You Don’t Owe Your Toxic Mother a Card, Candy, or Quality Time on Mother’s Day

[photo credit: flickr user George Chelebiev]
Whenever you see your mother, she belittles you, emotionally abuses you, treats you like a peasant, and demands to be fawned over like a queen. After you spend time with her, whether in person or on the phone or even reading an email from her, you feel very, very tiny and insignificant.

You hurt inside, where no one can see. You are invisibly cut and scarred again and again.

You can hardly remember more than a handful of times (if that) when you enjoyed your mother’s company. You can’t even really recall feeling nurtured or loved unconditionally.

Yet you have spent your entire life trying to find the mythical and magical key that will open her heart to you and unleash the maternal love you’ve always longed for.

Deep in your heart, you suspect that there is no key. It’s not your fault; it’s just broken.

But somehow, every second Sunday of May, you find yourself wondering whether you should send this toxic mother some sort of card or maybe make a quick phone call or stop by her house for a short visit.

I know you wonder because my inbox gets jam-packed every May and the traffic here at The Invisible Scar absolutely skyrockets.

Every year, readers email me such questions as “Should I send my mother a card on Mother’s Day even thought we haven’t talked in years?” or “Should I send my mother a card even though she always treats me like crap?”

My answer is always: You have to make your own informed decision. I can’t make that decision for anyone.

That said, in making such a decision, do keep the following in mind:

Mother’s Day is to honor good mothers

The holiday was not created to honor toxic mothers, abusive mothers, neglectful mothers, etc. It is meant to honor the good women who fulfill the vocation of motherhood.

By unilaterally honoring all mothers, we neglect the truth that not all mothers are good ones. The ads on TV and radio often exclaim such phrases as “Mother always…” or “Mothers this or that” but the truth is that not all mothers are loving.

Yes, most mothers are good. It is far more common to have a loving, kind, and caring mother than to not have one. And those are the mothers who we celebrate. They deserve a day. They remind us of what good mothers are, what they should be.

We are not to honor the small group of abusive mothers. They besmirch the role of motherhood. They dishonor the true vocation of motherhood.

You are under no moral obligation to send a card or gift or spend time with your emotionally abusive mother

If you are still in contact with your abusive mother or in limited contact, you can be honest about the holiday. There’s nothing wrong in admitting that the holiday brings up a lot of emotions and that you didn’t feel right giving a false impression with a card or gift.

Some readers who have very limited contact with their mothers have said they send their mom a “thanks for giving birth to me” card. It’s direct, shows you’re thankful for the gift of life, and yet does not tell falsehoods about the relationship.

A Mother’s Day card is not going to fix everything

That card that you think you might want to send your mother does not possess magical qualities. I know that sounds harsh; I’m so very sorry for having to be so blunt. But I hear so very many stories about adult survivors of emotional child abuse who think that this Mother’s Day card will somehow:

  • Show their mother that they still acknowledge their existence
  • Warm their mother’s heart to what a healthy relationship could be
  • Open a new communication channel
  • Let their mom see what she’s missing out on by being abusive

This card or phone call from you is not going to do any of that. I’m so, so sorry.

If your mother is truly toxic, the only thing that this card or phone call will do is keep the lines open for continued abuse, knock down the boundaries that you have set for yourself, lie to your mother about doing a great job mothering (because that’s what all Mother’s Day cards say), make her feel like she’s been maligned by you in the past, and demonstrate that you can be manipulated into lowering your boundaries.

A loving mother who wants a better relationship with you will give you space to heal and also work on healing herself

Not every crappy mother is a toxic one.

Some emotionally abusive mothers are awful at parenting out of ignorance. They honestly do not know any better…and through therapy, honest communication with their children, and boundary-setting, they can learn to change and sustain that change for a long, long time (hopefully, the rest of their lives).

A mother who is making a true effort at becoming better and an emotionally healthier person will understand that her child has emotional wounds and perhaps does not want to celebrate Mother’s Day.

A toxic mother will make this holiday hellish

Unfortunately, most readers of The Invisible Scar have toxic mothers. These mothers will take a simple holiday (cards, flowers, a small gift, and, hey, thanks, good mom, for everything!) and turn it into a spectacle.

But only you can decide whether to continue setting your boundaries (i.e., going no contact or limiting contact) or to suspend them for the sake of a random holiday.

Just remember that you can survive the peer pressure of celebrating Mother’s Day

You are so much stronger than one holiday in May. You really are.

