Do you hate Mother’s Day too?

Česky: Matka a dítě. עברית: אם ובנה, 2007. Sve...
Česky: Matka a dítě. עברית: אם ובנה, 2007. Svenska: En mamma som kramar om sitt barn. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bear with me.

Like many others watching the annual flood of maternal sentimentality, this isn’t a fun week for me. (It’s celebrated on May 13 here, but not necessarily in other countries.)

My mother lives in a nursing home in a city a six-hour flight away. I don’t plan to send flowers or a card, even though I know I should and would like to. I’m her only child. She has no grand-children and many of her friends have died or abandoned her over the years.

We haven’t spoken in a year, since our last verbal exchange consisted of her raging at me without pausing to draw breath. The Mother’s Day flowers I had sent went unacknowledged, then my birthday.

Like many mothers out there — not the cookie-baking, hugging, call me! text me! types — mine has no interest in my life. And she’s now doted on by a woman even the nursing home staff told me they found rude and weird, someone nasty to me whom I’ve never trusted.

So, Mother’s Day?


I know other men and women whose mother, for a variety of reasons, lost interest in their own children, no matter how well-behaved or accomplished or how hard we’ve tried, for a long, long time, to get closer to someone who…just doesn’t want it.

But we never talk publicly about it, the subject taboo.

I’ve re-written this post about 20 times, debating whether or not to even publish it. I am weary of secret-keeping.

My mother, who is beautiful, bright, sophisticated and charming, never re-married after divorcing my father when I was seven. She never seemed to miss emotional or physical intimacy.

When I was 14, we moved to Mexico. There, on Christmas Eve, she suffered a manic breakdown; I left within weeks to move in with my father and never returned to her home except for visits. I saw her first manic episode when I was 12, then again lived through them when I was 19, 25, 27 and beyond. She ended up in jails and hospitals all over the world, as she traveled alone and refused to stay on her medication.

For a long time, she wrote letters often and we spoke every week or so.

In 2003, a 4-inch tumor was pulled from her head and I asked the surgeon to “make her less of a bitch.” The words shocked me as they fell out of my mouth.

His answer shocked me even more. “Her tumor has made her aggressive for years, possibly decades,” he explained, thanks to its location in her brain. She was, for several blissful years afterward, loving, gentle and kind, the sort of mother I had longed for. (Here’s my magazine story about this experience, with a great pic of us when I was little.)

By the summer of 2010, when I flew out to see her on my annual visit, she had become unrecognizable to me, the amount she was by then drinking destroying what was left of her mental and physical health. I called my husband from the motel where I was staying and wept, in rage and frustration and despair, for 30 minutes.

When, if ever, would this shit stop?

The verb “to mother” implies nurture, care and concern. We automatically conflate the two, while “to father” often means simply to create a new life, not to stick around and take care of that child.

I’ve tried to be compassionate. I’ve tried to reach out, for decades. I’ve tried.

I’m done trying.

How’s your relationship with your Mom?

78 thoughts on “Do you hate Mother’s Day too?

  1. Not as dramatic but still problematic. She was somewhat cold, passive aggressive, when I was young. Her mother was a piece of work too. She didn’t really know what to do with me in my teens and early twenties, and it was the 70’s, so lots of behaviors to be concerning to a parent. She only became more relaxed after I married. Seemed to know how to have a relationship with me then. We became friendly, and I, as the only daughter, became responsible. So now she is old and living with me. She is grateful and not demanding. Its just the stituation itself that is demanding. So I guess we have lived out a long truce and found peace with each other. I know that I can’t make her happy and that all I do is ultimately for my own peace of mind. My sister in law, the therapist, reminds me that I am just trying to finally get her approval. And I guess after 57 years, I’m ok with that too.
    I have found that this relationship between mothers and daughters is the most difficult for us to navigate. More than with any other relationship, it is fraught with dangers and pitfalls and very rarely satisfying.
    I hope you have a day of relaxation and joy tomorrow – because, why not.

    1. Thanks for sharing this…It took me a while (slow learner!) to realize that my mother’s greatest power lies in her ability to NEVER be pleased, no matter what I’ve done or tried to do. So, it’s a mug’s game.

      Her own mother was a monster to her, and it left a lot of damage.

      I’m glad you and your mother are doing better now. I plan a lovely day with my dear husband, thanks!

  2. My mother disowned me at 19 for marrying “a jackass”. Turned out he was one, and we spent the next two decades repairing our mother-daughter relationship. We almost had things put back together when she died of cancer, blind and unresponsive, seven years ago. I’m glad you posted this. I hope you are, too.

