Mother's Day is Complicated
If you are a mother, it can feel so good to be celebrated on Mother's Day. By your kids, your partner, your friends and family, everyone that knows you are a mother has the opportunity to say "Way to go!! You're doing great! You are making such a wonderful impact on the world"
But this is not where the feelings on Mother's Day end. Everyone has their own journey in motherhood. Everyone who is a mother also has a mother. Everyone's partner has a mother. Everyone who celebrates you also has a mother. And everyone's relationship with their mother is different. This can drastically impact everyone's experience of mother's day.
The Childhood Fantasy of the Perfect Mother
As young children, our mothers are omnipotent, omnipresent, they are God-like. They know everything, they can do everything, they make everything possible. We idealize them in every way. This is why child abuse and neglect are so deeply painful. Being abused or neglected, especially by a parent, shows the child that the person who had all the power to love you and care for you also has the power to cause immense suffering. It tears apart this fantasy of the perfect mother and causes the child to feel unsafe in the world. The child does not understand that their mother is dealing with a mental illness, that their mother is struggling with addiction, that their mother has wounds from her childhood that are resurfacing because of becoming a mother herself. These things can cause mothers to struggle in caring for their children. But in childhood these are not things we cannot comprehend.
Even if your mother was wonderful to you and did not struggle with mental illness, addiction, PTSD, etc. in your young childhood, it is common for teenagers to experience a separation from their mother in their search for independence. All of a sudden the parents become Enemy #1. One of the main goals of adolescence is to gain insight and information about the world and move towards independence from the immediate family. Often teenagers also experience mood swings and feelings that they, and their parents, do not understand. Communication can breakdown, fights can ensue, and damage can be done. Issues in the parent/child relationship can start here and can cause wounds that seep into adulthood.
Sometimes as an adult, and sometimes through becoming a parent yourself, you come to realize the struggles your own mother had. The choices she had to make, the sleep deprivation, the sacrifice, the urge to protect. For some this may give you more insight or empathy towards your mother. Or maybe, you see your mother in a different light and think "As a mother I never would have made the decisions my mother made". You may be appalled, hurt, or disgusted over things your mother did, just to name a few emotions.
Ultimately, our childhood fantasy of the perfect mother can never be fulfilled. Because it is just that... a fantasy. No person is perfect; some are more imperfect than others. If this is something that is causing you suffering in adulthood it may be an area that needs attention and healing through therapy.
You may have complicated emotions on Mother's Day because you have lost your mother. Or you may have lost your Mother-in law, your Grandmother, or another Mother figure in your life. Some people grieve immensely on Mother's Day. It can be similar to feelings that are stirred on your loved one's birthday and other Holidays. It is a day where everyone is talking about their mother, grandmother, etc. and you may feel the sting of that loss all over again.
You may be grieving babies or children you have lost. Celebrating this day may bring up memories of miscarriages, stillbirths, or your children who have passed away. You may be remembering people who would have called you "Mother" on this day who are no longer here. You are not alone. Early pregnancy loss happens in about 10% of pregnancy and about 1% of pregnancies end in stillbirth. Experiencing this can bring complicated emotions; knowing that you are a mother while having no physical child here to hold.
If you are experiencing infertility you may grieve your trouble in conceiving a child. You may have a vision of the family that you want, and you may see others who have babies and families who are celebrating this day, and may feel incredible pain in not being able to yet have a family of your own. Or maybe you are a person who wants to have a family but for a reason other than infertility you may not have children. Did you have plans to have a baby by 30 but have not been able to conceive? Or maybe you haven't found the right partner? Or maybe your partner is gone or has passed away. All of these things cause women who want to be mothers to not have children, and they can be felt more deeply on mother's day.
You may also experience grief over how you thought your motherhood experience would be versus what you are experiencing in reality. Or maybe motherhood has not gone how you thought it was going to. Maybe you have been trying to conceive for a while, and now you have a baby, and you are experiencing postpartum depression and/or anxiety and are really struggling. Or maybe the sleepless nights, and the spit-up covered days are not what you thought motherhood would be. Maybe you miss nights out with your friends and your partner and the ability to be a little more spontaneous. It is normal to grieve such an immense change in your life. It is normal to experience the "blues" in the postpartum period. And as many as 1 in 5 women experience postpartum depression and/or anxiety.
Finding Peace on Mother's Day
There is good news. Amidst all of these complicated feelings, we can find peace on Mother's Day. We can heal from wounds in childhood, we can heal our vision of what we thought motherhood would be. We can learn to be our authentic selves and take the good with the bad. To see it all as we do shades in a rainbow. Our mothers are not perfect. We are not perfect. Our partners and our children are not perfect. Say this with me "There is no such thing as the perfect mother". It is okay to feel complicated emotions due to all the things I listed above an more. It is okay, even healthy, to acknowledge them.
If you are experiencing grief due to loss, it can be healing to do something to remember your loved one. Here is an article with 8 ideas of how to remember your mother on Mother's Day if she has passed away. There is a great article here about what Mother's day means after pregnancy loss or infant loss.
Therapy can be very helpful in dealing with the issues that I have listed above. There are therapists that are specially trained in the different areas including childhood trauma, grief, infertility, and postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. If you would like to see a specialist please visit my "Resources" page.
We can learn to see all of our imperfect parts perfectly, with grace and kindness. We can let go of resentments and hurts. We can forgive others and forgive ourselves and move forward into a new day. We can take things one minute at a time, one day at a time, one step at a time. We can reach out to others for help, support and guidance. We can remind ourselves that we are not doing this alone, we are not in this alone.