My Mum and me, c. 1967
I have to say, I find Mother's Day very difficult. And to top it off, it often coincides with my mother's birthday, which is today. She would be 80 if she were still alive, but she has been gone since 1997.
Today I'm making a nice supper for my mother-in-law, and that part of the day is fine. She will be glad to spend some time over here visiting with us and her grand-pets! But it's really hard to get warm and fuzzy about the day itself when you grew up with a very flawed mother who was neglectful, emotionally abusive, and utterly unable to protect her daughter, her only child, from harm.
That was my mother. For the first years of my life, my father was a stabilizing influence on her and things weren't too bad, but when Dad left Mum the year I was 8, she completely fell apart, and I got lost in the debris. I became the adult in the house at a very young age. My mother was beautiful and funny and talented and drew people to her like moths to the proverbial flame, especially men. But she was also clinically narcissistic and damaged and unable or unwilling to deal with the traumas of her past. And she could not stand to see me happy! I can hear the gasps of "Oh that can't be true!" as I type. But it was! I can barely look at pictures of her from my wedding day, because she was so obviously miserable, barely able to bring a half-smile to her face. I think she just hated the fact that the focus was on me for a change. She didn't cheer up until she got hammered at our reception.
The times we drew closest were the times when my life was in the crapper, because only then was she able to provide me with some support. It was like my happiness was some kind of threat to her, and she would withdraw in jealousy. But when I was miserable, she was all over me. It was very confusing.
While Mum managed to keep me fed and clothed and housed, got me music lessons, and taught me to love animals and art, and to knit and many other things for which I am truly grateful, she also frequently left me alone when I was too young to be left alone. Bad things often happened as a result. Some were really bad things. And when I asked for help, she couldn't or wouldn't give it to me. Even when I was a young adult in a bad relationship, she knew what was going on but said nothing until the year she died. I had always thought she didn't know, but the truth was, she had turned a blind eye to me. She was incapable of helping me.
Mum had lifelong problems with addictions as well. The only saving grace was that my father lived 15 minutes away, talked to me on the phone every day, and saw me every weekend, right through my high school years. He always acted like a parent and an adult. But he also knew what my mother was really like, and he could have rescued me from the situation I was in. That said, I was very protective of my mother and never told anyone the truth about what was happening, including my father, until I was long past childhood.
It all makes it pretty tough to deal with Mother's Day, when so many people are celebrating the women who gave birth to them, and the best elements of motherhood. While I am happy for people who are or were close their mothers and cherish them, I am also envious. I loved my mother and I still do, but I haven't reached a point yet where I can get through Mother's Day without feeling a little angry, despite lots of professional help on that front. I like to think I'm still evolving and I will reach a point where this day doesn't bother me, and I can truly let go of all the hurt from my relationship with Mum. Time will tell. I ain't there yet.
I'm not writing this to bash my mother. I tell myself she did the best she could with what she had, and I do try to focus on the positive memories, like her sense of humour and physical affection for me. But amidst all the celebrating on this day, I wonder about the people like me who just don't feel like raising a toast to their mothers. Usually I just keep quiet, because who wants to be a downer on a special day? But maybe because it's also Mum's birthday today, I feel compelled to write about it. This is the dark side of the day that no one ever seems to talk about, but I needed to and I hope that's okay. The one positive thing I do manage is to make some kind of Mother's Day donation in her memory to a charity I care about, usually an animal one since she loved animals as much as I did.
And to all you mothers out there who really do put your children first, my hat is off to you. You deserve to be celebrated! I don't have kids but I do know that it takes a lot of love, commitment, tears and laughter to be a good Mum. To those who manage it, I salute you. Now I'm off to feed my mom-in-law. :)