#TriggerWarning. There’s an obvious flaw in all of this Mother’s Day hoopla—many people don’t have mothers worthy of celebrating. While culturally and intuitively people are generally programmed to feel connected to their mothers, there are women who’ve hurt their children so significantly that the bond is broken. Let's get this straight we’re not talking about the occasional bad moms, women who’ve been a little selfish, unfocused, or underperformed based on pop culture ideals and standards. We're talking about toxic moms, parents who operate in a pervasive and consistent pattern of emotional, financial, mental, or physical abuse.
If you’ve grown up with such a woman who has continuously torn you down, Mother’s Day can be an especially hard 24 hours. Not only are you surrounded by reminders of the fantasy life you could have had with an emotionally supportive parent, you’re likely bombarded with questions about what you plan to do for your mother—or even requests from your mom herself.
It’s not fair. It’s hurtful. And you are not alone. In fact, studies show, despite the current narratives in the media, there are higher incidents of child abuse from mothers than fathers. While a range of factors, including report rates and stressors, may impact this statistic, the result is the same: trauma. Black people, as always, have an additional hurdle. Black mothers are often depicted as superwomen, who've been inordinately selfless, helpful and good while providing endless nurturing and guidance. Don't fall for this fantasy fiction. It's a lie. And subscribing to it makes it harder for adults to admit when their mamas fall short.
Growing up with a mother who was, and continues to be, unable to show love, patience and respect is traumatic. If this is your circumstance, give yourself permission and the tools to practice self-care on Mother's Day—and every day, really.
Below are some tips on how to handle the challenging occasion.
Expect to be Triggered
Whether it’s a baiting call from your mother, questions from family members, or watching others celebrate with their families, you will likely have an emotional response on or around Mother's Day. The sadness and hurt will ignite a response, and you have to decide where to put those feelings. Get ahead of it. Aim to direct your feelings towards healthier coping mechanisms, such as journaling, talking it out with a therapist or friend, releasing the stress through exercise or taking off on a quick getaway.
Release Yourself From Obligation
Don’t fake the funk. While it’s important to honor the role of a parent, do not force yourself to engage with a mother who will likely re-traumatize you. Dismiss the notion that you are bound to duty, and that your mom is deserving of your time. You don’t want to celebrate her because she did not honor, love, and protect you—and that is a healthy, natural response.
Give Yourself Permission to Do Less
If you feel like you must do something, release the urge to perform. Ask yourself why you want to “do it big” for someone who hasn’t invested in your emotional growth and stability, and think about the cycle that’s created in your life.
Break the cycle by drawing a solid boundary.
Accept that Your Mother’s Behavior Isn’t a Reflection of Your Worth
Parents are tasked with nurturing and protecting their children. And when that isn’t done, it often impacts a child’s self-esteem, sense of belonging, and happiness. Additionally, it’s easy for the child of a toxic parent to deduce that he or she is suffering due to some level of unworthiness. Fight against those thoughts. Your mother’s choices are a reflection of her hurt and limitations, not your worth.
Go to Therapy
Mama trauma can impact your relationships, work performance, friendships, and self-esteem. Therapy can help you break out of the bad cycle and change your life. It is space to help you work out those issues and heal, no matter your age.
S. Tia Brown is a licensed therapist and life coach. She drops gems. Get your mental health glow up and follow her @tiabrowntalks.