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My mother hates Mother’s Day because she never felt loved growing up

Mother’s Day is a celebration of all the cherished forms of motherhood. This one is for the strong mothers, the nurturing ones, for the mothers who have lost children, for the children who have lost mothers, for those who are aching to be mothers, for those who choose not to be mothers. Read more here.

Mother’s Day is coming around again, and for most people, that means planning to do all kinds of cute things for the mothers or mother figures in their lives. But for some of us, it’s a bit less happy and a lot more stressful. And at least in my family, it comes down to good old generational trauma

So it started with my grandmother, my mother’s mother, whom we all call Naano. Naano had three children, and my mother was the second of them and the first daughter. And unfortunately, in South Asian families, daughters don’t mean a lot and they have no significance other than their ability to do house chores or get married. The misogynistic treatment was then compounded because her older brother was six years older than her and her younger sister was ten years younger than her. That meant that no matter what she was doing in life, there was always something more important happening with her siblings. 

And admittedly, all of this is pretty superficial; things with Naano and mum go way deeper and are far more complex. But needless to say, they do not get along, and in fact, Naano pretty successfully ruined any self-esteem that mum could have had. Naano just made everything in mum’s life miserable, from what we’ve heard. Mum has said countless times that she agreed to marry our father entirely just because it would get her away from Naano. She’s constantly beating herself up over something that Naano said to her during her childhood, and when she falls into one of those moods, it’s hard to get her to see that Naano was wrong.

And those moods are much more frequent around Mother’s Day.

I’ve grown up with her always saying that Mother’s Day is silly because you shouldn’t need to mark a day on a calendar to love your mother. And really, that makes a lot of sense. It makes much more sense to say that you love your mother every day and you celebrate them in small ways all the time. But really, it’s not the holiday she’s mad about at all. It’s the idea that she would be forced to celebrate a mother who she feels was never acted the way a mother should towards her. She still calls and keeps up with Naano, of course. But she will always just conveniently forget to call on the second Sunday of May. She hasn’t wished Naano a Mother’s Day since she got married and moved out.

Fun fact to make all this much more complicated, my mother’s birthday is May 10th. That means it always falls within the second week of May and always falls less than a week from Mother’s Day. And this year, it will fall right after Mother’s Day. Things have been hard enough for the past year, but my siblings and I aren’t sure what to expect in the coming days.

She doesn’t talk about her birthdays from her childhood much, but the few stories we have heard made things pretty clear. Naano would throw large parties and dress mum in elegant clothes and show her off to all their family and friends as if she was always that loving. But mum never liked parties or the clothes, so there’s no way to argue this was done for her benefit. 

For as long as I’ve known, mum doesn’t like celebrating her birthday. It’s not as moody as Mother’s Day; she generally forgets she has a birthday if someone doesn’t remind her. When she does remember, she won’t say or do much. She’ll usually insist that nothing happens and things carry on like usual. While not nearly as loud as the Mother’s Day rant, her views on birthdays have shaped how they are treated within the family. We mainly don’t celebrate any birthdays, and when we do, it’s always just a gift a day before or a day after, never on the actual day.

The generational trauma in the family runs deep, and it’s a lot of work to try and unlearn everything. My siblings and I do whatever we can to try and set things straight. We’ve been trying slowly to help mum understand that she is worthy of love and happiness, but it’s a long road to healing all the trauma. One of our usual strategies is to buy her a small birthday gift either well before or after her actual birthday. It’s usually a card or something equally small because she tends to feel undeserving of larger gifts, and that’s not a topic she’s ready to tackle just yet.

Luckily this year, Eid will be falling right after Mother’s Day and her birthday. So we’re having fun planning to make some small cakes and ordering her favorite cartoon characters as French macarons for the event.

She won’t have to think of it as anything more than a way to celebrate Eid if she doesn’t want to, but she’ll still know that we care for her, and the surprise will make her happy. 

