Mother’s Day – Batten Down The Hatches!

By: Julie Beem

It’s nearly Mother’s Day.  And thanks to retailers, schools, churches, we hear the message of “celebrating your mom” broadcasted from the rooftops.  In a normal world, this would be a great thing.  Motherhood is truly one of the highest callings.  But what about children for whom their first relationship with a mother didn’t go well, didn’t last, produced trauma?

loving mom and babyWhat we know about early childhood trauma is that it changes children’s brains, and causes dysregulation that our children truly “can’t” control.  This dysregulation (chaos) actually feels “normal” to them, especially when they ‘re triggered.  And Mother’s Day (the day to celebrate the loving relationship you have with your mother) is a HUGE trigger for many traumatized children.

Then, there are our expectations as Moms.  I mean, seriously folks…if you sacrifice all year long for a child who struggles to accept your love, the least you deserve is one day all about you.  True – it only seems fair.  Except it’s not possible.  Many of our kiddos can’t do it – they just can’t.

Moms of traumatized children report that their children ignore the day, rage, or sabotage plans.  Some of them break the Mother’s Day project they made at school.  Others volunteer to participate in special programs at church or school, but are totally disrespectful to mom in private.

Usually Mother’s Day is about celebrating all the mothers in your family, which may include time spent with your mother or mother-in-law, sisters or other extended family.  Again, dysregulation abounds and so does your family’s potential misunderstanding of what’s going on.

So what can be done?  Well, therapeutic moms recognize how triggering this day is for their child.  They also realize that the only thing we moms can control is our own response.  My advice to you as a mom is to adjust your own expectations and create a day that is less triggering, less focused on the holiday, and more focused on what is right for your family and you.

At my house, we don’t celebrate Mother’s Day in any traditional way.  My daughter doesn’t go to church that day (although she usually attends every Sunday).  The focus on Motherhood is too much for her to handle.  The last couple Mother’s Days have been our easiest, because I’ve convinced our family to ignore the holiday.  Generally the other children will take me out for brunch or even just a quick snack.  Last year, after lunch with my other kids, hubby and daughter met us and we watched The Avengers – something we all wanted to do as a family.  No mention of Mother’s Day or that the family movie was a gift to me.  But it was…a gift of peaceful, harmonious family fun.

Julie has been ATN's Executive Director since 2009. She joined the organization in 2004 after finding incredible support from fellow ATNers when she was searching for answers about her own daughter's early childhood trauma and attachment disorders. Julie leads a staff of passionate professionals and acts as spokesperson for the organization. Prior to ATN, Julie was the president of a marketing and communications consultancy, The Epiphany Group, and has over two decades of experience in professional services marketing, strategic planning and communication strategies. As a graduate of Partners in Policymaking and through personal experience, Julie has garnered a great deal of experience in the areas of special education, school issues, and disabilities advocacy. A published author, Julie wrote a chapter in the EMK Press Adoption Parenting book and was the special needs blogger at Adoptionblogs.com for two years. She frequently presents workshops on attachment and trauma to local and national groups. Email Julie. Julie holds an MBA from Avila College in Kansas City and was a Certified Professional Services Marketer. Julie, and her husband Dave, are parents to four (bio, step and adoptive), including their youngest daughter, adopted from China. This daughter’s attachment difficulties and developmental trauma disorder have changed their lives significantly…in amazing ways.