Saturday, May 12, 2012

I hate Mother's Day

Really. I hate Mother's Day with a fiery passion. Most of the time, I feel like I've made my peace with having a mother who just couldn't care for us kids the way that most mothers do. But then sometimes I run across something (like this truly lovely blog post) that makes me realize that I still mourn not having a functional relationship with my mother. I still have an internal sense of that lost little girl who grew up in a hoarded house with no room for her, physically or emotionally.

I know I can't possibly be the only one out there who hates Mother's Day. Granted, it really isn't the type of thing that tends to come up in conversation. I might as well announce a hatred of puppies and unicorns. But then again, maybe not. Truthfully, I don't see how children of a hoarding mother -- or a mother with any kind of mental illness -- could avoid having at least somewhat mixed feelings about the day. Hoarding tends to be comorbid with other mental illnesses, which means that many of us children of hoarders had additional parental issues to deal with. Female hoarders have a higher incidence of panic disorder, binge eating, OCD, substance abuse, and bipolar I disorder (the kind with the really high highs and the really low lows). Male hoarders have a higher incidence of social phobia than male non-hoarders. (See this NIH-published study for more information.)

My extremely anxious mother hoarded, binge ate, and suffered from what seems to be undiagnosed bipolar disorder. Growing up with her was less than delightful. Don't get me wrong -- she loved us and tried to do the best that she could (although her best was a total nightmare). So every year, as Mother's Day rolls around, I once again try to make my peace with celebrating a mother who couldn't cope with her own life, much less the lives of her three children; a mother who prioritized her relationship with things over her relationship with people; a mother with whom I, more often than not, had to assume the role of care-taking adult. That's all still true, come to think of it.

So here's to all of those people out there who have mixed feelings about the holiday (and the people who outright loathe it, like me. I know you're out there.) Happy freaking Mother's Day.


  1. Count me in on this one. I hate Mother's Day. And the guilt that comes with it. I don't want to give my mother anything. I'm not grateful for her. Its shocking to say such a thing in our culture, but its also true.

    I can't bring her a gift-- it'll get added to the pile. I can't bring her living plants-- she'll kill them by neglecting them. Even a card will become yet another thing for THE PILES.

  2. I have a similar aversion to spending time with my mother since I've moved out of the family house. I love my parents, and appreciate what the did for me, but I am in the process of finally allowing myself to experience the emotions that a COH has to face. Some days I'm angry and ignore her calls. Other times, I want nothing more than to go visit, and help her anyway I can.

    Mother's Day is usually in the first category, but this is for many reasons. Take this past Christmas season for example. She wanted my boyfriend and I to come over for a holiday dinner a few days after Christmas. We came over, and joined my older sister. The tension was thick enough you could throw something at it. Which is what I wanted to do when I saw the state of the house. Little things would set us off. My parents haven't changed the water filter in the refrigerator door in over 10 years, my dad instead figured out how to make it stop beeping and flashing the red light. Piles of junk on all the furniture so that we had to put them on the floor so we could sit and visit.

    My mom had a bad accident a few years back, and doesn't remember things the way she used to, so her cooking skills have suffered. She served us what she though was our favorite meal (crockpot roast with mushy veggies) and instead brought out cold, oily, raw mystery meat, microwaved carrots, and spoiled potatoes. It was a shock. She takes defense so quickly to absolutely anything, and it's just so difficult to be near her unless the stars are aligned in just the perfect way. I got lucky yesterday, but I always try to be prepared to get the other side of her.

    It's also hard to shop for her. How do I know that what I get her won't be laying around the house for another ten years? I usually stick with flowers and a card, and an offer to help clean something up.

  3. My Mother died three years ago, and that means I don't have to try to find a non-committal card any more, for which I am grateful. One awful afternoon, I was muttering to myself in a card shop, and noticed a woman looking at me. I explained about the problem with Mother's day cards, and how painful it was for me. Without a word, she gave me the card in her hand, and smiled. It was perfect, just "Happy Mother's Day", no crap about how much she helped me. I thanked her, and she took another one the same, and left with it. There are a lot of us with secret scars.....

    1. Wow, I had no idea there was such a huge community of people out there who have been through and are going through the same things I have. My mother also passed away a couple of years ago, but I also had such a hard time finding appropriate Mother's Day cards. They don't make cards that say "You kind of dropped the ball on raising me and I have a lot of resentment toward you, but you are my mother, so I have to love you. Happy Mother's Day" I also had a hard time wanting to buy one because I knew it would just stay in the house until someday I would have to throw it out after she died. Which is exactly what happened. I've had such conflicting emotions about Mother's Day and my mother my whole life. I know how much she loved me and my siblings, but as you stated Elizabeth, there was a whole host of issues going on that got in the way. I remember as a child, there was one year I refused to buy my mother a card for Mother's Day. I was so angry with her for the hoarding (though at the time I didn't know what "hoarding" was) and I refused to tell her what a great job she was doing when I didn't think she was doing a great job at all. Everyone else in my family gave me such grief over that even though I wasn't the only one who felt that way. I still have guilt over it. I am a new mother this year, and I hope and pray that I never give my son a reason to hate Mother's Day the way we have all learned to.

  4. I just came across your blog and I feel the same way. The only thing is I am going through Christmas right now with a hoarding bipolar mother. It is so painful. I am so glad I ran across you blog to know that I am not the only one.

  5. It's nearly another painful Mother's Day again. I think Elizabeth should re-post this blog column.