Alzheimer's, Family, Kids, Life, Relationships

Sacrilege on the Sacrosanct: Sharing Mixed Feelings on Mother’s Day

“Our relationships with our mothers (and daughters) are not simple ones, are they?” quips The Warm Milk Journal in the understatement of the millennium on the Amazing Women Rock Facebook page.

The several dozen comments that follow (on my own page as well as that of the Crazy Bitch Society) flesh out the real-life experiences that lie behind her rhetorical question.

They also show that I am far from alone in having mixed feelings about my own tumultuous and tortuous daughter-mother relationship, recently brought into razor-sharp focus through the lens of my mother’s Alzheimer’s disease.

Even writing this post causes me to be racked with guilt, so deep seated is the conditioning that most of us (children as a whole, and daughters in particular) must never question, criticize or tarnish in any way the supremely revered role of “mother,” especially on the second Sunday in May, the one day on the North American calendar set aside to express (with the height of humility) the depth of our gratitude to those who have given us life.

Oh no! What a bad, bad girl, and ungrateful daughter I must be. I’m treading on terribly thin ice in taking on the sacrosanct institution of motherhood. What sacrilege. But the fact of the matter is, not every mother is cut out for motherhood.

I’m grateful to my mom for countless things to be sure; she and I have shared many joys, much laughter and heaps of good times. But I also mourn the ways she has deeply wounded me over the course of our lives together, the most soul-destroying of which is her failure to have recognized my unique value as a woman and a human being.

Why do I choose to share this here and now? And why do I invite other women to do the same? Because I believe that exploring our unspoken truths opens the door to forgiveness and unconditional love (at least it has begun to for me, and for some of the women below).

Likewise, shining a light on our tragedies (as well our joys) and sharing them with others creates opportunities for more connection, as well as a richer understanding of our own humanity and greater possibilities for healing.

I also believe that acknowledging painful feelings lessens their destructive hold and provides space for new, positive ones to take root. With that in mind, I thank the women who responded to my call with their own thoughts and experiences, and I share some of them with you now:

Marsha: My mom is gone, and…I’m still angry that she died unapologetic. Many years of therapy have not purged those terrible memories. The scars from that early traumatic relationship will haunt me for the rest of my life. I understand that she did the best she could under trying circumstances. Unfortunately, sometimes the best one can do is truly dreadful. On the other hand, I am a mother myself, and a grandmother, and I gave a lot better than I got. So I can find some joy in this dumb Hallmark holiday in spite of my torturous relationship with my own mother. So there, Mom.

Barbara: My Mother and I forgave each other on her death bed. I miss her advice, family history, her recipes that weren’t written down, her comfort and love and even at times, her nagging. Lol

Donna C.:…from the time i was 9 till about 11 she would pretend to call the adoption agency and tell them she didn’t want me anymore…if u don’t think that will damage a child ur crazy…but i did forgive her… she just didn’t know how to do any better…I would like to think that we have all learned from our mother’s mistakes…i myself am a proud mother of three and i never fail to tell them all the time how much i love them and show them how much they mean to me…

Donna W.: i am greatful for being born..other than that I’ve learned all I know from life and the other amazing people who have been in it past and present. I no nothing of this “mom” creature you speak of but luckily somewhere along the way I learned how to be one – and that is what I celebrate on mother’s day: the fact I have three amazing beautiful strong kids!

Erica: Only Mothers can hurt us as deeply as they do, because they were there from the very beginning and know all of our weaknesses, we hide from the world. We can forgive our fathers, because they’re not really like us , so we take them less serious. From our mothers however we expect perfection, understanding, support and forgiveness for all of what we have become. It’s a big job, for these women who were once just little girls too.

Tina: As I grew older, I felt differently, yet had the same, deep rooted love for my Mom at various stages of my life with her. She had me when she was 19, so a child raising a child, but I didn’t know that at the time. There was a sense of selfishness I thought she had( looking back, it must have been magnified to me). But I somehow knew that she’d always be there for me. She had always seemed to be critical of people, including herself, and of me. But I learned that before she is a Mom, she is a person. And we are all very different. And she is who she is, and I will be who I am. The only thing I can and will always be able to control is how things affect me. The one thing I will know, until the day I die is that my Mom loves me, no matter what. Right now I do not know where I’d be without my her.

Brenda: I grew up in an abusive home. Many years I felt hated, rejected and abandoned by my mother. When I turned 18 she surprised me by going to therapy with me. She was 100% accountable for the abuse as well as sincere in her apology. She explained, without excuses, the place she was in her own life. She was an abused wife and also had mother who raised her the same way. After a few months of therapy, we finally were able to begin a real relationship. All was well for about 15 years until her life turned upside down and she reverted back and became bitter and verbally abusive all over again to me and to my own children. As an adult, I wasn’t tolerating it. For 5 years we had little to do with each other. 2 years ago this month she was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. I did what most daughters should do, I forgave her again and put it behind me. I spent the rest of the time she had left taking care of her and giving HER the love she always wanted although she knew she didn’t really deserve it. I have absolutely no regrets. For the first time in my life I felt like I had the mother I always hoped she would be. As much as I cherish that last year with her, it makes me miss the many more years we could have had together in a healthy relationship. Approaching this second Mother’s Day without her, I feel gratitude. Gratitude that I was given that last year to have the Mom I always needed.

