H ere’s an inconvenient truth people tend to omit on Mother’s Day: All mothers aren’t good mamas.
We hear countless stories about deadbeat dads who spend more money on themselves than their children and, of course, papas who embrace the rolling stone lifestyle. But when was the last time you overheard a story about those women who bear children but can’t seem to rise to ‘Gram-worthy greatness? Mothering is such a hard and selfless job that we tend to look at all moms through rose-colored, “she did that” glasses. But all of the proverbial “shes” didn’t. Countless women are bad mothers, and the pop culture narrative that all mothers are dope makes it hard for individuals with moms who didn’t, or couldn’t, rise to the occasion. Mother’s Day can be awkward, painful, or downright embarrassing when memories of your mom being nurturing, protective, and supportive are virtually nonexistent.
It’s easy to bury your hurt, for a while. But unaddressed, the pain will eventually resurface. Your grief can manifest in many ways, from depression to anger. Your feelings are justified. But you have to own and tackle your sadness and disappointment to move forward and have a healthy relationship with your mom and the other women in your life.
If Mother’s Day is a hard one for you, know you’re not alone. Here are some things you can do to cope.
Parents are people. They’ve experienced their own traumas. They have their own personality flaws. Stop viewing your mother’s shortcomings as personal attacks against you. While you suffered because of her choices, you’ll need to accept that they had nothing to do with you. Her decisions, both bad and good, were motivated by her own desires and perception of self. As hard as it is, look at your mother as a woman and not just your mom. That will help you let go of some of your pain. She’s more than a mommy who couldn’t take care of her baby— she’s a woman who had issues and made terrible choices. Forgive her for her inability to be what you needed.
2 Don’t Fall for the Hype
You don’t have to punish your mother, but you also don’t have to pretend that she was or is something that’s not true. If buying cards that say, “You’re awesome,” or toasting, “You’re the best” at brunch isn’t your truth, keep it 100. There are some universal truths about moms, such as she brought you into this world. Make your exchanges sincere, good spirited, and situationally appropriate.
3 Don’t Talk Drama
Mother’s Day is likely not the best time to discuss all the ways your mom did you wrong—with her or anybody else. That means you shouldn’t read your mom in front of friends and family, or try to have a deep discussion about her faults. Harping on negative feelings will likely ruin the day for you and whoever you’re with. Even greater, at some point, you or someone you love will be a parent, and you don’t want to taint the future special occasions because of past hurts. That doesn’t mean you have to bury your feelings. Set up another time to discuss. If your mom kicks off a deep conversation, you don’t have to shy away from it. Just use your discretion based on the environment.
4 Do Think of the Good
There is something good about everyone—okay, most folks. Look for that one redeeming quality or moment, and celebrate the spirit of that. It won’t be easy. In some cases that one good thing may even be an unintended result of something traumatic. Whatever it is, be appreciative and focus on that. Life isn’t black and white, or fair.
S. Tia Brown is a journalist and licensed therapist. She’s also a fan of Jodeci and giving practical life skills.