    1. Thanks. I struggled long and hard whether to write it, or post it. I had my husband (who has been with me 12 years and rescued my Mom after her tumor showed up, but before it was diagnosed) read this to reassure me first.

      I do know this has shaped me and my choices in many ways.

  3. There is nothing wrong with expressing a “taboo” sentiment such as this. In fact, I love that you wrote this post. Women are supposed to be connected to their mothers, faithful to their mothers and all despite any aggression, abuse or lack of caring and love.

    Another point your post brings to mind is the fact that we celebrate mothers one day a year. That’s it. A good mom, a great mom, that deserves to be celebrated should be celebrated every day, just like any other person. If you love someone and they love you, you should celebrate each other every day. I work in the mall, and all I could think today was, “No better way to say, ‘I love you, Mom’ than buying her a reasonably priced gift one day of the year.”

    The opposite is true also: if you don’t love someone, don’t force it. Don’t celebrate them because you feel like you have to. Be honest, and blog about it!

    1. This makes me want to cry. 🙂

      Thanks for the support….I suspected many other people may well want to say something similar but are terrified of flak from family, friends, whatever. It is painful to see so many people have such lovely and loving relationships with their Moms, but I have a terrific husband and many dear friends who help me get and keep perspective on it. My husband’s Mom died when he was 26, many decades ago, but her deep and ferocious love for him comes through him every day into my life through his love for me. I am blessed indeed by this.

      I recently re-connected with a friend I was last in touch with in 1998…when I told him how bad things are with my Mom, he didn’t hesitate to remind me they were then as well. Denial is powerful.

  4. Thank you for writing this, and I also hope that you are glad that you did.

    My relationship with my mother has been fraught for years – we didn’t speak, except to yell at each other, for a long time. Then, one day, out of the blue, I disengaged. Mostly because I realized that I wanted her to be other than what she was, and that I was disrespecting her in the same way that she was disrespecting me.

    I wish I could say that the heavens opened, birds began to sing, flowers bloomed, and heavenly choirs filled the air with song at that moment, but no. But yes – today our relationship is much better. She’s finally acknowledging that I, at 54, know a thing or two. She’s starting to get over her petty jealousy of my brains, my education (yes, but I have COMMON SENSE, she used to say), and my eyelashes (inherited from my dad), and I’ve learned to bite my tongue and accept that at 81, with chronic depression, she is who she is, and that she’s loved me as best she’s been able.

    We have a relationship today, and it’s good (though it almost killed her when she learned – on Easter, no less – that I don’t believe that the Bible is inerrant. horrors). She’s learned to support me, and to let me support her when she needs me. I’m on as good of terms with my Dad as I can be (given that he believes every word that Rush or Faux News spouts, and is a member of the Tea Party. I’ve been a Union Member since 1979. Oy), and as they are aging we’re accepting that there are some things that we just can’t agree on.

    It was wonderful, how she was able to be there for me as I went through the trauma of being diagnosed w/sleep apnea, and getting used to the CPAP machine.

    All that being said, I hurt for you. I remember one night, after a particularly harrowing visit, where I lay in bed for hours, deeply sighing. Over and over and over again. I don’t know if it helped, but that’s what my body told me to do, so I did it. 😉 I can remember sobbing on the phone, or in person, to kind friends, as well.

    Many hugs to you, Caitlin. Tomorrow will be over with soon enough. {{{{Hugs}}}}

    1. Thanks much for sharing this! And for the hugs. Very sweet of you.

      It’s ironic that on a blog, in public space with people I don’t know personally, there’s a place to talk some of this stuff through…

      Having kind friends (as others are doing tonight on Facebook) helps me realize that a lot of people have faced stuff like this and get through it. The harder part was putting up with so much, having those years after her surgery — and feeling reprieved — just to watch her disappear into a bottle. I went to Al-Anon to seek help there but it wasn’t a good fit for me.

      It did make me aware that some of my own behavior patterns and reactions, as a result of this stuff, are very, very common, though.

      1. You wrote: “It did make me aware that some of my own behavior patterns and reactions, as a result of this stuff, are very, very common, though.”

        Indeed. I’m still single, and I know that it’s in part because of those kind of behavior patterns, particularly the way I treat myself. :\

      2. Oh, I’ve done the therapy thing. Now? I’m writing. 😀
        (And I wish I could put this where it goes in the thread, though maybe it will just show up there by magic!)

  5. my mother passed away 27 years ago today. it was may 12, and it was also mother’s day. she suffered from stomach cancer for almost two months, so it was really a relief when she finally passed.

    now – christmas – oh i hate the hell out of christmas.