And if you need some extra ideas for powering through Mother’s Day, here are some four sanity-saving tips for ignoring Mother’s Day and ideas for how to handle Mother’s Day when your own mother was abusive.

Veronica Jarski is the founder and writer of The Invisible Scar, a passion project dedicated to raising awareness of emotional child abuse and its effects on adult survivors. She has extensive editorial experience and a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Her work has been featured on myriad online publications. She also is the author of an e-book about waking up to the realization that one had an emotionally abusive childhood.


33 thoughts on “You Don’t Owe Your Toxic Mother a Card, Candy, or Quality Time on Mother’s Day

  1. Thank you for the validation you give in this post! In years past I would struggle to find a card for my Narcissistic Mother that was nice, but not “You’re such a wonderful mother/best friend/saint etc.” because that would be a lie. This year I was spared the ordeal because one month ago I severed communication with my mother.


  2. I am so thankful to have found this site. I have decided today to sever ties with my Mother. I’ve tried a couple of times, prior to break ties with my Mom, but then she convinces my siblings, with lies and turns them against me. She never protected me from my abusive Dad. My Mom would always go in another room, deny & lie. The worst example, after an entire childhood of abuse with, my (6’5″) Dad. He threw me across the room and broke my knee and leg. They left me lying there on the floor all night suffering and in horrific pain. My Mom finally, checked on me in the morning and I had a grapefruit size blood clot on my knee. So, they called the ambulance and lied that I fell. My Dad sat there on the couch reading the newspaper & my Mom stayed in the Kitchen. As, this was happening to me, my sister Lisa was in the same hospital for slitting her wrists & my parents lied to the Doctors, too. We were starved, were evicted all the time, we never knew where we were moving. We had nothing. If my Dad was going to beat my sister and brother, I stepped in front of them. My Mom & Dad eventually had 8 children. I become more like their Mom. The only thing I excelled in was academics and I always loved children. So, I worked 2 jobs, and earned a Master’s in Education and became a Teacher, while buying clothes, school supplies, Christmas presents, whatever the needed. As, I became more successful, my Dad would say, “What, do you think some kind of Big Shot”? I never heard thank you or I’m proud of you. My Dad became ill with a rare genetic illness that I later inherited. It sounds terrible but, when he died at 49, I felt sorry for him because he also had cancer and had his leg amputated. I did what I could for him, but I didn’t shed a tear when he died. I felt relieved. I thought the abuse was over. But, the emotional abuse continued and continues until this day. The day, today, I’ve decided to end the relationship with her. I’m really, really tired. I’m going to finish my story tomorrow. There is so much more to tell. I need to have someone listen.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you SO MUCH for this post. This was the first year I sent and did NOTHING for my father’s wife (I can’t even stand to call her my ‘stepmother’ even though she’s been part of my life for 47 years.) I’m still working at how not to feel guilty about it all.


  4. Had to observe Mothers day or else there was hell to pay. I would do anything to avoid an incident. Anything. Had a terrible home life even after divorcing my dad. Her emotional abuse was withering. I’m 72 and still can’t attach.


  5. I really enjoy the site I am a 38 year old male and I get genuine validation from reading the articles and other people’s experiences. Keeps me sane. Some very sad stories here and all very relatable. I feel less alone knowing others have been through similar.


    1. Found this site after a horrific Mother’s Day last May — that was it for me. I just could not keep taking her verbal and emotional abuse. I’ve lived with her abuse since I was a toddler — I remember the beatings way back then, the broken bones and black eyes — and now I’m middle-aged. Her behavior was somewhat controlled over the years as long as I was always around family or at least had my Dad there. He was never abusive and I don’t know if he realized the extent of the abuse she poured out on me. If I somehow was caught alone with her, she would NEVER miss the chance to demean me, make some nasty comment about what I looked like or something about my kids…… you know what I mean. My Dad died 3 years ago and her behavior with me has escalated. Well, on Mother’s Day this year, I finally had it and decided to cut off all ties with her. I blocked her from my cell phone; changed landline number. She has turned my 3 sisters against me with her lies about my starting a fight with her, blah, blah, blah. I’ve started seeing a therapist and this has helped me tremendously. My bio-mom (she really has never been a mother to me) has the personality of a narcissistic sociopath, so I was never going to win. But I have survived. The disconnect is very hard and with the holidays approaching, husband and I have decided that we are not going to any family function with her there, so we just wont be going. Very difficult but I’m working through it. Great support from my husband and my therapist rocks!! Also, relying on my faith to help, and journaling has really helped (never did this before). Take care, all of my brothers and sisters out there.

      Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.