Mother’s Day is an especially tricky holiday for the best of us. It’s even worse when your relationship with your mother leaves something to be more than desired. And it’s the hardest thing to see‒ Facebook posts from friends that love their mothers, each one a special story about their mother and the things they’re doing to repay them. Stories about the way they never can. And scrolling through each one becomes a chore because you don’t have your own to add. This is the life of someone with a mother they only feel obligated to love, if they love them at all.
It’s not just an isolated issue, either. Across the genders, in the burgeoning age group of late teens to early twenties‒ people feel like they’re obligated to love their mothers. And worst of all, they feel disloyal when they admit that. They feel at fault for not pouring themselves into someone who probably doesn’t deserve it. Let’s be honest, a vast majority of people don’t just hate others for no reason. And despite the belief that you have to love your mother, you don’t. As hard as it is to realize, just because she gave you life doesn’t mean you have to force yourself to stay in a toxic and abusive relationship with her.
I’m the daughter of a woman who didn’t love me like she said she would. I’m a child of accident, of obligation to have and clothe and feed, but not much beyond that. The result? A bitter, angry mess of a human who likes to blame everyone and consume the fault for everything. A conundrum. The hardest thing in my life was learning to say that it wasn’t my fault.
It’s not my fault. Bile swells in my throat whenever I think that; a disloyalty to undo all disloyalties. Forget Benedict Arnold, I am the real turncoat when I think those words. Because it feels like my fault, even though it isn’t. If I had tried harder, done better, been better, maybe my mother would have loved me to match. We too could have matching photos on Facebook of cute mother’s day activities, captions of love and evidence of the bizarre rituals that strengthen a bond between a child and their mom. And maybe then it wouldn’t hurt when I call her, and maybe then it wouldn’t hurt when I don’t.
But that’s the problem. No matter what you do, it only serves to be another disappointing moment where you feel like it’s your fault she doesn’t love you. Of course, the only way to possibly undo that destructive thought process is by committing the ultimate betrayal and cutting all contact with your mother off. But then she hits back, guilt, anger, blame, all of it roaring in her screams, leaving you with scars that last a while. Time can’t heal those. Every year, every Mother’s Day, you’re reminded you can’t participate and that you are the outcast from that day. You will never be what the media portrays.
Even that is more brick in the wall of isolation. According to society, not loving your mother is a sign that you were Bad and she was forced to do what she did. How dare you not continue to subject yourself to more abuse? Labels are thrown: selfish, stupid, ungrateful. From your mother, from your strangers, from yourself– they’re all just a new way to you to feel bad about the way you’re handling. “Closure!” they cry, and that seems to be their only reason for keeping in contact. Some long shot lost cause that one day the woman who swore she would love you unconditionally might actually follow through. That’s what hurts the worst.
The day you realize that she won’t.
It’s time to realize that she won’t. It’s time to grow from that. It’s time to realize it’s not your fault. On this Mother’s Day, this Not Your Mother’s Day, take back the self you thought you lost.