I dread Mothers’ Day every year. My mother starts nagging me about sending her a card weeks before the date and asks for chocolates too. It is totally ridiculous and I know her script by heart. ‘You won’t forget my card, will you,’ is how she begins. ‘All my friends get beautiful cards from their daughters, while I feel ashamed of the ones you send me as they always have a rather dreary design on the front. As for the chocolates. Is it really too much to ask you to spend a little more and buy me a selection in a decent-sized box. Surely it’s not much to ask after all the years I had to look after you.’
The reality is she has been a rotten spiteful mother and it’s hard to remember anything genuinely loving that she did for me. Instead it’s been criticisms all the way which, now I’m forty, is not going to make me want to try harder to please her. In fact it works the other way round. I stopped buying chocolates a few years ago but every year I find myself feeling both foolish and irritable when I walk into a card shop to look for something with words that are as non-committal as possible. I once sent her a card by email and I still haven’t heard the end of it. She hated it because she couldn’t easily show it to her few friends.
What on earth do I do?
You are certainly not the only one who feels sad and frustrated about handling Mothers’ Day. Because your mother anticipates the day so strongly you must feel you are taking part in a charade and feel obliged to send a card with messages you don’t mean. It is possible that one reason you are irritated is because you feel caught up in your mother’s attempts to manipulate you. It might help if instead you think about how you would like to manage this complicated day.
It is impossible to satisfy a difficult mother, so trying to please her and be true to your own values is not going to work. If you decide to go ahead and mark the day by buying a card along with a modest box of chocolates, try thinking of yourself as a dutiful daughter who gives so much to make her feel it is her day but no more. You’ve sort of done this before but perhaps this time you can do it as willingly as possible but without joining her game. However, your gesture will never match her unrealistic needs. Stay strong about whatever you choose, expect some backlash but don’t let it undermine you.
Essentially the day should be about how you decide to cope and has nothing to do with how she and her friends react. You are right that her behaviour is so bad she doesn’t even deserve a card, but if you decide you want to send her something think of Mothers’ Day as just one day out of 365 and that your behaviour makes you the better person.