Every year, there is this holiday that rolls around…I dread it.
My social media feeds are clogged with pictures of smiling mothers and daughters, complete with odes all about how self-sacrificing and completely wonderful all mothers are, and how no one can love you the way your mother loves you.
These posts, every year, fill me with confusion.
They make me jealous, and angry, and sad, and wistful.
The thing is…I want that mom.
The truth, however, is that I don’t have that mom, and I never will.
Coming to this conclusion has taken a lot of therapy. It has required recognition of boundaries, healthy attachments, and buried, underlying beliefs about myself.
It has, in other words, been a lot of fricken’ work…and, I fear, I am only half way up that mountain.
With this holiday, comes much expectation.
I should buy a gift. Or, at the very least, a sappy card. I should publicly display my affection online (oh, you know, because everyone else is doing it, and her meter stick measures any and all public comments). I should spend time with her.
…What is by and large ignored?
The fact that I am a mother, too.
That’s the thing about Mother’s Day. I have never been able to separate the fact that I am mother from the fact that I am, first, a daughter–and with that comes many responsibilities. My whole life, I have acted as the caretaker and protector:
I kept her secrets. Drugs. Neglect. Money.
I kept the peace. I tried to please and be perfect, to draw as little attention to myself as possible.
I have taken care of her. Visited her in the hospital. Changed bandages. Cleaned her house. Made her meals.
I convinced myself that this was normal, but, growing up, I consistently had the desire to, one day, have my own daughter.
When I envisaged this scenario, my heart would swell and my brain would start screaming: You will not have the same relationship that you have with YOUR mother!!
I did not grow up with the idea that I wanted to be like my her. No…I grew up with the desire to be as totally different from her as possible.
When I was young and 22, I gave birth to my own sweet girl. My dream of having a daughter came true. My mother was angry at me…I did not allow her in the room when I gave birth. She didn’t understand that I could not allow her in the room at a moment where I felt completely vulnerable…I did not trust her to react in the way that I needed. I did not trust her to not make the moment about her.
She sent a bouquet of flowers, and with them a card that read, “To my baby girl on her baby girl.”
…What a nice sentiment, right?
Only…every time I read that card? I could feel my body fill up with tension and shame. I could not understand why, then…and I think I am really just beginning to understand it now.
This card highlighted the hole that
was… is…in my heart. And it directly related it to my own, precious little girl.
I am not, by any measure, a perfect mama. But, I am trying, so hard. I love my children. I try to connect with them. I try to leave no doubt in their heads that they are deeply loved. I try to tell them, every chance that I get, that they are perfect, just the way that they are, and that I will love them always, no matter what. No matter how much they weigh. No matter how they do on a test. No matter their grades. No matter their mistakes.
Reading that card, however, as I snuggled my own, freshly baked little squishy baby on my chest opened up a deep hole of fear. Of insecurity.
And of pain.
You see, the thing about becoming a mother after having the type of mother that I had, is that I am determined to be different. But, in being different, I am also so cognizant of what it is that I missed out on. And the cost of failure.
I imagine: What would my life have looked like if my mom had told me that I am perfect the way I am? What if I was told that my body was strong and loved…instead of fat and shameful? What if I was hugged when I cried, instead of told to quit being so sensitive and stop crying?
And, deep inside, I worry, What if my daughter doesn’t feel loved? What if I fail?
The hole that a critical, selfish mother leaves behind is large.
And, even without my knowledge some of the time, so much of my counseling journey has focused on how I can patch up this hole and move on with my life.
This Mother’s Day? This Mother’s Day is going to look different.
This Mother’s Day, I am going to focus on being a mother, instead of a daughter. I will send my mother a card, but I am not going to feel any duty visit…to see her. I will enjoy my snuggles with my two kids, and relish in their handmade cards.
And, I will be thankful. Did I get the mother I always wished for? No…
Do I have a hole? …Yes.
But, I have finally begun to–ever so hesitantly, and many times, disbelievingly–find my own worth outside of my mother’s opinions. She is still my critical voice…the one that is always, always, unconsciously attacking me in my head.
I have, however, found new people who see my value and worth, and tell me. Yes, it may come, many times, from a paid freaking professional…but she is a genuine paid freaking professional who knows me better than just about anyone else. And, it comes from other people, too.
My friends. My church family.
And others. Other women who are mothers themselves and who see me. Who understand me. Who give me a hug, or a listening ear. A coffee date or a silly text message.
I may not have the mother I want, but I do, in many ways, have a circle of women around me who are beginning to fill part of that hole.
I fully expect to be deluged by social media tomorrow, if I decide to partake in it. However, I will now see these posts through a new lens. And, I will know that my worth never has been about what my own mother thinks.
Happy Mother’s Day.