Mother’s Day Is Complicated For Those Of Us With Toxic Relationships With Our Moms


I stood in the middle of the aisle of greeting cards staring at the front of each Mother’s Day card. I had already read them all, but I couldn’t decide which to pick out for my mom. None of them said the right thing.

It wasn’t because they didn’t have beautiful sentiments inside, but rather because they did.


But these flowery, sugary sweet declarations of love weren’t an authentic reflection of what I actually felt. Not even close.

My eyes welled up with tears at the realization that I didn’t have the same type of mother-daughter relationship that so many others seem to enjoy.

Mother’s Day hasn’t always been complicated for me.

As a child, I would excitedly prepare gifts to give my mother on this special day to show her how much I loved her. I would make drawings for her, write her letters, and be excited to celebrate the day with her. It wasn’t until I got older that I started to feel unsettled about the celebrations.

I started to feel more and more animosity towards my mother as I matured and realized that the way she treated me was not healthy or okay.

Our relationship became toxic.

I was constantly at the receiving end of her bad moods and I never knew what would set her off. All I knew was that I would do anything to avoid being around her when she would fly off the handle.

But if I was around, I would give it right back to her. Our house was full of screaming.

And honestly, I was afraid of her. I had nightmares about her trying to kill me. I didn’t think she would actually do such a thing, but the look in her eyes when she was angry pierced me to my core and was seared into my memory.

I continued to give her cards and gifts out of obligation on Mother’s Day.

Every year I grew more and more frustrated trying to pick out that stupid card. Why should I even continue to do this? Why were all the cards so over-the-top? Did everyone else really feel that way about their mother?

Where were the cards for our situation?

Happy Mother’s Day…even though you just threw a plate at me.

Happy Mother’s Day…even though yesterday you told me you wished you’d never had kids.

Happy Mother’s Day to the one who always called me chubby.

Happy Mother’s Day to the one who wasn’t always there for me.

Mom, I hope your day is better than the time you refused to talk to me on my birthday.

Happy Mother’s Day to the mom I’m trying to understand, but don’t.

Happy Mother’s Day to a mom who did the best she could, but still hurt me.

Mom, now that I’m a mother, I understand why it was so hard for you. I’m trying to be better for the next generation even though I fear I will still fall so short.

But they don’t make cards like that. And I’m not sure I’d even buy one if they did.

So many things are still left unsaid and despite years of therapy.

I don’t know if I could ever say how I truly feel.

But Mother’s Day isn’t just about the mother who gave birth to you. It’s about all the mother figures in your life who have shaped you and shown you love.

I honor and celebrate those women, too.

Mother’s Day is now also about the family my husband and I have created together.

Expanding my definition of Mother’s Day helped me see things differently.

I don’t have to let the stress of trying to please my own mother overshadow everything else.

I don’t buy cards anymore. I do make a point to thank my mother on Mother’s Day, and it’s not just out of obligation.

I’ve found a way to get to the core of my appreciation for my mother by focusing on the fact that she did bring me into this world.

That is something no one can take away.

Even though there are so many things I wish were different, she did literally create me and keep me alive for eighteen years.

And I’m glad I have the life that I do, so my expressions of gratitude are very real.

When the past is painful, looking towards the future can be the best way to reframe holidays like Mother’s Day.

The more I focus on being the type of mother that my kids can genuinely celebrate on Mother’s Day, the happier I am. I know I don’t get it right most of the time, but as long as I can pour enough love into my children so they won’t cry in the greeting card aisle like I did, then it is enough.


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