When Mothers Day Hurts

Cultural expectations about Mothers Day and motherhood can open up wounds.

Nobody wants to be a "Debbie Downer" on Mothers Day. Its a blessed and sacred institution and should be. Truly, what is more amazing than giving birth to gorgeous little ones and watching them grow, develop and become. It is certainly one of the most beautiful things about being a woman. To awaken on Mother's Day and cherish the memories of parenting is a day to behold. It is the opportunity to value our own maternal strengths and appreciate the intensity of a mother's love.

But, there is another side that is rarely discussed and leaves many women in a state of pain. What if you were one of those daughters who did not have a mother who knew how to give unconditional love and empathic nurturing? What if your mother does not live up to the cultural standard of that loving Mom illuminated by Hallmark? Mother's Day for the daughters of non-loving mothers is a kind of post-traumatic stress trigger that brings some to an emotional collapse and others to memories of childhood that don't necessarily stand up to the picture of proverbial apple pie and maternal embrace.

Motherhood is still idealized in our culture, which makes it especially hard for daughters of narcissistic mothers to face their past. It's difficult for most people to conceive of a mother incapable of loving and nurturing her daughter, and certainly no daughter wants to believe that of her own mother. Mother's Day is this country's most widely observed holiday, celebrating an unassailable institution. A mother is commonly envisioned as giving her self fully to her children, and our culture still expects mothers to tend to their families unconditionally and lovingly, and to maintain an enduring emotional presence in their lives-available and reliable no matter what.

Even though this idealized expectation is impossible for most mothers to meet, it places mothers on a heroic pedestal that discourages criticism. It is therefore psychologically wrenching for any child or adult child to examine and discuss the mother frankly. It is especially difficult for daughters whose mothers don't conform at all to the saintly maternal archetype. Attributing any negative characteristic to Mom can unsettle our internalized cultural standards. Good girls are taught to deny or ignore negative feelings, to conform to society's and their family's expectation. They're certainly discouraged from admitting to negative feelings about their own mothers. No daughter wants to believe her mother to be callous, dishonest, or selfish...

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