If Mother’s Day is Painful

Mother’s Day is coming. If your relationship with your mother is typically full of pain and heartache, this article is for you.

Why Mother’s Day Sucks for Adult Children of Narcissists

Every April, TV commercials begin urging us to remember our mothers on Mothers Day, the second Sunday in May. They often portray sweet, heartwarming, sentimental interactions between mothers and their children. Watching those commercials has always been difficult for me because I longed for those kinds of interactions my entire life. Sometimes I cried when I watched them, so painful was the contrast between them and the relationship that I had with my own mother.

American culture promotes motherhood as a saintly paradigm; that mother-love is instinctual, unconditional, and spontaneous; and that all women can be loving, empathetic, nurturing mothers. Believing these inaccuracies can harm an unloved child’s spirit, keeping him or her in a state of confusion and self-doubt (“cognitive dissonance.”)

An emotionally healthy mother’s love is a powerful, constant theme throughout her children’s lives and memories; her kindness, compassion, validation, and the loving bond that they share. For those of us who don’t have that kind of mom, or that kind of relationship, or those kinds of memories, we watch others who do, and we wonder what is wrong with us. We try, but we can’t figure out why we are so unlovable. Because surely if our mothers can’t love us, it must be our fault. We must be unlovable, right?

But, the fact is, for human beings, mothering is a learned behavior; there’s a spectrum of maternal behaviors, from healthy to toxic. Acknowledging this may be helpful when thinking about Mother’s Day.

If your mother is self-important, seeks admiration, believes she’s superior, lacks empathy, manipulates and uses her children, puts others down, is hypersensitive to criticism, or believes she deserves special treatment, she may be on the narcissism spectrum. If she is, you will likely experience mixed feelings about Mother’s Day. Daughters and sons of narcissistic mothers are out there and think they’re alone. You’re not alone.

In my unhealed past, I used to spend a huge amount of emotional energy just selecting a card. These days, there is awareness and sensitivity regarding family dysfunction and the fact that not all mothers are loving and kind. It’s easier now to find a more realistic card sentiment. But in the past, I had great difficulty finding a card that wasn’t over-the-top: “Happy Mothers Day to the Greatest Mother of All Time!” or “Happy Mother’s Day to the Mother of the Year!” Seriously. They all felt like lies. While I dealt with that, other adult children of narcissists dealt with questions like: “Should I even send a card?” “Should I call her?”  “Should I see her?” “Should I ignore the day?” “What should I do?”

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When Mother's Day is Painful
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Mother’s Day is coming. If your relationship with your mother is typically full of pain and heartache, this article is for you. Every April, TV commercials begin urging us to remember our mothers on Mothers Day, the second Sunday in May. They often portray sweet, heartwarming, sentimental interactions between mothers and their children. Watching those commercials has always been difficult for me. I longed for those kinds of interactions throughout my entire life. Our culture promotes an image of motherhood as a saintly maternal archetype; mother love is instinctive, unconditional, and spontaneous; all women can love, empathize, and nurture. These myths and inaccuracies are strong; they harm unloved children’s spirits and keep them in a state of self-doubt (“cognitive dissonance.”) When a mother and adult child relationship fails, it’s the adult child who’s commonly held responsible. Cultural opinions like these can keep an unloved daughter or son in the place they’ve been stuck since childhood—knowing that something’s wrong and wondering who will be able to love them if their own mother can’t. Mothering is a learned behavior in human beings, and there’s a spectrum of maternal behaviors, from healthy to toxic. Acknowledging this may be helpful when we think about Mother’s Day. Daughters and sons of narcissistic mothers are out there and think they are alone. Suppose your mother is self-important, seeks admiration, believes she’s superior, lacks empathy, manipulates or uses her children, puts others down, is hypersensitive to criticism, or believes she deserves special treatment. In that case, she may be on the narcissism spectrum, and you will likely experience mixed feelings about Mother’s Day.
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DianeMetcalf.com
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