Yes, that time of year that most mothers and fathers look forward to. That cheerful card and fresh bunch of flowers, a lovely family roast dinner.
OK well here’s the thing.
Mother’s Day is a complex thing for many of our traumatised adoptees. It reminds them of their first family, who they may have mixed feeling about due to adverse events and some affectionate feelings, loyalty and abandonment.
It underlines that their adoptive mum is not their biological parent and often takes the emotional flack for not being able to prevent their harm, simply being of the same gender as birth mother or a myriad of complex emotions.
In some ways when our adoptees are younger, mother’s day is easier. They might have a wobbler at home or push it at school but you still get a card (albeit soggy at the bottom of the book bag) and generally they can manage a family meal.
But heading into teens, it is much more difficult. They aren’t provided with a card from school and therefore have to buy one and wrestle with all the difficult stuff listed above, often alone keeping it hidden (why oh why do we have to keep everything a surprise it really isn’t a help!) Even when given the money to do so some young people will struggle to get something.
The meals out or in become more difficult. You have a teenager who doesn’t find socialising the easiest thing and communicates via grunt. Family and friends would expect the young person to have done a card but if not at least be warm, pleasant and loving to the mum and when this isn’t happening tension arises. The young person feels overwhelming shame and all the mixed up emotions appear and cause trouble all round.
So, how do we deal with Mother’s Day? Can we improve things and make it more manageable?
Take a look at the responses we had from within POTATO to the trials and tribulations of Mother’s Day and how families have worked around it.
Triumphal tactics! There are five main strategies that families have found that work in their family.
One - lowering your expectations and then you won’t be disappointed.
“First, years ago, I adjusted my expectations to try to reflect the relationship that actually is, not the relationship insisted on in Hallmark cards. My girls love me as best they can for 365 days a year. They don't need to give me a card. It's like rubber stamping something that does exist but is too fragile to handle the weight of the stamp. Part of holding their hope for them trusts it to be true when they can’t.”
“Expect nothing mine did buy and my 17 year old was very kind and bought me two cds really wanted. Little one was manic but kept repeating happy mother’s day in her little way while never sitting still or calm for a second. (Poor school didn't context the dots as after all she has a nice family now)”
“So happy to be surrounded by my two beautiful nieces who have spoilt me,( as well as DD who, although relentlessly exasperating), has tried to be nice and kind to me today. Our sons, are now back living with birth mum. I'm guessing she is the one with the Mother's Day card this year....”
“My 12 year old was a nightmare and after saying less time till you die each celebration is I didn't expect much lol. These are ones at home mine that have left whole different story.”
“Bd gave me a lovely card and the gin & glass I'd actually bought for myself but she did reimburse me bless her. I reminded hermit tat that I'd like something so she added a box of After Eights to my online shop. Previous years despite her having a gift for me (provided by others) I've apparently been too horrible to receive it so she's usually eaten the chocolates herself (luckily she hates after eights). My card is on her table "I won't be writing that so don't expect it"! Still has ambivalent attachment even with therapeutic parenting for 10 years and intensive DDP. I adore both my daughters and try to accept whatever they manage.”
“Bought myself some tulips today. Don’t need to say anymore other than they made me happy and reminded me what a bloody good job I have done even if outcome hasn’t matched expectation. Time to start a fresh for me.”
Two - accepting the world’s worst Mother’s day gifts.
One of our members has a daughter who really did want to give her adoptive mum flowers. But when it actually came to it, she couldn’t bring herself to do it and so cut the heads off the daffodils.
Equally grim was getting the opened chocolate bar wrapper, with no chocolate inside.
“Think the opened roll on deodorant with pube was my all-time favourite”
Three - ignore it altogether.
Lots have found it best to ignore and avoid the whole Mother’s Day thing.
“Our first Mothers Day was only a week after she'd moved in, and she tried really hard that year (aged eight), although Coco Pops and milk ended up all over the bed. In the intervening years I've had one lovely card, but mostly we've virtually ignored it, and that seems to work for us.”
