‘Happy Mother’s Day!’ my husband beamed as my two toddlers rushed into my bedroom and threw two colourful homemade cards towards me, before leaping on the bed and falling on top of me.
‘Wow, these are amazing!’ I gasped, propping the cards up on my bedside table. ‘Did you make them yourselves?’
My heart burst with love and adoration.
Yet, despite my joy at having my son and daughter with me to celebrate Mother’s Day, it’s sometimes overshadowed by the knowledge that my mum could have experienced all of this with me if she’d chosen a different path.
Like many others out there, I do not have contact with my maternal mother. Mostly, this is due to having to endure neglect at the hands of the woman who was supposed to be responsible for protecting me.
I remember making cards in primary school, but by this point, I was in foster care and only made one so I wouldn’t be left out of the craft activities.
Then, I moved to my grandparents’ house and I would celebrate it for her, get her a gift and a card.
But I didn’t have contact with my mum and never reached out to her on Mother’s Day.
As I got older, and as my relationship with my parent got worse, the day itself would creep up on me and then I’d see the posts pop up on social media of my friends’ heartfelt messages to their mum. It would stir up an odd combination of confusion and need to understand why my relationship turned out so poorly.
‘Is this what it’s like to have a relationship with your mum?’ I’d wonder. Then a wave of wishful thinking that things turned out differently would wash across me.
I used to cry when I thought about what I was missing out on, like having someone to talk to about crushes, homework stress, periods, and sex.
I didn’t have that guidance and it was a struggle to navigate the world without a strong lead to follow.
Over time, however, instead of feeling sad, my feelings morphed into anger.
Eventually, after years of a more off than on relationship, I cut all contact with her. We’d tried to reconcile after years of no communication, but after yet another argument, I realised the cycle of my childhood was going to continue unless I did something about it. So I did.
Normally, when you have to cut out a parental figure, you will have another to fall back on, to pick up the pieces and help you put them back together. Unfortunately, my father and I have never connected, with many of our conversations resulting in him ridiculing me and comparing me to my mother.
Our relationship ended two years ago after he didn’t acknowledge my son’s existence but continued to frequently visit his other grandchildren.
It was a tough process to go through, but I’ve spent a lot of time analysing my childhood to great lengths to help me understand why it turned out the way that it did.
It was becoming a mum myself that changed everything. As soon as my partner and I started trying for a child, I began to wonder what would it have been like to go through conception problems, pregnancy celebrations and complications with someone who loves, supports, and understands what it’s like to grow another person. With someone who grew and loved you.
And I realised my mother would never, could never, be that person.
From addiction to neglect and social services, sometimes it’s inevitable that a bond will never be formed and that it’s for your own good. And that is what I try to remember on Mother’s Day.
It’s an odd feeling to know that I won’t have a relationship with my mother the way that my children will hopefully have with me. But this is the reason that I try to do better and why I’ve learned that it’s OK to grieve a relationship that had to be let go, and it doesn’t mean that you can’t appreciate the day for those who get to enjoy celebrating their mum.
Though I can’t relate to those around me who have good memories and bonds with their mums, I’m able to be happy for their luck in having someone so wonderful to raise them.
I’ve even been able to attach myself to my friend’s mothers and grandmothers as a way to find maternal comfort, so know exactly how truly amazing these women are.
So now, I look forward to future Mother’s Days, watching my children grow up and experience new things.
My mum is not only missing out on a relationship with me, but on a relationship with two amazing children with so much love and personality to offer. It didn’t have to be this way.
But thankfully, I know now that my children are not missing out due to this lack of relationship. They are loved, protected and cared for in every way that I should have been.
On Mother’s Day – and every day – I focus on making sure that I’m here and doing my best so that I can have this day with my children knowing that it’s another year that I’ve been the parental figure I had always needed in my life.
Degrees of Separation
This series aims to offer a nuanced look at familial estrangement.
Estrangement is not a one-size-fits-all situation, and we want to give voice to those who’ve been through it themselves.
If you’ve experienced estrangement personally and want to share your story, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org and/or email@example.com