Mother’s Day: Changing painful to peaceful

Smiling toddler hugging a woman
Photo by Bermix Studio on Unsplash

Every Mother’s Day, I marvel at the social-media photos of happy mothers and daughters. All those smiling faces. I wonder at the wistful memories from daughters who loved their moms, who miss their moms, whose moms were their friends.

I am not that daughter, and she was not that mom.

This post is for all those other adult children, who, like me, have never sent an unconflicted Mother’s Day card, or have dreaded the annual phone call to a woman who perfected criticism, ridicule, and shame. I’m writing this in the hope that it gives you one less day of grief.

This is for all those adult children who need to hear this: You do not need to have a good mom to have a good life.

You do not need to have a good mom to have a good life.

If someone enjoys tearing you down in order to feel good themselves, it has everything to do with them. It has nothing to do with you.

If someone did not have the skill or desire to become a better person, that does not have to be your burden. Let it be theirs.

You have so much to offer! If someone isn’t interested in knowing or appreciating you, you can find peace in the space between you.

They are not your tribe. Go find your tribe. Spend time with them. Learn from them. Give to them. Love them. 

You do not need to have a good mom to have a good life.

For those adult children who find this day troubling, here’s how I started to celebrate Mother’s Day, instead of wasting energy on could-have-beens. I started doing this privately years ago, but now I feel comfortable sharing.

A reason to celebrate Mother’s Day

This Mother’s Day, I celebrate the people who made my childhood amazing. My elementary school principal. The teachers (I remember their names) who taught me, corrected me, and encouraged me to strive for the highest standards possible while reminding me that failure isn’t final; it’s a part of growth. It’s nothing to hide or be ashamed of, because if you hide it, you can’t fix it.

This Mother’s Day, I celebrate my high-school friends’ mothers (I remember their names), who treated me with respect–sometimes amused, sometimes serious–like a young and inexperienced person who was simply in training to be a good adult person.

This Mother’s Day, I celebrate my female friends who have great relationships with their adult children (I remember their names); whose adult kids love them, look forward to seeing them, plan vacations together, and call them because they care about their lives. They were able to be the mom their kids needed.

This Mother’s Day, I celebrate the woman who gave birth to me. I do not know her name, but I’m grateful to her for bringing me into this beautiful world and for giving me this precious life (which has not always felt so beautiful or precious… it’s a process). I’ve been blessed with wonderful friends and mentors and random miracles. I’ve had a life of adventure and fascination. I’ve loved and learned and discovered and created. I’ve been sad and afraid, fallen and failed, but I’ve also been grateful and happy and successful. She started my life, and none of it would have been possible without her.

This Mother’s Day, I celebrate the women who are being great moms now to young children, especially (I remember their names), as well as those great moms whose names I will never know. My friend John Hertz says, “It’s better to promote the good than rail against the ill.” We create the world we want by studying what works and making more of that visible and possible. I’m grateful for those who are doing that work now.

This Mother’s Day, I celebrate those who display the qualities we honor in mothers, whatever their role, age, or gender (I remember their names). The friends, aunts and uncles, managers, CEOs, cashiers, customer service reps, health-care workers, car sales reps, computer techs, writers, architects, that guy in the back of the elevator… Sometimes, we just need a mom, just for a moment, and if you step up to the plate, you rock. I celebrate the opportunities I’ve been given to extend that “mom moment” to someone who needed it.

Decide to make today the best it can be

To those who don’t enjoy Mother’s Day as much as the smiling, happy people on social media seem to, I invite you to reclaim your joy today, in your own way, for your own best possible life. You are worth it. 

This is my way. Maybe it will work for you.

You don’t need to have a good mom to have a good life.

Separate from those who diminish you.

Find your tribe.

Celebrate.

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