      1. aww thanks. i hate christmas because my ex-wife doesn’t let me see mykids on christmas no matter how much they ask to see me. i will now go pray to jesus that a bus hits her. then backs over her. the pulls forward and runs her over again.

      2. Hmm. Adds a whole new flavor to the words “family values”, this stuff does…I used to be divided into three every Xmas, between mother, father and maternal grandmother. Lots of gifts but so stressful I got sick every Xmas.

  6. I’m sorry. This must be a horrible day for you!

    I used to hate the hell out of Christmas, as my mom’s big breakdown was (of course) on Christmas Eve and completely terrifying to me, as a 14 yr old in a foreign country with no close friends or relatives to help me there. My (second) husband very kindly proposed to me on Xmas Eve because he knew what painful memories were associated with it for so long. His goal was to “re-brand” Xmas Eve, and so he did.

  7. My mom has been gone almost 12 years, she died two weeks after my dad. I miss her love a lot, but not the parts where we disagreed and she tried to manipulate me. Even though she was right sometimes when I didn’t agree or didn’t want to see that she was right, I really only miss the fact that the loving person that she was to me is gone. I never grew up enough in 45 years to be able to be open and close to her. I was just too afraid of her disapproval and being hurt over my decisions, which happened many times. I’d love to know more about her now, what she thought about different things that were meaningful to her.
    But I still hate Mother’s Day because I have 5 kids, and only one of them tries to observe it in any meaningful way, and I get all resentful and then mad at myself for being suckered into a Hallmark holiday thinking I should get special treatment. So I have an attitude problem, a big one. I also hate Valentine’s Day (nothing happening there) and Father’s Day (because he gets all the attention and I don’t get it for Mother’s Day). Yeah, I’m a mess. It’s a hard thing to grow out of.

    1. If I’ve learned anything along the way, it’s that having kids is no picnic. I never had any. I know it can bring great joy, but I’ve seen the other side of it as well….as you have.

  8. thomasmedlicott

    Caitlin, that’s a hell of a story. But, over the past couple of years, I could read between, over, and under the lines that “tense” relationship with your mother was an understatement.
    My mother is 93 and, admittedly, was not nearly the handful you were dealt, was also not the nurturing, loving, protective mother that- for instance- my own wife was, and is, to our three children.
    I’m a big fan of the NYT blog The New Old Age. There, I have vented about my mother many times. You made it though, dented and dinged like all of us who looked through the window of an idyllic family but were kept out.

    1. I bet you could! 🙂

      You were lucky to find such a great wife, and I’ve been lucky to find a husband like this as well. It’s fairly shocking to be around someone so loving when it’s not what you’re used to, but it’s a great relief and comfort to be so well loved and appreciated. We all know that people can only give what they got…

  9. How upsetting Mother’s Day sounds for you…I was fortunate to have a wonderful relationship with my mother who died 11 years ago next week. I think about her every day. On the other hand my relationship with my dad was not so good and as he go older it only got worse. I think of my mom every day not so with my dad…those memories are not part of my daily life even though they were not all bad.
    The best thing that you have done is to let it go at least for now…this is just another day, a made-up holiday that really has nothing to do with our everyday relationships with our moms. Given all of your mom’s problems, mental and physical she probably did the best that she could with her life. Hopefully, you can find the peace in yourself to forgive her but that does not mean that you have to forget how hard this has been on you.
    The mother in me would tell you to be kind to yourself tomorrow and always. My good thoughts to you and thank you for sharing your story and feelings. I hope that we can bear some of your sadness and anger so that it is not so heavy on your shoulders.

    1. Thanks for such kind thoughts!

      She has had a very rough ride with health issues, certainly. I think if alcohol had not been in this mix, things might have been different. I suspect anyone trying to battle that demon in their parent always feels like the loser.

  10. It used to be pretty bad. My mother suffered (and I do mean suffered) from depression for most of my life. The drugs that were successful with her weren’t invented until I was 17 and since getting on them she’s had to relearn a lot of basic human interaction stuff. She was bullied and abused by her parents, nearly killed by her first husband, rejected utterly by her second set of in-laws (my grandparents), couldn’t have children for several years, finally did and got postpartum depression like you would not believe (on top of the usual kind – if there is such a thing). All of this made her behavior understandable but no less hurtful to be growing up. It took me refusing to come home for Christmas one year after she’d hurt me so badly for her to recognize that since her depression was under control, I wasn’t going to let her use it as an excuse to bully me or anyone else any more. It was the divorce of our child – adult relationship, but the birth of our adult – adult relationship, I was no longer afraid of her and had the ability to walk away from it if I chose. She had to relearn to control her anger and temper, not because she was incapable (as she had been depressed) but because she was out of practice.