“We decided to ignore Mother's Day this year and "hibernate" so booked a few days in away in a beautiful quiet peaceful spot”
“Mother's Day has never been a problem for me. My Tat always buys me a gift of some sort. This year she went a bit crazy and bought me 6 gifts! Gave them all to me 3 weeks ago... Then she visited me on the day (which I wasn't expecting). Mother's Day seems far more important to my Tat than to me - I've never seen it as special. Every day is mother's day....I should add that Tat did ask to borrow money... which might be her real reason for visiting....”
“I had an interesting experience. AD (10) was home for the weekend from residential school. It didn’t appear that they had talked about Mother’s Day at school (great, as most there are fostered or adopted). We didn’t mention it was Mother’s Day and she was none the wiser. BD waited until AD was in bed before presenting me with a lovely card.”
“I've kept quiet till now because my Mother's Day, while not great, was also not terrible. DD threw an unwrapped box of toiletries onto my bed that she'd bought from the school shop where you spend good behaviour points. And that was that. Not mentioned again, no card, no comments. But neither was there any discussion of BM or anything like that.”
“Keep a very low profile and a long dog walk which certainly doesn’t interest the tat’s. Keep calm and carry on- the same as every day of the year.”
Four - Managing your own pain and hurt.
“I volunteer twice a week at my sons old school and do art I love it its almost therapeutic so I helped make 60 mother’s day cards so I as in the mood. BUT I was so disappointed last year so this year I brought beef nice bits to cook myself a nice meal. Hubby went out sat all day so Sunday he was tired and hungover. So no breakfast no cup of tea f***all. My daughter didn't get up my youngest couldn't be arsed to get off his x box and X was so rude and almost bullying me emotionally. What I wanted was hubby so step up his game but his answer was its over rated and the kids need to step up. Two of them have special needs and the other is 10. So the end of the day I was glad it was over. I had so little expectations but it couldn't have got any lower…
What has broken me this morning is putting lunch in X’s bag and seeing a beautiful card that he made at school but he had no intention of giving it to me. I know I should know better but after 13 years it still takes my breath away and i feel sad bruised. X tomorrow is also excluded from school LUCKY ME xxxxx”
“The one my daughter had the dogs lead as a noose round her neck trying to get the handle on a high cupboard handle was probably our very worst Mother’s Day.”
“My tat refused to do anything at all. It really hurt. He came with me to ASDA at the weekend and I suggested he could get a card and some flowers if he wanted to while we were there. I would even pay for them! No joy! He wouldn't even look at them. I chose my own card and flowers- I was not giving in, thinking he might regret not getting me anything later and didn't want the fall out. He refused to write the card and never gave it me. He never gave me the flowers either. The sad thing is that I know he did it to hurt me - it's all about control and when I think about all the sacrifices.....I get nothing but aggression and anger these days and it's sooooo hard. I think we are amazing to keep going as we do but however much we know about the trauma, at the end of the day we are only human and it hurts like hell at times.”
“Mother's Day is awful. I get the double whammy of not having a mum myself. My mum died when I was 20 and frankly I feel her loss just as much now as I did then. Mother's Day has always been a day I struggled with since then. Then through years struggling with infertility mother's Day every year was the punch in the face I didn't need to remind me that I was unable to do the thing as women we were born to do. I never thought that being a mum to an adopted child would bring more issues on this day. “
“Well I got feck all! From either boy. Not even a message”
“I got nothing from my two boys either. They're living with birth mother now so I guess she's getting the cards. They expect birthday cards and presents from us though as well as Christmas, even gave one son his girlfriend Valentine's Day card. It's all so hurtful”
“We went out as a family but DD was rude and extremely nasty. The hour in the pub at the end of the day with hubby was the best part of my day xx”
“Absolutely nothing from my 4 - all got phones, so a text would have been simple! Eldest uses hers to message for money to pay her rent or council tax.........!”
