Saturday, May 12, 2018

Actually, I don't regret it: Mother's day without a mother

It's Mother's Day again. That day that your friends with good parents forget, again, that their experiences aren't the only ones and say shitty but well meaning things to you, asking about what you're doing for your mom. Because of course that's a healthy safe option for everyone, their mom is great.

These well meaning friends, when you say "nothing" or "Netflix with my cats" or "hiking alone where I won't have to put up with brunch traffic" will often ask confused. They may express bafflement that you aren't doing something for your mom.

Many many people, even well meaning, empathetic people, cannot understand what it takes to cut off a parent. Even if they know why, even if they agree that your parent is toxic, they can't grok why that means "I don't do mom-centric holidays". It's like there is a disconnect because that diverts from their experience of the world.

And then they may say the thing that is borderline unforgiveable: "she's your mom. You'll regret this when she's dead."

So, those of you who are well meaning people with good parents: never say that.

But this post isn't for you. Maybe later I'll write a post on how to not be shitty to your friends who disconnected from their parents.

This post is for you, the brave person who got free.

I'm so proud of you. You had an opening. You did what was right for your safety. You did it in spite of growing up inundated with "but family" messages. You left.

Maybe you took a long time to get free. Maybe you did the reconciliation/estrangement spiral before reaching escape velocity. Maybe you will have a reconciliation that sticks, on your own terms. Maybe you won't. It's okay if you don't.

Really. You don't need to tolerate someone just because they're family. And you don't have to reunite. Ever. If that's what you want, I wish you the best of luck, but it's not a requirement.

Everyone knows someone who knows someone whose third cousin's brother's tutor's veterinarian regretted removing a toxic mom from their life. This is the dominant narrative. There's so few narratives about people who don't. It makes people uncomfortable.

Allow me to use my superpower of "making people uncomfortable" for you: I got out, and I have never regretted it. Not even for a moment.

My mother died several years ago. Recently enough that I panic when I see someone who looks like her in public, long enough ago that if I was going to have regrets they'd have set in. I don't regret it at all. I don't regret missing her birthdays, I don't regret missing mother's days, I don't regret skipping her funeral. I don't regret the years of gaslighting, nastiness, and unpredictability that I escaped. Getting out was hard. Staying out had some really rough, touch and go moments. But I have never regretted it.

Now, I have had moments of mourning for the mother I didn't have. All the stories people have of their good times with their moms, the supportive things apparently a parent does? I have gotten wistful. But that wasn't my mother. That was never going to be my mother. She isn't the mom she needed to be to be worth continuing a relationship with. The mom who had my back stopped existing when I was still very small. I can be sad about the alternate universe where things were different, without ever regretting leaving.

Maybe you're wistful like that too. Maybe you had good times so feel like it's not "bad enough" to justify skipping mother's day. But you know the society you live in and you chose to not put yourself through that. It was bad enough. You don't have to put up with abuse of any kind for the comfort of others. You've already done the math. You chose the path that people don't understand because you needed to.

If you, like me, are going to be struggling with the thoughtless "all moms are great no matter what", be gentle with yourself. Do something nice for yourself. Lots of us basically parented ourselves, after all, or we're basically going back through & doing as adults what our parents should have done for us as children. Celebrate getting out.

And don't let anyone tell you that we all regret leaving. We don't. The hard part about today has nothing to do with regretting escaping. It has everything to do with people who supposedly care about me trying to make me do so. I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in this--how many of those regrets were expressed to shut up people who say "but she's your mom."?

If you, like me, are spending today without your mom, I salute you. You took care of yourself in getting out. That's amazing. You're amazing. I wish society would reexamine its collective prejudices and see how much it takes to cut off a parent. Maybe if they did they'd not be twisting the knives that are already driven into people who can't be around their mothers.



Herzblut said...

CW: mention of violent death

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for writing my story. I can’t find words to express how grateful I am to you for that. Almost word for word, you wrote about me.

Here in the UK, we ‘celebrate’ mother’s day Ona different date(being a nominally christiancountry, it’s actually a religious day.....Mothering Sunday. Being Jewish, that’s not my thing anyway,’s the same mass marketing cards/flowers/chocolates/lunch/‘’what are you doing for Mum on ‘her special day?’ ‘’ thing as you have , just now.

Facebook being one of my major social outlets - I’m pretty much housebound - I get to go through two lots of mother’s day crap. Lucky me.....

Thank you for writing this for me, one of those who got out: it took me till my mid 50s to do it, and I’m now almost 63, but ‘I have never regretted it. She’s gone now(in a horrible way - House fire, six years ago) and I did not go to her funeral. I still find the manner of her going extremely distressing, but I do not regret estranging myself, or not going to the funeral; like you, I grieve for what might have been, in some alternate universe, but I also have a huge amount of compassion for the lonely little girl I was back then, when silence surrounded the whole situation even though everyone knew about it, but no one did anything to help me.

I’ve since lost my husband, who was my soulmate, and am still in a mess over that; my cats keep me going. People like you help me keep going, and that is priceless. Thank you for writing this.

Mama Kara said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mama Kara said...

From another K with a toxic "hole from whence I fell" this is exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you.

I have mother figures in my life I am thankful for, but not the one who gave birth to me. And that has helped me to be a better person, and subsequently, a better mother(or at least I hope so.)

I don't regret not having a relationship with her anymore, and yes, I mourn sometimes for what should have been, but I don't regret being done with her toxicity.

And I won't regret it when she is gone either.

Thank you for helping me validate that it is o.k. to be over not having to celebrate someone who never cared about anyone but herself.

I am at peace with it, and I wish you all peace too.