    As an adult, I appreciate what she’s been through a lot more, and our relationship is quite rich and good now, but it took nearly 20 years and me renegotiating the terms.

    1. This is, in some odd way, not surprising to hear from you, as someone who reads and loves your blog and spirit…you’ve always struck me (in a good way) as an old soul, someone far more mature than many women your age. I wondered what that was about, and your wisdom (isn’t it always?) comes so hard-won.

      What IS it with bloody Christmas?! My first husband won my heart when he put me in the car and drove us away from my mother that day…she’d been drunk and abusive and, as usual, I just sat there taking it. He said “Nope, we’re leaving,” and we did. It had never occurred to me to fight for my own health, which I think you can understand. You feel so torn between trying to be compassionate, needing better care, wanting to be loyal. Keeping it secret.

      I have never before written about this so publicly; as Tom says (he’s been reading my blog for 3 years), I’ve only danced around it.

      This has shaped you in amazing ways. I bet J is very glad he found someone so resilient and smart. Thanks for sharing this.

      1. What a tremendous compliment, thank you so much. To be honest, though, J. comes from a almost boringly nice and good family – it took him a while to figure out all my family dynamics, but luckily he showed up after the drugs and therapy started working and quite likes his (now relatively normal) MIL. I think he suspects some of my stories are made up…and they’re totally not!

      2. But of course he does! 🙂

        I married a man, first time (laugh hard) who was a shrink by trade who I thought could surely handle all the mama-drama, but his family of origin was a mess, too. Jose (hubby no. 2) came to me as the deeply beloved final child, and son, of an intact Hispanic family. Yay! His first Christmas meal with my Dad, two step-sibs (men, 10 and 23 years younger than I), step-mom (to only one of them) was nuts…we were all (as usual) shouting and table-thumping (normal good fun) until he slammed the table and told us (!) to speak in turn. Huh?! The family dynamics in my world will make for a great memoir, perhaps, but not fun for anyone outside of it (or inside it, sometimes.)

        People from tough childhoods are well and truly blessed to find “normal”, calm partners who can (to some degree) re-parent us and show us that intimacy need not be exhausting and scary.

    2. You wrote: “It was the divorce of our child – adult relationship, but the birth of our adult – adult relationship…”

      Exactly this. When an abusive mother/child relationship is able to do the above, everything changes. And, of course, it won’t happen unless the *child* finds the inner strength to say NO. No more.

      I find that I want to give everyone in this thread a hug! Or three! We’ve survived!

  11. Stephanie

    Thank you for writing this–I never thought of it as a taboo subject, but perhaps it has been. My mother just passed away this past January and while I was sad and stressed out, I was also relieved, because we were looking at alzheimer’s issues and it seemed to be going very quickly. Turned out she had stomach cancer and was gone 2 weeks after the diagnosis.

    Our problems were never as dramatic as yours, it’s just that there was always this lack of interest in me or my life or my children and this only became more pronounced as the years went on. I remember the day when it occurred to me that other mothers go places with their daughters but I could never talk my mother into going anywhere with me. We didn’t fight; I don’t think she hated me exactly; I think she just felt nothing at all.

    I don’t know whether I caused it or not, but when I was a teen I was a handful and I remember that before that time she did take a great deal of interest in my life, but her interest took the form of trying to mold me into the person she wanted me to be and she did too much and since I didn’t want the same things for me that she did, I rejected her way and went my own way. She never forgave me and I believe she even hated me for it at first, but then she just gave up and refused to have a relationship, even after I apologized many times. I wish I knew what was in her mind at that time but she refused to ever discuss it with me, or anything else that was personal. She never had a relationship with my sister either, and sis was and still is a mess at 47 so maybe it never was anything I did. My teen daughters didn’t even cry when she passed away because they had never had a relationship with her anyway. She never once offered to babysit them when they were small. On the other hand, I have been the kind of mother to my children that I always wanted, so I am proud of that but I hope that I’ve been the kind of mother that they wanted.

    1. Thanks for sharing this…It’s very, very tough when you want to get closer to your mother and she simply refuses. It’s hard not to blame yourself, but it’s often not about you at all.

      It’s good to hear (not a happy thing, clearly) that you, too, had a mother who refused to discuss her life with you. One reason I became a journalist (not consciously) is that I have had total strangers tell me the most amazingly intimate things, often very quickly, for my stories and books. It made me realize I’m someone who can create and elicit trust in people — just not from my own mother. That was healing.

