A Guide to Surviving Mother’s Day When You Don’t Have a Good Mum
Every year in early May I start feeling creeping sense of dread, then I look at a calendar or see an ad and I realise why: Mother’s Day is coming up.
To most people that might seem like a weird thing: why would Mother’s Day produce so much anxiety? Mums are great! Well, that’s not my reality.
I grew up in a home where, as I got older, I faced more and more emotional (and even occasionally physical) abuse. I dealt with constant digs at my body, my personality and my very existence – all from my mum.
I also grew up having people not believe that this was happening to me when I told them, because of the general idea that being a mother is synonymous with unconditional love and support. For the most part what I faced from my mum happened behind closed doors and she presented a much different face to the world.
For me, Mother’s Day is a reminder of all the things I don’t have in my relationship with my mum. I feel jealous of people who have a great mother-child relationship, and the day is honestly retraumatizing as it brings up those memories of abuse and not being believed.
I always wish that this conversation could be had more openly and honestly, and that there was a guide out for getting through what promises to be a very hard day. So, I decided to write one of my own.
It can be really hard, but I’ve found that one of the most important things for me to do around Mother’s Day is to acknowledge what I’m feeling and why. Some things I have found helpful have been to give myself space, self-compassion and gentleness and allowing myself to feel without judgement.
It is good to remember that I am not alone with these feelings. Mother’s Day can often make me feel very alone, even though I know logically that there are others who feel the same. I have found that connecting with others virtually – by making a post on social media, sending support to those with my same experience of the day, and watching the comments come in, or organizing a gathering of other people who might need some company on Mother’s Day.
Avoid Mother’s Day Content
This means logging off social media so that I don’t needlessly subject myself to post after post about how great everyone’s mum is, or see ads that can feel like guilt-tripping because I’m not having a lovely day full of appreciation and gifts for my mother. I also try to avoid places like shopping centres, which become an onslaught of Mother’s Day content around the day.
After years of reminders, most people in my life know that I don’t want to talk about or celebrate Mother’s Day. This does not mean I am denying their ability to enjoy the day, or to do whatever they want with their mum, I just don’t want to hear about it. I am clear with the people in my life that my mum has often been a source of harm and that not everyone has positive experiences of their relationship with their mother.
An important part of healing and making Mother’s Day more liveable for me has been to change my idea of what a “mother” can be. A mother doesn’t have to be someone you’re related to by birth or legal adoption. She can be any person in your life who fills the role you would have liked your birth mother to fill like an Aunty, Grandmother, or female Elder.
I now choose to use the day to show that care to other people who have had similar experiences with their mother as me. I use the day to honour the strong, loving women in my life, who may not be technically my mother, but fill that place in my life and my heart. Acknowledging and celebrating that I have all of these positive relationships in my life helps me feel less left out, and closes up that mother wound little by little every year.
Of course, this is not a one-size-fits-all or exhaustive list, it’s just what I’ve found works for me
This piece was written by one of the ICLA eFriend Peer Support Workers. eFriend is an online platform where you can connect with a trained peer support worker whom has their own lived experience of feeling lonely, isolated, stressed or worried. You can speak to your eFriend Peer via video or phone call. Your eFriend Peer will listen, validate and provide hope. If you like, they can also assist you to identify any other services you may like to try or help you create plans to improve your personal well-being. Or they can simply listen.