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Mothering Yourself On Mother’s Day

         I am writing this article on May 13, Mother’s Day this year (though it is being printed at a much later date). As I sit at my computer the Mother’s Day e-mails come pouring in. They are sentimental, funny, and reminiscent. They all speak of the love and care it takes to be a mother. I love reading them. But as I look at the addresses of the friends who forwarded them to me, many of them well spouses, I noticed that they were sent from mother to mother, friend to friend but not from children or grandchildren.

 

         For many people, Mother’s Day is the most painful time of the year. It is the day that many mothers feel hurt and neglected by children who forget to acknowledge their love and appreciation for their mother, particularly on this day. Often husbands take on the role, bringing home flowers or taking their wife to dinner to acknowledge their contributions to their home.

 

         This is especially important if children live far away and forget to call and wish their moms a happy Mother’s Day or, as some feel, only call with wishes; no card or gift. For well spouses, whose husband’s cannot make up for the children’s neglect, the day is just one of loneliness and sadness if it is not acknowledged by children. Most of the mothers I spoke with today were feeling hurt and unappreciated. They all had good children; responsive children, caring children. But somehow, today they were neither caring nor responsive to the emotional neediness this day brings their mothers.

 

         Most of us, no matter our age, need “mothering.” We need the caring, praise and approval that our mothers gave us, but are now only a faint memory; or we desire it because our mothers were unable to give that kind of positive caring in their lifetime and the longing for what we never had is still present. And so on Mother’s Day, we look to our children to keep it alive. And when they don’t, we become angry and hurt and often let our children know it.

 

         Why our children choose not to fill our needs on this specific day is as varied as our children. The excuses range from forgetting, being too busy, not celebrating this secular holiday to simply adolescent parent-anger. But whatever the reason, and no matter how real the reason, we know we are simply not a priority with them on the day we need to be their priority so very badly. So what’s a mother to do?

 

         It is not reasonable to expect our children to make us a priority for this day unless they are willing to. And, if they had that willingness we wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place. The only thing that is constructive for us is to mother ourselves. On this day of uncomfortable feelings, each mother that is feeling neglected needs to buy herself flowers, go on a shopping spree to get that gift she’s been hinting to her children about, and take herself and perhaps a friend that is feeling the same way, out to dinner.

 

         You will feel less pained; less neglected and as you fill your own needs, much happier. It is even a good thing to share your plans with your children if they ask how you plan to spend the day. Telling your children you bought yourself flowers for Mother’s Day or went out to dinner is not a way to criticize or punish them. It is not a way of getting even for the neglect and shouldn’t be said in that manner. It really has nothing to do with them at all. It is merely a healthy way of filling your own needs, showing your appreciation of yourself, and acknowledging your self-worth. It is a way of making the day a happy one for you. Further, it is a wonderful example for our children to see.

 

         As mothers, we always put ourselves last in the family pecking order of needs. For one day (and even more if we have the courage) it is a good thing to make ourselves the priority. If money is tight, use the money you would have spent on your children this week, on yourself. Buy yourself one flower instead of a bouquet. Order a sandwich instead of a meal. Keep your gift to yourself modest. But give to yourself. The result will be a happier you. Who knows, maybe this new self-mothering will shock your family into behaving differently on your special days and maybe you won’t feel that need at all.

 

         You can reach me at annnovick@hotmail.com.

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More Articles from Ann Novick

When one is blind one learns to use Braille to read. When one cannot walk, a wheelchair gives mobility. Sign language allows a mute person to speak and ocular implants assist in hearing when one is deaf. These are all compensatory strategies that help a person function despite his disability. But compensatory strategies are not just for physical problems. Understanding our psychological weaknesses and setting up our lives to ensure that we are not tempted to repeat our past mistakes, is as necessary as any aid to the disabled.

Well spouses have often discovered that their friends and relatives, despite their closeness to the situation, often don’t realize the tremendous emotional impact living with chronic illness has on the family. With the best intentions, suggestions, ideas and criticism are offered, based on the non-experience of those with healthy families. Even when the good intentioned get a taste of the difficulties, it is sometimes not enough for them to then identify and understand what the family of the chronically ill must face on a constant basis.

Over the past two weeks I have shared letters from a therapist and a well spouse. Both of the letters gave personal insights into the process of losing hope, how we react when that happens and some ways of coping when test scores, diagnosis and just simple repetitive behavior indicate that change for the better is impossible.

Dear Ann,

I’ve read your last few articles on psycho-neurological testing (Oct.8-22) with interest. As a therapist who has counseled couples dealing with chronic illness, I’d like to give you another perspective.

Dear Ann,

Your articles on the Neuro-Psychological Testing were right on (October 8-22). My husband underwent testing twice and your articles explained it things exactly the way they were. Besides the test, we also tried therapy.

Very often when we can’t face our big hurts or big loses we focus on the little ones. We can discuss those. We can cry over the small loses, be angry at the smaller hurts even though it may look trite and sound ridiculous to others.

Over the last two weeks we have been discussing one way in which well spouses can determine whether behavior displayed by their ill partners is caused by their illness or is a way they have chosen to act. We have focused on Psycho-Neurological testing, what it can tell us, as well as its pros and cons.

Last week I discussed a question that haunts many well spouses: not knowing if the difficult and often inappropriate behavior frequently displayed by their partners are caused by the disease and therefore not-controllable, or if the behavior is a choice the spouse makes and can therefore be changed. This doubt can be the source of much frustration and many marital disagreements. One way of alleviating this doubt is by having a psycho- neurological work up done. But that path is not so simple.

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