Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day


I know you think of me as a family person, being a family therapist.

And we've talked about the sandwich generation; being a mother, meaning having a son(s) or a daughter(s), and being a child at the same time, having a mother, a father, or both. And me having two slices of bread, (k"h).*

So you would think I'd like Mother's Day, being the bologna in the sandwich.

But I have to tell you. It makes me uncomfortable and a little angry, too, this day.

I try to work on Mother's Day, as much as I can, not because I don't love my mother (we have plans for the evening) but because for many people, it's just another day. They don't celebrate it. And they come in. Predictably, there's always one patient who does celebrate it and comes in and says to me, as if I'm committing some kind of crime, Working on Mother's Day?!

Like you'd rather I didn't?

But I'm respectful. I say, It's all good. Have a seat.

The Hallmark holidays are emotionally unbearable for a lot of people. I almost feel like I should be doing group therapy on Father's Day, Mother's Day, Valentine's Day, and Sweetess Day. There are more of these days, I guess, but these touchy feely ones are the ones that come to mind.

And I've never said this, really, not wanting to bring anyone down. But you have to understand, these days don't go unnoticed by people in difficult relationships, or those who may have lost someone. Not everyone thinks of the Hallmark holidays as warm and fuzzy. And it's not as if they volunteered to grieve on a day with potential to be one of those early sweet Sundays of spring, full of blossom and hope.

They remember
abandoment,
abuse,
neglect,
disappointment,
anxiety,
anger,
booze.

Stuff like that. And forgiving, forgetting, well, it's not always possible, or if it is possible, is an objective not yet met. We'll get to that this year, people think, that forgiveness piece. Maybe.

This is not to bum you out, seriously, if anything, I'm thinking, those of us who have good relationships, or passable relationships, even (you be the judge) are the lucky ones.

So the sentiment for many of us is like, I'm thankful I have this. Thank you for all you have done for me. It's because of what you do, of what you have done, that we have this.

If this fits.

But I must recommend that when you do say to people, Happy Mother's Day, that you do it with a lot of sensitivity. And with some people, think about it first. Maybe don't say it at all.

therapydoc

*k"h, kineyinharah wards off the evil eye. If you're new here, one of the benefits of reading is you get to learn some Yiddish.

29 comments:

Leora said...

Years ago, I was with two women who spoke about how difficult Mother's Day was for them. I feel fortunate, even if my mother is no longer around, that I didn't have their pains of self-centered mothers who couldn't be emotionally available at all for their daughters.

All holidays have this element: one feels like one is SUPPOSED to be happy (oosamachta v'hagecha, for those that speak Hebrew), but unfortunately holidays can bring up unbearable pain.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for remembering those of us who don't quite fit the mold, who view Hallmark commercials as something to be dreaded and avoided at all cost.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for writing this, and for understanding that for some of us, for whatever reason, just don't see certain holidays the same. This Friday at work was horrible when it was time to leave, with everyone's over-enthusiastic wishes for a "wonderful Mother's Day", and "Make it your special day," etc... -- if only they knew the pain and guilt they increased with those well-intentioned wishes.

Your suggestion to say things with sensitivity - and to think first - should be adopted by EVERYONE, in any situation.

therapydoc said...

Straight out of What a Wonderful, Wonderful World it Would Be.

Isle Dance said...

Good point. Oddly, staying away from family, however reluctantly, has helped me realize the treasure in making each day special. And the commercialization of so much of the rest. I now can't imagine anyone waiting all year for just one day to create special interactions/feelings.

Barbara K. said...

I feel very lucky to have done the work I needed to do to be able to love and appreciate my mother; and that it's not too late to tell her so directly.

Your reminder to say things with sensitivity is an important one.

Jack said...

I really dislike Mother's Day. It is not because I don't have a good relationship with my mother, but because the day is such a freaking production.

Between my family and my wife's it is an all day affair that is never ending.

And somehow it always seems that the "mature" grandmothers pay way too much attention to who gets what and from whom.

It is just a pain-in-the-ass day.

ilanadavita said...

Once, more than 15 years ago, I witnessed a mother nagging at her only son all the time and I remember wondering how you handled growing up with such an abusive mother and how you could possible relate to Mother's Day in that case.

Leora said...

Barbara K.--I could say something similar and substitute the word 'father'.

On sensitivity--sometimes we can take this a little too far. I don't like always needed to feel like I'm about step on someone's eggshells. If it's someone we are close to, perhaps we can encourage the person to work out their feelings instead of the world needing to always tiptoe around the person. Does that make sense?

therapydoc said...

Oh. The gifts!

And Ilana, there's the personal card, for sure, that says it all.

therapydoc said...

Leora is right. Some people welcome the opportunity to talk about yucky feelings. I generally err on the careful side. There's a way to let people talk and not make them feel bad, depends on the people, surely. Therapists (like me) tend to not even ask questions, rather walk around and around a topic waiting until the patient says, Did I ever tell you the time. . .

Katy said...

