“Mother’s Day….Oh, the pain of it all!”

Mother in Law

Right now I am sitting on my back porch watching my five Easter hatchlings swoop and flutter around the yard. This is the second day they have been set free….instead of an 8×8 foot chicken yard. They run up to me, lifting their heads and extending their short wings. I guess I’m their mother now, and that is fine by me.

Mother’s Day is an uneasy time for many of us adult children of mothers who are mentally ill, neglectful, abusive, discarding, or just narcissistic. The last category probably contains all that goes before. So, we are left feeling uneasy, marginalized, because we don’t buy into the rosy ‘memories’ of our mothers and our childhood. We can’t march in step with the Hallmark sentiments, the other hoopla of this very commercialized holiday.

What to do? I think it depends upon the stage of our recovery. By recovery, I simply mean where we have come in our own minds, where we have confidence in our own abilities. (this ‘centeredness’ that Rollo May talks about). Of course it’s much more than that, but I am proceeding what to do on this ‘holiday’ by summing up where the last 5 years has brought me, and the last 10 years of therapy with a woman who was definitely a mother substitute. She stood by me as I worked out of a very dark place, and supported (and encouraged mightily) each point of progress. In the last 6 years I have published 5 books, the last to be published this July, and each book (except the first because it was full of sex…but I was flapping my wings…) she embraced as a major stepping stone in my development. I can’t help but compare her attitude to my own mother. At the publication of my third book, I received the last letter from her, the first in years, stating: “I can never be truly proud of you because you didn’t allow me into your artistry.”

Well, IF I was confused before what she was and is, (and at 95 she isn’t about to change) that simple statement certainly clarified her for me: This is the leitmotiv of a true Narcissist.

There is no winning faced with such a narcissist. They take up too much internal landscape and energy. I went No Contact 5 years ago, and I needed the time to work on myself without the constant slings and arrows of this woman. I had enough. And the process was liberating.

So, what did I do about Mother’s Day with her? I sent her a card. This will shock my friends, who know the history between us, but I did it for me. 90% for me, and 10% for her.

As my husband said: “At least you know your soul will be clean.” That went straight to the meat of it. I was not cowing to convention, I was releasing myself from her control and power. And this card wasn’t sentimental, and I just signed it “Cheers, Jane”. But I was stepping out of her shadow, though many might not understand this. She has not been the mother, ever, to celebrate. But that doesn’t mean that I must follow her anger, rage, hatred, contempt and vengeance. Life is too good to do that. People are too good for that. As the grave approaches her, and at 95 this will happen, at least I am cleaning my soul of her destructive psychic energy. That, I believe, is the part of the recovery process.

I received a card from some loving relatives from my Dad’s side: Wishing me “Smiles and admiration, contentment and peace, joy and love.” (And the best of luck with the new book.)

Now that’s what Mother’s Day should be about.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2015



I am always aware of my mother,

Ominous, threatening,

A pain in the depths of my consciousness.

My mother is like a shell,

So easily broken.

Yet the fact that I was born

Bearing my mother’s shadow

Cannot be changed.

She is like a cherished, bitter dream

My nerves cannot forget

Even after I am awake.

She prevents all freedom of movement.

If I move she quickly breaks

And the splinters stab me.

—Nagase Kiyoko (1906- 1995)

Nagase Kiyoko wrote poetry for 65 years. She never called herself a ‘professional poet’, but referred to herself as ‘a useless woman’. She was a farmer, and wrote her poetry at the kitchen table before dawn, while her children and husband were asleep upstairs. Because of her sensual and cosmic verse, Nagase Kiyoko is considered by many Japanese women poets to be the “Grandmother” of modern poetry. Just a short reading of her verse goes deeply into the heart of the reader. She is ageless in her verse.

Lady Nyo

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13 Responses to ““Mother’s Day….Oh, the pain of it all!””

  1. Caliban's Sister Says:

    Morning Jane! Amen to the above and then some. I too sent M.D. card to NM–first time in maybe 5 years. Did it 99% for me. It changes nothing, will change nothing, and I didn’t feel like I had to. Just did it. Didn’t give it much thought. Chose something neutral. It’ll probably arrive late but hey hey hey I just don’t care! Look how far we’ve come, neh? love to you. CS


  2. ladynyo Says:

    Top of the Morning to you! Yes, look at how far we have come! I believe this is part of true recovery. And you are right: it will change nothing.
    Yep, it’s good to get to a place where we don’t agonize over these things so much, but do it for ourselves. My husband’s words went straight to the matter: we are doing it because of the growth we have pursued….and we have stepped out of the shadow of their behavior. We aren’t them.

