June 15, 2022
So much has been written about mothers and so much misunderstood. So many topics concerning mothers have not become newsworthy. We, as mothers, know this. It’s only been relatively recent that miscarriages have been acknowledged as the traumatic event they are. That grief can continue no matter how short the pregnancy was. Popular sentiment amongst the medical profession was to “get over it; you can always have another.” Despite the fact, of course, that some would never have a viable pregnancy. Even though this pregnancy represented a son or daughter to the mother, thankfully, enough women are coming forward to testify to the natural feelings that for so long were denied. Sadly, it seems to take a member of the Hollywood elite to say something before it sinks into the general populace.
Mother’s Day has come and gone again, and I was reminded that there is one topic about motherhood that is seldom discussed. I’m speaking of adult child alienation. Mothers remember the happy days when their children made Mothers Day cards with macaroni and lots of glitter! How they were treasured! Now Mother’s Day brings silence. No gifts, calls, or flowers. The mother sees others having what she believes to be happy mother’s days, and she is forgotten. They feel shame because their child has rejected them. They torture themselves wondering where they went wrong.
I have researched this subject and know that such mothers are everywhere, keeping quiet through a feeling of shame. It is estimated through polls that 27% of adults are estranged from their parents. When you consider the total population of the US, this translates into a lot of estranged people. There are, of course, some good reasons to become alienated from a parent, cases of abuse of any kind, and a refusal or inability of the parent to emphasize and apologize. Often apologies are not accepted. One therapist, Joshua Coleman, has extensively researched alienated parents and adult children and concluded that though some might have legitimate reasons for estrangement, other children had good, conscientious parents. What went wrong? Naturally, every situation is different.
One author, Steven Mintz, who wrote “ Huck’s Raft: A History of American Childhood,” has come to some conclusions. Family dynamics have drastically altered over the last fifty years. Families used to be based on obligation; now, individuals feel relationships should be based on mutual understanding. Adult children who in the past might not agree with everything their parents said or did would not have dreamt of cutting them off. The family obligation was paramount. I was of that generation and can remember being hurt or infuriated with something my mother said or did. There might be three days of no communication, but then my family obligation would kick in, and I’d call or drop by. Respecting your elders was a cornerstone for civilized life. Now the emphasis has switched to personal fulfillment and happiness. If someone does not agree with you, walk away. Conflicts in the past were mostly about material things like property. Now the conflict is psychological. Be true to yourself is shouted from the rooftops.
Children bring up things their parents can’t remember. Situations seen through a child’s eyes can sometimes be erroneous. Sadly, skewed thinking of the past can be as challenging to change as concrete to dust. Some parents apologize for things they can’t remember but are still met with alienation. They send letters, make calls, frantic to make amends. All too often, this is met with silence. Sheri Mc Gregor has written a book called “ Done With the Crying.” She is a therapist as well as an author. When a parent has done all they can, she advises them to step back no matter how painful that might be. It is time to stop the crying and tend to yourself. You must invest in your own life. You cannot allow someone else, child or not, to destroy your sense of peace and wellness. Leave the door open for reconciliation but don’t wait there! Some children will process their problems and reach out again. Others may not. In your heart of hearts, you know if you were the best parent you could be. Trust yourself and carry on living your life. Don’t be ashamed. You did your best. You possibly know others who are in the same situation and are also being silent. It is one of the last secrets parents keep.
Sheri Mc Gregor’s book, “ Done with the Crying,” is followed by a second book,” Beyond Done With the Crying.” She also offers a workbook. These are exercises to help the rejected parent to get back on track. If you are not thrilled with seeing a therapist, this might be a good resource. At the very least, it gives you some support and understanding. You can also receive an email by registering at” rejected parents.net.” This provides you with stories from other parents. You can add your own story or your questions. Sheri makes comments after each story.
Mothers are one of the most criticized populations in our society. It doesn’t seem to matter what road you choose; there is someone to tell you that you have chosen poorly. I am chopping off part of something Mayo Angelou said,” Do the best you can until you know better...” That’s precisely what most mothers do—knowing what they knew at the time- the best they can. There is no shame in that! Hold your head high and live like someone left the gate open!!