Every shop you step into is cashing in on the upcoming Mothering Sunday; cards, candles, cushions you name it they have put Mum, Nan, or Step Mum on it. My eyes glaze over the displays of teddies and trinkets with 'World's Best Mum', on them. After all I will not be purchasing them, instead they make my stomach knot and I swiftly move on. No, I am not averse to the marketing campaigns of Mother's Day, but this time of year does once again remind me of my mother's rejection.
I think by every account it was clear I stumbled into this world as an accident, to an unsuspecting 18-year-old mother, and my father didn't stick around. As a single young mother, some twenty years ago, it fell to my Nan and Grandad to lend a guiding hand. Slowly, and surely my mother broke away and made her own home, welcoming another child four years later with a different father to me. This is where I pinpoint the rejection to have begun. I was obviously a stark reminder of her past, and her mistakes. I was treated differently to my brother, there was no denying it, it was clear to see. In fact, the family commented on it often. Small things. Being threatened with being sent to a father I had never met, not getting the affection my brother did. After the age of about six, I cannot remember my mum even hugging me. In textbook terms, she did her job, I was fed, watered, clothed and had a roof over my head. I received no comfort, no support, no guidance or love. If I am being truly honest with myself she didn't love me, she put up with me because she had to, not because she wanted to.
As a child, you are so susceptible to those around you; what they tell you and how they treat you. I now realise this for myself since becoming a mother. Looking back on how my mother treated me and my brother, it was clear she always pitted one against the other. There was always a favourite, for me that never lasted more than a few days. I was a good child, I liked reading, I did well at school but I was never enough. Nothing I did was good enough, my self-esteem was chipped at until it was non-existent. It wasn't just mental abuse I was treated to, there were physical aspects too. I craved attention and validation and got this from my Nan and Grandad. They doted on me, especially my Grandad, he was the father figure that was absent in my life and my Nan was the maternal influence I needed so badly. I spent my time wishing I could stay with them, or hoping there had been a mistake and I was adopted and a loving mother was waiting for me somewhere.
I do not believe she ever felt guilty. I cannot imagine her sitting in the evening and wondering if she was being the best parent she could be. There was never any remorse. I find this unbelievable now, the mum guilt I feel daily with Elijah is staggering. That I didn't cook him fresh organic food, That I was at work all day, that I didn't sit on the floor playing bricks for hours on end and shoved Mr Tumble on again. Just now I was interrupted writing this by Elijah who had hurt himself in the play-room. He cried and his eyes looked around searching frantically for me. I hugged him, and calmed him down. I couldn't imagine not doing this. This is my job, no one else's. It is my job to show him love, comfort him and ensure he feels safe. In my eyes this is a mother's most important priority. I guess this is where my mother failed with me, but not my brothers so it makes that rejection more personal.
When I was thirteen my mum fell pregnant again, with my brother's father again. They hadn't stayed together, but remained on and off for many years. This is where I was well and truly pushed out of the family dynamic. I didn't have the same dad, I was the face of her past and it was clear I was not wanted. How she behaved towards me was that of a bully. My appearance, weight, intellect, opinions were scrutinized in front of everyone. For a teenager, I was left with no self-esteem, and the beginnings of an eating disorder so I began to self-harm. Shortly after the birth of my second brother my life was shattered, my Grandad died and left me devastated, to this day it is something that I haven't fully recovered from.
I used to remember sitting in class, and as it neared the end of the day I would get a sinking feeling in my stomach as I began to dread going home. I spent as much time as I possibly could, every weekend, and holidays with my Nan. It is here I felt normal, the way I was treated was the opposite of how I was at home. I was so jealous of all my friends who had loving mothers who cared about them, supported and empowered them. Walking in the door, the feeling was mutual. I looked to see more magazines, gifts, sweets that had been brought for my brothers, when I had to ask my Nan to buy new school supplies for me for the next term. Birthday and Christmas, the boys would be showered with presents. I remember one birthday I was given a duvet set. My brothers and their father were manipulated against me, I was public enemy number one.
I sank into myself, after all what was the point? I could be moody, I could have an attitude and act out. I tried to do what I could to get my mother's attention, stole money from her purse, wore excessive make up, and began underage drinking. Compared to most of girls my age this was nothing. All I wanted to do was escape or at the very least just be noticed. The thing with rejection is that even if you are not experiencing it; even if someone cares and loves you for you, it is still present. I have learnt to cope with it a lot better in recent years but it is still there. I was being told I had to leave home as soon as I could. Nothing like telling someone everyday how much you want them out of your house to make them feel loved. I wasn't good enough to be in a house with them. I didn't fit into their perfect little family, I was the odd one out, the black sheep. Things came to a head one day when my two-year-old brother's word was taken over mine. I packed a bag and left, I haven't spoken to any of them since. It was the best decision of my life.
Fast forward years of self-harm, starving myself, abusing drugs, drinking and a failed suicide attempt I have finally accepted my mother's rejection. I have a wonderful Nan who picked me up and rebuilt me, and friends who stuck by me even to this day. I have a partner who after many years of not believing he loved or accepted me, I know he does. I have a son who is the centre of my world and I am his. He was easily the best thing that ever happened to me.
This Mother's Day, I will not be treating my mother because she deserves it. Instead I will be remembering the rejection and thanking her. Why? she has taught me one valuable lesson: how not to raise and treat a child. I know what not to do to with my son. I make it my priority to ensure he feels happy, loved and valued. I have no words to describe how proud I am of that boy. Yes, he drives me up the wall, but he also makes me feel so incredibly lucky to have him in my life, even now watching him dance like a loon to the Spice Girls' greatest hits before 9 am. Yes, my mother rejected me and broke me, but becoming a mother myself made me. I do stock up on the 'World's Greatest Nan' tat, as without her I wouldn't have started this journey and Iearning what a mother could be from her. I could focus on Elijah on Mother's Day and celebrating my beautiful Nan. In my heart, I need to mark this day, remember the rejection so I can prove to myself how far I have come.
Photo - Author's own.