The Pain of Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is the most painful day of the year for me. I don’t think anyone can understand unless they wanted to be a mother—were raised to be a mother and played mother as a child while caring for younger siblings.

While I was growing up, my parents called women who did not have children selfish. They also called career women selfish, so I was not raised to have a career, but to simply be a mother and because I was not a mother, I did not meet their criteria of a successful woman. This wouldn’t be so shameful, but it often gives me the impression that people think I am from a lower caste. In times we’ve disagreed, some family members have used the fact that I never gave birth as a reason to discredit me.

Even more ironic, part of the reason I didn’t try to have children in my twenties was because my parents were homeless and some of my siblings were raising their children on welfare. When so many people I loved needed clothes or food or Christmas, I couldn’t see to follow my own dreams to become a mother. In some ways I never became a mother because I was too busy playing mother to my siblings and parents.

While other parents planned birthday parties for their children, as I grew up, I learned to expect less and less for my birthday. As a young adult, I was determined to make up for all the lost birthdays my siblings had experienced. That’s why I learned to crack eggs and bake cakes and bought gifts for everyone.

On Mother’s Day, it’s hard not to be a part of that exclusive motherhood club–especially when people use it against you. When I wrote about how belting a child is abusive, I’ve actually had a family member say, “You don’t know because you’ve never been a mother.” Which makes me want to scream, “Did you frickin’ forget that I was the child beaten?”

Probably the worst is when family members say that I shouldn’t tell my story because it hurts my parents to remember they hurt me–and even worse it hurts my parents to realize that not allowing me a high school education hurt me, because they forgot they were only pretending to homeschool me. So if they really forgot these things, does that mean I have to forget? it’s hard because my parents’ choices in my teen years have affected my entire adult life.

I don’t know how other mother hearts feel that never had kids, but I greatly feel the loss–the loss of not being a real mother and the loss of not having a mother who puts any effort into our relationship. I love my mom for what I have with her, but I get tired of pretending we have a real relationship. I wish I had a mom who rejoices when God does something nice for me without giving me a lecture. I wish we could talk about more than cats and weather. I wish I had a mom who called me instead of waiting for me to call her.

I’ve always wished my mom or sisters could come to a women’s tea or a mother daughter banquet in college. I always wanted a mom to make memories with without trying to make me into a person who looks and acts just like her. I wish she had a wider swath of acceptance and less judgment. I wish life had been different for her because at one time she was a different person and I blame poverty, false god constructs and her own heartache for those changes.

We can’t fix our parents brokenness—all we can do is love them, but it’s sad when you can’t even eat a meal with them—not at a restaurant because they won’t eat out, not at your home even when you invite them and would go all out to make them comfortable, not when you go to visit them and they quiz your theological beliefs for three hours and don’t seem to care how you feel about anything.

Around six years ago, my family went through what I call the great divorce. It was my breaking point. To have parents who judge and condemn and refuse to meet me, not in person or conversation, because they disagree. It’s sad that life is so short and that the tragedy of some families is not death–but lives not lived, jokes not told and special days not shared because no one can fit into their narrow requirements of fellowship. If you were to ask me at the end of my life, I think I will say I missed having a mother who loves me unconditionally more than I missed not being a mother.

Narcissistic parents don’t take responsibility for their own choices or bills because they live in perpetual victim-hood and believe their children were brought into this world to serve them. This is the reverse of the parenthood God intended. I believe God gave this understanding to me for a blessing on the day before my fiftieth birthday, so I could finally see with clear eyes that my parents will never change—that I could never measure up and that I do not need to try pleasing them any more. This truth has set me free. I am fully awake now and I can’t go back to sleep.

As I do less and less with my family, I have become more and more at peace. Those events were my unmaking and breaking and now I have created more good things in my own life because I have allowed myself to be broken and re-formed to whatever God has for me. I took off the expectations given to me by my parents—of which one was to be a mother. I had to lose myself to find out who God created me to be.

Today after much soul searching, I realize that I have always been a mother in my heart. God gave me maternal instincts and compassion there and it is not dependent on giving birth. When I first stood on a step stool at five years old to place a bottle of milk in a pot of boiling water, when I took that hot milk and squirted it on the inside of my arm and watched the red streaks forming to show me it was too hot to feed to my baby brother, I was being a mother.

When I changed dirty diaper after dirty diaper, I was being a mother. When picked up the toys and hugged the crying and made cookies and taught my siblings to read, I was being a mother. When I planned birthday parties and family events and gave away all my money and time, I was being a mother. There was nothing selfish about it, I did what had to be done. If a mother takes care of other people, then I have been my mother’s mother too at times.

So for all the big sisters and oldest siblings and child laborers who first had their childhood stolen and then lost out on motherhood because they were caring for the children their parents chose to have—I just wanna say it’s time. It’s for you to forgive yourself for not living up to your parents’ and society’s expectations. You don’t have to give birth to have a mother’s heart. You are NOT selfish. You did the best you could and God is a mother too, and she looks on you with tender compassion and cares about the dreams of your heart. Use these broken feelings to get your worth from your heavenly Parent, because God encourages you to become yourself.

12 thoughts on “The Pain of Mother’s Day”

  1. Once again, a tapestry of the ugly and the beautiful together, the truth, a gift to us all who have been kept on the outside, for whatever reason. Who can’t celebrate what is being celebrated because my opportunities were lost to the takers gain. I can testify that you have one of the most Mother Hearts I’ve known. With a Mother’s Day Hug to my dear friend Cheri.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Cheri, I am sorry you are having a hard time as Mother’s day approaches.

    I praise God for such a wonderful mother and father too! I know they made mistakes. It has worked well for me to focus on the good! As a mother I can see how I have made mistakes, and my husband too. They are just different mistakes than our parents made.

    The one area that you may have a harder time understanding when it comes to motherhood, Cheri, is that when your children are grown or almost (like mine) a mother looks back and thinks of the things she would like to redo. She wishes so badly she could do things better for her children in whatever way. Well, there are not redos, so the next best thing is that her children forgive her for the things she has done wrong. She hopes they will love her despite her mistakes. This translates to her loving her mother more and more despite her mistakes. God can fill us with that type of love, many times it takes a miracle. He is a God of miracles. God Bless You Cheri I have good memories of going to see you when we were kids, I remember you and your darling kittens!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My sweet daughter of Christ, I can love you unconditionally. I think you are such a special person and are mothering many others who have had the same type of abusive parents. I fw your writings to others who need it. I am proud of what you are doing. You love the Lord and it shows in a big way. Thank you for being YOU!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hurt, pain, and longings of the heart, honestly and beautifully written about Cherilyn! I have appreciated the women around me that didn’t have children, as they had a different perspective, and energy to plan and do thing with the kids at church us exhausted mom’s never dreamed of…. Lots of love, and hugs , my friend, you are an inspiration!! 💜
    And I agree with Amelia, you have a huge, giving, mother’s heart!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Marci,
    Nice to hear from you after what thirty plus years? Wow! Yes, we should always forgive! Pretty sure I didn’t say anything about not forgiving in my blog because that is not who I am. And yes, even as an aunt I can look back at things I wish I could do over, but life goes on and I have tried to apologize and make it right when I have hurt anyone. I see a lot of projection here and if you don’t mind I think I might use your comment to write a new blog to explain how part of the issue is a blatant lack of understanding and empathy for other people when we have not walked in their shoes. If you would like to get educated more about narcissism, I would be glad to send you a book called the Empathy Trap. It is excellent and really explains much better than I can.

    I hope you have a wonderful Mother’s Day, Marci!


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