close to you who will not judge you, a close friend, sibling or relative or professional support whether that be from a counsellor, or someone else specifically trained to listen.
Lastly some people find that doing something special for themselves on Mother's Day can be helpful. Some may use that day to celebrate their own joy of motherhood with their children. Others choose that day to nurture themselves, be that going shopping, a short break, cooking a special meal with friends or loved ones, or simply curling up on the sofa watching a favourite DVD by themselves. Or you may choose to help or support others on that day.
It is important that the chosen activity must be nurturing, not harmful or escapist. By nurturing yourself in this way, you are being a "good mother" to yourself, doing what any good mother would do: accepting, supporting, soothing, and creating hope for the future.
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