“A mother’s love is forever,” goes the old saying. Unfortunately, this isn’t always true. A mother’s love sometimes ends where her issues begin. In my travels to speak I have connected with women whose mothers are estranged, overbearing, emotionally unavailable, or abusive. My heart hurts for these beautiful women who feel adrift and hurt. I’m especially aching for them on a holiday that reminds them that their complicated, messed up relationship with mom should be joyful and fulfilling.
Isaiah 49:15 reads, “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb?” A mother’s love is supposed to reveal God’s love for us: total, unconditional, ever-present and faithful. I used to babysit for a mother who, before going out the door, would tell her anxious two-year-old, “mommies always come back.” And that's how it should be. Without unconditional love from our mothers we lack identity and can develop trust issues. However, knowing that humanity is fallible, God understands and reaches out to those who are alienated from their mothers:
“Even should she forget, I will never forget you.”
Your identity is a daughter of God. You are seen. You deserve and you already have unconditional love. Here’s what comes next: “See, upon the palms of my hands I have engraved you.” Christ’s palms retained the nail holes of his crucifixion that he suffered for love of you. When you put each part of yourself into his hands, whatever is bad for you will fall through the nail holes, and only the good will remain. He is waiting to hold your hurting heart and to heal you.
Also, please seek professional help. You deserve to process and heal. You deserve strong and healthy relationships. You deserve to live in confidence rather than to live in reaction to the hurt that has been done to you.
Pray for your mom. Maybe your mom has issues that she cannot or will not face. The Blessed Mother wants to surround her with her mantle of motherly love and heal her.
There’s no doubt we all need a mom. God may want to bring other women into your life who can help nurture you and fill the void. St. Therese of Lisieux’s mother, St. Zelie, died when Therese was four. The day Zelie died, Therese’s sister Celine, overcome with grief, threw herself into the arms of their oldest sister Marie and said, “you will be my mother now!” Therese followed her lead and clung to her second oldest sister Pauline and said, “and you will be my mother.” (Note: this story has been paraphrased.)
I pray that you will feel hope knowing that you can still receive the nurturing you need elsewhere, because every woman is called to be a life-giver.
When I was discerning religious life, many women didn't understand how I could entertain the possibility of giving up physical motherhood. However, every nun is called to give life and nurture those whom she serves. I work with nuns who nurture the elderly and infirm, and their families, through health challenges and bereavement. Every vocation leads to self-gift, regardless of whether you are a physical mother or not.
In my life, wonderful women stepped in to mother me while I went through my own rough transition to motherhood. There’s Sara who lives my old hometown. Despite raising teenagers she generously brought me lots of baby gifts and a huge bag of chocolate (“I got you the BIG one!”) and has never stopped checking in with me and affirming me since we met. There’s Lauretta who gave up Friday nights for two months to babysit my son so that I could teach dance and drama at a local arts center in a time where I was struggling and needed to connect with my artistic pursuits. Despite working fifty hours a week and having seven children of her own, she refused to take any payment. She said, “I get it. I always needed to do something for myself as a young mom too.” We read in the Gospels how the Blessed Mother and St. Elizabeth sought a close and trusting relationship with one another. It’s not clear if Mary went to help Elizabeth during her pregnancy or if Elizabeth was shepherding Mary in her new identity as a mother, but either way they were there for each other in a time of vulnerability.
When I read books to my two-year-old, every female character in the book is a “mama.” I encourage you to pray that God bring you women who can fulfill that motherly role in your life. The Blessed Mother, aka the Ultimate Mama Bear, is also waiting to step in and love on you. I’m praying and sacrificing for you as well.
Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers.