"This year, Mother’s Day feels especially hollow and commercialised"Olivia Lisle, IG: @livcollage

Content Note: this article contains discussion of mental health conditions.

The last few Mother’s Days I’ve gone somewhat overboard. I’ve bought chocolates, toiletries, Pandora jewellery, stuffed animals – the whole works. Mum and I have gone out for dinner and then drank Prosecco in the evening. It’s a day when I could put a monetary value on love.

There are so many reasons why I put pressure on myself to buy such a bundle of gifts. Love, of course. Care. Confusion. Guilt. Yet this year, I had no idea that Mother’s Day was even looming, let alone just round the corner.

The truth is that my relationship with my Mum is very complicated. We spent most of my teenage years living just us two in an otherwise empty house, and Mum spent most of that time heartbroken. Of course there were some good times, but there were also a lot of bad ones. She would cry, I would try and fix it. She would get angry, I would apologise for things that weren’t my fault. She would stop me from doing things I wanted, I would accept it with a sigh. But I still loved her. As I got older and struggled to keep up this routine, she took my gradual withdrawal as me being a “moody teenager”. In hindsight, I’m sure this is exactly what it looked like. But in reality I was seriously depressed, and experienced complex trauma in the middle of my A-Levels that neither of us was equipped to deal with. I couldn’t take care of both of us, so I chose to focus on her, shutting off my own emotional needs in the process.

“No card will ever capture the emotions I’m currently feeling about Mum”

Despite all this, I have always felt a deep sense of responsibility towards Mum. When I moved to university, I was terrified about leaving her behind. I didn’t know how she would cope on her own. If she would cope at all. But unexpectedly, time apart made things a lot better, for a while. And Mother’s Day gifts became ever more important as I attempted to fill the hole I felt inside with cheerful cards and colourful wrapping paper.

This year is different. In a matter of months, my relationship with my Mum has deteriorated to one of almost non-existence. This is completely my choice. My fault. And for now, it is most definitely the right decision. I hope that it won’t always be like this, and that in the future we can connect as mother and daughter should. But at the moment, it’s the way things are.

We used to talk on the phone three times a week, for at least an hour each time. This term we’ve talked three times in total, and at least on my end, even this has been a real struggle. I haven’t seen her since moving back to Cambridge in October. Since then, I’ve gone through a fundamental transformation and am now in a much better place. But I’ve felt pain, sadness and anger when I think of her. And then guilt and self-hatred for thinking of her this way. Now, I’ve passed through these emotions and feel something even stranger: indifference.

Of course, I still love her, and always will. Even though I know our relationship was unhealthy. I took care of her when I should have been taking care of myself. And I know that continuing that relationship in that way was dangerous. I still love her. Nevertheless, this year Mother’s Day is not a joyful event, but a painful one.


Mountain View

The impossible task of grieving

When I almost walked straight into a display of heart-shaped chocolates, teddies wrapped in cellophane and novelty mugs a few days ago, I was confused. Hadn’t Valentine’s Day already been and gone? I shrugged and moved on down the aisle, and it was then that I found myself opposite the rack of cards. The “Happy Mother’s Day!” cards. The day I’d been dreading was almost upon me.

Walking around the supermarket, the Mother’s Day cards and gifts weren’t a useful reminder to me to start planning, to begin squirreling away the odd present, to book a restaurant. Instead, the novelty wine glass with “Best Mom” inscribed upon it was a stab in the heart. A reminder of the relationship I wish we had. Of the guilt I feel for cutting myself off from her, even though I know that our previous dynamic was damaging to me. How am I supposed to mark this day, when I don’t know if I can even bring myself to send a card?

I am not the first to find Mother’s Day challenging. I will definitely not be the last. I still don’t know what I will do on Sunday. Is getting in contact and reassuring Mum of my love worth the negative impact it will have on me? Would it be an important sign that I want a better relationship, or just another moment of façade, designed to help her rather than myself? What I do know is that whatever I choose to do, I will regret it. This year, Mother’s Day feels especially hollow and commercialised. No card will ever capture the emotions I’m currently feeling about Mum. No amount of chocolates or personalised gifts can fix our relationship. Only time and forgiveness will do that. But I still love her.