Many of us will see Mother’s Day in a positive light, as it allows us to celebrate the important women in our lives and can create days to remember. However, this isn’t the case for everyone. Here blogger Peggy tells us why Mother’s Day can be a source of anxiety and stress for her and her adopted sons.
Mother’s Day was originally called Mothering Sunday, and it was the one day each year when servants could travel home and visit their mothers. Back then, it had meaning and purpose. Nowadays, like Valentine’s Day, it can often seem commercialised.
I feel like in our family we don’t need a designated day on which to show our love, and we don’t need to be told how to do it either – showing love should be individual, heartfelt, spontaneous and genuine.
“I feel like in our family we don’t need a designated day on which to show our love, and we don’t need to be told how to do it either – showing love should be individual, heartfelt, spontaneous and genuine.”
If CJ and RJ were my biological children I would have discouraged them from participating in Mother’s Day. As my boys are adopted, however, I felt like I couldn’t discourage them for fear that this would be received as some kind of maternal rejection. This has led to some difficult situations where we have felt obliged to participate despite not really agreeing with the reason behind them.
For example, I recall one particularly challenging year when the boys’ primary school literally made a song and dance about Mother’s Day – by which I mean they staged a song and dance performance which was followed by the children serving their mothers afternoon tea! To some this might sound nice, but I felt for the children whose mothers couldn’t attend on the day. My heart also ached for my boys because I thought it would be a painful and public reminder of their absent birth mother, who we refer to as Mummy Laura.
My youngest, RJ, also had an afternoon tea event but, as they were younger, they instead projected messages for parents onto a screen while tea was served. He participated gleefully and his personal message, projected in huge letters on the wall, thanked me for giving him ‘courage’. I later asked him what courage meant and he admitted that he didn’t’ know. Presumably, his class had been given a selection of words and each child just picked one, so it felt like an empty gesture.
CJ, being older, was more obviously uncomfortable with the whole event, and afterwards said that he resented ‘being made to do it’.
There are other aspects of Mother’s Day that can present unique challenges for the parents of adopted children, such as when I felt it was right to ask whether CJ wanted to send Mummy Laura a Mother’s Day email. He declined and, in truth, this was a relief as even though I thought it was right to give him the option I worried about how it would be received. Would Mummy Laura appreciate it, or would it be a painful reminder of her loss?
When CJ declined to send Mummy Laura an email I thought he was avoiding stirring up potentially uncomfortable feelings attached to Mother’s Day. Years later, however, when we talked about it again, he insisted there had been no suppressed feelings; he really had just resented being made to do it.
It occurred to me that I had learned as a parent not to force a child to apologise because if they were sorry they would say so, and if they weren’t then I was forcing them to be insincere. Seen in this light, I was proud of him for thinking for himself and for questioning what was imposed on him. When my boys tell me they love me I know it to be genuine, whatever way they choose to tell me.
A beautiful example of this happened one day when RJ looked at me and, glowing with love, announced, “You’re the second-best Mum in the world!” I asked him who was the best, knowing full well what his answer would be, but wanting to hear him say it. He smiled and said “You know who’s the best. It’s Mummy Laura.”
His love for his two mothers was palpable, and this time I had no doubt how it would be received by Laura. I emailed her straight away and shared this exchange, and she cried with joy… as did I. This was a very special day for both mothers.
As well as joy, Laura also felt concerned about my feelings about being regarded as the second-best mum, but I have a clear appreciation for how to interpret RJ’s ranking of me. Adult adoptees talk about being in ‘the fog’ during their childhood (and even well into their adulthood). An example of adoption fog is when a child knows that they are adopted but doesn’t feel it’s a topic they can talk about. At an unconscious level, they may feel that their home life would be threatened if they did try to explore it. When they eventually emerge from the fog it can be a long and painful psychological process for them.
RJ being able to tell me I’m his second-best mum reassures me that he’s growing up feeling secure in his adoptive family: he’s not “in the fog” and therefore won’t suffer the consequences of coming out of it.
That’s why Laura needn’t be concerned about my feelings. Because any day that I hear confirmation that I’m getting things right for my boys… well, that’s just the perfect Mother’s Day for me.
If you’ve been affected by adoption and permanency and need support with specialist training, advice, therapy or counselling take a look at our PAC-UK service. For more general advice regarding any aspect of family life you can contact our FamilyLine helpline for free.