Surviving Mother’s Day With A Toxic Mother-Child Relationship

It’s almost Mother’s Day. You can tell by the jewelry commercials on TV, the flower, candy and card displays in every store, and the print ads in your mailbox.

For me, Mother’s Day means getting cards and drawings from my kids – and inevitably having to purge art from years past to make room. And while Mother’s Day is a day when I feel my kids’ love for me kick into overdrive, it’s a day that gives me mixed feelings.

When I think about my relationship with my own mother, it doesn’t exactly evoke the word “normal.” Some more fitting adjectives include strained, toxic, tumultuous, thorny or turbulent.

My relationship with my mother has been rocky for as long as I can remember. When I was a teenager I figured it was because we were so much alike – stubborn and independent – that we clashed. But once I became an adult, our relationship went from rocky to explosive.

Disagreements usually resulted in hurtful words exchanged and me in tears. Snide remarks became venomous criticisms, judgements and insults. The next day things would simply go back to normal. There were no discussions, acknowledgments or apologies.

I had learned to deal with things the way they were. And although I often wondered why I couldn’t experience a maternal relationship like so many I observed, I accepted it.

But things recently came to a head and I was forced to make the difficult decision to all but terminate our relationship.

For the past year and a half I have had very limited contact with my mother, even though we live five doors down from one another. And any interaction we do have is for the sake of my children because I know how much it would hurt them to never see their grandma again. But scarce interactions are something I had to do for my own sanity and self-esteem. And to protect my kids from observing and learning from dysfunction.

And that brings us to Mother’s Day. A day when Facebook and Instagram are filled with smiling photos and endearing messages.  And a day that reminds me that I don’t have the kind of mother who knows how to love me the way I need to be loved.

But I will survive Mother’s Day. And here’s how I plan to do it:

Celebrating myself as a mother. I strive every day to be what my mother was not to me. I try to shower my kids with kisses and ‘I Love You’s,’ because I know firsthand the absence of those things sticks with you well into adulthood. I make sure they don’t doubt their intelligence, their beauty, their potential or their worth.

Celebrating the mother figures in my life. I have come across so many amazing women who have embraced and nurtured me – and continue to today. They taught me that biology does not determine your ability to love one another.

Letting go of guilt. I used to wonder what I was doing wrong that my mom couldn’t seem to love me the way I needed. But as I’ve grown older and taken control of my life, I’ve realized it has nothing to do with me. All I can do is move on and make sure my kids don’t feel the same way.

Are you trying to survive Mother’s Day with a strained mother-child relationship? Check out these 10 tips on coping from Psychology Today.

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