The Pain of Mother's Day
This blog is not like my usual posts. In fact, as a general rule, I allow very few people access to really personal information.
But with Mother’s Day fast approaching, a whole mess of emotions has risen inside of me that I felt needed to be known. Feelings I know others will relate to, and find comfort in, knowing they’re not alone.
This blog is a raw and real part of my journey...
Last year, our church lovingly reached out to the many women for whom Mother’s Day was painful because of the struggles of infertility, miscarriage and infant loss, or because their own mother was no longer living. It meant a lot to those who were in the midst of that pain, to be seen and heard and validated.
This year, I am the one struggling.
I cannot say I’ve experienced the heartache of losing a child. And my mother is alive and well.
But my mother and I are not well at all.
This Mother’s Day, I feel the sting of our estrangement and wish things were different.
Four years ago, I met my best friend. And three years ago today, I declared the easiest “yes!” I ever made and married him. My life shifted when he entered in. The example he lived - to invest his time pursuing the things in which he was passionate, to love people wildly - wrecked me forever...
I was on a great track. I was nearly finished with nursing school with a steady and respected career just months ahead of me...
(After a childhood of constantly pushing the boundaries and going against the grain, mostly just for the hell of it, my family - especially my mother - was relieved to see me finally on a path of success they were familiar with.)
But everything changed when I met Jesse, and when I put myself around people that based their life choices on what they actually cared about, instead of solely what was expected or comfortable.
So inspired by this, and seeing not only success in their lives, but also true joy - an element in the equation of success I had never experienced before - I was once again pushing the boundaries and going against the grain to pursue forgotten and neglected passions.
Only this time, it was rooted in my identity and in confidence instead of rebellion. It was because I had purpose, and because it was right for me.
I was rooted in my identity and in confidence.
I had purpose.
But my entire family struggled with the changes I made. My mom, the hardest by far, I know.
Once I quit school and moved out with a barely minimum-wage job, and their initial protests of concern and confusion didn’t deter me, their silence and withdrawal took its place...
Our wedding photos tell the story of their lack of enthusiasm. Our frequent visits in the following years, in attempt to maintain relationship, though always cordial, were filled with vapid conversation.
After the birth of our daughter, things seemed to improve a little… until our parenting choices stirred the pot and brought everything to the surface once again.
And then we found out we were pregnant with our second child. I decided I didn’t want to continue pretending things were ok when we all knew there was tension. So I attempted to share my hurt with my mom, and expressed that in order for our relationship to be healthy, I needed to feel safe around her, which I didn’t. And what I got back in response was devastating.
I decided I didn't want to continue
pretending things were ok...
I walked away with confirmation that I didn’t make her proud in any way. The fog had lifted; every hidden and uncertain thing had been exposed and it was clear that the only next step was to walk away.
Although I know it was the best thing I could do, to say it’s been a difficult process would be a huge understatement. The constant roller coaster of emotions - guilt, confidence, anger, heartbreak, confusion - has me feeling like I’m going completely crazy some days.
As painful as it is to think about the situation, as insane as it makes me feel to have unresolved conflict with someone, I know I have to care for myself. I have to care for my family. We deserve respect. We deserve to feel safe. We deserve to be loved without boundaries or conditions.
I know what all of those things feel like. It feels amazing. It feels empowering. It feels like freedom and joy and acceptance. This is family.
But even in the midst of knowing that being family is more than DNA - that it doesn’t mean I’m obligated to compromise my convictions and choices, that “obedience to God is thicker than blood” (Matthew 12:50 MSG) - there is still something exceedingly special about the family you’re born into. Nothing can replace their love.
So to be without the support of my own mother is crushing.
This Mother’s Day, it’s hard to believe I’m a good mom, when I’ve never been told by my own that I am. It’s hard to accept celebration when I’ve been told so many times that I’m failing. It’s hard to receive honor when I know my actions to protect myself are perceived as the very opposite of that.
But in spite of this pain that has accrued over the years, I fiercely love my mom.
She has endured a lot of trial in her life and in the midst of it all still managed to give me and my sisters a life full of blessings and stability. She works hard, she is wicked smart, she’s generous, and puts great care and skill in all she does. She is a faithful, kind, and strong woman, and there isn’t a shadow of doubt in my mind that, underneath the rubble of confusion and our difference in passion and personality, she loves me.
This Mother’s Day, I choose to still honor my mother.
Even if from afar, even if alone, even if in pain.
And I try to focus on the happiness in my life for now, and continue to hope for things to be better in the future.