Overall I think it’s a stupid holiday. I don’t see why we need a special day to celebrate parenting. And I don’t like the way such a holiday suggests mothers are more valid or important than non-mothers.
I do believe mothers are worth celebrating, but I also think that we should be celebrating the people we love and cherish every day in small, but tangible ways. Through kindness and support and affection. It should be part of the very way we interact with each other on a regular basis. These added “special” days seem like nothing more than commercialized, capitalist-driven ploys to get people to spend more money.
Also, it seems to make a lot of people more miserable than celebratory anyway. For many individuals, Mother’s Day is a painful reminder of what they no longer have or never had in the first place. And that sucks.
Which would maybe be okay if we lived in a society that allowed people the space they need to grieve and rage about their mothers, but we don’t. We want to keep motherhood on this ridiculous pedestal and pretend like having a living mother means you know nothing about pain or mourning or heartbreak.
Case in point:
I posted an important, albeit sassy article entitled, “A Toast To All The Brave Kids Who Broke Up With Their Toxic Moms” on my Facebook page. I added this small quote from the article as the “status update” part of my post:
At some point, some among us say: screw ‘em and all their darkness. Spend this Mother’s Day with a maternal creature who gives you sustenance and safety. Or do whatever your big brave heart desires.
I knew I would get mixed reception on such a post, but I don’t mind a good dialogue. Predictably, here was the first response I got (from an older second cousin):
I would give anything to have my Mom back
And there it is.
It’s not that I don’t acknowledge and respect what this cousin must feel, having lost her mother almost two decades ago. I do see her loss and I know that must be awful. To lose a mother you loved so dearly is shattering. But you know what else is shattering? Not ever having a mother that loved you. Here was my response:
I would give anything to have had a Mother that I would give anything to have back. Different kinds of losses. Unbearable grief all the same.
This cousin followed up with a private message to remind me that “no one is perfect” and to tell of how her mother had schizophrenia and was thus imperfect, but loved her children just the same. She wrote of how absolutely “in awe” she continues to be of her mother’s strength and selflessness.
That is literally fucking great. I am thrilled for her. I am so happy that her Mother found a way to connect with and prioritize her children, despite battling a severe mental illness. I wish so much that this was true for all mothers and children. But it’s not.
I resisted the urge to just rage at this woman. Normally I simply ignore this kind of shit because it’s not even worth engaging with these types of people. But I was feeling brave and bold and was quite frankly sick of dancing around the truth, so I took a breath and wrote her back:
Thank you for sharing, I didn’t know that about your Mom. She sounds wonderful and I wish I’d known her better. I agree – no one is perfect. My parents were torturous to me. I wish more than anything in this world that I could have them in my life. but I can’t. They are toxic and dangerous for me. You may not understand that, especially because you have a different context to frame my parents, but I think it’s important that I be clear: I did everything I could. And when there was nothing left to give, I walked away.
She responded to thank me for sharing and offered prayers (ugh) and wished me peace. I think her underlying tone was very “I hope you find a way to get over your anger and re-connect with your family because it’s the only family you’ll ever get” but whatever. At least she didn’t explicitly say that.
But people have said that to me. Many people, many times.
“Family is family.”
Yes. Yes it is indeed. But when the “family” you knew for your entire life was abusive and horrible, what are you left with? Am I supposed to just stick it out and take the abuse simply because I am biologically connected to these people?! That is insanity.
I think there’s this idea that we owe something to the people that birthed and/or raised us simply for that reason alone. We don’t. I did not ask my biological parents to have me. And I certainly did not insist that they raise me. That was all on them. It was their choice and they did a shit job of it.
Furthermore, when I did finally walk away from my family, they did not even fight for me.
Ultimately it’s for the better because it makes my life much simpler to not be constantly fending off their attempts to pull me back into their chaotic dynamic. But I want to be perfectly clear that it is still absolutely heartbreaking to know that they didn’t fight to keep my in their lives. It’s almost as if I never even existed at all. By the time I had created enough space to fully cut ties, I’d become so utterly disposable to them that their world went almost completely unchanged when I exited it.
My biological mother gave me life. I am grateful for this life, but my gratitude is not owed to her. She is a horrible, narcissistic, selfish monster who tormented me. She stripped me of all humanity and autonomy. She convinced me I was unstable, crazy, insane, and a liar. She used affection as a tool to manipulate and hurt me.
She was cruel. She is totally incapable of loving anyone but herself and I am convinced she has never felt empathy towards any person a moment in her miserable life. I was a toy to her. An object. Her property. She used me as she saw fit, for her own pleasure and gain. I never meant more to her than the benefits she could reap from me.
No single person in this world has done more damage to me than my mother.
I have never once regretted my decision to cut her out of my life and I refuse to apologize for that. My living mother does not make up for your dead mother. The mother that many people miss and yearn for is not the mother I have. They are completely different.
So please stop shaming people for walking away from their mothers. And on Mother’s Day, please think of those of us who have had to walk away. Despite the fact that we made that choice, the odds are pretty high that it was for our own safety and sanity.
But do not be mistaken: we are in pain, too. We are grieving. We are heartbroken. And we would give anything to have a mother worth missing.