Mother’s Day Torture: Intensity & Duration

3 May

d4b8b64207ddace48a30acdf29ba53e8In the weeks leading up to Mother’s Day, the assault begins on tip-toes. You might notice the wall of cards go up at CVS. Suddenly, 1-800-Flowers is emailing you twice a day, hawking Mother’s Day deals. It can be like a mosquito in the room, the hum of nerves that build up around the big day. And whether you have limited contact, no contact, or some contact with lots of boundaries, the approach of Mother’s Day itself can be like an illness creeping into your bones to set up achy shop for a while.

Mother’s Day is a typical American-style holiday, trumped up by card and flower sellers, which relies heavily on manipulating consumers emotions to “remember Mom on her special day.”  But what if your mom wasn’t so special? What if your mother was a terrible mother — abusive, neglectful — and now that you’re an adult, she’s a person who has the power to hurt you with a few carefully chosen words? You may need a strategy to get through this Mother’s Day commercial-filled full-court press; the same way an alcoholic plans trips avoiding hotels with lobby bars.

Mother’s Day can be emotional. So you need to decide ahead of time if it’s going to be a long, sad slog or a few minutes of sadness with a quick recovery. It’s your choice.

Here are a few things you might want to avoid:

Television Commercials: Make the decision now to avoid Hallmark-style commercials about great mothers. There is a flower company video making the rounds that starts with a delivery person handing “mom” an iPad with a message from her soldier son stationed far away. It’s a total tear-jerker for people who have great moms and miss their moms on Mothers Day. But for the adult children of Toxic Moms, it’s doubly emotional and terribly sad to find yourself wiping your nose as the son turns into the driveway holding his mother’s flowers. This year, why not decide ahead of time to avoid these sorts of commercials? Mute or fast-forward and don’t feel guilty about it.

63f4cdda1c34d95d116714817478e606Movies: For me, it’s, I Remember Mamma, a saga about the sacrifices made by an immigrant Scandinavian mother for her children. For you, it might be Terms of Endearment or Steel Magnolias, or even August: Osage County. There will be a press of mother-themed movies from now until Mother’s Day and avoiding them is probably a good idea.

Facebook: I am really, honestly, happy for my friends who have great mothers and express their affection towards them on social media. But try not to focus on these too much, other than a quick “thumbs up.” It’s a fine line between appreciation and envy.  The moment you start comparing your friend’s great mom to your toxic mom, you are hurting yourself. You can choose not to.

Sunday Brunch: There is a huge social pressure to take your mom to brunch on Mother’s Day and restaurants ramp up with flower giveaways and free mimosas. And, you know, your work friends will be making elaborate plans and asking you about your plans to treat your mother. You are allowed to spend your Sunday any way you like. Decide ahead of time what you want to do like: exploring a hiking trail, volunteering, attending church, or getting started on Spring Cleaning. You can still have a mimosa. In fact, a pitcher of mimosas are a great way to start Spring Cleaning!

Five years into this Toxic Mom Toolkit experience, a great trend has emerged in our community around Mother’s Day and I wanted to be sure to share it with you. Don’t be afraid to express your appreciation and affection for the women (and men) in your life who have nurtured you, as a mother should. You can send mushy, loving, butterfly-covered cards and write notes to the people in your life who love you the way you truly are; who have encouraged you and helped you along the way. You can thank other adults for their ability to make you feel safe and appreciated. And, who knows, maybe one day there will be a Hallmark commercial about those kinds of relationships included in the pantheon of Mother’s Day tear-jerkers.

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11 Responses to “Mother’s Day Torture: Intensity & Duration”

  1. Claire May 4, 2015 at 3:08 am #

    I always enjoy the stories of my friends who cherish their mom. The closeness, the love they share. My childhood was not that bad. The worst started when I became an adult, and she still wanted to control my life. I am a (single) mother of two young adults. And it is a very hard and very ungrateful job. For all the love and kisses I got in their younger years, now I get indifference: I am a grown up and don’t need you ( But where is my laundry and is dinner ready? There are no trains (strike, accident) can you come & fetch me?) I just bite through it, and hope I can be a good mom in their adult years too. Who knows, one day they will confide in me. I just know one thing for sure: they are responsible for their life. All I can do is guide them. But they decide.

