Mother’s Day is this weekend.
For many it will be an enjoyable event, but for some of us it will be a day of dread, anger, or avoidance.
The good news is that 56% of the population have a loving relationship with their mother (Research here). The bad news is that a whopping 44% of us do not. Let that sink in for a moment: 44% of do not have a good relationship with our mothers. Those numbers are staggering. 44% of us are set up for a lifetime of fear, rejection, and abandonment issues if we do not work on our underlying issues.
Some of us had mothers who were not around enough to give us the love and care that we genuinely needed growing up. Anxious or preoccupied attachment results in poor self-esteem and can turn into clingy and jealous behaviors later in life with our romantic partners.
Some of us are avoidant or fearful and had mothers who abusive toward us. People with this type of attachments want to have social and romantic relationships, but they are also uncomfortable with emotional closeness. We spend our lives pulling others toward us only to push them away which starts the cycle again.
Back to Mother’s Day:
If you were raised with an abusive or a neglectful mother then Mother’s Day isn’t such a fun and nostalgic holiday. It’s natural for us to care about our mothers, even if our mothers were not ideal. But sometimes we need to take care of ourselves as well.
There is no one way to protect ourselves if we have toxic mothers, but here some ideas that can be tried or combined with others:
Always start with the smallest and least restrictive choices that will also keep you safe and add more self-protections as needed.
- Move out but still visit
- Move out and rarely visit
- Move and never visit
- Call weekly to check in
- Call only when you can emotionally handle the call
- Only communicate by snail mail or e-mail.
- Cut off completely (Always a last resort)
I once had a client who had a bitter and angry mother. Every phone call resulted in the mother complaining and name calling everyone in the family. The client calmly told her mother she that she cared about her, but when she called she did not want to tear down other family members and that if Mother continued to do that then the client would hang up.
This is important because a new rule or boundary and consequence needs to be explained in advance or it will not work. The next phone call the mother started the usual negative spiral and the client immediately and calmly gave one reminder to stay positive. The mother did not so the client followed-through and hung up. The next day the client called back and acknowledged her need to hang up and her desire to try again.
The phone call lasted a little longer but then the mother started her criticisms of the family and the client immediately hung up again. It was a little uncomfortable to physically hang up on her mother two calls in a row, but that was all it took. From the third call on the mother stayed positive and did not return to her previous negativity.
With the help of a professional family therapist, this technique can be modified to whatever your current family situation may be. You do not have to “grin and bear” a poor or toxic relationship any longer.