When Your Mom Chooses to Be Absent from Your Life


My relationship with my mother is complicated, to say the least.

You see, she is a drug addict and has been in a toxic and codependent relationship with my stepfather since I was eight years old. I moved out when I was sixteen after dear old step-daddy beat me up again and I decided I’d finally had enough. When the police knocked on the door to question them about the incident my mother told them not to bring me back or she would, “Beat my ass herself.” So I didn’t go back, but that’s a story for another day.

My mom chooses to be absent from my life to this day.

Young woman lying down
Photo by M. on Unsplash

When Your Mom Chooses to Be Absent

In the years that have followed since that June day in 1998, my mom continues to choose to be absent from my life.

She didn’t come to my high school graduation. She skipped my bridal shower and wedding and was a no-show for my baby shower.

I can count on one hand how many times she has seen my children, and most of those encounters were unintentional. I ran into her shortly after I gave birth to my youngest, Holden. She kept asking me about “Hunter.” When I asked who that was, she pointed at Holden.

She couldn’t even remember her own grandson’s name.

She only has three grandchildren. It should not be that hard. I wish I could say that my feelings were spared because I never expected her to show up, or to know anything about my life. Alas, that is just not the case.

It doesn’t matter how old you are, it hurts to be rejected by your mother. Mothers are supposed to be the one person in life who loves you unconditionally. Instead of this, my mom chooses to be absent.

Mother's Day balloons
Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day for me is a painful reminder that my mom chooses to be absent from my life. I have struggled under the immense weight of her addiction and neglect for 37 years now. Because of this, I carry the burden of anxiety and PTSD with me wherever I go.

The thought of devoting an entire day to celebrating the ideal mother that I never had nauseates me.

How can I celebrate someone whom I’ve watched crush and snort her pills more often than I’ve seen her take them as directed?

Sure, there were times when my mom acted like a mom. She taught me how to bake. She used to sit and watch TV with me. She would braid my hair. These memories, sadly, will forever be overshadowed by her crushing mental illness that she refuses to treat, and the drug addiction that has consumed her for most of my life.

Mother’s Day simply serves as a trigger for all of my complicated emotions.

Anger. Frustration. Guilt. Sadness. Confusion. Self-loathing.

How do you love someone that you don’t really know? Why do you secretly yearn for a relationship with someone who has never made you a priority? Why is it that my mom chooses to be absent from my life? Why can’t she just get her shit together and be my mom?

Mother tenderly kissing her baby's head
Photo by Derek Thomson on Unsplash

What it Means to Be a Mother

Being a mother entails more than just giving birth and subsequently keeping a child alive for 18 years.

To be a mother you must…

  • Be present with your children
  • Love them
  • Protect them
  • Teach them to do better than you did

I do believe, begrudgingly, that my mother did the best she could with the tools that she was given. Her childhood was tough. Mental illness and addiction run deep in our family. It makes sense why she is the way she is, but that doesn’t mean that I have to like it.

I have some incredible women in my life who serve as mother figures to me, but it’s not the same.

I will never know what it is like to have an actual mother. I grieve for a mother who is alive and “well.” When I see all of the beautiful tributes that my friends make to their mothers on social media, my chest gets tight and I feel panicky. The trauma that my mother caused is forever linked with the term “mother” for me. My mother sadly will never be the person that I need and want her to be. How can she be, when my mom chooses to be absent?

Now that I am a grown woman with children of my own, and my own mom chooses to be absent from my life, I try to focus on my relationship with my children instead of my relationship with my mother. Every day I strive to show them that they are not only loved, but they are worthy of that love. I give them structure, discipline, and all the hugs and kisses that I can manage. I mother them the way that I wish my mother had mothered me.

Hopefully, Mother’s Day for my kids will be a lovely day that they will enjoy celebrating every year.  

Read more reflections on Mother’s Day from our team:

Do you have a complicated relationship with Mother’s Day? Share your story and feelings in the comments, and know that you are not alone.

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