With Mother’s Day rearing her pretty little head, I decided to talk about my struggle with celebrating motherhood. I know as a mother, this a great opportunity for my children to show me how much they love me in a creative and fun way. I love it! However, as the child from a strained mother daughter relationship, how do I let go of the past and finally show my mother how much I’ve healed?
I’m grown now. There is no doubt about it since my last birthday dropped in like it was hot. Yet, for the past decade I’ve admittedly walked around as “a grown woman with mommy issues”. If you know me or have ever been privy to my personal struggle, you know that I had battles with my family. Most importantly, my mother. We would bump heads, go months and years without speaking, and I was hurting because of it.
People came in and out of my life, many of them trying to fill the void left by her absence. Yet, no matter how much time and energy was spent, no one can replace my mother. I struggled internally because of it. I wanted to believe I was over it, and perhaps I could live my life without ever dealing with my mother again. As crazy as it sounds I was determined to try, busying myself with work and with people who were put into place to make me feel like nothing was missing. Nevertheless, I wasn’t right, my children weren’t right, and it started to become obvious.
Despite everything I was going through, stubbornness was preventing me from just letting it go. I had questions, I needed answers. I had things to say, I needed her to listen. Most importantly, I wanted an apology and for her to change into someone and something I always wanted her to be… my friend. It was my oldest son that begged me to be the bigger person. He asked me to make up with my mother for his birthday, because he missed her, my father, and his aunts and cousin. I knew I couldn’t deny him that effort because of my pride, so I submitted to reaching out. We talked, we cried, and we made promises. Emotionally, I was overwhelmed. To have your family back after almost two years, is an incredible feeling. After I let so much off of my mind and off my chest, finally opening up about my pain, hurts, and disappointments, I was finally heard. We made amends, something I’ve only dreamt about after all of that time had pass. We agreed that we would be more compassionate and honest. We committed to be better towards each other, and I couldn’t be more grateful.
For the past few months, I’ve been cultivating our mother-daughter relationship. Growing each week closer and closer to my own mother, something that was difficult in the past. Now that I’m older, it’s easier for me to take people for who they are, instead of what I think they should be. When I allowed enough time to go by, I realized that as a mother, you can only do what you can with what you have at the time. It’s not perfect every day, and even I had struggles that made me someone who I didn’t like. So far be it from me, to hold a grudge towards my mom for not getting it right back then, when we’re both capable of fixing it now.
Sometimes, I think I’m the only black woman with mommy issues. No one ever talks about the struggle to have that bond with their own biological mother. Often times, I felt alone in my tug of war of building a relationship with my mother and how it breaks me down when we aren’t connecting like we should. As little black girls, we’re taught that we should respect our mothers, be there for our mothers and never not speak to your mother. I held anger for her because of what I went through. I always had strong feelings about the challenges I faced as a child, and wished my mother stepped up more, did more. Maybe I wouldn’t have gone through so much at such a young age. I believed it was better to not have her in my life, than to have a riff between us that no one wanted to step up and fix. It’s ostracizing around Mother’s Day, not being able to share that special day with the very woman who brought me into this world. I just leaned on the fact that I was a mother, so I’m able to enjoy Mother’s day is that aspect.
“Seriously? Mother’s Day is around the corner and I’m really excited. I always get the red carpet celebrity lifestyle of the rich and famous treatment on mother’s day, and secretly I’ll admit I’m not that deserving of it all. I’m a great mother and everything, but I get a little spoiled around this time. Funny thing when I was a kid, I never went that hard for my own mother. So, it’s surprising how serious my children take it. I must be doing something right.”
My mommy issues are based on fear. I’m scared to get hurt. I’m scared to just let go and love my mother with no hesitation or regret. I often posted my mother on this pedestal that I constantly asked her to live up to. When she stepped down, showed me who she was (imperfect), or disappointed me, I went into survival mode and retreated. She may have been wrong, but after a while I stopped giving her a chance to fix it and make it right. After a while, I stopped putting myself in a position to get hurt. This affected my other relationships as well. I was convinced that if your mother could hurt you, so could everyone else. I lacked even a small iota of trust for anyone because of my stressed relationship with my mother. I couldn’t fathom myself committing to any serious friendship, when I don’t have that with my own blood. Despite, my encouragement to others, telling everyone to make your own family or to create your own family. The truth is you can never replace your flesh and blood. It took me taking that time away to realize how much of myself was missing. I didn’t have my sisters, my father, my nieces, or anyone because of a feud between my mother and me.
