Updated: Sep 30
“Because Mother is our first love and our needs are so strong during our early years, it’s very hard to let go of the desire to finally win her love.” - Jasmine Lee Cori
There’s a lot of talk about all the things loving moms deserve on Mother’s Day. Obviously. But what if your mom isn’t a loving mom? What are you supposed to do then?
What if your experiences with your mom include abuse or neglect?
What if your experiences are a whole lot more mother wound than mother love?
Where’s the much-needed articles and blog posts about what those of us who have mama trauma don’t owe our mothers just because “But she’s your mommm!” and it’s Mother’s Day?
Since I couldn’t find it anywhere else on the interwebs, we’re having this necessary conversation right here. In this blog post I’m sharing 7 things you might think you owe your mom for Mother’s Day that you actually don’t owe her on Mother’s Day (or on any other day).
Let’s get started.
1. You don’t owe your mom a gift on Mother’s Day
I get it. Big corporations are RELENTLESS when it comes to Mother’s Day.
“She wiped your butt all those years. Now it’s time to do something for her. Make this Mother’s Day as giving as mom is!”
Or “No one can love you more than your mother. Return the favor. Make sure mom feels loved too this Mother’s Day!”
Or “You know you’re mom’s favorite. But does your Mother’s Day gift scream Mom’s favorite?”
It’s almost like they know they can make a f*ck ton of bucks off the complicated feelings so many of us have about our moms. I digress.
If you were to ask the advertisers “Should I get mom something for Mother’s Day?” they’d proclaim you undoubtedly should because “What are you?? A monster?!!”(And FYI that gift needs to be bought from their corporation: “Thanks for the $$$. Bye!).
Now imagine this: You’re staring at the merch in Kendra Scott while sweating through your shirt because you want to buy your mom a Mother’s Day gift as much as you want another pandemic. Then you see me standing there with a bedazzled mint green megaphone booming to you, “Step away from the Mother’s Day gift you feel obligated to buy for your abusive mom. I repeat! Step away from the obligatory gift!” Looking for a not-shopping-for-mom assistant? I’m available.
Don’t get me wrong. If buying something for your mom on Mother’s Day (or on any other day) feels authentic for you, by all means do that. It’s all good. You do you. What I’m talking about here is the guilt-ridden “Oh god I have to buy mom something for Mother’s Day so she doesn’t pout for three years” feeling that so many of us mother wound survivors experience like clockwork each Mother’s Day season (yes, it lasts long enough we can call it a season).
2. You don’t owe your mom a card on Mother’s Day
What I’m about to say is scandalous. And it’s probably going to sound illegal. But I’m already on the government watch list so it’s okay.
Here it is: It’s okay to avoid the card aisle of your neighborhood big box store entirely this Mother’s Day. Yup. I said it.
Don’t feel up to buying your difficult mom a card for Mother’s Day? Consider this your permission slip not to. Do like Bob, and take a vacation from that problem.
Say goodbye to frantically shuffling through all those Mother’s Day cards in the varying shades of pastel periwinkle and pink.
That unicorn Mother’s Day card you’ve been searching for all these years? The one that will avoid saying things to mom you don’t really mean—“To the world’s best mom!”—without being awkwardly flat? Yeah, that one. It’s okay to stop looking for it. (FYI blank Mother’s Day cards might seem like the answer, but really they’re just gonna beg you to write the syrupy message yourself come midnight.)
Contrary to popular belief it’s actually not loving to give your mom a card that’s meant to celebrate her as your mother if you’re not, you know, actually celebrating her as your mother. At that point you’re not giving her a cute card. What you’re really giving her is a lie.
3. You don't owe your mom celebration on Mother's Day
The flower shops and the jewelry stores and the restaurants of the world aren’t going to like this one, but I’m telling you you’re not the next Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer for skipping out on Mother’s Day. Bizarre, right?
But no, seriously. You’re allowed to RSVP “not celebrating” for Mother’s Day. If that offends your mom (or if it offends somebody who thinks it’s their job to be offended for your mom), that’s okay. It’s not your job to live your life so nobody ever feels offended. And it’s also not possible either, so there’s that.
4. You don’t owe your mom a call/text on Mother’s Day.
Your mom might think you owe her a call, a text or even a post on social where you gleefully shout, “Happy Mothers Day to the best mom ever!!!” from the rooftops, but your mom’s thoughts are exactly that: your mom’s thoughts.
Your mom can want whatever she wants, but that doesn’t mean you’re now somehow obligated to make all her wants come true. And contrary to the “won’t somebody think of the abusive moms?” crowd, lying to your mom to "make her happy on Mother’s Day” is not even remotely close to a compassionate thing to do. If you're not being authentic how kind can you really be?
The truth might not be comfortable, but helping mom maintain a fantasy that keeps her from seeing reality is the opposite of respect. Jon Frederickson shares a seriously applicable truth bomb when he writes, “But by embracing a person’s lie, we become in conflict with the truth, when the person’s lie should be in conflict with reality.”
5. You don’t owe your mom your time on Mother’s Day
You get to decide who you want to spend your time with, and Mother’s Day is no exception. I know. I’ve heard it all too. “But she’s your mommmm. You’ll make her sooooo sad if you don’t go see her on Mother’s Day.”
Try this. Let’s say the card companies decided to make Ex’s Day. Would you expect everyone to go hang out with their exes? Or would you understand that what’s right for one person on this made-up holiday isn’t necessarily right for everyone?
In my case, I’m someone who’d love an excuse to spend time with a certain delightfully sarcastic ex of mine because we still get along really well. But that doesn’t mean you or I would have to make plans to meet up with all our exes just because the calendar says it’s Ex’s Day!
What’s right for me on Ex’s Day or Mother’s Day or any other holiday isn’t necessarily what’s right for you. And that’s totally okay.
6. You don’t owe your mom time with your children on Mother’s Day
Here in the US where I live, Mother’s Day isn’t just Mother’s Day anymore. Oh noooo. Mother’s Day simply wasn’t good enough. Not at all.
Now it’s Mother’s Day AND Grandmother’s Day. So If a mother’s family tree includes a grandchildren branch, those of us who parent said grandchildren are now expected to involve them in the idolization and worship of our moms, too.
“Little Timmy, what do you want to get Grandma for Mother’s Day this year since it's now your job too to make grandma feel all sorts of special?” Good times, right?
But let’s remember what we know about thoughts. Just because they feel like facts doesn’t mean they are facts. The fact that your mom thinks she’s entitled to being doted on by your children on Mother’s Day doesn’t mean she actually is entitled to that. It’s okay to let her want something without tying yourself up into knots to make that something happen for her.
7. You don’t owe your mom love on Mother’s Day
You owe your abusive mom as much love on Mother’s Day as you owe the President on President’s Day or Christopher Columbus on Columbus’ Day. I could proclaim tomorrow Avocado Toast Day, but do you think all the boomers would be lining up to love on that slice of millennial entitlement?
I don’t care what day it is. Mother’s Day. Father’s Day. Christmas Day. New Year’s Day. Valentine’s Day. All you need to do on any day of the year—holiday or otherwise—is love who you actually love. Why does our culture need to overcomplicate everything?!
And for those in the back about to say, “Yikesss! The Mother Wound Project wants people to hate their own moms!” go back and re-read what I actually said. Just because someone doesn’t feel love for their mom doesn’t mean they hate everything about their mom and want her to be miserable. Stop making things black and white that were never black and white to begin with.