A reminder that you don’t have to put up with toxic behavior, even from your mother.
When your childhood wasn’t exactly ideal, Mother’s Day can bring on some complex emotions.
Each year, there’s an endless barrage of ads, gift roundup articles, and sappy social media posts.
If, like me, you have a complicated or nonexistent relationship with your mother, seeing representations of how American society views mothers can bring feelings of deep sadness and even rage. You might be left wondering why you drew the short straw when it comes to mothers.
I’ve had no contact with my mother for over 15 years now, so there’s been a lot of time to process. Honestly, I don’t think much about Mother’s Day at all because I view it as something that doesn’t pertain to me — sort of like Christmas when you’re raised Jewish.
It wasn’t always this way. There were definitely years where the mention of Mother’s Day brought anger, jealousy, shame, and feelings of inadequacy.
Reading, processing, talking with other unloved daughters, and practicing different types of self-care have helped me get to where I am today.
Here are my tips for tackling Mother’s Day as an unloved daughter.
Boundaries are usually not something we’re taught growing up, especially if your childhood involved emotional trauma. But knowing your boundaries and how to communicate them is important.
Try to build and customize boundaries that work for you. You can learn about boundaries through reading or working with a therapist.
In my case, the boundary is completely no contact. It’s what feels healthiest and right for me. Since I still engage with other family members who have a relationship with my mother, I ask that they not speak to me about her or to her about me.
If you’re still in contact with your mother, think about what you feel comfortable doing on that day. For example, it’s OK to decide that you have energy for a brief phone call and not an in-person visit.
It’s not OK for your mother to engage in abusive behaviors, even on Mother’s Day. You have the right to enforce your boundaries.
Family relationships can be tricky. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for processing your experiences as an unloved daughter. I don’t claim to know the answers, and I can only speak to what has worked for me.
But whatever you choose to do or not do on Mother’s Day is your choice. No one else has your lived experience, so they can’t tell you what’s “right” or “wrong.” Not even your mother has a say in how you spend your day.
In 2021, we’re still dealing with a lot of cultural stigmas. The mother myth still exists. It’s that false notion that all women are nurturing, and all mothers love unconditionally and couldn’t possibly do harm to a child.
The reality is that no mother is perfect. Even people who describe their relationship with their mother as healthy go through challenges.
Abusive, manipulative mothers are also very real.
A 2015 survey was conducted involving over 800 adult participants who self-identify as being estranged from their entire family or a specific family member.
The relationship fractures or the lack of any familial relationship noted in this research was not limited to the mother-daughter dyad.
Dr. Lucy Blake, Centre for Family Research, University of Cambridge, was the lead researcher for this project and worked in collaboration with Stand Alone Charity and its beneficiaries.
Dr. Blake’s research showed that 77% of those surveyed reported being estranged from a mother due to emotional abuse.
If you had an unloving mother, know that you’re far from alone.
People don’t have permission to treat you badly just because they’re family, and you don’t owe anyone an apology or explanation for not putting up with bad behavior.
Periodically unplugging from social media is a good practice anyway, so why not choose Mother’s Day to stop scrolling?
If you know your feed will be filled with pictures of happy mothers and daughters or posts about daughters missing their mothers during the pandemic, you can choose not to engage.
It’s OK if seeing these posts can be triggering, and it’s OK to avoid them.
Do you really need to know how much that girl you sat with at lunch during high school loves her mother? Probably not.
Our capitalist culture tends to make highly commercialized holidays seem bigger and longer than they are.
Mother’s Day ads run for an entire month, even though it’s only one day, and it doesn’t have to be a bad one for you.
You can choose to spend the day however you want, and if your plan doesn’t include your mother, that’s OK. Consider a hike or spending the day doing things you enjoy.
Sometimes just enjoying your day can be restorative.
For those of us who didn’t get the love we needed from a mother, it can be hard to show that same love to yourself. I didn’t know the meaning of self-care until it became a popular term.
If you’re not sure where to start, self-care can come in many forms.
Making space to learn techniques to ease anxiety and emotional flashbacks can even be viewed as self-care. I recommend reading “Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving” by Pete Walker.
You can also experiment with different ways of making space for you. Think about what brings you joy and try to do more of that.
No unloved daughter’s story or journey is the same. The bad experiences are part of your story, but they don’t have to define you.
It’s also possible to find peace and connect with others who understand.
If today is hard, know that it’s normal for difficult feelings to come up around Mother’s Day.
Try to show yourself the same care and compassion you might show a friend who has an unloving mother.