What do you do when you dread ‘Mothers’ Day’ coming around each year?
When those words cause your insides to shrivel because all they do is remind you of the Mothers’ Days of your childhood, when you hid in your bedroom, while your mother stood at the kitchen sink ranting about what a ‘lov-er-ly’ Mothers’ Day she was having cooking and cleaning for her selfish bastard kids.
When Mothers’ Day ended with your parents yelling at each other and a plate being smashed or a knife being thrown.
When your ‘Mother’s Day’ card sat forlornly on the kitchen bench surrounded by the rowing and plate smashing.
When the day just reminds you of being told that thanking your mother one day a year wasn’t enough, your present wasn’t good enough—another bloody set of salt and pepper shakers she didn’t need or that she would have liked to have chosen her own kettle.
When you spent the day feeling guilty because you were the cause of your mother’s anger and you should have thanked her more, should have bought her a better present.
When nineteen years’ ago, after the birth of your first child, you told your husband that you didn’t want to celebrate Mothers’ Day. You told him what Mothers’ Days were like for you as a child, and how you didn’t want to inflict that upon your children.
Because you saw nothing good about the day at all.
Besides which, you told your husband, you chose to become a mother, your children didn’t ask to be born. It’s your privilege and you should be thanking your children, not the other way around.
No fuss. No presents, you said. But of course you loved the Mothers’ Day cards and precious works of art that came home from school over the years.
But you never wanted to be thanked for a job that brought you so much joy.
And as the years went by, you just grieved privately and on your own. You pretended the day didn’t exist. You tried to act as if it was a normal Sunday in May, just like any other Sunday. You avoided it and the hype as much as you could, and when it passed, you could come out again, once it was all over.
But now it’s hard to avoid—all the photos of mothers on social media, together with their families and happy. It hurts because you’d love to have a mother, a nice mother, to be able to share the day with. But you don’t.
And all Mothers’ Day does is remind you of what you never had.
Then your lovely husband and gorgeous kids decide to do something nice for you for Mothers’ Day, so they set the table with a tablecloth and nice crockery and cook a lunch.
But you don’t know because you’re upstairs, grieving privately.
And your son comes up and says, ‘Lunch’s ready.’
And you say, ‘I’ve already eaten’, because you have because you didn’t know about the surprise lunch.
And you walk downstairs and you see the table and the cloth and the cooked meal and you just want to shrivel up on the floor then and there. So you start shaking your head and saying, ‘No, No. We don’t celebrate Mothers’ Day.’
And everyone at the table turns towards you, and you see the crestfallen looks on their faces, and the pain in their eyes, and you know you’re hurting them.
But all you want to do is run upstairs and just curl up in a corner and cry.
And your family gets angry at you, for being so ungrateful, and says, ‘Can’t you just sit and enjoy it?’
And they don’t understand why you’re reacting so strangely. You don’t even understand why you’re reacting the way you are. All you know is a giant pit is opening up and you’re falling into it, in front of your family.
And you’re hurting them as you fall, and you know you are, but you can’t stop, although you want to because you know you’re being selfish.
You want so much to be able to sit there at the table with them and enjoy the meal and talk and be happy.
But you can’t, because all you can think about is this is the hardest day of the year and it’s all too much.
And you get really upset. And your family gets really upset. Because they just wanted to do something nice for you and you’re ruining it all.
And you know you are, but you can’t stop yourself.
And all you want to say is, ‘Can’t you see what this is doing to me?’
But you can’t explain to them all that you’re feeling because you don’t really know yourself, and you certainly can’t put it into words.
All you know is that you just want to get out and away, by yourself.
So you do. And once upstairs and alone again, you’re back in a very dark place and you can’t pull yourself out.
Because, you’ve been reminded all over again of everything you missed out on.
Every now and then, I feel stronger, and sometimes I even start to think I’m recovered—that my cracks have healed, that I’m solid again, normal. But then something like this happens and I realise I’m not.
It was such a beautiful thing my family did for me—and I ruined it.
I hurt four of the people I love the most in the world. I’ve said I’m sorry and I’ll try to make it up to them, somehow, I don’t know how. Maybe by celebrating on another day.
I come across as a strong person—I’m good at hiding my fragility. But I have many invisible scars, and my skin is eggshell thin in some parts and it doesn’t take much for it all to break open again.
I’ve worked hard psychologically, but I’m not healed yet. Some days are better than others, but inadvertent triggers crop up all the time and I can’t always predict or prepare myself for everything that might happen. Sometimes, I think I need to live in a sheltered workshop, not in the real world.
At least I’m aware of it—I know it’s me, these are my issues, and I know the causes. I don’t know if I’ll ever fix myself so it won’t happen again, but I’m working on it—looking after myself as much as I can, avoiding known precipitants, trying to be kind to myself, taking it easy on a bad day, apologising when I hurt my family like I did yesterday.
Importantly, I’m learning to forgive myself and accept that I’m not perfect, but at least I’m trying.