When I was younger, getting gifts for my mom, especially on Mother’s Day, was a highlight. I remember using my pocket money to buy her nice soaps or CDs she’d like, and my stepfather would bring me to the grocery store so I could get her favorite breakfast items. Celebrating Mother’s Day was not only easy, but exciting. Thinking of all the ways to express how much I loved my mother brought me immense joy.
But then, like so many mother/daughter relationships, our bond took a sharp turn during my teenage years. Our relationship became anything but easy. After moving out at 15, we didn’t speak for several years, and when we did, we’d very often end up arguing or silently judging one another with cruel non-verbal communication.
In those years, Mother’s Day has caused me much shame. While everyone was posting happy, flower-filled photos of their Mother’s Day brunch, I was debating whether an email or text would be more appropriate. It made me feel broken, like there was something wrong with me, with us. Our damaged bond not only severed the relationship itself, but it damaged my self-esteem. For years, I’d convinced myself I was the only one with mother/daughter issues, and it felt incredibly lonely.
Recently however, as I’ve begun repairing my relationship with my mother and talking openly about it, I’ve come to realize I’m far from alone. A friend of mine recently shared: “I hate this holiday forcing me to celebrate someone who has always only celebrated themselves.” Through these open conversations with friends (and fellow daughters), I’ve come to realize that there are plenty of seemingly healthy mother/daughter relationships that are laced with unhealthy expectations and demands.
And of course, there are plenty of women who loathe the holiday for whole other sets of reasons, like reminding them of their mother’s loss, or their fertility struggles. I certainly don’t want to discredit the women who love celebrating their mothers, or who are perhaps celebrating becoming a first-time mom (wahoo!). My point in sharing my experience is that I was never shown, or heard the stories of, complex mother/daughter dynamics like my own. How one feels about this day is broad and individual; not everyone feels the same; and that’s okay.