Surviving Mother's Day as an Adoptive Mother
featured on the essential life
Mother’s Day is about being sweet to your Mama, right? Telling her I Love You & Thank You & You’re The Best. Giving her flowers & mushy cards & making her breakfast in bed. Taking her out to lunch so she doesn’t have to do any work today.
But what if it’s not? What if your kids came to you from hard places, & Mother’s Day triggers big fears & hurts for them, & they ruin it & hurt your feelings every year?
Understand Their Discomfort & Dysregulation
Kids who learned very early in life that adults, & Moms in particular, can’t be trusted to take care of you, or put your needs first, have deep-seated issues with trust & fear. They don’t trust you’ll stick around. They don’t trust that you really love them. They fear losing another Mom.
Sometimes, ironically, that mistrust & fear manifests as behaviours that actually make their fears come true – they’re mean to you & drive you away & say they hate your guts. On your special day.
Maybe they really do hate your guts. Or maybe they don’t. Or maybe their memories & fears & feelings are just so gigantic, & their ability to regulate their emotions so lacking, that it all just sends them into panic survival mode & they end up focusing on self-preservation at all costs.
Acknowledge Your Feelings
It’s ok to feel hurt. It’s ok to cry & be mad. The whole stinkin’ thing is unfair - to them & to you. You’ve given up so much to be these kids’ Mama. They need so much from you, & you love them immensely, so you give & give & then they wreck your day & say mean things. Again.
You’re not made of steel. It’s ok to crumble & fall apart sometimes. Even Supermoms can only take so much. Your feelings are valid. Just like we tell the kids about THEIR big feelings…it’s ok to HAVE these feelings, it’s what you DO with them that matters.
Change Your Expectations
Really. Maybe the traditional Norman Rockwell Mother’s Day scene is just going to have to be one more thing we give up. If it’s just not going to happen, why hang your hopes on it every year? I know, I’m in this place too. I don’t want to give up my dreams of what our family life would look like. But hitting my head against the wall hasn’t been working, so it’s time.
So instead, I’m going to avoid the ramp-up of expectations & count it a win if the day includes a few of these:
- Child 1 doesn’t try to replace me with a friend’s mom.
- Child 2 gives me a hug. I’ll even take a sideways one.
- Child 3 doesn’t suddenly turn into a screaming banshee at bedtime for no reason.
- Children 4 & 5 don’t fight ALL day, & don’t call me bad names.
- Hubby understands, & does something sweet for me (something small though, so as not to upset the apple cart)
Notice I’m not hoping for ALL of those. Just a few. A couple. Ok, one is fine.
Look for Evidence That They Care
Just because having a great big special day centred around All Things Mom triggers your kids & culminates in chaos, doesn’t mean they don’t love you. Maybe this day is just too much, & the love & trust they do have just doesn’t show. But do yourself a favour & start looking for evidence now, before the anxiety starts to build. Write it down. Then pull that list out & look at it on Mother's Day when the chaos starts to blur your heart’s vision. You’ll see it.
He shared his candy with you, voluntarily. He noticed you looked sad & asked why. She apologised. She did two minutes of extra chores just to help you out. She chose you to hold her stuff. She made you something in school. He spontaneously hugged you. She wrote “I love mom” on a sticky note & left it where you’d find it. She didn’t worry when you were 3 minutes late picking her up – because she knew you’d come. He let his guard down & shared a smile with you.
It’s there, Mama, & likely growing, little by little.
Bind Your Wounds (Self-Care)
We spend so much time & energy helping our kids develop coping strategies for their big feelings, I honestly think we forget that we need that help too. At least, I do. So let’s do a little self-therapy:
- Journal. Scribble when you feel angry.
- Hammer a rock to smithereens.
- Scream into a pillow.
- Hide in the closet with your favourite blanket.
- Take a walk. Kick all the rocks.
- Call an understanding friend & see who’s having the worst day.
- Play your favourite sad song over & over til you’re all cried out, then crank up your favourite get-happy song & belt it out til your kids are embarrassed.
Take a bath, go for a massage, give yourself a footrub
- Dig a big hole in the backyard. Throw dirt.
- Climb a tree & stick your tongue out at everyone below who can’t find you.
- Diffuse your favourite Essential Oils.
- Vicariously live someone else’s life via your favourite book or movie.
When All Else Fails, Skip It
Mother’s Day, like every other holiday, has become increasingly commercialised. In fact, the founder of the Mother’s Day holiday in the U.S., Anna Jarvis, spent much of her life working to remove it from the calendars for that very reason. Mother’s Day was meant to honour mothers for the sacrifices they make for their families, & to promote peace.
If Mother’s Day doesn’t look like that for your family, skip it. Just remember to throw out those falsified expectations, too. The perfect kids on the greeting cards are NOT real kids. There’s no such thing as perfect kids. Honour your feelings, & honour your kids’ needs, & your Mother’s Day has a much better chance of being a calm, peaceful day you will be happy to look back on.
Strong Mamas of Hard Kids
Does this describe you? Are you a Crazy Quilt Mama like me, just trying to make something beautiful out of life’s messes? Come read more at Crazy Quilt Mamas & let’s encourage each other in this journey!
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