The confusion and complexity of Mother's Day

It’s Mother’s Day.  That means that in about three hours, I’ll be expected to call up my mother and voice wishes for her to have a lovely day.  I’ll listen to her complaints about her life, and my siblings; then end with sending her my love.  It’s a familiar pattern.  A predictable one.  Yet, it comes with huge amounts of confusion…

I was not abused by my mother.  Yes, she failed to see warning signs of abuse; but, my main skill was trying to stay invisible… so while my siblings showed their pain by acting out, I internalised it.  Despite knowing this on an intellectual level; there are feelings of resentment, betrayal, hatred, and anger towards her.  There are always those questions… why didn’t she stop it? … why didn’t she see? … was I that worthless? …

The thing is, I know that my mother loves me – in her own way.  She has shown that by coming to help me when I’ve needed support.  She has also voiced her feelings of guilt about not seeing what was happening… But, at times her version of events surrounding this guilt, and the past, has changed.  It’s this sort of unpredictability that continues to cause confusion.  Again, intellectually, I realise that her changing stories are a form of self-protection… but, emotionally, they cause havoc.  They ensure the continuing dynamic where, even though she has supposedly come to help me; the help being offered is more about her, than me.  It’s about easing her guilt, and ensuring that the family still looks happy from the outside…

Outward appearances were always so important…  I grew up in a conservative town, and it showed.  When my neighbour’s daughter became pregnant outside of wedlock, she was forced to give the baby up for adoption (she is still with the father of the child 30 years later).  All that mattered, were outward appearances.  You can’t have scandal, you can’t raise your voice… but, as another contradiction… “boys will be boys”.  So, when my brothers got into trouble, or car accidents, it was worrying, but acceptable… They were “boys” after all… They could be a source of communal worry, and angst.  It was a socially acceptable form of rebellion.

My rebellion was hidden.  It was dysfunctional.  Even when evidence of it was found in my room, it was blamed on others… because there’s no way that a “good girl” would do that sort of thing…  Thereby adding another layer of guilt, shame, and hiding.

It is the contradictions that I find so difficult to sort through… my mother is not a nasty person – yes, she has her faults… don’t we all?  Despite not being nasty, or evil; she is not able to be there for me in any consistent way.  I can’t guarantee that the answer to a question posed last month, will be the same this month.  I don’t know if she will be cold, or open with me.  My ability to understand her, and interact with her in any meaningful way, is not there.

I also acknowledge my role in this confusion… I dissociate, and forget things that have happened.  I read things into situations because of my defence mechanisms… I know that the problem is not all hers. Yet, there is still part of me hoping that my mother will save me.  The sad thing is, just as I gave up on any God saving me, I gave up on her as well…

So, I’ll take some medication… call her in a few hours… and pretend that everything is just fine…

It’s that simple, and that complex.

Now playing: U2 – Sometimes you can’t make it on your own
via FoxyTunes

12 thoughts on “The confusion and complexity of Mother's Day

  1. I’m sorry mother’s day is such a big messed up pot of “stuff” for you, and for many survivors. I’m glad you have a safe strategy in place to deal with your mother today. Sending you lots of warm safe ((hugs)) if wanted, and extra strength to deal with it all.

    • Thanks Kerro… I know days like this are confusing, and painful for many people for a variety of reasons… It can be tough stuff.

      Take care of yourself,

  2. I think it’s great that you wrote about this CG. I don’t know how the advertisments are in NZ but over here there have been tons of commercials with women actors telling the audience that they need to tell their mothers how loved they are and how much they deserve all this respect. That is NOT the story for many people but we’re not allowed to acknowledge that on these Sundays.

    I will try to be careful in my wording because I know that someone speaking in a way that sounds like they are attacking your mother can also cause you pain. But I do want to say that your feelings are very valid. She did fail you in the most important ways. Protecting oneself at the expense of your child is not ok. It’s not. And I imagine that there could be a question of whether your mother saw signs when you were little but ignored them for herself.