    Good on us!
    Love to you!, Jane….CHECK your mail/comments on your blog. Three times I tried to post and nada.


  3. czbz Says:

    What a marvelous post to read this morning! Congratulations, LadyNyo—you’ve worked so hard for your freedom.

    I’ve been listening to people talk about “unnatural” narcissistic mothers for many years now, appreciative to be their witness, a part of someone’s healing process. When they realize they were mistreated by the person they depended on to love them, it’s a true joy to witness their “natural” anger. What always amazes me is when something as powerful as anger, initiates an even more powerful inner peace.

    People seem to be drawn towards angry people, the kind of people who march through life with naked swords ever ready to cut the head off perceived offenders. What pulls me into people’s stories however, is “change”—the transition from recognition of victimization to authentic liberation: the freedom to “choose” instead of reacting. The freedom to live by one’s conscience and values rather than defending/reacting.

    When we’re able to remove the narcissistic mother from the center of our lives, we are free to be ourselves: creative, joyful, spiritually connected to our world. This is not an easy process and it doesn’t happen quickly. I loved reading your post today—it was unexpected, but it was thrilling to read.

    Love you


  4. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, CZ. You got it right: the ‘change’ is what is a real measure of progress. We can continue to allow ourselves (just as followers…) to remain angry, and just reacting. That is only the beginning stages of whole deal. When we are able to step out of that arena and go for the liberation…and it’s hard work!….we are making real progress.’

    Yeah, anger has been too long with me. It eats you up, closes the ring and you don’t escape except by realizing you are playing ‘their game’. And that is a dead end.
    Thank you, dear friend. for being there all these years and shining a light on these issues. Without your support and encouragement, too many of us would still be floundering in the muck.

    Love you, too.


  5. czbz Says:

    Well I don’t know if that’s true but what I do know is that “I” would be foundering in the muck. It has taken a cyber-tribe to hold my feet to the ground. So many times I’ve been tempted to minimize the harm, to forgive too soon, to honor parents’ feelings rather than my own. I had to sneak up on my anger before embracing it fully.

    When sending a Mother’s Day card is more about you than “doing the right thing”; when sending a card is out of respect for yourself and your values/principles, that is setting the world upright—the center of power emanating from within.

    This isn’t an intellectual process though—it’s physical, emotional, spiritual. We can’t “think” ourselves to inner peace—we must embrace the whole of it and that includes a frightening rage that threatens to tear us apart! It’s not hard to understand why people defend themselves against feeling such anger and it’s not hard to understand why they remain immersed in anger’s pseudo-power.

    And by the way, dear LadyNyo–Happy Mother’s Day to you.



  6. ladynyo Says:

    LOL! And Happy Mother’s Day to you!

    Minimizing the harm, the abuse is what children do. And we were once children. To admit that we weren’t loved, or respected, or cherished as human beings is very hard to accept, and with this knowledge comes a whole assortment of rotten candy.

    But we are adults now, and we are mindful of the examples we set (or should be) to others and especially our children. We have adult choices now.

    Forgiveness is a loaded issue. Has the offender offered an apology? If not, they probably will go on doing what they generally, ‘normally’ do, and forgiveness doesn’t apply. Only until they acknowledge what they have done in their lives towards others…the maiming, etc….then the wheels of forgiveness can start to turn. I was thinking about someone who was a crack head for many years. He stole from neighbors, strangers, us, etc. Then he “found Jesus”. He believed that this ‘finding’ meant that he didn’t have to make any apologies for the havoc he wrecked on the neighborhood. He was ‘saved’. But it doesn’t work like that: You have to come to terms with what you have done to others, and when you make a heart felt asking for forgiveness…then something else can happen.

    It seems strange to frame sending a card as more about yourself, but there comes a time where you realize that there is no other way to proceed. The recipient isn’t going to change, or admit any part of their behavior….but you don’t have to live like them. Anger eats you up. And you have to step away from the cancer of anger and find your own self. That is what …essentially….when it’s seen and held rightly, No Contact is all about. It’s the path and time and energy in restoring yourself and developing or uncovering….your own values. Rollo May again: being based in your ‘centeredness’.

    And you are right: It’s not an intellectual process. I guess for me I just wanted to remove myself from her narcissistic domain..and I could only do that by trying to exorcise the anger. I feel better, and these are baby steps, but in the scope of things, maybe not so baby. Doesn’t mean that anything I do here will change her…but it does change me.