Nicole: as mothers day approaches I’m looking for a BLANK mothers day card because ive read the ones that are on the shelves and none of them really suit our “mother daughter relationship” see she did not raise me and she has deeply wounded me many times and Im not going to sit in her house and be a hypocrite and “praise her” just for general purpose….no!! im going out with my one and only that matters!! my son David!!!!!!!!

Cyndi: The one person I think of as my actual MOTHER was my grandmother who died in Mother’s Day is very hard for me. I cant consider the woman who married my father in 78 my mother…

Naomi: I do understand the hurt a mother can inflict on a daughter. My mother has paranoid schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder. When she takes her medication she is fine. When she stops, not so fine. 7 years ago she fed my 4 German Shepherds rat poison, shot them all twice in the head then set them on fire. She spent 2 yrs in jail at the age of 74. Now that she is taking her medicine she is ok. I want to HATE HER GUTS so bad for what she did to me, but I can’t. She’s my Mom and you only get one mother. Guess I am in the same situation you are in.

Diana: I honor my mother from a distance, I don’t hate her not because she doesn’t deserve it- because she does -but because I deserve to have a full, rich, blessed, hate-free life. A lack of understanding of “Honor thy mother and thy father” has caused unnecessary suffering, the scripture wasn’t calling us to stand by cruel abusers, above all things is a call to love ourselves, if we’re loving abusive, cruel parents because we think that’s the right thing to do…wrong. I wouldn’t undo my past but I know that self-love has to do with surviving and thriving in the world.

Carol: My mother, who died several years ago, was a horrible abusive parent. Mother’s day has a whole layer of meaning for me that I suspect most folks don’t have unless they came from a home like mine. Perhaps she was a “sith-mother”, evil unintentional, she was mirroring of the parenting she received. Plus, back in the day you just “had kids” and there wasn’t such a thing as “parenting” and you raised them how you thought best, not what magazines and family services touted as acceptable. My sith-mom didn’t “mother”, and to a large extent I mothered myself, but I’ve had a fair number of “other mothers” over the years. It is these women that I think of on mothers day. I also think of my girlfriends who are amazing mothers to their kids and it encourages me that those children will have so much less to overcome…thank God for good mothers.

Missy: My Mother is not one u see or hear about…I know you can’t change who is your family but just this one time..I wish I could 🙁

Kim: first off my mom wasnt the greatest at all.and as the years roll by I learned more of just how selfish she was. growing up it was about her and a man in her life, she would black mail and manipulate me to do things for her or she wouldnt drive me places. buy clothes I would like for herself wear them a few times then try to give them to me, and get mad when I wouldnt take them or wear them., I think the hardest part wasg able to tell her I was being sexually abused, knowing she wouldnt believe me. and didnt when I finally brought it up when I was 23, she definately is a better grandmother then a mother, she hugged my kids, but even then unddermended me with my older 3, life hasnt been kind to my mom, KARMA is a BITCH, in 2001 I found out she gave up a child my brother, he is 6 yrs younger then me, what a shock, she had stayed with his father up gave HIM up and then Married my stepfather so many years later in 1983.What the HELL was she thinking let alone him.I am still in contact with my brother, my grandmother died in 2005, and shortly after that my mom gave up my brother for the second time…. she also placed another brother in 1969 in an instution and never visited him after the age of 4 , I reconnected with him many years ago and am the only family that visits him, he is now 44..It ahs always been about her, no wonder I am screwed up…but well on my way of learning to stay out of abusive relationships after watching her antaginous a drunk for years that beat her…good thing I had my grandmother taught me family values which I have today, Thank GOD for that, or my mom would of been placed 4 years ago when my older brother threw her out after her operation.I fought got her her own apt, and up until Oct when she had another bout of post operative delirum, I had to place her in Dec..because her dementia and alzheimers is getting worst and she doesnt realize it, she still is very manipultive and ,mean..but I now have the choice on how often I visit, its Karma A BITCH….she was so mean to my grandmother when she had it…I will see her on Mother’s day just because , but its more of a day with me and my 2 younger sons….I will miss my grandmother on that day…

Jeanne: The best statement I have ever heard on this topic is “You have two chances to have a good Parent Child relationship” A lot of my childhood hurts have been healed through being the best parent I can to my Son. He is the love of my life and as long as he is okay, life is good. I’m not making light of anything you said Kim MacKenzie. I know I am who I am today not because of her but in spite of her. I also have to grudgingly say– She did the best she could with what she had. Who I am from now on is MY choice. Big hugs to all the CB sisters out there struggling with not having a Hallmark Mom. You are strong, you are beautiful and you are loveable beyond measure. Happy Mother’s Day.xo

My call for comments also produced many that were lovingly touching. I am reminded of the fullness of our human experience, the diversity of relationships it informs, and the opportunity for deeper learning through both joy and pain.

Wishing mothers and daughters the world over a healing, hopeful and harmonious Mother’s Day.