I was feeling sorry for myself on Mother’s Day since my mom told me told me to “go find another mother” just the day before.
“I’m done!” she said on voicemail. “I’ll find another daughter, and you can find another mother!”
As I listened on speaker, my jaw dropped. My daughters, who were standing next to me in the kitchen, were mortified. “Did she just disown you?” said the oldest.
I have no idea, I said.
“So if you’re disowned”, continued the youngest, “you’re kinda like an orphan, then, since Grandpa left. And do we have a Grandma, then, or not?”
Some of us didn’t have moms–or the kind of moms who earn praise on social media on Mother’s Day. My mom has always been part of my life, but so, too, has her mental illness. I am not and will never be used to being the recipient of her where-the-hell-did-that-come-from verbal abuses and wildly varying moods.
I can’t claim to be “unmothered,” but I feel I can rightfully claim to be unnurtured.
My mother operates in a mindset of specialness (my needs are bigger and more important than yours) and scarcity (you better meet my needs before anyone else’s– or there won’t be anything left for me).
Unfortunately, it’s never too late to be a mother who hurts her child. I found I was yelling at her in my night dreams, “LEAVE ME ALONE!”, and awake, my mind was buzzing with anger.
Eventually, she called again with an apology, laced with implications of my responsibility.
This is true for those of us unmothered or unnurtured: we daughters must nurture ourselves–and once we are mothers, we nurture our own children by instinct rather than by example.
By nature, I am deeply introverted. I have found I feel nurtured
*in walks with my dog
*in the arms of my man
These are the activities, and non-activities, that soften my brain and strengthen my heart. To be sure, there are occasions when I’d like to turn to my mother for calm, for coaching, to feel unconditional love. We, the Unnurtured, must cultivate these within ourselves; from earliest childhood on, we must search for healthy ways to self-soothe–and to choose ever so wisely those with whom we are intimate.
Where I felt my mother failed me, I have worked ever harder to become the mother I needed. I aim to offer to my children unconditional love, space to be fully and completely themselves, and freedom that comes from my emotional stability.
When hearing of my Mother’s Day “disowning”, my son wisely said, “Isn’t parenting a pay-it-forward kind of thing? Like she raised you, and now it’s your turn to raise us?”
Now, rather than agonizing about how be a “good daughter,” I insist on asking first how to be a good mother.