    I’m going to stop there because I’m afraid I’ve already said too much. If I did then I am sincerely sorry. I care about you, more than you know and I just hate seeing you in pain.

    Be good to you please and maybe think about the right you have to not do anything you don’t want to do.

    • Hi CI,

      Part of the advantage of not watching TV, is that I avoid many of the adverts which promote triggering things like Mother’s Day. It’s been bad enough seeing the stuff come through Twitter… What’s been interesting, is that many of the psychology based Twitter users that I follow, have maintained the message that we should all try harder to be in contact with our mothers… there’s little or no acknowledgement that being in contact with your mother, might be dangerous for you. I’ve been finding that a little odd… I know it’s probably my own sensitivities, but it feels fake, and too “happy happy, joy joy”.

      I wrote this very early yesterday morning, after a week of sleeplessness… I know that I was hurting, and confused. I also did a couple of flips towards intellectualisation… It’s difficult to talk about the relationship with my mother without triggering some internal response. What you said here was fine – thank you for the validation 🙂

      I hope today isn’t too rough for you…
      Please take care of yourself…

        • I wonder, is it difficult to find some sort of middle ground? A place where you can say to others… “You need to look at the whole situation, and decide what is best for you”. Rather than push a viewpoint based on their own perspective?

          That is part of the reason I was so worried about the prospect of you having contact with your mother again. I know when I was forced to hug my father a few years ago, there were all sorts of reactions… and that was a brief encounter at a neutral place, surrounded by family.

          There is no such thing as a simple relationship with your parents…

          Take care,

          • I think I just screamed in my head at the very idea of you having to hug that man. I can’t even accept the concept for you. I’m so sorry that happened. I don’t care where it was or who was there. A victim of assault would never be forced to hug her attacker anywhere, and you shouldn’t have been forced to either. Sorry, I just got really, really incensed at that image.

            I think that we’ve always had the right not be touched or be in contact with certain people but our rights weren’t respected. Now as adults who are trying to heal, we get to say “No” and make that happen. People can choose but they have no right to push their choices on others. In the case with my mother and my therapist’s suggestion, I think that I felt she was saying that if I really wanted my stuff so bad I’d just suck it up and do it. Like if I didn’t, then my grandmother’s things didn’t really mean that much to me. She did say the first part but I inferred the second part.

            I should have stuck to my decision and I learned that lesson. I won’t repeat the mistake. Wow I veered off-topic didn’t I?

            • Well, I didn’t really agree to the hug. He came up and gave me one while I was still reeling from seeing him come out of my mothers house. I knew he was going to be there, but the reality of seeing him was so different to what I imagined it was going to be.

              I’ve never been good at saying “No”… For a long time, I didn’t think it was in my vocabulary.

              The situation with your mother stealing your grandmothers possessions… It’s tough, as you want that it back; but that has to be balanced with your safety. It’s not as simple as wanting the items back. I’m thinking of some of the times that I’ve responded back to things, and in some instances, it has led to suicide attempts… So, I often now ask myself on that sort of scale, how important the issue is. Is the retrieval of her possessions worth your life? It may sound overly dramatic, but sometimes what we’re asking of ourselves, has a huge impact.

              It’s obvious to anyone how much you wanted those items back. But, I would question whether they were worth the cost associated with having your mother in your house. That doesn’t mean that you think less of your grandmother… it means that you value your safety.

              There is no “sucking it up”… that leads to dissociation and danger…

              Take care,

  3. I can only imagine how that situation with him felt. My blood chills just thinking about it.

    You are very right about my mother. My very strong reaction to just the possibility of seeing her showed me that the situation is too dangerous for me.

    Realizing we have the right to say no is important. I find it hard sometimes to actually use the word.

    • Yeah, I get that… I find myself freezing up when I want to say “No”… and usually end up saying “Yes” anyway… :-/

      Don’t be too hard on yourself though, it’s a learning process.

      Take care,

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