How Do You Handle Mother’s Day When Your Mother Was Abusive?

TV ads this weekend make all mothers ready for instant canonization… but as readers of The Invisible Scar know, not all mothers are good mothers.

So, how do handle a day dedicated to motherhood when your own mother was abusive and so not worthy of gifts or cards?

You have two choices:

  1. Ignore the day (The day is for good mothers, not terrible ones. You don’t have to celebrate it.)
  2. Acknowledge the day in your own way

If you choose to ignore the day, you need not read on.

If you choose #2, you can recognize the holiday in different ways. Here’s a look at a few of them.

Celebrate what motherhood means to you

If you’re a mother, celebrate what a gift that your children are to you, what an amazing opportunity you have to parent in a different way from which you were brought up. You can stop surrendering the day to your own mother and now claim the holiday as YOURS.

Motherhood is a beautiful, difficult, wonderful, and challenging vocation, when done right. Celebrate the journey that you are on.

Honor maternal figures in your life

Your own mother may have been a study in horror, but you may have good examples of motherhood in your life. Perhaps an aunt or a good friend or even a coach, some adult in your life who has taken on a motherly role.

Take this opportunity to let this woman know how much her presence has meant to you and what a blessing she has been to your life.

Mother yourself

You may have a mother-sized hole in your heart, but you can take time today to think about how you can take better care of yourself. Yes, your mother was an awful example of motherhood… Yes, she treated you very badly. But you can stop letting her do so. You can stop listening to all the bad self-talk that is actually her in your head and now start speaking to yourself in the loving, kind tones that a good other does.

Make a commitment to treat yourself with respect, love, encouragement, and gentleness. You are a gift to the world, and though your own mother might not have appreciated it or been unable to properly demonstrate gratitude for the gift, we are all so glad you are here.

* * *

On this upcoming Mother’s Day, keep safe and keep strong. Don’t cave into sentiment or cling to an ideal that cannot be. It’s only one day, it’s only a holiday.

Onward and upward…

21 thoughts on “How Do You Handle Mother’s Day When Your Mother Was Abusive?

  1. “You can stop surrendering the day to your own mother and now claim the holiday as YOURS.” Thank you for this. I had actually forgot about it until I got a Happy Mother’s Day email from a friend (unconsciously utilizing option # 1 no doubt). I declare, from this day forward, that Mother’s Day is not about my mother, but about me and my children. Mother’s Day is officially MY day. Thank you Invisible Scar. This blog is truly a blessing. Have a wonderful Mother’s Day!


    1. Lynette,

      You’re very welcomed! And, yes, this day is yours.

      Thanks for your well-wishes. We had a lovely Mother’s Day, and I pray yours are wonderful, too, from now on.


      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this article. I cried when I read it. The term “mother sized hole” says so much.

    I have already sent it to a couple of the teens who have written to me. One in particular is very confused about whether she is a bad daughter or whether she is being abused. I work on the assumption that each time they see a new perspective from people on the outside who understand abuse it helps them in some way. As the saying goes knowledge is power and they often feel powerless.

    There are very few people who understand the damage that an emotionally abusive mother can do. The more it is talked about, the better. As this article says, not all mothers are great mothers deserving of flowers, praise, thanks, appreciation etc. It is important to make a distinction. So thank you again.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Steve,

      I’m sorry you cried, but as you know, you are not alone.

      Yes, the day isn’t to celebrate any mother, for some were very destructive and soul-crushing to their children. It’s a day for the good mothers to have a fun holiday to celebrate their motherhood or to recognize the good maternal figures in their lives.

      Knowledge is power indeed. The more the teens you help know how to define healthy and abusive relationships, to discern from safe and unhealthy people, the better their chances of growing into emotionally healthy adults.


      Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you for addressing this here today. For many people, ignoring today is very difficult; it seems as if everyone you’ve ever known crawls out of the woodwork to ask, “why aren’t you talking to your mother? don’t you think you should?” For so many of them, it’s inconceivable that a mother could be abusive. The “abusive parent” role is reserved only for fathers.

    It’s important to practice self-care today, but it can be difficult. I hope everyone is able to put aside at least some time to devote to themselves today.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hex,

      I just had a conversation about this with a colleague. And we were saying how a long answer isn’t needed. You can keep it brief:

      Other Person: Why aren’t you talking to your mother? Don’t you think you should?

      You have different options for replying:

      – I have my reasons. People aren’t always what they seem, you know. [change subject immediately. If they pull it back to your mother, change the subject again. Or leave.]
      – My mother is toxic to me. I’d rather not talk about her or my personal decision. [change subject immediately. If they pull it back to your mother, change the subject again. Or leave.]
      – I’d rather not talk about this sensitive subject. [change subject immediately. If they pull it back to your mother, change the subject again. Or leave.]
      – Being in communication with my mother is harmful to my emotional well-being. So, no. [change subject immediately. If they pull it back to your mother, change the subject again. Or leave.]

      The point here is that you don’t owe the inquiring person a long question. This decision is not theirs to make. Their input isn’t needed. This matter is between you and your therapist, really.