When I asked for advice from other black women, I was getting mixed reviews. Some said to reach out and just deal with her, as she is but with a long handle spoon. Others suggested that I let go, move on with my life without ever speaking to my mother again. A combination of pride and fear often took over, forcing me to fall into myself, afraid to look foolish. Being a mother and showing compassion to my children, is easy to me. They came from me and I want them to be happy children who grow into incredibly satisfied adults. However, being the child and asking for that love is challenging. As the years, go by and you start to get older, you start to feel stupid for still feeling like “I want my mommy!” That feeling of being foolish eventually turns to a productive anger that screams, “Fine, you won’t love me like I need you to, I’ll be ok without you.” As productive as I was, I still missed my mother. That feeling was too strong to hide.
Watching my friends and clients share moments with their mothers, it pained me. I’m happy to see that there are positive mother-daughter connections, but inside I felt the stings of envy. I yearned for the same fun, loving, and compassionate bond with my mother, too. We never seemed able to get on the same page to be that close, consistently, for a long period of time. We never made it long enough to just take each other for who we were, not forcing the other to change but comfortable to just be imperfect in front of each other. Looking back, I see how much time was wasted and I don’t want to continue to make the same mistake anymore.
Lately, we’ve been laughing and joking together so much that we’re in stitches all the time. Time is going by so fast, and we’ve realized that we’ve been talking for hours. We’ve been friends, and I’m happy. In the past, I would spend all this time afraid. Thinking about what you could or would say or do that would bring this gingerbread house of love and nurturing crashing down. I started to expect her to mess it up, believing that she wanted to sabotage a relationship with me and toss me on an emotional roller coaster of insecurity and rejection, just because she could… she was my mother. However, now I’m just learning to understand that she is who she is, and perhaps the pressure to be perfect for me or to make up for her mistakes from when I was little was putting her in a challenging position. Maybe, if I lightened up and gave her some room to be my mother in her own way, it would make it easier for her to come through like I need her to every time and not what I want her to some of the time.
Yes, I’m a grown woman who has had some mommy issues. My mother and I don’t have a perfect mother and daughter relationship. We are starting again after being estranged for almost two years. It was a conversation I was having with a young girl about her relationship with her mother. I was encouraging her to try to be honest with your feelings, no matter how vulnerable you are. She asked me if that advice worked in my own personal situation after writing my book. I told her, I hadn’t tried it yet. I needed to test it out for myself and see if I could let go of the fear of being rejected by my own mother. I feel better about motivating these young ladies about this, because I now know what it feels like to work towards making this relationship better, before I try to bury something definitely worth repairing. I can’t keep living in fear of my mother disappointing me, making me angry, or hurting my feelings, when I’m confident in who I am. I also can’t keep throwing away valuable relationships, just because it doesn’t fit my description of an ideal situation. I learned to accept her for who she is and to not put her on a pedestal to make the same decisions I saw other mothers make. She is who she is, and I can’t love someone unless I can accept them for who they are. There is no making up for the mistakes from yesterday, we can only do what we can now. If we try now that’s all that matters. Living in the moment is where we are.
Now that we are working on our relationship and starting anew, I’m taking advantage of opportunities to just enjoy the moment. What once was an issue, is now a budding friendship between a mother and daughter that has been through quite a few challenges, on a quest to turn it all around. This will be the first year that I can legitimately celebrate Mother’s Day, by doing something special for my mother. Repairing our relationship, I showed my own children that no matter what, you can always come home. I didn’t realize at the time, but I see how important it is to make that effort and how going through this experience has really changed me. This mother’s day I will celebrate my mother by sharing in the possibilities of where we go from here. How we can start an honest dialogue about our hopes for our new beginning. I’m looking forward to it. I’m not going to live in fear anymore. I’m absolutely ready for the ride.