There is a sadness that follows me throughout this time of year as Mother’s Day approaches. As the greeting cards section showcases all of the special treats for mom and the commercials for special brunches air on television, I begin to feel my mood shift. This day has always affected me to some degree. Even once I became a mom, I still felt that same nagging feeling—that feeling that I’m not normal or that I’m not like everyone else. Funny though, the more I age and the closer I get to the age my mom passed away, I am more and more aware of the reality of my feelings. As I reflect on 30 motherless Mothers Day’s, I now understand that I am sad for missing what I never had, not what I actually did have.
My mom was an incredible woman. Smart, strong, caring and passionate about life. At least that is how I imagine her. I never really got to see that, or at least I don’t remember it. I don’t remember my mom. The memories I have are ones that I have spent 30 years in therapy to make sense of and to continually remind myself that none of it was my fault. She was an alcoholic and it has taken me over 30 years to finally forgive her.
I don’t miss my mom. There, I said it. I miss who I would have liked my mom to have been, and I guess as I am a mom now, I sometimes overtry to be the mom that I always wished I had. If that means I hug my son too much, or protect him too much, or snuggle him too long at bedtime; while I know it isn’t always the right thing to do for his own growth and development, I’m doing the best I can.
This past fall, I was fortunate enough to attend a 4-day retreat focused on early mother loss. Every woman in the retreat lost their mom from 18 years old and younger. It was incredible to be surrounded by so many women who went through the same type of loss and as we got to know one another, we found so many similarities in our experiences. We worked on one activity that focused on the person we were before our mom passed away and the person we were after. I struggled at first putting my thoughts together. I really had a hard time with this activity. Not because I didn’t know who I was, but because for the first time in my adult life, it finally hit me—I was happier after my mother passed away. While I had a rough start, I was actually in a better place. Coming to that realization caused me quite a bit of guilt. For a while, I felt guilty that I didn’t miss her. But the more I thought about my mother’s life, I found that it enabled me to find ways of becoming the best version of myself.
I know that I am a good mom and I know that generally, I have it all together. But sometimes, those feelings of inadequacy creep up and try to knock me right back down to that 15-year-old girl that couldn’t understand what happened to her mom and if to some degree it was her fault. Anyone who maneuvers through their life the child of an alcoholic can appreciate this. I have often modeled my life in such a way that I know that the things I am accomplishing now, my mother wouldn’t have been doing at my age. I am proud of all that I have accomplished in my life and I hope that one day my son will look back at my life and the contributions I have made and be proud. I don’t recall a time that she read a book to me or played a game or even encouraged me when I was discouraged. I don’t remember her helping me brush my teeth or get ready for school or pack my lunch. She just wasn’t present. Raising our son, while I know some might think I do too much for him, I have realized that I’d rather do too much for him than nothing at all. Yes, I understand I need to scale it back a bit, but for now, he’s 8 years old and as I approach the age in which my mom died, I’m just clinging to the very idea that my son will always know how much his parents love him, even on our toughest days. When I have those tough days, and I find myself screaming out of frustration or just simply annoyed at everything, I will do my best to communicate with my son. I will let him know when it is not his fault. Oh, I will also let him know when it is! Ha!
Because I never had any of this, I know it is much of the reason that I cling to my little boy, over mothering him, over loving him. Not wanting to see him upset. I’m constantly reminded this isn’t good for him. I’m constantly told that he will have problems one day because of it. Dear God I know this, but sometimes I worry that I will see in him a fear that I once had, and damn it I’m going to do anything in my power to take away the burdens that might weigh on his heart, as I never had anyone to do that for me. I guess to some degree, I pray that showing him the love and affection that I never received will show him how incredible he is. Maybe he won’t have to question his worth the way I have so often done in my life.
So, I will try again this Mother’s Day to find the joy. I will cherish my new traditions with dear friends, appreciate my family near and far and find those moments that remind me that all of this journey is so incredibly important not only for me but for my son. My experiences have shaped my compassion, my integrity and my relentless desire to provide him a safe and happy home that he always feels encouraged. I will remember this Mother’s Day that I am not broken, I am strong and able and loved. I will honor my mother knowing that the battles she had within her were hers and not mine and I will remember in my heart that as hard as her struggle was, deep down within her heart she loved her little girls as much as any one mother could possibly love. As always, I think of those who are Motherless, especially those who have lost recently…know the road ahead while hard can help you find a strength within you that you might never have imagined you had….