Most women don’t look like the mums sitting on the front of Mother’s Day cards. Today, Mamamia celebrates all kinds of mums. For more stories about the reality of motherhood, check out Mamamia’s Mother’s Day hub page.
This post deals with abuse and might be triggering for some readers.
Mother’s Day is a difficult day for me. It’s not as straightforward as gifting roses, writing a card or sharing a nice brunch with my mum.
I usually spend Mother’s Day cycling between grief and gratitude, contending with the reality that my mum was abusive, while also thinking about how much my mum sacrificed for me.
I spend the day oscillating between feeling angry and then feeling guilty for being ungrateful. And every year, I wonder if I’ll settle on a side.
Watch: Mother’s Day can be a difficult time for some… Post continues below.
Growing up, I mostly kept to myself. From the outside, I seemed like a quiet and shy child. But in reality, that quietness masked debilitating fear.
I feared the fake red roses in our living room. To others, they looked like cheap decorations. To me, they were much more. My mum would beat me with the stems until the green lining wore off, revealing the metal cores. She beat me when I didn’t eat fast enough. She beat me when I accidentally spilt juice on the floor.
Sometimes my mum would lock me outside of our house and refuse me food and shelter. These punishments often followed incidents I could not have been responsible for.
Once it was because she reversed into a car; she said I should have been looking out for it. Another time, it was because I didn’t ask a shop assistant a question for her. I remember that time very clearly, because afterwards she told me I wasn’t her child anymore.
But I also remember how loving my mother sometimes was. She would use her spare money to buy me art supplies. She’d spend afternoons annotating catalogues and circling all the things she thought I’d like. When people visited the house, she’d carefully unpack the art that I’d made, and show everyone like they were her trophies. She’d stay up late to keep me company when I was studying. She often bought me my favourite foods and wouldn’t eat them herself, even though I knew she loved them too.
But when I couldn’t get out of bed or eat because of my depression, she’d yell at me accuse me faking it. She yelled at me when I didn’t greet her friends the way she wanted me to. When I didn’t tell her my final high school grades, she didn’t speak to me for three months. When I missed one saucepan I was supposed to wash, she didn’t speak to me for a week. The silence was often worse than the yelling.