Happy Mother’s Day?

A heartfelt recognition that not everyone will be celebrating Mother's Day - and the traumatic impact it may have on adult children of difficult mothers.

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An alternative view on Mother’s Day !

Each year, as the loveliness of spring begins it’s sensual explosion of sweet scents and vibrant colours. When the first of the early light mornings, and lighter nights; help to soothe us out from our cold dark winter’s hibernation. For some, there’s a general sense of greater hope! We may be encouraged to be a little more sociable and meet with others. If only for a gentle, yet weary walk to the local shop. Where, in my experience of the last few weeks; if you’ve not been blasted at the door by the happy dancing images of Easter Chicks, or the flamboyance of Easter Eggs. You’re likely to encounter the advertisers alternative spring dream… “Mother’s Day”!!!

Seemingly, for the innumerable children, both young and old, of all the wonderful (albeit complicated) mothers out there; this experience brings the sense of excitement that I imagine the market intends. It’s a keen opportunity to browse the generous selection of Mother’s Day cards, and the rich demonstration of gifts. All of which are sure to inspire you to make good some purchases. Each will help you express love, gratitude and warmth to your mother for all that she has been throughout life!

Not everyone want’s to celebrate Mother’s Day !

With a career spanning two decades as a social worker in Child Protective Services, and latterly as an adult psychotherapist. I would be naive not to recognise that this is not everyone’s experience of mothering or of Mother’s Day.

At this time of year, for every year since it first came into my awareness, my heart reaches out to the people whose mother wasn’t societies ideal imagine of a mama. The kind who loved them unconditionally! For those whose experience of mothering isn’t as they’d hoped. It’s to that end that I wrote these words.

You may have been a child who didn’t have access to a mother who lovingly stroked your head or pulled your hair out of the way when you were sick. You might not have experienced a mum who gave you a loving and forgiving glance when you stepped outside of the family norms. You may have been a child who was dismissed for being yourself. Punished for being less than perfect. You might be an adult child who wasn’t brought up with the familiarity of a mother who was able to set healthy boundaries. Someone to give you guidance and constructive discipline throughout your childhood.

I feel compassion for the adults and children of mothers, who thought that you were so perfect and their best friend. Meaning that you did not have a space to grow into an autonomous, choiceful individual with emotional and psychological permission to be different from your mum. You might be a human being who has been emotionally, physically and or sexually abused, neglected and was not protected by your mother.

At this time of year; I think of the children of mothers who have experienced the many other tragedies that, I believe, can sadly be overlooked on this otherwise special day.

Compassion and Understanding

With this in mind, I stop and send a heartfelt thought to you and every other person who might experience a sense of trauma when they walk into a shop filled with Mother’s Day cards, wrapping paper, and gifts and banners shouting “to the greatest mum in the world”. I understand that you may be filled with dread when you open your emails to campaigns marketing “the perfect gift for the perfect mom this Mother’s Day “. I send a feeling of compassion to you or anyone else who feels overwhelmed with sadness at the thought of a mother lost.

“Good Enough Mothers”!

I believe that many mothers, even with their limitations, have great intentions. My interest is not to devalue what Psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott termed the “good enough mother” or any other mother for that matter. I believe that most mothers have stepped into a space of doing the best that they can. This is sometimes under very difficult circumstances. That includes some mothers who are considered to be abusive.

Mother’s Day can be isolating!

My writing is meant as a sincere recognition to all of you beautiful souls who walk amongst us each and every day of our lives; who might be weeping inside or outside on this celebrated day. Carrying a sadness for the paradox of this experience. For you and others you may know from all walks of life, whose mother has been abusive. To those of you whose mother may no longer be with you through a tragedy or another kind of loss. You may be someone who wishes to be a mother, but this has not been possible due to infertility or for other reasons. In reading this, one or some of these might hold a familiar sadness that resonates with you.

I empathise with you, as you may be a mother who now has regrets and are feeling overwhelmed. Or are one of the fairly high percentage of women experiencing postnatal depression. Creatives who for their own protection weren’t legally able to stay in the care of their birth mothers. And to you, if you never had the chance to know your mum. If you are estranged or were relinquished because this seemed as though it was the only option at the time.

