Mother’s Day is a holiday to honor the loving, caring, hardworking women that raised us– at least it should be. Unfortunately for millions upon millions of children and adults, what should be a positive holiday can turn into a way to reinforce an incredibly toxic, damaging message: “You are morally wrong and ungrateful if you don’t love your abuser.”
It’s something to struggle with, isn’t it? The oft-repeated phrases “You wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her!” and “You only get one mother” get trotted out a lot this time of year. The choice to have children is fundamentally a selfish one, though. No child asks to be born, and they cannot choose their parents. The insistence that they are an aberration for having trouble expressing love and respect to parents who didn’t instill those feelings within them doesn’t help anyone– if they did take those words to heart and continue attempting to have a normal relationship with a toxic parent, it isn’t healthy for either party. There is no reason for an adult child to continue exposing themselves to patterns of abuse at the hands of a parent that obstinately refuses to change.
Even more ridiculous is the notion that people deserve recognition for providing the bare minimum for their children. A child is helpless. They depend entirely on their parents to feed them, clothe them, protect them, and shape their view of the world. Even if a parent takes care of the first two needs, what happens when there’s no one to protect the child from an emotionally or physically abusive parent? What happens when a parent is allowed to convince a child that they are unworthy of love and deserve the abuse they receive? Unfortunately, resources don’t exist for these situations. If a child’s fed, clothed, clean, and doesn’t show up with visible bruises, it’s very likely that nobody will discover their toxic home life until it’s far too late.
The fact is, there are situations where the healthiest and safest thing for both parties is for an adult child to disconnect completely from their parent. Surviving and healing from the mental and emotional scars left by a narcissistic mother not only requires a process of grieving for the healthy, loving mother you never had, but often requires that you abandon the relationship entirely. This isn’t a decision that’s ever undertaken lightly. It’s full of guilt, pain, and cognitive dissonance that can turn any family holiday into fresh grief, let alone a holiday focused entirely on the mother-child relationship.
If you’re recovering from (or still coping with) the detritus of a narcissistic parent, you aren’t alone. Healing is possible, even in the face of countless messages attempting to guilt you into trying to have a normal relationship with your toxic parent. While I don’t remember the source of the phrase, one quote that’s always helped me get through periods of guilt is, “Family is the people you survive because of, not in spite of.” You don’t owe anyone anything for choosing to bring you into the world.