      You’re an adult. You make the decision for what’s best for YOUR emotional well-being. “Well-meaning” friends need to not interfere with your healing process.

      Good, emotionally healthy friends will respect your short answer and discuss something new. Good, emotionally healthy friends will keep you in their thoughts and prayers, and trust you to do what you need to do to heal.

      Unsafe people will badger you. Unsafe people will try to make you feel guilty, shitty, bad, etc. for doing something they don’t understand.

      Those unsafe people are not worth giving long, in-depth answers to.

      Keep safe, Hex. Stand strong in the truth, and know you are not alone.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Lovely way of looking at mothers day. Fortunately, we had ours in the Uk several weeks ago, it’s rather weird to see it splashed over the WP reader. I usually just detach from it, but I’ll try to remember your suggestions for next year, nice sentiment

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is such an empowering read. Thank you so very much for the validation and accuracy of the situation! I brace myself each mothers day, getting braver and more confident with each passing year (I am almost 50), yet every year I find myself ducking and weaving to doge the bullets. Sadly I see her behaviour working it’s way down to grandchildren, which means I have become selective about sharing mine. Reading these posts have been such a huge comfort and relief, knowing I am not going mad. Thankyou 🙂


    1. Freedom Speaks,

      You’re very welcomed. And congratulations on growing stronger every year. (cheering)

      Glad that you feel comforted and in good company.

      Peace to you.


  6. Only yesterday I suggested to my husband & children that just as at Christmas we’re encouraged to think of the less fortunate; so too on Mother’s/ Father’s day, Valentines day & other holidays, we need to do the same.
    I spent time on-line telling others of supportive sites such as this one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought that was so beautiful a thing to do. Just that alone is enough to show that you are truly not your mother’s child!!! (just a figure of speech)
      Since I broke from home, as a Catholic, attending Mass services on Mother’s Day is difficult, especially since our parish priests remind us to remember our mothers too – which is the very last thing I want to do. And when I see people hug and kiss their mothers, I look the other way only because I don’t belong to that group, and I never have.

      But this year, our priest asked us to remember Nepali mothers who have lost their children in the earthquake recently, and that reminder put a sobering lid on the mushy, sentimental celebration of the day. And because of that, it turned out to be a beautiful day – a day spent in prayer for others – the real mothers.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Thank you Caitlyn. Hearing I’m unlike my mother is the biggest compliment i could receive. I too grew up in a strict Catholic home, with my mother conveniently playing a prominent part. So I know exactly what you mean about the guilt involved. Good to hear about a forward thinking priest who brought home what really matters.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Hm, that’s a very interesting point. I had not thought about this… but I love the idea of taking this day and using it to help others.

      It is a good day to be, in a sense, mothering (in a good way) others and showing them love and support.

      Thanks for spreading the word about The Invisible Scar.


      Liked by 2 people

  7. Thanks for the article, I will try and remember the tips. I too, have a hard time during this time of the year and those that have loving supportive mothers usually don’t understand the other end of the spectrum. I myself still don’t understand what drives a mother to abandon her offspring. Even the less sophisticated mammals on the earth bond with their offspring on an instinct level.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jane Doe,

      You’re welcomed. So sorry for the difficulties of this day. Know your sorrow and hurt is understood by readers at The Invisible Scar.

      What drives a mother (or a father, for that matter) to abandon a child is very baffling. But it does happen. And the child, though deeply wounded, can still go on, through time, therapy, and prayer, to an emotionally healthier life.

      Peace to you.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. A while back, this site had some tips on how to get through Father’s Day when your father was abusive…. I took that same advice and applied it to Mother’s Day, since that is the more applicable one in my own life. You recommended to make a tradition to do something unique and fun on that day so that the day becomes something to look forward to rather than something to hate. My whole life, I have dreaded that day, even starting months before the actual date – just knowing it was coming was enough to make me dread it. But now I spend the months leading up to Mother’s Day dreaming up fun/adventurous things to do, and this is the second year in which I have purposefully made plans so that it was a day to look forward to. I have to say that that was one of the best pieces of advice I have ever been given. Now instead of spending that weekend hating the world, I actually enjoy it. I want to sincerely thank you for this, as well as encourage anyone else who may be in my same situation to use the day as an excuse to get around to doing those fun things you’ve been meaning to try but never managed to find the time for.


    1. Angel Jones,

      Ah, yes! The reason I hadn’t written about Mother’s Day last year was because I assumed people would read the Father’s Day post and glean lessons from that. But then, this year, I felt I’d be more obvious about the day.

      What a wonderful comment, Angel. I’m so happy to hear that you’ve reclaimed the day and made it something beautiful and fun/adventurous for yourself.

      No need to hate the world when there’s so much beauty and hope and good things in it.

      You’re very welcomed, and I wish you continued peace and healing.



  9. I got the least emotional card I could find. If I didn’t buy a card, my dad would scream at me. Never bought her anything material. If I did, it would be given back to me or wind up in the garage. If I bought her food, she would sneer at it while telling me she isn’t into food like I am or she isn’t a big fat pig like I am. Now that she’s dead, I spend mother’s day being thankful she’s gone.


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