Mother’s Day in the midst of a healing relationship

I’ve stopped buying my mom things. With a house already filled with stuff, she really doesn’t need anything. I also live 400 miles away from her. For years Mother’s Day brought guilt and anxiety. What does it look like today?

I’d say this is a time of transition. The writing of my book and the process of drilling deep down into my difficult childhood that was mired in poverty and squalor, has enabled me to truly love my mom unconditionally for the first time. Previously I failed to deal with these emotionally troubling issues. I ran from them. Pouring over the past has been remarkably healing.

I’ve always had a special relationship with her, but it definitely hasn’t been what I’d like it to be. However, I am an only child who grew up in a broken home. She was all I had. I provided the only relationship she could count on over the years as well. Though we’ve frequently had extended periods when there really wasn’t much to talk about, we’ve always had each other.

Over the decades our conversations have involved me lecturing and yelling at her about how I think she should live her life. These “efforts” have been unfruitful, to say the least. I have had this image of Mom on a rickety old sailing vessel in rough seas. To save herself, I imagine her tossing all the non-essentials overboard in order to keep the ship from sinking. Her compulsive hoarding truly has swamped her. The image is spot on. In the past I’ve attempted swooping in to rescue her, but nothing has worked. My dream is for her to sell the house and move to an apartment in a small town, where she can easily walk to the public library, post office, grocery store, and perhaps the local watering hole.

Perhaps the problem has been that this is my dream, and not Mom’s. I know she’d be happier, but it’s her life and not mine. The dreams, choices, and sacrifices are her’s to make. NOT MINE. This is so simple, and yet it has taken me nearly four decades to get there. I am grateful for the wisdom gained, and honestly believe our relationship will be better because of it. I feel as if a tremendous weight has been removed. I have no brothers or sisters to help. There are no family members available to assist. I have my own family to tend to. What can I do? Rather than feel guilty about her living conditions, I’m going to focus on loving her unconditionally. She really does mean well, and I am grateful for this.

I love my mom. She has had a difficult life, and yet she always cared for me in a way that didn’t involve guilt. The poverty, squalor, and stress she has endured are beyond what words can express. Imagine being a single mom, having no regular child support coming in, and having the car blow up in a parking ramp while you’re at work one day.  Yes, the car spontaneously exploded in the parking garage! Her job was located 25 miles from our house, which we would lose if she couldn’t get to work. There was no savings. Somehow she made it through this crisis, and many more. 30 years have elapsed since this calamitous event threatened to sink us, and from this vantage point I can look back and marvel at the manner in which Mom kept our ship going. Other single parents in such circumstances would turn to drugs as an escape, but not her. I am so thankful for this!

Perhaps you have an unusual relationship with your mother. Be grateful for what she did provide, how she tried, or for some aspect of her character that is admirable. Surely there’s a way to make this into a day of celebration.

I won’t buy Mom things anymore. I can, however, help pay for gas for her to visit her grandchildren. I can provide meaningful experiences when she’s here, such as a clean and welcoming home. I can meet her in a town somewhere and treat her to an expensive dinner, followed by a casual walk along the river. I can let her know by a changed attitude that I love her. So can you. Happy Mother’s Day.

Mom in kitchen

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