Darlings, I’ve always had mixed feelings about Mother’s Day. I have never had the special close relationship with my mother that the holiday commemorates. It’s strange, but when I think about it, many of my friends — such wonderful warm women — don’t have one either. Those who do are a special and very lucky few. Recently, I wondered if my friends and I were drawn to each other like elephants that recognize each other their own by their almost inaudible subsonic rumbles. Now I think many women of my generation have less than greeting-card perfect relationships with their mothers.
Of all my friends, I am one of the few who chose not to have children. My friends are all outstanding mothers. They enjoy warm and delightful relationships with their children. They nurture them, then stand back and enjoy the adults who have flowered. I know; I have had the pleasure and privilege of forming friendships with many of the fine people they have raised.
It’s a strange sort of void to fill; a mother daughter relationship that doesn’t click. We have all heard about horrendous cases of abuse. Heavens only know how those poor people heal. But, a void is a different thing. It’s not abuse at all, just something lacking.
Often there is love and duty, but no real affection or warmth. Sometimes there has been so much hurt in a mother-daughter relationship that doesn’t click, that even love is hard to summon.
My friends and I have confided our secrets to each other over the years. None if us were bad girls or rebels. We were what you might call “high achievers”. Perhaps we weren’t goody-goody, but we played by the rules, yet we didn’t make the sun shine for mom. It’s a mystery why some relationships are so cold when there nothing really wrong: no additions or apparent tragedies to explain why that mother-daughter magic just isn’t there.
Perhaps I should speak for myself, but it isn’t really that bad. I became inured to my relationship with my mother at an early age. I was something of a daddy’s girl, while my father was alive. It may be trite to paraphrase the line from Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, but all happy stories are the same and all unhappy ones are unique. Each of my friends has her own unique dysfunctional maternal history.
My mother did many wonderful things for me. I suspect that on some level she is aware of her favoritism to my sister and that she has tried to be fair, in her own way. She paid for my fine education, I never lacked for anything material, and in many ways I had a lovely upbringing. I am truly grateful for all the advantages she provided. I will admit I craved a mother to spend time with — either a motherly-mother or fun-mother would have done. Lacking that, I got on with things. I found two wonderful mentors who were interested in me and what I had to offer.
Over the years, I have wondered why so many women of my generation have had, for lack of a better word, “frustrated” relationships with their mothers. That is how I would describe my own relationship. There is much of my mother’s past that I will never know nor understand. Many of my friends would agree that our mothers’ generation was not given to introspection. They did not feel they should discuss things with their children. It is a shame; I know there are secrets and disappointments that shaped the woman who is my mother.
Friends who have dealt with mothers who are far from the Hallmark mold also speak of having dutiful mothers; women marked by disappointments. I am certain that self-actualization, awareness, and choice make for happier mothers and daughters.
I hope that on this Mother’s Day you have a warm and loving relationship that makes you feel fabulous and loved. But, if you don’t — let it go. Take my advice and try to think the best of your mother. Remember what was good and let the rest go. Most of us do the best we can. We can never know the depths of the disappointments of another or their emotional limitations. In the end my darlings, we are free to make our way in this world and embrace what makes us better, finer, happier women.
Let good friends be your balm and support. They can let you know you are fine and fabulous just the way you are. They will applaud your accomplishments and adore you for you. Isn’t that all you really need? Take pleasure in your accomplishments. Wrap love around you like a cloak and throw it out to warm others. Never let the past rob you of the future you desire.
So darlings, Happy Mother’s Day! Life is short, so make it sweet. Write your own Mother’s Day card and make it fit your life. Today, I can happily say Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers, even my own. Making the best out of everything in your life is a gift you give yourself – and it’s worth sharing as a mother or daughter.
Two wonderful for mother or daughters to share or read alone:
My Mother’s Daughter – An illuminating and touching memoir by editor and writer Rona Maynard. Rona recounts with wrenching honesty and eloquence her relationship her brilliant mother but frustrated mother. A loving relationship in which her mother was both her tormentor and mentor.http://www.ronamaynard.com/
Ruth Reichl’s, Not Becoming My Mother and other Things She Taught Me is a painful and loving reconstruction of her mother’s life from diaries and letters. Ruth and her family never understood that her mother was mentally ill and so unhappy. Her desire for a music career had been denied and she did not fit he mode of housewife she tried to fit into. It is reminder that we never real understand those closest to use. Beautifully told.