Mother’s Day is a time to celebrate the love and sacrifice of mothers all around the world. However, for some women, this holiday can be a painful reminder of the lack of love and affection that one has experienced throughout their life.
I no longer speak to my mother. I did not like the person I was when I was around her. I didn’t like how she made me feel, how she manipulated my feelings and never validated them. I could no longer perpetuate a cycle of pain and dysfunction.
With Mother’s Day coming, I have two feelings: excited to celebrate with my children and mother-in-law, and sad that I do not celebrate with my mother (but also grateful for what I have learned from her). I do not keep our children from her, my husband manages the relationships now. She is not allowed to stay with us but is welcome to visit whenever she wants; she has yet to come.
What Happened That Helped Me Walk Away
The final straw was when I was in treatment for cancer and was having another surgery. She offered to come and help with the kids, but I knew from previous visits that it was going to be difficult. We rented a house for her to stay in so we could have time apart. We spent a lot of money (money we didn’t have) to have her come “help.” I knew if I didn’t, she would make passive-aggressive comments about not being invited or some other complete rubbish. I felt like I had to do this or I wasn’t being a good daughter.
I said something that upset her and she left early to fly home without saying goodbye. She refused my calls and didn’t respond to texts. I didn’t know if I was going to live much longer and my own mother had no compassion.
I was the lead in the relationship and it took me a long time to realize our dynamic was not normal; it was okay to stand up for myself and walk away, while still loving her but putting myself first. So I did. I didn’t tell her; I just stopped all forms of communication.
The History of the Relationship With My Mother
We’ve had a tumultuous relationship since I was a teen. She left the family when I was in middle school and, naturally, it was really hard on all of us. I now know she manipulated my feelings toward the situation. I decided to live with her at that time because I was afraid she was going to do something to harm herself.
I was not a tough teen to parent. I rarely got in trouble, maintained excellent grades, received significant scholarships for college, and was helpful around the house. I worked to help pay for half of my high school tuition and maintained a relationship with my dad and siblings with whom we were not living in the same town.
It took me 35 years to realize I was worth enough to not be treated the way I had been treated as a child and through my young adult years. This showed up in personal relationships, how I was parenting my children, and showing up for my husband.
My mother maintains a victim mindset and takes zero accountability for her actions. Sometimes I wonder if she believes she’s owed something for having children because her love felt conditional. I do doubt she actually loves me. She may love the person she wants me to be, but not who I actually am. She stopped saying “I love you” in my early 20s. I would still say it to her, hoping she would respond and . . . nothing. It was heartbreaking to me. I didn’t understand.
Parents are supposed to be the lead partner. I found myself in that role in my teen years, always making sure she was okay and happy. Making sure I wasn’t doing anything to upset her, doing things that made her proud, even if it was a lot of pressure on me. As a lead parent, if you want a different relationship you must change your behavior and response to the child. This is what I was doing as a 15-year-old.
Becoming a Parent Myself
As a parent now, I ask myself:
“I wonder what my child is going through; how can I understand more?”
“What things are influencing my child’s situation in 2023 that I didn’t experience at the same age? How is the world different now?”
“How dare they act like this!”
“Why are they doing this to me.”
When a parent dismisses the feelings of their child, the child learns their feelings are either not valid or wrong. And this is not okay, ever.
So on this Mother’s Day, for those of you who struggle with a relationship with your own mother, it’s okay to remove yourself from the relationship and love them in another way. It’s also okay to keep trying. Whatever choice you make is the right choice for you.
I love myself more than I did. I love who I am and how I show up in the world. I forgive myself and release the guilt.