      One reason I never wanted kids was that she wanted me to have one but made pretty clear she would never have helped me in any way.

  12. spawoman

    I used to volunteer on a crisis hotline. Of all the days I worked, Mother’s Day was the most poignant. These days, it’s tough for me because my daughter was stillborn.

    I now have two step kids, whom I adore. They have not had contact with their mother for several years, for good reason. Unfortunately, well-meaning people still try to get in their face about it and lecture them about how they need to be nice to their mother. It breaks my heart. A post such as yours helps those in your position feel less alone.

    1. Thanks for sharing this…

      People have NO idea how ignorant and hurtful their remarks can be, and often are. You do not need to “be nice” to someone who is neglectful or cruel — I know it has set me up, still, for tolerating unacceptable behaviors from people in my professional and personal life. I struggle with it all the time, which is embarrassing at midlife.

      Teaching kids, or anyone, to put with shit is really unhelpful to their mental health, as you know.

      So glad you are loving your stepkids! My stepmother (13 yrs my senior) was another piece of work. 🙂

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  14. Don Scrooby

    To me everything you’ve said brings balance to the soppy kind of sentimentality that we so often hear on this day. Admire your courage for expressing what you have and voicing what so many would want to say. It just makes this day a helluva lot more real. So thank you.

  15. Ugh! I just wrote a huge comment that I guess I wasn’t meant to share because I just lost the damn thing! Here’s a short version as I can’t bear to write so many details about my mother again.

    Today was difficult … it usually is for me.

    I wrote about my step-mom on my blog this morning after struggling with some darker thoughts that kept creeping on the pages of two near complete posts intended for Mother’s Day.

    There are several older posts on my blog that describe my relationship or lack of one with my mother including one where I actually told someone who asked that I was not ” Judy’s daughter ” because she’d been missing from my life for so long that I’d forgotten for a moment that I was. That really happened!

    Despite having a step-mom with whom I have a very close relationship, Mother’s Day has been difficult for me this year. I think I’ve been self nurturing over the last few days without realizing it having found myself hearing the words in my head from The Help by Kathryn Stockett where the maid who’s forever acting as a surrogate mom says to the little girl in her care, ” “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

    Thanks for opening a conversation about a difficult topic. I hate like everything that we are in many ways members of the same club.

    1. That part of the movie pretty much ripped me open, too!

      I am not at all surprised to hear (although sorry) that you, too, had a tough mother (pun intended) to deal with. I think one can almost sense it in your posts because your writing is sensitive.

      I have to say, hearing these other stories is actually comforting.

  16. Wow, what a brave and refreshing post. I’m not sure I resent Mother’s Day, but I do resent all the fakery that goes along with it. Thankfully, my mother’s not much of a fan; her brithday is usually only a week or so before, so she acknowledges that there’s no need for two days in two weeks to celebrate her! Having said that…I’m really not sure that I can write on-line about my mother. One day I will, I perhaps I do to a certain extent through my fiction, but it’s a difficult subject, and despite everything I find that I have to respect what she’s done, raising me, raising my two older brothers. So, yes, I’m being polite and diplomatic here – I’m sure it’s not hard to read between the lines!

    1. Well, it’s either that or…:-)

      I’ve thought of writing this before, (and never did), but am so fed up with my mother’s complete rejection of me in favor of the creepiest woman in the world she has now claimed as her BFF. The whole scenario is creepy and depressing and I’ve just had to walk away or lose more of my time and sanity over it. It’s a sad thing to say, but since I no longer try all the time to please her, I’ve never been happier. It’s as though (sappy but true) the universe was waiting for me to come to my senses, as my friendships, work and marriage are thriving as never before.

  17. dabaudoin

    Thank you for having the courage to write this post. While I am lucky enough to have a good (if distant) relationship with my mom now, it wasn’t always that way. And as I get older, I find it more and more difficult to reconcile myself with these “mandatory emotion” holidays like Mother’s Day, Valentines, etc. I try to call my mom when I can and, yes, I will call her today because I don’t want to hurt her feelings. But I also resent the fact that people are letting corporations tell them when and where and how to express their emotions. Every day is an opportunity to build or destroy; we don’t need commercials to mark the calendar.

    1. I debated for a long time about doing so. I don’t regret it as I’m so deeply hurt by my mother’s BS, her current embrace of people who I neither like nor respect and the very real effect her BS had on me for so many years. I turn 55 in June and she will, as she now does, ignore her only child. That takes a hard heart indeed — so today’s dramas over mothers and how saintly they all are falls on deaf ears for me.

