One of the most profound things I’ve ever had anyone say to me was “you don’t have to love your parents just because they’re your parents.” And this was coming from someone who had a good relationship with his parents. He was the guy I dated last year. It shook my world. It shook everything I’ve ever believed to be true about being a “good” daughter. For the first time in my life I felt a sense of relief. All of that guilt and anguish and pain from not being grateful that my mother gave me life associated with Mother’s Day has crushed me for years. Why had no one ever told me this before?
The fact that my parents are my parents is not reason enough to love them. Parents have a responsibility to their child to care for and provide for all their needs. When they don’t do that, a child has every right to hate them, be angry with them, cry over them, hide from them, or any other number of things they can find to cope with not having their needs met. Children, by very definition of who they are, are needy. They are supposed to be. They don’t owe their parent love just because that parent brought them into this world.
That whole discussion about how you should be thankful to your mother for giving you life is rather ridiculous to me. Yes, you’re right, if my mother hadn’t chosen to give birth to me then I wouldn’t exist. But that’s just it, I wouldn’t exist. How could I have my feelings hurt that I never existed if I never existed? My mother didn’t do me a favor by giving birth to me. She chose to bring me into this world. That leaves zero obligation on my part. Thanking someone for giving birth to you just doesn’t make any sense to me at all.
I’m mourning. I’m mourning the mother that never was. I desperately crave female friendship but I don’t seem to be able (as I have just recently been broken up with) to maintain one. Jealousy and envy and severe anxiety get in the way of me being able to look at a friendship for what it is and instead cause me to clutch on to something that I have never had. Nurturing. Mothering. Emotional support. These things don’t just suddenly appear because a woman gives birth. A child needs these things. When they don’t get them the result is Exhibit A: me.
I still regularly look around me for people who are more “adult” than me. It’s almost impossible for me to think of myself as an adult because I feel forgotten. Someone forgot to raise me. Someone forgot to mother me. How can I possibly become an adult when I was not first a kid with a mother. I had a temporary mother for a short time when I was 14. It was only for a few months, but she came into our home and did things that I never even knew were mothering things to do. I think it’s the only time in my entire childhood that I ever felt that at least someone (love you Mrs. Bailey) wanted to be my mother. That someone was happy to let me be the kid that I was.
I think I have actually been searching for a mother in my life for a long time. It wasn’t recognizable to me until a recent conversation with a family member. I have never been able to associate Mother’s Day or even the word “mother” with anything positive. I don’t feel a close connection with a mother figure. The word brings me pain that I can’t quiet anymore. I’ve searched for a really close girlfriend but have never had one. I think it’s probably because I needed to be mothered. I wasn’t able to be a close friend. I’m like that little bird in that Dr. Seuss book going around to everyone and everything and asking, “are you my mother?” That book always made me so sad.
I went to church this morning and they didn’t put on a big show for Mother’s Day. It was refreshing.
Someone recently posted a comment on a blog post of mine from a while back and it was such a simple truth, yet something that I don’t think a lot of people realize. She said, “Children’s self-esteem begins in childhood, from the way that they perceive that their parents perceive them. Basically, the foundation for self-esteem is based on the way parents treat their child.” And that’s it. Right there.
I’ve experienced the insensitivity of people who make fun of self-esteem as if it’s some sort of privilege that “kids these days” want to have. I’m sorry but no. Self-esteem is a necessary component to becoming a healthy, functioning, contributing member of society. It’s not a pretend made-up thing. It’s not something that kids will just “get over” when they grow up because their parents clothed, and fed, and housed them so how could they possibly have mental health issues or low self-esteem. They are just being ungrateful or something.
With everything that’s gone down with my parent’s divorce last year and some other nasty things, my dad told me the other day that he feels bad for us so much more than for himself. And isn’t that how it should be for a parent? Shouldn’t hurt and disrespected boundaries by someone who was supposed to be a place of solace be a painful thing for a parent to witness. I think so. And it makes me respect my dad more knowing that he wishes it could all go away for us.
I am so thankful for the very small number of women in my past who have at least in some way filled the mother role. I would not have survived without them.