I'm lucky that I have a mother, a mother-in-law, sisters who are mothers, and I am a mother myself. However I work with a foster child who was abandoned at the hospital by his birth mother, who was adopted and then physically abused by his adopted mother, then began a series of foster homes in which each foster mother ultimately decided she didn't want him anymore. Mother's day in our family is a hectic frenzy of brunches, lunches, and dinners with the various mothers - it should be a happy day, but I can't help but think of kids like my foster child. Its a day of mixed feelings I suppose.

therapydoc said...

Right. Foster care, adoption.

The relabel I use in therapy is to say that one of the better, perhaps best ways to be objective about life is to have had some kind of primal separation, a trauma that is only one degree away, keeps us humble.

Wendi said...

Thank you for thinking of and validating those of us for whom the word "mother" does not inspire happiness and warm fuzzy feelings.

Anonymous said...

I have never liked the "Hallmark" holidays, there are too many expectations. I am a daughter and mother but have never liked Mother's Day. My mother expects us to do something for her every year but has conveniently forgotton that she was never very "Motherly". I went to the grocery store yesterday as I do every Sunday morning and the manager came up to me and said "why are you shopping today, it is Mother's Day". I wanted to respond as you did "would you rather I didn't" I told him my family still has to eat so I need to shop.

I found your blog early last week and have enjoyed it, I will continue to check it everyday as you have alot of insight to "life" Thanks for being there

Anonymous said...

My mother died April 28, we had not spoken in 4 years. My son died on 28 May 04 - suicide. Needless to say, I DON'T WANT TO CELEBRATE THIS day... I don't feel like I deserve it... When my 4 surviving children want to celebrate, it makes me feel like a fraud.

therapydoc said...

And people wonder why I push the everything's relative agenda.

I'm so sorry for your losses.

therapydoc said...

ANON, and all other newcomers, Welcome.

Although I write a lot, I generally don't post every day. It might be easier to subscribe with email. There's a box someplace at the top of the blog to do that.

Battle Weary said...

A couple years ago I found the absolute perfect Mother's day card for my mother. "Mom, I would not be where I am today without you". She thought it was the greatest card ever since I have never sent anything even remotely sentimental. What she didn't realize is that where I am today is in my 6th year of therapy, diagnosed with a severe dissociative disorder, dealing with anxiety, panic attacks, nightmares, flashbacks, etc, etc.

Mother's Day is not one of my favorite days.

therapydoc said...

There have to be some pretty horrific tales there.

Dee said...

Thanks for submitting your post to the Carnival of Moms-in-the-Law I referenced this one too at Power of Attorney.

Blinds said...

I work with young girls who have been removed from their homes. Their mothers are either not in the picture or they suffered years of abuse at their hands. Mom's day is a difficult day for them.

I often forget, when I call my own mother on mother's day, that this may not be the happiest of days for her since her mom is no longer with us.

Isle Dance said...

Battle Weary's comment promted me to realize: I'm always amazed when I say something genuinely heartfelt yet politely neutral to Mom. Like, "Thank you for wanting me to be responsible and accountable." (As opposed to mentioning the abuse accompanying those lessons.) The struggle seems to be the underlying guilt no matter what we do. Appear bad (as the child) for not accepting bad. Or appear bad (as a role-model) for appearing to accept bad. But if I state the entire truth (yet again), I'd just have to hear how they think my emotional trauma must be because I can't deal with reality and therefore I'm the one who has serious problems. It never ends, these things. Okay, it does...I just don't know those people! And now we know why ((abuse)) is so bad. :o)

Liz said...

I absolutely couldn't agree with you more. Mothers Day is tough, as is Christmas, Thanksgiving, and basically the other 363 days of the year for women and men that have lost children.
Thanks for the very thoughtful insight. I look forward to reading more.

Holly Schwendiman said...

Beautiful post...again. Your last paragraph is perfect about thinking first. :)

Hugs,
Holly

porcini66 said...

Sometimes I wonder HOW I feel about the whole Mother's Day thing...in theory, it's a nice gesture, I guess. But in reality? WhatEVER! Creates expectations which are nothing more than resentments in disguise.

After this year, I have decided I am going to subscribe to the "Bartleby the Scrivener" theory of Hallmark holidays. Bartleby, in case you've forgotten, is the scribe who drove his bosses to drink by simply declining every request with an incredibly passive aggressive: "I would prefer not to".

I will take out the passive aggressive intent, though. Thanks for posting! :)

KiwiCuz said...

Thanks for the post and for your wisdom.

Mother's day can also be hard for women who through whatever circumstance have not had children but would have liked to.

sfordinarygirl said...

Finally someone who agrees with me about Mother's Day. I was in New Orleans this year for Mother's Day and the mothers who gave up their day to build houses were wishing each other a happy day.

I was the only one who was quiet about the whole celebration of mother's. My mom and I have a relationship that's full of tension, anger and resentment the last 20+ years, which worsened the last 5 months with divorce and her making me choose sides. I called her begrundgingly on her special day and she was oblivious and uncaring.

One of the mother's in my group was almost going to break down emotionally on Mother's Day because she was afraid her sons wouldn't be able to reach her on the cell phone they lent her. When they called (the phone was working fine) she was going on and on about how sweet and loving it was to think of her.

These holidays are so overrated and commercialized. We can celebrate each family member every single day, no matter what Hallmark tells us.

therapydoc said...

So right. Celebrate everyone every day. (assuming there's something to celebrate)