An Open Letter To Bad-Ass Moms Without Moms

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Happy Mother's Day, Mama.

I know for you, mother's day is a bittersweet celebration. Thats a bold assumption, but I think for any woman who has childhood trauma in her past, its true. Even if you have healed and moved on from the past. Even if presently those relationships are in good repair or on the path to reparation. Even if you're a mother yourself. The truth is that those wounds still sometimes ache, like the ghost-like tingle of a lost limb.

This mother's day, I want to celebrate you - the mom that no one talks about. I want to celebrate the forgotten. I want to remember the mothers who were once children of neglect and abuse.

If you're like me, sometimes you're afraid of admitting that there are holes where a childhood should have been. I am ashamed to admit that Hallmark cards and heart-pulling Facebook videos make me feel super uncomfortable. They are a reminder that in the place where a mom should be -where those tender feelings lie in others- is something different. Sometimes that space holds anger or resentment. Other times it holds forgiveness and hope. On good days it holds a balance of the two. Whatever it holds, that place gives me the feels on Mother's day.

I am here to tell you, mama, that this day is for YOU. Mother's day typically is about celebrating the moms in our lives, but what happens when there is no mom of your childhood? How do you explain the feelings of grief and sadness for a woman who was there, but not there for you? 

This day is for the women who have mothered themselves. The ones who pulled themselves from tear-stained pillows to look in the mirror and see beauty, strength, and value where no one else did. The ones who figured out how to do their own laundry because no one was around to fold it nicely for them. This is for the girls who wanted, just once, for someone to make her a damn sandwich and ask her how her day at school was. Her friends had people like that at home. Why not you? This day is for the woman who grew up faster than she wanted to because no one was there to tell her to slow down. In fact, no one was there at all. 

Mother's day is for the women who have been mothers all their lives. It is for the women who know sacrifice because they put aside their childhood so they could care for those who could not care for themselves. This is for the girls who knew how to make a box of Kraft mac and cheese before they knew how to do long division. This day is for those who stepped into a place of care and nurture because they saw that was an empty role and refused to see it stay that way for the siblings they cared about.  

This is for the women who've been told in word or action that they can never be enough. For the ones who have suffered unspeakable abuse, who have stayed awake deep into the night wondering if the deserved to see the sun rise. This day is for the girls, who as children or grown-ass women, are afraid to tell people that they've been hurt because people might not believe them, or worse, tell them it wasn't so bad. This day is for you.

I see you, mama. You spent hours looking through Mother's Day cards at the store but never bought a single one because there wasn't one for your life. Your mom wasn't a good one and you know it. She's not someone you can give a funny card to either because this is not a laughing matter. This is the woman who should have been there for you and never was. So you never send a card. Maybe you make the obligatory phone call in its place. Maybe you do nothing. I see you. This day ain't for your mama. This day is for you.

I see you. You've been a mama your whole life. I don't pretend to understand your demons, but I see your pain and I want you to know - this day is for you. Even if you don't have children of your own, you've been a mom to yourself, and that's a job that not a lot of people can do as beautifully as you have. 

When I was growing up, each mother's day at church every woman in attendance would receive a gift. Usually it was a potted plant or a treat. Every year I asked for one. Every year I was denied. I know a nine-year-old girl asking for a mother's day treatment is common-place. Of course I did not have kids of my own, nor was I even capable of it. Of course I was not a traditional mother. But the way I see it is this: I'm 26. I've had my own children in my care for three years but I still have 18 years of mother's day gifts to make up for. So excuse me while I take two cookies for myself this Sunday at church - one for me and one for the bad-ass 8 year old inside me, begging for some love and recognition.

I feel a little bit guilty writing this. My mom is still alive and our relationship has made some amazing progress through my adult years. We talk regularly and have had many candid conversations. The hurts of both the past and present are discussed openly and forgiveness is given in abundance. She is more of a mom to me now than ever before, and I am grateful for her. But amidst those feelings of guilt, one truth shines through - this is my Mother's Day story. I refuse to be silent about it. This is how it happened for me and that is a perspective worth sharing.

Maybe you feel guilty reading too. If you're thinking, Channing, you just way over-exaggerated painful mother's days, that's okay. Because I know there's another mama out there who drags the dead weight of her childhood along behind her, still wondering if she's mom enough because she never had anyone to teach her how to be a good one. I hope you're reading this. 

Hold your head high. You are the most freakin' awesome mom that has ever breathed. You made it through some tough stuff and you're living your life. There are flowers growing in the cracks of your childhood because you planted them there. On Mother's day I want you to eat those cookies they pass out in church and freakin' enjoy it. I hope you hoard those macaroni necklaces your kid makes. I want you to open your eyes to see those who mothered you in any way, in any minuscule moment - whether it was the woman who birthed you or a perfect stranger with kind words. I hope you open your heart to all the love that comes to you from any place - you deserve all you can get and even more than you can hold. 

Mama, you are loved. Remember that on Sunday, May 14th, 2017, its okay to cry. Its okay to handle this day however you need to, ignoring the phone or not going to church, or being brave and saying the words you're afraid of. Take a bath. Scream at the sky. Write in your journal. Do whatever you want, because you're the mom and you do what you want. 

I'm rooting for you, Mama. I am awed by all you do. You are one bad-ass mother. Own it.

© Channing B. Parker. Design by FCD.