How to Survive Mother’s Day With a Toxic Mom

Ah, Mother’s Day. Much like other holidays dedicated to people close to us, this one has a complicated set of nuances attached to those who have equally complicated relationships with their maternal figures.
And because there are cultural norms and religious iterations of hadiths like “Your Heaven lies under the feet of your mother,” (Al-Nasa’i) the guilt only becomes that much greater to sever ties with someone who hasn’t exactly been all that motherly.
This is not to impose that hadiths are shaming me into loving my mom–an interpretation is not exactly law here. What I’m trying to bring into question are concepts like: Is she even considered a mother, then? And: Why was this need to value someone just because they’re related to me embedded into my childhood at all?
These questions are not tied to religion. They’re problems I didn’t ask for, nor deserve, that were imposed on me from a young age.
So how do I justify not posting a Facebook selfie collage saying that I’m the most blessed daughter alive?
The reason this article is anonymous is because there’s a legitimate fear that it will inevitably find itself back to not just criticism toward me, but my entire family–which by extension, includes my mother. And I’m not some vengeful teenager out to chastise her. It’s taken me years of struggle, denial, and putting up with straight up emotional abuse to find the courage to understand what’s actually going on.
She’s not some abusive monstrosity you find in one of those shocking mystery books. In fact, she believes she’s almost always been mother of the year; and shows it well. Outside of home, our relationship could not appear more perfect.
I can’t say I fully blame her, since her own growth has been turbulent–fraught with abuse, neglect, and a need to maintain the façade publicly. But I’ve also stopped trying to make excuses for why I should exist as an encased plastic toy, trapped behind hidden disillusionment and feigned content.
It’s even taken me close to 20 years to recognize the toxicity that she’s brought to my life. I know I can’t change her, and I know that I respect and love her enough–so I’ve also decided that for my own sanity and peace of mind that we’re better off going our separate ways.
Yet because of our cultural ties, all I can really do right now is bear with the passive aggressive photo ops, and the cake bought by my dad to make her feel special.

It’s important to understand that the concept of family in my culture means everything.

“Blood is thicker than water” is just how things are understood. For a long time, I accepted it because I dared not try and complicate relations with those who raised, fed, clothed me…and made it a point to remind me of that fact every second.
But I want to be clear: Blood doesn’t mean shit when all you’ve got left is a shattered self-esteem and a desire for validation that you’re never going to receive.

If your mother’s love is conditional, it’s not love. It’s abuse.

It’s hard to believe, because she might tell you one day that she’s proud of you and have you feel like shit for the other 364 days. And you’ll so badly want to cling to that singular moment because the person whose love you wanted has finally shown it. But it’s not love. It’s control.
And if you, like me, are sick of feeling guilt every time your social media starts highlighting how great everyone else’s mothers are–you’re not alone. Remember that you’re brave for putting up with this day, and for every day of your life that you have to withstand it all.
Remember that even if you end up writing “Happy Mother’s Day! I love you” on your wall while writing an anonymous article about how you’re struggling inside because you’re afraid the community will shun you if you come out with the truth, you’re not a hypocrite. You’re just terrified. And that’s okay.
Remember that if you’re estranged and don’t talk to her, it’s okay. Any stage of the process you’re in is a stage shaped by strength and fortitude.

You’re not a bad child, a bad person, or a bad Muslim–something that might be difficult to believe while those brown aunties whisper about kids who have problems with their parents at the next dinner party.

What you’re going through is real, and you deserve to be happy, even if that means cutting the person that’s traditionally supposed to be limitlessly caring and nurturing out of your life.
Here are some alternatives to get through Mother’s Day if you’re going through a similar ordeal:

  • Be around people who do unconditionally love you
  • Treat yourself to some much-needed self care
  • Having a Netflix binge day
  • Get a post-passive-aggressive Mother’s Day facial to quite literally clear away the guilt out of your pores

And finally, a hit amid brown parents who care about your GPA:

  • Fake a final exam, because it’s May, aka the end of the semester.  Yes, on a Sunday. Online classes, anyone?!