“My son does try his best. He did write me a card that my husband supplied and gave me a gift and then shut himself in his room for the day and couldn't bring himself to spend it down downstairs or talk to me. When we visited my husband's mum my son went into overdrive and spent an hour trying to start tickle 'fights' with me. Not able to listen when he was asked to stop and ending in the expected tears and angry outburst and refusal to get off the floor. I also have two step children. One of whom was with us the other was with her mum. This meant I wasn't even able to speak to her as her mum feels it is disrespectful to her as I am not her mum. Which is right but I am her step mum and do love her. Oh well. Frankly I am glad it is over and I don't have to think about it again for a year.”
“Wishing all spuds lots of love today. Just about to take dogs out - can't bear to go to church service today as I always end up crying when they talk about Mother's Day. Have some presents and a card (and a bottle of perfume ha ha) just keeping it all low key today.”
“DD was in trouble at school both Friday and Monday. Spent almost 90 minutes crying uncontrollably Saturday. Sunday she had a football game which distracted her fortunately!
“I think Mother’s Day has become harder as the boys have gotten older. When they were both little, school sent them home with cards etc. It became more hit and miss over the last few years, sometimes nothing off either of them. (Eldest) was occasionally prompted and given a card to write if whomever he was with remembered! Youngest loves choosing cards. Now, although I have been known to give him the money to purchase that and a present if he asked as DP not always on the ball. Eldest ‘surprised’ me with a card this year but I took it with mixed feelings as he hasn’t spoken to me in weeks and probably won’t be in touch again for a while.”
“Just need to say - I absolutely HATE mother’s day. It needs cancelling - but we can’t as we HAVE to join in with my in laws family or I’d have a very unhappy husband. I had my first ever unprompted Mother’s Day card today and lovely words. All destroyed by msg from birth mother berating them for not contacting her. Now I’m the worst mother ever.”
“What an exhausting day yesterday glad it’s over can't wait for next year!”
“We are having a smashing day!” (Big hole kicked in the wall)
Five - Mother’s Day can and does get better.
“We have come through the other side. After years of not being able to celebrate it because of the level of violence it caused, I had a lovely card from my now independent tat, that said ‘thank you for taking me in, picking me up, and showing me how, thank you for teaching me and believing in me, thank you for hugging me and loving me and doing special things to make me happy. You’re one in gazillions my warrior Mum and I love you’”
“You know what annoyed me most is that no one in my family took it on themselves to say to ds, let’s get your mum a card. It’s what my dad did or my mum did for father’s day. When he got older I gave him £10 to get me something. He came back with a £1.99 bunch of sorry looking flowers. 😬. Last year was our first great Mother’s Day. He had come out of the Young Offender’s and with the help of his social worker moved to London to be with his birth sister. He stayed with them a few nights but had to stay in homeless hostels. Despite the obvious hardships he seemed happier than I have ever seen him, like he’d turned a corner. I drove to London on Mother’s Day and there he was, outside the back packer’s hostel I’d paid for, beaming and holding a huge bouquet and chocolates. We went for lunch and the sun was shining. Shortly after he was forced to return to the East Midlands by social security and ended up in trouble which led to him getting 10 and a half years. This year, he mentioned Mother’s Day a lot, saying none of this was my fault, he didn’t want me suffering, he wished he could take me out and he will spoil me when he is released. Xx”
“I went to my mums for lunch. ds2 gave me a teddy on Friday as he had a train trip on Saturday and knew he would be exhausted on Sunday but did get a snuggle form him. Nothing form ds1 or dd but expected due to restraining order and so a relief I had nothing from her. ds3 away but gave me chocolates and some interesting flavoured tonic water.”
