Mother’s Day Runaway

Days of compulsory celebration can produce a paradoxical effect. Some people are encouraged, once again, to confront feelings of discomfort about parents who invalidated, neglected, or abused them. The demands for holiday observance now take over the job your family and relatives expected of you early on.

The experience is rather like being caught in a vise: May 13, 2018 on one side, June 17, 2018 on the other, pushing together to squeeze the life out of you – you, who are in the middle.

Of course, you might be the lucky soul who had good, or at least adequate parenting, from those whose love and care did the job imperfectly, (it is always imperfect), but did it on balance. Or, you might be a person who was abandoned, a step-parent who never receives full acknowledgment, or simply a child who lost a parent who did the job and had the beloved mom or dad snatched away by events or illness.

How do you feel? Here is an answer from someone who has made her personal experience universal. She has done so with unsurpassed eloquence.

Life in a Bind - BPD and me

Mother’s Day can be difficult, in so many different ways, but it still feels as though only some of those ways are publicly acknowledged, or socially acceptable. It hit me again this morning, when I was listening to the radio and the presenter played a song for those who find the day painful – it was a song about a son’s grief at the loss of his mother. There are no songs that I know of, about a child’s grief at the presence of a parent; or at not having a different one. There is nowhere to hide from Mother’s Day and nowhere to run to, for those who find it difficult because they have, to use Dr Terri Apter’s phrase, ‘difficult mothers’. If this is you, I hope my post for the therapy website is helpful, or at least is a reminder, during the many triggering moments that…

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5 thoughts on “Mother’s Day Runaway

  1. Thank you both, Dr. S and Life in a Bind! I think there are many people who struggle with varying degrees of Mother’s Day, among other holidays. I know I struggle. And thank you for the website share! When I was struggling with my own pain of both not having a mother who was strong enough to leave an abusive father so that us children could be raised in peace, or who was too caught up in her own domestic violence/intimate partner situation to actually care for us kids (i.e., she neglected us kids), and myself being a bio mom who gave her daughter up for adoption because I wanted my daughter to grow up without the generational traumas I had to deal with (and without witnessing me in pain), I came to the realization that I needed a lot of self-care, a lot of grief work to deal with the losses throughout a lifetime, and a new outlook on life that helped me cope with these days. I love my daughter with all my heart, and I love my mom. I no longer live up to the ideal I would have liked, or the ideal that is found on Mother’s Day cards. I simply accept what is, as painful as that is, give myself room to cry and process the pain as it comes, find some form of empathy for others who really do celebrate Mother’s Day with the kind of joy I can only dream of (in other words, I’m happy for other people who are able to celebrate Mother’s Day without any pain, or with minimal pain), and find something to do that either brings happiness to my heart or to others’ hearts who struggle like me. It’s so easy to feel stigmatized and thus to receive judgments from others about your “attitude” toward Mother’s Day, and it’s so easy for others to judge those who do not share in their celebration. They’re celebrating, so they don’t want anyone to “bring them down,” as I’ve heard it told to me. Socially, this makes sense for them and for me, and I initially learned that I needed to avoid such things. But as I got connected more to the people in the world, and as I learned to really embrace other people and their stable or labile emotions, I’ve learned to have empathy for both those who celebrate and struggle with Mother’s Day. I’ve learned not to avoid, for the most part, but I do a lot of self-care and retreat for some rest or find something fun to do to enjoy the day. I also think about my daughter a lot, and I would in no way expect her to ever forgive me for giving her up for adoption, though I do realize that I did that for her well-being, and because I loved her. I would love to blame my childhood, my mother, my father, and all my abusers for the struggles I have with this and other things in life, but I’ve since learned to accept what is, validate my pain, understand different vantage points of others’ pain (including my parents’ pain), accept what happened to me, but also accept that there are good things in life that mean a lot to us, that mean a lot to other people, that mean a lot to our loved ones. Today, my heart breaks for those who struggle with Mother’s Day (and I have compassion for all my selves who struggle), and my heart celebrates or at least is happy for my friends and family members who celebrate that day. As with my title, my heart prays for more peace in the world and in individual people’s lives (plus I love penguins because they have a hard life, but they all wear the same “tuxedo” LOL). If peace means processing my pain in conjunction with being happy for others, and if it means that everyone has room for tolerance of different vantage points and beliefs, then that’s where I live – in that dialectic nature of trauma, as Judith Herman would say. (((Hugs))) to both of you, and thank you for a great, gentle-hearted, and insightful post.


