The other side of Mother’s Day

The shops are full of sweet, sentimental gifts and cards to celebrate the mother and child relationship, but what if the message doesn’t fit? Mental health and emotional needs on Mother’s Day needs to be considered.

It can be a tricky thing buying a Mother’s Day card: “To the best mum in the world” – but what if she isn’t?

“You bring such joy and laughter”. But what if you have a history of rows and conflict? Tears and pain?

Do you even have to celebrate Mother’s Day?  It’s a social norm that we should honour the women who gave birth to us, but sometimes the sweet sentiment can be cloying. Resentments can turn up: is she worth a £5 bunch of flowers? A £10 box of chocolates? 

And then what about the contact: a quick visit to hers or out for tea and cakes?  Garden centres up and down the country will be full of mother’s claiming their gateau and coffee.

My favourite local store, Elys of Wimbledon, sent out an email recently asking if their online followers would like to opt out of their Mother’s Day marketing message. It was a good, sensitive question to ask. Mother’s Day can trigger so many feelings not only of loss or grief, but repressed anger, bitterness and resentment that the woman who was to keep you safe and loved, did not carry out her part of the relationship.

In the counselling world, we call this “an insecure attachment” where the child goes to their primary care giver (mum, usually, but often dad or gran), but is sent away, ignored, mocked or punished. A few years of not being cared for emotionally and psychologically and the child begins not to even ask for care or love. What’s the point? It will literally end in tears.

Attachment: the other side of Mother’s Day

This insecure attachment will inform their development, leaving them constantly anxious or vulnerable. It will also stymie their relationships later in life, often leaving them stranded emotionally, unable to give love or receive love.

Mental Health for Mother's Day. Looking for love.

Worse still is the mother who abuses her child or is reckless with their care. Children of alcoholics or drug takers will learn to be scared of what mum might do – or not do – next. As little ones, they will be constantly vigilant, treading on eggshells, not to rouse mum’s anger or attention and trying to care for themselves. It will take a lot to unpick that sort of relationship. Therapy definitely helps to come to terms with happened in a childhood; how it wasn’t your fault. Understanding how childhood experiences inform a version of self and your interaction with others, can really help come to terms with the past disappointments and anxieties. Not all mothers send their children into the world well equipped for what life has for them.

What sort of Mother’s Day card covers that experience?