Standing in the card aisle looking for a Mother’s Day card, you freeze. [The same holds true for all holidays and required gift-giving celebrations.]
Nothing seems to fit how you feel. All of the cards you see describe a mother/daughter relationship you don’t recognize. Sappy. Sugary sweet. Over the top.
“ARGGG, Why do I have to go through this every year”, you say to yourself. Does everyone but me have a mom who makes them feel supported and accepted no matter what?” Unconditional support. Total acceptance for who you are with no judgment. Yeah, right. Not my mom. Not in this lifetime.
Or maybe you feel this way- You love your mother, and overall you appreciate she did the best she could. But the truth is, you still struggle with major aspects of your relationship with her.
Most visits and conversations have an uncomfortable edge to them. Although you wish it weren’t the case, you come away from visits with mom feeling worse about yourself. Tension and unspoken resentments fill the space between you. She may be oblivious to how hard you work to make encounters with her appear to go smoothly.
- Let barbs/judgmental statements go by without calling mom out?
- Politely answer intrusive questions even though they cross boundaries?
- Endure backhanded compliments that sting but don’t push back?
If so, chances are you are trapped in the role of the “good daughter”, the one who feels responsible for mom’s feelings. You feel like you have to come through no matter what! No matter what it costs you. You adhere to the familial golden rule, “Whatever you do, don’t upset mom on Mother’s day/Christmas/Passover/ her Birthday! ”
Yet, despite these tensions, you hold out hope that one day you will be able to have a real conversation with mom that might heal some old wounds. Yet, you see in your mind’s eye… mom opening your card. The card is one of those “over the top” cards full of sentiment you wish you felt but don’t.
She clutches it to her chest in gratitude. Your heart sinks as you realize this display pulls you even further away from any honest conversation that might actually clear some things up.
The pressure to be fake on Mother’s Day (or other celebratory days) hurts both Mothers and Daughters.
Ironically it paints you both into a corner that precludes any candid conversation that could bring you closer to a real connection. As it is…you are in the card aisle, caught between two impossible choices.
- Do nothing, and you might as well take out a billboard saying, “I hate my mother,” or better yet, “I am a horrible daughter.”
- Get that fake card and feel slightly nauseous. Even Mom knows you all have issues, and pretending you don’t is weirdly humiliating for you both.
This is how this idealization of mothers on mother’s day hurts both of you. This idealization of mothers on mother’s day is, in fact, dismissive of the real struggles and triumphs involved in the messy relating that is between mothers and daughters.
In yet another scenario – you’ve gone no contact and feel like a pariah on Mother’s day.
You’ve made the healthiest choice for yourself, and that doesn’t involve seeing mom on Mother’s day. You may stay no contact forever but for now, a Hallmark holiday isn’t going to jeopardize your mental health.
This is a very private, sometimes painful choice, but perhaps the best choice for you. The toxicity is just too much. Although the decision to go no contact is the healthiest for you at this time in your life, you still have a hard time feeling okay going against the pervasive cultural norm.
Either way, this idealization of mothers paints both mothers and daughters into a corner.
Wouldn’t it be great if daughters weren’t faced with the impossible choice of honoring their mothers at the expense of honoring themselves?
What if we as a culture could honor all mothering relationships in all of their complexity and authentic beauty without the phony commercial overlay that restricts us all?
To find out if you experience The Good Daughter Syndrome go here