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Having an unhealthy maternal relationship: A reflection on Mother’s day

By Pam Smith, May 20 2023—

Last week I went to the mall with my best friend and she stopped by a vintage shop — as she walked in, she said she needed to get a gift for her mother. My face couldn’t help but slip into confusion — for Mothers Day? I asked her. At that moment, my mind was suddenly flooded with the promotional emails that were bombarding my inbox and I looked around and saw signs around all the different shops reminding me that the holiday was approaching. Up until this dreaded moment, I had been completely oblivious to the fact that Mother’s Day was just around the corner.

I wasn’t surprised that my best friend was getting her mom a gift — they’ve always had a great relationship. In fact, her mom had become like a second mother to me too — she had taken me to places around the city, let me stay at her house when I wasn’t feeling well and was someone I could tell anything to. I even jokingly referred to her as mom. She was aware that my mom was not someone I could rely on and we often hinted at the fact that my friend’s mom knew more about me than my own mom did.

On Saturday evening, I checked another friend’s social media and saw that she was at dinner with her family.

“Happy early Mother’s day, because mom doesn’t like going to crowded restaurants,” the photo’s caption read. I briefly considered what it would be like to want to go to dinner with my mom, but then I quickly forced myself to understand it as only a fleeting thought.

Saturday night, I called another friend. He was on his way home and told me he needed to stop by Walmart to get his mom a gift. I then recalled to myself — Oh yeah, he likes his mom too. 

Without the intent of being dramatic, I deem my mother to be my arch nemesis. After all, it is commonly known that your parent’s mental health can have a huge effect on your own personal health. Growing up with a mom high in narcissistic tendencies and anxiety, I was presented with numerous challenges. The effects have been severe and long-lasting. My mom made me feel trapped, as though my existence served as a vessel for her own validation. Consequently, I developed severe issues with people-pleasing, feelings of inferiority, and constant guilt — just to name a few. Given these circumstances, it’s incredibly difficult to celebrate a day dedicated to someone I hold responsible for many of my adult problems.

Listening to my friends share stories of their conversations with their moms about their life’s endeavours— or even just hearing their mothers attempt to console them when they’re upset — I can’t help but yearn for that kind of relationship. Mother’s Day amplified these thoughts more than ever before.

Although I never really got along with my mom, at one point in my life we did celebrate Mother’s day. I would dedicate countless hours to crafting a gift for her and as I grew older I would spend the entire day at the mall investing in the best present I could find. Yet, on that special day, she would grow irritable with my family for being kind. You should be like this every day, every day should be Mother’s Day — she would chide. So safe to say, we don’t celebrate Mother’s day anymore. Instead, I usually spent my Sunday reminiscing about what my life would be like if I got along with my mom.

To everyone who celebrated Mother’s day with their parent, I hope you and your mom had a great day. Good parents do a lot for their kids and they deserve to be celebrated.

If you didn’t celebrate Mother’s day — for whatever reason — know you’re not alone. Not everyone has a great relationship with their mom and sometimes days like Mother’s Day can hit hard when you are not interested in being reminded of that presence in your life. Remember to prioritize self-care on days like this to prevent emotional distress

To help distract myself from Mother’s day, I personally enjoy calling my long-distance friends to catch up or watching TV while making a meal I enjoy. People cope in different ways, and it’s up to you how you want to distract yourself and prioritize your health. Internal coping strategies can include doing something you enjoy on your own, like arts and crafts, cooking, listening to music or going for a walk. You can also rely on external coping strategies like talking to family or friends. If you want the company of people without having to directly strike up a conversation, you could sit in a coffee shop or another crowded area to help take your mind off of things. Take days like these at your own pace, and we’ll get through this.

This article is a part of our Voices section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board.

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