      1. dabaudoin

        It seems someone is always trying to manipulate our feelings and thoughts. Mothers are told they have to love their children, children are told to love their mothers, and sometimes that just doesn’t work out that way. So instead of doing the smart thing and cutting your losses (thanks for giving birth to me, this so isn’t working out, have a great life) and moving on like we’d do with any other relationship, we kill ourselves with guilt and regret and questions of worthiness. It’s insane.

  18. wicca303

    I’m in the UK and we celebrated Mother’s Day in March but wanted to comment on your post. My mum died of cancer when I was 12 which many people view as a great tragedy (and it was awful) but at least I know she loved me.
    I lost my dad last year and am currently having some issues with my stepmum; she treats me like crap and yet still expects me to go round and do stuff for her without complaint or comment. It’s getting to the point where I am thinking ‘She’s not my mother why the h**l is this my problem?’ But I still go because I promised my dad if anything ever happened to him I would look after her…………but where do I draw the line?
    Hope everyone who has osted has had a good day doing whatever they wanted to do. Huge hugs. xx

    1. The line between duty and pack horse is not an easy one for many of us to draw. I admire your loyalty to her thanks to your love for your Dad and his wishes, but…

      1) is she close to you in age? (that can make it worse)
      2) is she still grieving/in mourning (quite likely) — and therefore needier than normal? (or maybe she’s always been a needy pain in the ass?)
      3) do you not have any siblings to lighten your load here?
      4) she has no friends to lighten HER load — why you all the time?

      In my experience, when people just expect you to kowtow to their needs and demands (and I’ve had a lot of that), “without complaint or comment” they’re abusing you and they know it. Speak up and set some limits soonest, I’d suggest.

      1. wicca303

        1) No. She’s 35 years older than me, same age as my dad.
        2) Possibly but it’s hard to tell because she won’t talk to anyone.
        3) I have 3 sisters but none of them like her. Even when dad was alive they wouldn’t go to the house if they knew she was going to be home. But because I’m the youngest (and was so close to my dad) I always made the effort with her. She does have 2 daughters of her own; one whom she hasn’t had contact with for about 5 years because she took some wrong turns, had her children taken away from her and then had the nerve to blame her mum (it really wasn’t in any way my stepmum’s fault), and her other daughter who lives at the other end of the country and doesn’t even phone her mum unless she wants something.
        4) She does have friends but not the sort she can lean on so much. She’s a Church warden and takes on increasing responsibilities then expects everyone else to help so her friends have learned not to get involved.

        I try to explain things to her about how I don’t like the way she speaks to me and treats me but her response is “I don’t do that” Even when I give specific examples she’ll say “I wasn’t being rude”. She genuinely doesn’t seem to see a problem in the way she speaks to and treats me, which I think is half the problem. I can’t fix the problem when she doesn’t feel it is a problem.

      2. Boy, she sounds like fun! Poor you.

        If it were me (but I’m a tough old coot), I’d just walk away from her and your “duty” to her. The way you describe her behavior, she’s unwilling to even listen to you — and you’re all she’s got! No wonder she relies so heavily on you, which doesn’t mean you have to step up in return. That she chooses to have friends who aren’t close enough to be useful is HER choice. That she chooses to pile on extra work and expect others to lighten her load is HER choice. Why are HER choices YOUR problem to solve? I’m being (sorry) very bossy here, but these are her decisions and not yours.

        My mother played this game for decades…no close friends and endless health-related dramas which others have always had to step in and resolve for her. (I flew out twice to deal with her cancer surgeries, both times at my expense, which was very costly and meant I had to ditch all freelance work and income….she is wealthy and never offered a penny to help with this.) Cancer, yes, I went…alcoholism, COPD, surgery from the smoking and drinking…no. Enough already.

        I’d just tell her, “Sorry, I can’t help you out any longer.” If she starts pitching a fit, let her. She’s not a child, but is behaving like one. Remind her politely you’ve told her very clearly why you’re no longer willing to do so and leave her to stew in her fury and martyrdom. People like this have to win when others lose. It’s not an amusing “game” for anyone but them.

        Yes, you promised your Dad. But HE chose her, not you. I wouldn’t let her wreck your life now; who knows what she did to his. Good luck!n

  19. I have always had a strained relationship with my mother. In the past few years I have made my peace with that (and her), but I have not included her in my life for many years. My childhood was not the happiest (she had three marriages that ended in divorce) and I used to think it was ME that was the problem. It took many years for me to work out this was not true. However, indelible scars have been left that impact my life. After all, if the message I received as a child is that my own mother didn’t love me, why would anyone else?

