Today is Mother’s Day in the US, a day to celebrate the women in our families and show them appreciation for everything they have done for us. For many people, this holiday comes with pleasant images of flowers, cards, gift-giving, dining out, and pampering the moms in our lives. It’s a good thing, and often it’s used to teach young children the value of saying thank you to people they love… or at least those who they are supposed to love.
The idealistic imagery promoted by Mother’s Day ignores the fact that not everyone has a good relationship with the mothers in their lives. Families built on blood and/or marriage are not always perfect for everyone involved. And sometimes those we are supposed to love don’t deserve that unconditional love promoted by these family holidays. Sometimes it’s better for individuals to give up and walk away from toxic people, even if those people are family.
Unconditional love itself can be toxic. This concept caused some strain in my own family in the past. My father’s relationship with his mother was not good, and this was something his sisters had difficulty understanding. They never had the same issues with my grandmother as what my father went through. For a long time, they couldn’t understand why my father didn’t hold unconditional love for his mother; all children are supposed to love their mothers unconditionally, right?
There are some people who are not deserving of unconditional love. In fact, no one is deserving of unconditional love. Unconditional love is not based in care and respect. Unconditional love ignores both self-destructive behaviors and abuse of others. Unconditional love is an exercise in not caring, not loving, because it says, “I don’t care what you do or the consequences you’ll suffer for your actions.”
Conditional love, however, sets boundaries and offers accountability. If love is conditional, then it shows that the one offering the love does care about consequences and the success of the beloved, that they want to see that person attain a life which makes them happy. It also shows that they care enough about themselves to want a happy life as well. Conditional love of self can help people know when they need to walk away from toxic people and toxic situations. If you don’t love yourself, then what has made you feel that way? What toxic ideas or behaviors do you need to reassess and/or give up in order to accept yourself and find your own happiness?
Family is important. It’s supposed to be built on love and support. But not all families built on blood and/or marriage offer that. It’s okay to walk away from the relationships which hold you back. But make sure you also find those who lift you up. Find the family which does love you for who you are and whom you can love and support without hesitation. Bonds with the people who we choose as family are stronger than those who we are forced to look at as family. Celebrate those bonds on this Mother’s Day, and everyday you can. Those are the people who deserve your love.