Mother’s Day for the Rest of Us 

I wrote this some time ago for, I guess you could say, “Mother’s Day for the Rest of Us.” I hope it brings you solace.

Next week, I’ll be telling you about my brand new “old lady” tattoo, but since Sunday is Mother’s Day I wanted to share this with you. Let me know if you can relate.

How to Celebrate Mother’s Day – Even When it Hurts

I get this knot in my stomach and wave of distraught when Mother’s Day rolls around each year. How do I celebrate in the face of having had lousy parenting?

Odes to moms who inspired, supported, expanded, guided and embraced, in unconditional love, ooze from, well, everywhere… from friends talking about their Mother’s Day plans with the old girl to special events that ceremoniously drape the day. Then there’s the incessant Internet patter – with Facebook, Twitter (X), and the rest of the cyber posse shouting out the love for mom.

I used to be resentful and even angry, with a big dollop of jealousy for those who got the good parents. It was like they landed in the lucky sperm club, and, in this instance, wealth didn’t have anything to do with it. 

I used to tell myself I would have settled for a parent who was able to throw even a bone of emotional bonding my way. Of course, silly me, bonding is a childhood process — through the bedtime snuggles, help with homework, cooking lessons, and later, celebrating the first kiss, comforting the first break up and crying together over all the other joys and struggles. It wasn’t to be for me.

Ah, I used to think, the person I could’ve been had it been different. But the years on the couch, the stream of workshops and retreats, the cathartic, crying jags with girlfriends have moved my resentment-cum-regret-cum-brokenheartedness into a place of understanding and compassion for a woman who, I realize now, gave all that she could give.

So it’s not about forgiveness. What would I forgive? She gifted me the pieces of parenting she salvaged from her own broken childhood… a handed-down generational all-but-empty bag of parenting skills.

I have no idea about her childhood. The secrets she kept of her upbringing are evident enough that they were dark and debilitating and needed to stay in a locked vault. And, who knows, perhaps she did better for me than the parenting she received.

These days, in my continuing Mother’s Day recovery, I stretch for ways to give gratitude to her. I was fed, clothed and had a warm bed. I couldn’t say it was a completely safe existence, but there was a continuity that I somehow would be taken care of. Although there were a number of steps missing in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs*, I believe she loved me to the full extent of her capabilities.

Today I’ll think of her and recall how I used to call her and wish her happy Mother’s Day. I would share talk of the weather, how she was feeling, and what she’d been up to. She never asked me. And after a few clumsy minutes we’d say goodbye.

That memory evokes an inevitable tinge of sadness that engulfs me like a sudden thundershower. I will breathe it in, shake it off and congratulate myself that after all these many years, I have become the person that I’ve always wanted to be. And thinking of my mother and honoring her role in my life is proof enough of that.

With Love,


*Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a psychological model that prioritizes human needs from the most fundamental (like food and safety) to higher-level needs (like esteem and self-actualization), suggesting people must satisfy lower-level needs before pursuing higher-level ones.

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