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Today is Mother's Day. A day when everyone from Kay Jewelers to Costco tells us we have to spend oodles of money to show Mom how very much we love her. Florists are arranging bouquets, restaurants are setting up for brunches and dinners, and children are burning toast and shoving a dandelion into a Dixie cup. But what if your mother doesn't deserve a Mother's Day?
What if your mom routinely beat you as a child? What if she abandoned you? What if she was, or still is, an alcoholic who drinks? What if, for years, your mom treated you as an inconvenience, insulting you, mocking you, slowly destroying your self esteem? What if, unlike my mother, your mother is still alive, and every goddamn year, you're expected to put on a happy face, buy flowers and a card, and pretend your awful, nightmarish childhood never happened?
Well, you're not expected to do any such thing. If your mother hit you, or left you, or lied to you, or manipulated you, or is a narcissistic sociopath, you don't have to honor her on Mother's Day. I understand this goes against everything we've been taught. I understand that, just because she gave birth to you, you feel as if you don't have a choice today; you think you just have to suck it up. No, you don't.
For many adults, Mother's Day is just another day of walking on eggshells. That family brunch may start off light and fluffy, but by the time Mom's had her fifth Bloody Mary, all bets are off. Suddenly, you're the problem. You are regaled-for the umpteenth time-with tales of how she gave up her dancing/singing/art/education/ to take care of you, and all you ever did was disappoint her. Yes, she was "strict," but you didn't give her any choice. Oh, lots of moms have affairs, at least your parents are still together. She doesn't have a drinking problem. Yes, she lied to you about this and that, but it was to protect you.
Does any of this ring a bell? Several bells? Is there a chorus of bells echoing through your head? Then why in the world are you planning on spending today with someone that toxic? Is it worth your mental and emotional health to try and shove down all the pain, all the trauma? To look into the face of the woman who was supposed to be a safe place, who was supposed to love you unconditionally, and know she was, in fact, the least safe place in the world?
If you come from this, as I did, you don't have to celebrate Mother's Day with your mother. Are you a mom? Hang out with your kids, your spouse or partner, go outside, pick flowers, eat the burned toast and coo lovingly over the dandelion. Make today about being the opposite of your own mother. Rejoice in the fact that your kids will never feel unsafe in your presence. Revel in your unconditional love for your children. Look in the mirror, smile, and tell yourself it's alright to just say no.
Mother's Day is about honoring women who care for their children, who love and protect them. It's not about honoring every woman who's pushed a baby out of their womb. Some women are amazing moms, who treat their children like the gifts they are. And some women simply aren't. Some women are selfish and cruel, and demand love and adoration from children they beat or terrorized or abused.
To the moms who chose to be better than their own mothers, to the moms who look at the faces of their children with something akin to awe, to the moms who love and cherish and protect, Happy Mother's Day. I hope your day is filled with sunshine and giggles and good food and absolutely zero stress.
To the adult children of the other kind of mother, please believe me when I tell you: You do not have to spend the day with your mother. You're allowed to stand up for yourself, to be safe and happy. You're allowed to have a day, or many days, away from the person who hurt you, who hit you, who left you, who lied to you, who used you.
You really are.