    • I will never look at Penguins again, PP! What equanimity you have found. This is difficult enough for those of us who had an easier time through the days. Remarkable. Thanks for posting this comment.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you, Dr. S. I’m sorry if I ruined your penguin watching though. LOL. I saw “March of the Penguins” and absolutely cried at the hard work they put in, which is what inspired me later. Sometimes I “fake it till I make it,” so I have days where I’m mad at the world, or days where I really miss being a mom. I never celebrate mother’s day, and I cringe when well-meaning people wish me one (I don’t deserve it, but I do try to self-care by reminding myself that I did the best I could). I will, however, celebrate my friends’ mother’s day or wish my mom and family mothers’ days. When I meet my daughter in a few years, I will apologize for not being the bio mom she deserved, though I will explain why I wanted her to be raised by healthy parents (whom I love as much as her, so as not to have anyone feel like I’m competing). I will explain to my daughter that she has every right to feel upset with me, and every right to ask me any questions she wants answered. I will tell her that I respect her mom and dad (the adoptive parents), and that I realize that they succeeded where I failed, though I love them and her all the same, and will always love them forever. I don’t think enough parents apologize to their kids, disclose honestly their own shortcomings, and love them unconditionally. I’ve heard of too many parents (including my own) who never wanted to speak about anything – not realizing that I have a heart of forgiveness for them if they were to do so, and that I wouldn’t think of them less than; in fact, I’d be drawn more to loving them. I want my daughter to know that I love her, respect her pain, and understand my responsibility in any pain she may be experiencing. That is the pain I live with, and it hurts so much. And I struggle with socializing on mother’s day and those darned cards that make me feel so depressed. But then I recall the wonderful friends and family members who are great moms to their kids, and how they deserve to be happy and celebrate. That typically puts things into perspective for me. I realize that I can validate my own pain while also celebrating with others. More often than not, my tears shed, and my celebrating friends are so understanding because they realized that I was able to enter their world and allowed them to enter mine. It’s hard. I can’t imagine what it is like for those who have no children, but who have dealt with incredibly painful experiences with their mothers – now that is tough. In many ways, my daughter gives me the strength I never would have without her. I also know of friends who had abortions, and they struggle tremendously with this day. I don’t judge them, and I can only imagine their pain and comfort them the best I could. Those who have had miscarriages also deal with their own sets of issues. When I combine all the pains of all the people I know or have known, I realize that we’re not alone. I almost wished that there were clubs or groups for those people who don’t have the requisites for certain holidays, so that we can all support one another. I have no idea what that would be called or how safe that would be, but it would be an amazing thing to bring support to all us wounded people.
        Thank you, Dr. S., for your kind reply.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for sharing Clara’s story, Dr. Stein. I am also a “Mother’s Day runaway,” and share the feeling quoted in her article:

    “When a daughter or son made the difficult decision to sever the relationship, it was usually because they felt that maintaining it was too emotionally costly, that they had to distort their very soul into shapes that did not feel right to them in order to please or pacify a parent.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • A well-chosen quote, Rosaliene. One wonders how some can even walk with all the time, energy, distortion, and self-negation that goes into their shift of shape. You sound as though the choice you made was both necessary and healthy. I’m glad you did not take a distorted form.

      Liked by 1 person

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