    This story does have a happy ending though. I am a mother and raised my daughter as a solo parent. When she was a baby, I vowed to be the best mother I could, and I am proud to say that I have done that, most of the time. I have, in effect, rewritten history with my relationship with my daughter. So Mother’s Day for me is a bitter-sweet celebration.

  20. I’m so sorry to hear this…but glad you were able to have a lovely and loving relationship with your own daughter. It is ironic that my mother was very close to her grandmother but her mother was a monster. My mother and I had a lot of difficulty but I was very close to her mother, who died when I was 18.

  21. Mothers Day is one of mixed emotions for me. I think my mother would have been quite happy not having ever had any children at all. I do not doubt that she loved my younger brother and I but she rarely showed it and I struggle to remember any time when we laughed together. We became estranged when I essentially became someone she hadn’t paid for though had professed to want … a child who was independent of thought and who chose their own path rather than the one foreseen for them. She was rude and treated my friend’s and partners with disdain … they often told me how unwelcoming my family was. My mother died 5 years ago when my first child was 18months old. She succumbed to cancer … or rather succumbed to the chemo that they were treating the cancer with. When she died I felt very little … that for me she had died long ago. Although we mended some small bridges toward the end … I still do not know where that estrangement, that almost-feud came from and now I never will. My father, at her funeral spoke of the happy woman he had fallen in love with how that love had continued until ‘Geoffrey was born’ … it was like a f*cking hammer. I like to think that wasn’t what he meant that it was some kind of Freudian slip … but it stuck deep in me.

    Now I have children of my own and I feel a sense of teary regret that I never felt about my mother the way my children feel about theirs.

  22. Heavy stuff indeed. It’s quite shocking and sad to hear that women can be so brutal and callous to their kids; certainly not a story we ever read or hear much about in the media.

    I wonder if (?) your mother suffered from depression or some sort of mental illness…

    I know my father married a very different woman — bright, fun, gorgeous, 17 — than the one I know today. Ironically, they are still speaking, while she chooses to ignore the child they had together. Seriously?!

  23. When does the shite end indeed? When do the tears end? When does the heartache end? Not sure whether being an only child makes it better or worse, worse perhaps as parents are all you have? Nor does it make it better that there might be mental illness or hereditary behaviour at “play”. There is so much pain in your blogpost and the comments as well. The saccharine presentation of Mother’s Day truly is salt in the wounds.

    1. Parents are not all I have — I learned very young not to rely on either of them for very much. I was at boarding school and summer camp age 8 to 16 so spent most of my time away from them. I lived with my Dad ages 14 to 19 then left home and never went back there to live, the choice of so doing never having been offered. I have, and have always made (thank heaven) very dear and loyal friends who’ve seen me through multiple surgeries, divorce, job loss. etc. When I see people going on and on about how great their family is, I am envious, but have my own systems of love and support that I’ve created instead.

      The hardest part of any of this has been keeping it secret to protect my mother (from?) and therefore not being able to ask for help. My husband has been fantastic, as have good friends. Therapy has helped. But it is deeply hurtful when the person who chose to bear and raise you wants nothing to do with you, no way past that!

      Thanks for the kind words…

  24. Christine Clarke

    It is possible to go one step further than a cold, distant mother who has zero interest in your life regardless of how well you have done. And that is to have that mother who is also caring and doting and perfect… To your sisters!!! Regardless of their apathy, and my contribution, to her life and wellbeing, my mother continued to favour my sisters, and then their children. My achievements in her eyes are dismissed and my sisters lesser achievements held up proudly. My sisters are cut from the same cloth … Happily encouraging this. But without a husband lr large group of friends, i had hung in there.

    Finally, two weeks ago, at the age of 41, I had enough. Upon ringing her to see if she has enjoyed her early mothers day present (a clairvoyant appointment organised months on advance), she told me not to come and see her on mothers day (also her birthday) as she was making breakfast for my sister to celebrate her a a mother. I could come ‘some other time’.

    Um no. I couldn’t. This declaration of my sister as having more value as a mother and daughter was the last straw. I sent a calm text saying the while I could not change the fact that I was the unwanted child, I could avoid having my nose rubbed in it and I was withdrawing from her life. And I did.

    I ignored mothers day. I ignored her birthday. I felt bad about it, amidst all the mother love that abounded on Sunday. Then I read your blog. And a peace came over me. She chose this. I am not alone in having a bitch of a mother. But i had a choice. And I am now free.

    I will say that if one good thing came out of her bullshit, it was that I take my job as a mother very seriously. I do it well.

