Mother's Day Anxiety: When Mom Makes You Anxious
Seldom is life like a Hallmark card. And so there are some holidays that can cause more anxiety and stress than memorable prose inspiring moments. Mother’s Day can be one of those anxiety provoking holidays for a number of reasons. I had my own bit of Mother’s Day stress when trying to mail a simple card to my mother. Of course we had run out of stamps. My husband failed to tell me that he had used the last stamp to mail a Mother’s Day card to his mother. But at least he did mail the card after I had reminded him.
And then of course there is the hunt for the "perfect" Mother’s Day card or sentiment. The problem is when the relationship you had or have with your mother is strained or tainted with a history of trauma. You see the cards that speak eloquent phrases about mom always being there for you. Nope. Or the cards full of happy memories like baking cookies together or making a picnic lunch. Not exactly consistent with my childhood reality. Where was the card which said, "Mom you messed up. You were not a great mother. But I forgive you and love you anyway."
I didn’t see that card so I opted for a card with an icon of my childhood, Snoopy, from the Charlie Brown comics. This is one thing my mother and I did share when I was a little girl. We always read the Saturday morning comics together over Captain Crunch cereal or other such nutritious fare. And the sight of Snoopy is always cheerful. Just think of Snoopy’s famous happy dance. I chose a big card to make up for the lack of any long winded poetry or gushing print on the inside. A bright pink envelope went with it.
I thought I had it together as I had stamps, a card, and an envelope. But something happened on the way home from the store. My son who has autism was riding in the back seat with the bag and had found the card and envelope. He promptly had put the card inside the envelope and had sealed it. And then I heard the tearing of paper and found him eating the sides of the envelope like a billy goat. The pretty pink envelope was now unsalvageable.
I hoped and prayed that I had an envelope big enough for my card at home. Of course you know I didn’t. I was becoming so stressed that I wanted to give up. Getting to send this Mother’s Day card was proving to be a symbol of my relationship with my mother, fraught with difficulties and challenges.
I was about to create my own envelope from construction paper when I found one of those large brown padded envelopes, not exactly Mother’s Day pretty. But I got the idea to send some of my son’s drawings with the card to fill up the envelope. So perhaps it was a blessing in disguise that my son had destroyed the more suitably sized pink envelope. I finally got to send the card. And then I thought that this was one of the reasons that Mother’s Day is so anxiety provoking. We are so fussed over a card or flowers that we forget the real reason for the day in the first place.
Why am I telling you this long story?
I wanted to say that life is never perfect. And this goes for our relationships too. Some holidays such as Mother’s Day can provoke anxiety and stress because of all the shoulds and expectations which go along with it. Some of us may have extremely conflicting feelings about our mother including anger, disappointment, sadness, but also love.
The anxiety begins when we want to feel a certain way but all the past baggage from childhood comes back in a flood of emotion and memories when we interact with mom. When that tidal wave of emotions comes, we feel like a child again, helpless and vulnerable to what we feel may drown us. But the truth of the matter is, although old wounds still hurt they cannot reclaim us as adults. We now have the power to say, "I wish things could have been better between my mother and me. But things are as they are. I will choose how to react and how to love."
Some mothers make us anxious for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they are super critical or judgmental. Some moms can be emotionally neglectful, causing children to wonder if they were loved. Other moms may have addictions or mental illness causing them to act in ways more like a dependent child than like a dependable adult. For whatever reason, for many of us, we may grow to dislike Mother’s Day for the feelings it provokes including sadness, stress, and anxiety. What can help is to lose the expectation that we have to feel a certain way. We will feel as we feel.
I do hope you all have had a good Mother’s Day one way or the other. I know that the day can be hard for some of us. I hope that whatever feelings you do have about your mother, that you can somehow reconcile them and feel at peace. The holidays may come and go but the relationship we have with our primary bonds and especially our moms is a constant. I will always be my mother’s daughter and she will always be my one and only mother. So for this day and all days… Happy Mother’s Day.