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Love Advice Life

How to celebrate your mother from far away this Mother’s Day

My mother claims to hate holidays that are designed around consumerism, but I know that she secretly loves Mother’s Day. Growing up, I used to wake my mother up on Mother’s Day with a special breakfast, baked goods and gifts. Now that I’m living far away from home, trying to make my mum feel special from afar is a little harder, but certainly not impossible. And guess what? It doesn’t have to involve spending a lot of money.

Raising a child takes a lot of time, energy, and work. The least we can do in return is use Mother’s Day as an opportunity to remind our mom’s how much we love them. Here a few ideas on how you can do just that.

1. Write an email

Hands typing on a laptop an email open.
[Image description: hands typing on a laptop with an email open.] Via Rawpixel on Pexels.
This can be a lot more personal than a text message and unlike a letter, it won’t take weeks to deliver. You could just write about what you’ve been up to recently and catch your mother up on your life. Otherwise, you could tell her why you love her, the impact she’s played on your life and other nice things. Need inspiration? Check out Serena William’s love letter to her mother where she thanks her for helping her remain strong in the face of racism and bigotry. Be warned, it may evoke a tear or two.

2. Design a digital card

Multiple hands pointing towards a laptop screen.
[Image description: multiple hands pointing towards a laptop screen.] Via John Schnobrich on Unsplash.
If emails aren’t your thing, you could make your mom a digital card. Canva offers lots of free templates for cards that you can personalize with your own photographs and message. Alternatively, you could make her a slideshow that highlights some of your favorite memories with her. There are multiple websites that you can do this on including Smile Box and Animoto.

3. Make something and send it

Knitting needles, wool and a retro camera lying on a surface.
[Image description: knitting needles, wool and a retro camera lying on a surface.] Via Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash.
Good at art? You could draw something that would resonate with your mother or just something you think she’d find aesthetically pleasing. If you can sew, make her something to wear. Or just write her a letter. Adding a personal touch to a mailed package makes it a lot more meaningful and is a great way of showing your mother how much you care about her.

4. Order her something online

Cellphone open on a shopping app in one hand and a credit card in another hand.
[Image description: cellphone open on a shopping app in one hand and a credit card in another hand.] Via PhotoMix Ltd. on Pexels.
Thanks to the internet, there are loads of online stores that you can order gifts from. You can send flowers to over 100 countries with Flora Queen or otherwise, look up florists that deliver in your mother’s town. The options of shopping for gifts online are endless and there are loads of Mother’s Day themed gifts like this cushion on Etsy for $15.75.

5. Ask a friend for help

Hands holding a blue gift box with a gift voucher.
[Image description: hands holding a blue gift box with a purple tag.] Via Melody Jacob on Unsplash.
Do you have a friend who lives nearby to your mom? If they’re willing, ask them if they could buy a gift and have it delivered to your mother (provided you reimburse them, of course). My mother, actually, did this for my birthday in my first year of studies and it was an amazing surprise. Asking a friend for help skips the exorbitant costs of online delivery services and makes the gift a little more personal.

6. Give her a subscription (or your logins)

A hand holding a remote points towards a flat screen TV that says "Netflix".
[Image description: a hand holding a remote pointed towards a flat screen TV that says “Netflix”.] Via Freestocks on Unsplash.
My brother gave my mother his Netflix logins last year and she’s obsessed. I never thought my mother would be giving me Netflix recommendations, but here I am being told to watch Land Girls by mom. Sharing logins to your streaming site is a really nice gesture and, let’s be honest, is something she probably won’t think of doing herself. If she doesn’t watch much television, subscribe her to a magazine or newspaper.

7. Give her a call

Profile of a woman with brown hair on the cellphone.
[Image description: profile of a woman with brown hair on the cellphone.] Via Kaboompics on Pexels.
Obvious, but needed to be included. You could plan the most extravagant Mother’s Day. Yet, there’s a good chance all she wants is to hear your voice because, sometimes, it’s hard being away from your kids. Call your mother. Tell her you miss her and ask her about her life. Taking the time out of your day to chat with your mother is probably one of the best things you could do for her this Mother’s Day.

Thanks to the internet and postal services, when it comes to making your mother feel special, the options are endless. So there’s no excuse not to remind your mum how much she means to you this Mother’s Day.