    • collectingjourneys May 4, 2015 at 3:10 am #

      I love hearing your thoughts on this topic! Thanks for posting. – Rayne

  2. Elizabeth May 4, 2015 at 9:42 am #

    “The moment you start comparing your friend’s great mom to your toxic mom, you are hurting yourself.”

    Thank you for this! I grew up observing the families around me, trying to figure out a) how to pretend to be normal and b) why my family was so off. Now as an adult and a mother, I still observe the families around me, trying to see how the healthy-seeming ones operate so I can emulate them instead of repeating my TM’s mistakes.

    There is always a point, though, where all this observing stops being helpful and simply makes me feel bad, and you have just helped me identify it. Thank you!

    • collectingjourneys May 4, 2015 at 10:00 am #

      I’m so happy this was helpful to you! Best, Rayne

  3. C B May 6, 2015 at 1:39 am #

    I started a tradition on Mothers Day to celebrate being a mother by thanking my child. I give12 small presents to her during the day.

    • collectingjourneys May 6, 2015 at 2:44 am #

      How much fun is that? That’s how you build joy around a holiday!

  4. curlytopmomoffour May 8, 2015 at 2:16 am #

    I enjoyed seeing this blog. I have three things to add: 1) On Mother’s Day I always send a card to my mother, so as not to fan the flames. My husband picks it out and it is usually just, “Happy Mother’s Day, Hope you have a great day!” because sending the Hallmark people’s idea of mothers would be a lie in my case. 2) Many of our mothers, including mine, did the best they could under their circumstances — personality disorders, mental illness, temperament, their own upbringing etc. I’m not out to punish mine, but move on. 3) I found this book v. helpful in my own case: Children of the Self-Absorbed: A Grown-Up’s Guide to Getting Over Narcissistic Parents by Nina Brown. Full of practical tips.

    • collectingjourneys May 8, 2015 at 6:28 am #

      Thanks for your note and book recommendation. We are always looking for and sharing information on good resources. Best, Rayne

  5. Jess May 14, 2015 at 9:51 am #

    I love this. I was really sad this Mother’s Day, but I was genuinely happy for my friends and family. I ended up making sure I wished lots of people Happy Mother’s Day and went around and gave little gifts to important women in my life that are good friends or mother figures. 🙂 I was able to turn it around and make it not about my mother. We also celebrated as our own family and went over to my husband’s side for Mother’s Day. We definitely made it work-it was awesome but a little exhausting! 🙂

    • collectingjourneys May 14, 2015 at 10:02 am #

      I’m so grateful that you put up this post! A great lesson on making the most of Mother’s Day — especially honoring the people in your life who are kind and loving towards you. Good job!

  6. ThinkFreePam June 25, 2015 at 12:41 pm #

    Thanks for the post. I literally had a ‘Mommie Dearest’ mentally ill mother who accused me of conspiring with spies, who chopped my hair off and who wrote me out of her will. But, being a good little Catholic girl, I could not be mean to her. After she wrote me out of her will after I was 18 she broke off all contact, still convinced that I was out to get her. So on Mother’s Days I would gather together some neighboring moms who never get the praise they deserve and we’d go out for a relaxing meal without the squirmy kids. Twenty Eight years later my mom called. She’s 83 and wanted to make peace before she goes to meet her maker. Yes, I went immediately. It had been so long that I thought the woman opening the door was a housekeeper. I walked right past her! Today we are friends. It’s as if she’s my big sister. This was the best Mother’s Day ever. We got all the unpraised moms at the retirement home together for a big feast. Such happy faces! It’s never too late.

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