Mother May I? Permission not to Celebrate Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is arriving soon for many and according to stats, it is the busiest holiday for restaurants, florists and Hallmark card stockers. But there is a dark side to this rosy day… the side

Mother’s Day is arriving soon for many and according to stats, it is the busiest holiday for restaurants, florists and Hallmark card stockers. But there is a dark side to this rosy day… the side that does not include the need to celebrate. For some of us, this holiday takes a twist and is not always joyful. Yes, that is perfectly fine, it is the story of our humanity. Where there is great love, there is the potential for great sorrow.  Such as the passing of a beloved mother can be a time of unimaginable grief and this holiday brings those feelings to the surface again. But it is also a time not to celebrate if the maternal relationship is one of dysfunction. I own that brand of mother-daughter bonds and hope that others like me do not feel awkwardness by not celebrating that holiday.

My mother was a clinically diagnosed Narcissist who also had Bipolar Disorder, as well as Multiple Personality Disorder. It took me many years to realize it was not my fault that this hybrid of insanity was my pattern the first 20 years of my life. Ever fearful of my mother, no one looked after my needs; but I am a survivor and grew into an adult by myself. To others out there like myself, as controversial as it sounds, I say you don’t have to celebrate on this day.  Not everyone has a mother to celebrate and if you do, you are lucky. It isn’t about blood being thicker than water; it’s about not having guidance in life and admitting you were born, through no fault of your own, into an uncomfortable and degrading family. Stuff happens, and you get on with living the other parts of life.

Mother’s Day can also be celebrated to those lovely people who have been a positive in your life. Celebrate the neighbor who was always there for you, the cashier who is a mother of six and struggling for a paycheck but has a heart of platinum or a dear friend.  Many who suffer through Mother’s Day feel ashamed and prefer not to celebrate. That is fine. I say be your authentic self and there is no need to feel embarrassed or conscripted into false appreciation. We do not select our families; it is a roll of the dice who drops your DNA into this world, but it is 100% choice what you do as an adult and you can choose to become a survivor.

I was an inconvenience to my family but not to myself, and that is the trick surviving Mother’s Day. When you look at people buying roses and chocolate, recognize they are not all really celebrating but obligated.  Just maybe being a cancer survivor helps me untangle these emotions of doing what is best for me.

Remember that Mother’s Day is extremely commercialized.  I’m not Debbie Downer and totally support those who had the luck to thrive in a loving relationship with a “mom.” Spare no expense and spoil her on that day, for cancer has also taught me how fleeting life can be. The truth is, simply spare space in your heart for those who are hurting, for the people like me who had no mother role models won’t be going to a florist on that day. You are allowed to ignore that day and not read the long-winded Hallmark cards with tear-jerking messages that fall flat as a stone on your bruised heart.  Instead, celebrate friends, co-workers who are awesome moms and mentors in your life. No pressure. Take care of yourself just like you do with surviving cancer. You don’t have to feel forced to celebrate a toxic mother. Save the joy for those who care dearly for you. Watch your boundaries and enjoy time with those who love you unconditionally.   For me, cancer has helped me flourish and decide to connect with kind people on special holidays.  Give yourself that same permission, for you deserve it fully.

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Cindy Small
Cindy Small arrived in N. Alabama following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. A native of New Orleans, she graduated from Tulane University with an undergraduate degree in Journalism and Masters in Historic Preservation Studies. She spends her spare time writing a weekly “Spotlight” column for The Decatur Daily as well as reading her non-fiction short stories on NPR. Published in various literary journals, her writings are always humorous added with a speck of arsenic.