I hope that for some people who read this; Mother’s Day is something for you celebrate! That you have a lovely day! I hope that if that is you; you will also consider taking the time to send a loving kind thought to someone you know that doesn’t share your experience.

You’re not alone!

My hope if you are reading this and, for whatever the reason, won’t be having a ” Happy Mother’s Day !” I want you to know that you are not alone. Whilst I recognise it can seem like it sometimes; especially at this time of year. You can reach out for support.

I know that amongst the taboos that are present culturally. Those who can’t begin to comprehend the experience of a child not being loved by or not having a loving mother; that you might be living that very experience. This coupled with societies assumed norms that women love the experience of being a mother. I understand that there’s a good chance that you are not feeling that way. With conjectures that you will instantly become attuned to this new little person in your life. You might not be feeling the slightest bond. Not to mention the beliefs that everyone has a wonderful mother who loved them unconditionally! I appreciate that you may not have had that type of mother.

Life has taught me that there are many people out there who don’t have great relationships with their mum. This might sound familiar to you. There are women whose own experience of mothering isn’t great; as they weren’t given the model of parenting that they needed. This could be your experience too. I believe, there are many people who may have been the sister or brother who became mother to their siblings when their mum, for whatever reason, wasn’t able. Maybe this is something that resonates with you. There are many experiences which are unique to each and every individual. Some that I might not have even touched on here, but may impact you right now!

Can Psychotherapy help?

Whatever your circumstance, I want you to know that these are very real experiences that you might choose to explore with a trained and experienced psychotherapist. Therapy is a place for you to mourn in many different ways. It’s a space where you can speak honestly and in confidence with a person who is trained to meet you at the level of your pain, and go safely into that with you.

Through work with a qualified psychotherapist; therapy can be a place where you can heal. Ultimately, it’s a place that, with the right therapist, will be accepting of you. Therapy can lead to your greater emotional freedom!

How to find support?

If you’d like to work on your mother-child-relationship experience this Mother’s Day. Or would like to consider how this is impacting on your current relationships, please get in touch on 07857655105 or email counselling@sunflowerpsychotherapy.co.uk for a free and confidential 15 minute telephone chat. There are also a wide selection of experienced psychotherapists that can be found through United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapists (UKCP) and Birmingham Counselling Services website.

Nadine Wilson MSc. Is a UKCP registered Psychotherapist with a special interest in working with adult children of difficult mothers. Further information can be found at www.sunflowerpsychotherapy.com. The information above is derived from anecdote, and not a scientific study. It is based on personal practice and life experience.

Nadine Wilson - Psychotherapist

I warmly welcome you to my profile. I'm interested in you. In your wholeness. I'll meet you there, and we can work through your experience of relationships, depression, anxiety, stress, bereavement, loneliness, identity. I'm interest in working with adult children with difficult mothers, working cross-culturally and with racial empowerment. Life can be hard, and whether you're seeking a simple improvement or healing from some deep wounds, within yourself or others, I can help. I started my career as a social worker, and later trained as a psychotherapist. It is from this base that I come into your situation with fresh eyes, an open heart, and much experience and strength to help you regain a sense of who you are. I work in private practice in central Birmingham, UK and online nationally and internationally.  I am registered with the UKCP as both a Psychotherapist and Clinical Supervisor


Go to the profile of Chantelle Amelia
almost 5 years ago
Thank you for this Nadine. As an adult child of a difficult mother I can totally relate to everything you've said. The funny thing is I didn't really realise how toxic my mother could be until I had my own child and realised all the things she didn't do for me that I needed to grow up as an confident, emotionally mature adult and the effect this has had on ALL my relationships. It's now having my own child and doing the very best I can for him, that I've started healing from past hurts, and grieving for the unconditionally loving mother I never had, but it's an ongoing process as my mother will never change, although there's always hope. I do not want to follow in her footsteps and so it's making me be an amazing wonderful mother to my son and as well as myself ❤️
Go to the profile of Nadine Wilson - Psychotherapist
almost 5 years ago
Thank you Chantelle. I'm humbled by your comment and touched that you reached out! It seems to me that you're doing a wonderful job in your own healing. That takes courage ❤️