    And on a nice karmic moment, my sistesr ld had better things to do on Sunday than go and see her. I believe she received a ‘have a good day’ Facebook message from one.

    1. Poor you. What a drama, and for what purpose?

      You mother has made her bed and now lies in it.

      I couldn’t go home for Xmas last year because my half-brother (don’t even get me started) refuses to be there when I am there. So my father kow-towed to him.

      Family. Spare me.

  25. I am one of those folks who have had an easy life. My mom – God rest her soul – was a great woman. She was a model for me and my five brothers and sister. My dad – awesome. My family – wonderful. It has just been easy.

    So I feel for those whose lives have led them through remarkable challenges. I am constantly amazed by the strength of folks who have lived through lives that weren’t easy . . . at all.

    Thanks so much for sharing. You really bring the world closer for me.

    1. Thanks….that’s my goal.

      Lucky you. Sighs….My husband, thank heaven, had a terrific mom and Dad and I reap the benefits of that in my life with him. It’s very healing to be around people who were raised without a lot of stress and conflict because they’re calmer and more present. One tends to feel damaged and weird but once others just accept you (and I rarely share that much detail with anyone) it helps a lot. The hardest part is that you behave and react in ways that make no sense at all to some people and you don’t want to explain why.

      I was having HUGE fights (weird but true) with someone in my professional life…when I learned that her mother was a crazy drunk it explained a great deal about her (untenable, anti-social) reactions. I didn’t like it one bit, but I understood its roots.

    1. Thanks. It takes a real toll on those of us who have struggled with issues like this because any sort of public talk about it is seen as “telling tales out of school” — instead of seeking support, which people are able to find fairly easily for almost any other challenge.

  26. Pingback: Tuesday Quotes: A Belated Mother’s Day Tribute « Julia Indigo

  27. Sometimes our compassion can’t land on the people we most wish to bestow it upon because, as you say, they push it aside. It is probably enough for us to offer our empathy and kindness to others. I understand why this post took so many drafts. I think your writing extends much compassion to others–the real kind of compassion, the kind that asks for accountability as well as offers concerns. Thank you so much for pointing me here. Did you feel the burden lift off a little after posting this?

    1. Sort of.

      It is a complicated thing, as you know. I wish I had a mother in some classic sense, but I don’t anymore. I get more love and care from my friends, and often have for years.

  28. Pingback: Rage, fear, guilt, remorse…Happy Mother’s Day! | Broadside

  29. I’ve never liked Mother’s Day. My mother died when I was 25 but I was never a fan of it even before. But I’m on the other end of the spectrum. My stepdaughters, who I met at age 3 and are now 43, and who I absolutely adored in childhood and who I would still love dearly if they’d let me, have cut my husband and me out of their lives. One of my stepdaughters, back when she liked me, sent me very loving Mother’s Day cards every year, and I swallowed my dislike of them because the gesture was sweet and touching. Now she can’t stand me. My husband and I made plenty of mistakes, but we were not nasty, cold, abusive, alcoholic, mentally ill– none of the usual stuff. They have a different narrative, a completely revisionist one, in my opinion, but they won’t talk, go to mediation, visit, nada. So I try to let go and move on. And screw Mother’s Day.

  30. Pingback: And then, suddenly, it gets real… | Broadside

  31. I read the story, “Lean on Me”, and I am so, so sorry to read here that you have lost that happy, ‘normal’ relationship. I see that this post was written two years ago. Are things any better between you both now?

    I feel lucky to have such a caring mother. But I have witnessed what happens when mothers turn against their children: my mum had a very traumatic relationship with her mum. It is so very sad.

    1. Thanks for making time to do it!

      Sadly, no. I haven’t seen or spoken to her since March 2011. I may go out to see her this summer; it’s a long flight and a lot of $$$ for a very uncertain outcome, so I am reluctant, sorry to say.

      So did my mother. Families! 🙂

  32. “weary of keeping secrets” resonates with my soul. The irony is that while our mother was alive my sisters were always angry at her and in death she has become a faultless angel. Reality is where I live despite their need to believe otherwise. Thank you for sharing so openly. Your courage encourages me to do some reality sharing of my own. Parental relationships can be so complex, can create so much emotional turmoil because we are “supposed” to love them even if they are jerks. A friend’s therapist said he has never seen a loyalty as strong as that of children to their parents, abusive though they may have been, said he is constantly amazed by it. Hope you feel better now because I feel better just reading that someone else can relate to, a cousin said of my mother “that woman was so caustic.” She was. People try to shame me shut but no more. Thanks again. Very freeing just to read this.

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