For those of us who are no longer in touch with the children we parented and are relieved it is that way as we are now much safer..... 'Thank god that's over and he didn't get in touch'. The mothers days and Christmases, birthdays he has have retraumatised ** and us for days if not weeks after. Big hugs to all xx
“I know it is after midnight and not still Mother’s Day but I have to share some hope for the future. ** and I may be the oldest spuds around 73 and 65. Dd is 30 and ds is 21. I have just come off the phone from the most wonderful and most painful conversation. Dd texted and asked if she could ask me about something - keeping her privacy all I will tell you is she talked about lying relationships her Birth Mum and Step Father details of her abuse and neglect - re-reading me passages from the files she obtained at 18. Asking lots of thoughtful intelligent questions about trust and PTSD, non-epileptic fits and dissociation. I have awarded her a Nobel prize in trauma recovery. I am so proud of her and in awe of her resilience - I am crying tears of love. It gives me hope that ds may one day heal just enough to function. We ended with “shared phone mindfulness” as her German Shepherd was lying on her bed licking her hand. Every day every memory stored in her body ties to drag her down and she is not allowing herself to be dragged down.”
Being **’s mum now he’s not at home. Well I got a lovely card (with 🐘 on- my favourites!) and a dvd of the kingsman film still new (not a knocked off one!) he came over for a sarnie and piece of cake and just over 2 yrs after he moved out he can self-regulate enough to cope with an hour. Obvs a bit of bravado. But he managed. So age 22 is starting to be maybe 16ish maturity wise. I think yes we have put a lot of effort in with him either softly softly or gently but more directly. But the main difference is time. He’s needed time to start to grow up. I’ve been told he loves me today, yes I think that’s face value. It doesn’t really alter his behaviour in terms of lying and shoddy treatment. But it is an improvement I do think he’s genuinely trying to be his part in the family which is admirable I’m not sure if we do parenting from a distance but we are his parents and distance has helped”
“Positive post. So son met us at pizza express (carer dropped him off), we ate pizza then drove (yes we drove incident free!) him to our house where he played an un-argumentative hour of Xbox with his dad. He gave his dad a birthday card (its next week) and me an unprompted MD card. Blimey. He even tried to smile on the photo 😂 Last year we took nan out for lovely lunch, immediately afterwards he kicked off, called me unmentionable names and then refused to see me for several weeks coz I suspect he'd allowed himself to enjoy himself with us and it was a bit scary…
So this year we weren't going to mention MD at all but staff must have helped him choose a card. He'd written something kind in it too. Maybe I did feel a teensy bit like a mum today x”
Finally, keep on, keeping on.
“THE LAST POST ON MOTHERS DAY GOES TO A VERY SPECIAL SPUD (adoptive mother) AND HER POST TAT (traumatised adopted teen) - She is no less traumatised but is a few years post teen. Many of us old timers remember the early days / years of this young woman’s life with her super spud mum. ** Your daughter gave me her express permission to post this here.
'March 1st was a very important day for me because 14 years earlier on March 1st 2004 I came up from England to live with my mum and it's the best thing that ever happened to me, I became a part of the best family I could have ever asked for and sure we had our ups and downs for example when I was starting at my new school at age 6 I was furious that my mum wouldn't let me go in my princess dress and my wellies if my mum said walk I'd run, if she said don't I would, when I learned to swim I just jumped straight in, the one time I did decide to listen to my mum it stopped me from riding my bike straight off a cliff wasn't that lucky lol, but along with that came brilliant memories going to the theatre and cinema with my mum or going on holidays with my mum and grandparents every summer, singing to musicals and old 70s and 80s song's in the car, I've learned a lot from my mum and wouldn't be even half the person I am today if it hadn't been for her, as I always say she gave me a second chance at having a family etc. and I am so happy every day that everything until that day led to her becoming my mum because she's the best one anyone could ever have.'
She still has her difficulties, ** still supports and parents at a distance but it's so worth it spuds.
Our pre tats, tats and post tats need us - the people that love them unconditionally. Please always hold fast to what you know - love isn't enough but it is the glue that holds us. ALWAYS.
If you are an adoptive parent and would like to join our group please visit our membership page