  7. Caliban's Sister Says:

    Hey, yo mamas…….CZ is so right, it’s not an intellectual process. I tried for years using my intellect. It took a combination of things, but the catalyst for deep emo change was discovering that I was not the only ACoN out there. That we are, in fact, legion. Jane, I can’t access my CS email anymore, but will check for comments more often. Been super busy with other things. Love to you and F*&%! fake “holidays” that are all about extorting sentiment from us whether we want it or not. It’s about commerce, people. Women have been giving birth to babies since homo sapiens emerged. And so do dogs, wolves, lions, hyenas, jackals, whales, elephants (sorry, the last two actually are hard-wired to be good enough mothers), cats, rats, mice, rhinoceros’s, etc. Giving birth and not letting your young die is not a moral achievement, and no one should be automatically celebrated for doing so. Being a loving mother for a lifetime, consistent, human (with flaws), but fair-minded, and willing to let your children be who they are, that’s something to say “thanks” for. Not all of us have that. xoxox


  8. ladynyo Says:

    Sigh….I would have been happy to have a ‘good enough’ mother.

    Human flaws are fine…but I think all the species you mentioned above are GREAT mothers. I wish I had been born another species.

    Love, Jane….who heard from her son and it was a good conversation. Once I let go of the crap that I saw from my own ‘mother’…..the relationship changed for the better. Once I started to respect him as a NOT a branch from my own tree…but an individual….the relationship bloomed. Respect is a two way street, something that our mothers never even considered.


  9. ManicDdaily Says:

    Hi Jane–So nice to hear about you with your chicks. I’m sorry to hear of all this pain–so difficult–a source for writing certainly, but an obstacle to living at times. Beautiful Japanese poem too. Thanks. k.


  10. ladynyo Says:

    Hi K! ahh….it’s difficult, but after decades, you come to a resolve. You resolve to not be pulled (as much as you can….) into the circle of hatred, etc. Yes, a source for writing, but I would rather not have it. LOL! Life is so full of GOOD, and embracing Humanism helps. As do friends who suffer the same issues.

    Chicks are doing well, growing fast. A constant source of amusement. They are intelligent little birds.

    She is one of my favorite poets, hands down. Simplicity and an ability to do so much more with so little words.

    Thanks for reading, k.



  11. czbz Says:

    “Once I started to respect him as a NOT a branch from my own tree…but an individual….the relationship bloomed. Respect is a two way street, something that our mothers never even considered.” ~Lady Nyo

    Just wanted to pop in and validate your comment. Insight is such a gift. Without it, we repeat dysfunctional behaviors. Insight is that sudden epiphany allowing us to see things differently than we did before. Perhaps insight isn’t enough though? Hummm…maybe insight coupled with imagination, the ability to CREATE a different future than the one we knew.

    When I saw my daughter as a “person in her own right”, that was insight. When I created a new way of parenting that allowed her to be herself, that was Creativity. Just rambling this morning.

    Did you have a lovely Mother’s Day? We ate strawberry shortcake for dessert (after a light salad) and then we talked with my mother (my daughter’s grandmother). It was a peaceful day—the best kind of day.



  12. ladynyo Says:

    Agree. I certainly messed up his early years, and then some….and only when he went away to the Navy did I start to reconsider: I was recreating the same attitudes/emotional environment that my mother had for me: it was strangling and gave no room for disagreement or growth. Now? We are really friends….but I had to learn how to be a mother. I remember my own saying years ago: “When I gave up caring for you, my life was better.” Now that’s not what I think is right…she’s still working within the narcissistic arena….it’s all about her….damn anyone else, except those who she can benefit from.

    And that is so wrong. But, as my son said recently: “Mom, you didn’t know how to be a mother: you never had a good example.” Wow….he cut through the crap and got to the essence. However, I am so proud of him because he has become such a compassionate young man. And these things in life can harden the heart.

    Yep…creativity is taking another path..one that you don’t know, and one that works. So much of our lives are corralled by our fear of the unknown, of repeating the same (dead) paths.

    MOther’s Day was great! A long phone call from my son, a horrible blue orchid from husband….hot here so we did little outside….but that strawberry short cake sounds really good. And sweet tea with LOTS of lemon~

    Love, Jane


  13. TR Says:

    Hi Jane,
    Happy Mother’s Day!

    Great post! And the journey to get there was not easy and it is inspiring for me to see real ‘change’. Thank you for sharing this. xxTR


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