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Mothers Day Ghosts

It is Mothers Day here in Australia. I awoke to warm arms sliding around my neck, soft kisses on my forehead, and a whispered “Happy Mothers Day, Mummy”. My children are now just old enough to make me breakfast in bed, and I enjoy their enthusiasm for doing it even more than the tea and toast that results. Becoming a mother has given me a sense of purpose and direction. My husband and I are co-pilots in our parenting journey. Some of it thrilling, some of it terrifying, all of it rewarding.

But for so many people Mothers Day is something to dread. It may be yet another reminder of a fractured relationship with your own mother. Or it may be salt in the wound of your childlessness, or an insult to your choice to be so. You may be grieving the loss of a parent, or the loss of a child. It may be an annual reminder of that ticking biological clock that just won’t slow down.

I found Mothers Day difficult for many years. I would dread it coming. I would avoid the ads for those awful Mothers Day CDs (why do advertisers think mothers love such dreadful music?), and I would procrastinate over making the necessary phone calls. In fact, there were some years when I refused to acknowledge it at all.

Why was it so hard? Ghosts. Childhood ghosts that still sit with me to this day.

I had a tricky childhood, as many people do. Nothing evil or torturous, just tricky. And sometimes my inner child demands more attention than my adult self receives. It interferes with my connection with others sometimes and it informs my own parenting. My children are wrapped in my attention and love, for better or worse. These days I’m learning to acknowledge my inner child, to nurture her, and hear her. I’m also learning that sometimes the adult me needs to step up and take charge. Mothers Day is one of those moments.

I have two grandmothers, a step-mother, a mother, and a deceased mother-in-law. Geographically I have not been close to any of them for a long time. Emotionally I hold them all dear. But the ghosts get in the way sometimes. The ghosts of my childhood stir up the hurt inner child and leave her feeling sad and neglected. But only because I let it, but today I choose not to.

Today┬áI allowed myself to bathe in my children’s love, then I told those ghosts to shut the hell up so I could focus on what I wanted today. I sought connection instead of self-pity. I sought generosity instead of self-indulgence.

I made the phone calls, and they were lovely.

ps If you find Mothers Day painful, please know that you are not alone. If you need support in overcoming grief, infertility, or family trauma, I encourage you to find professional support to get you through. x

Mothers Day Ghosts

Tess Crawley

Dr Tess Crawley is an Australian clinical and forensic psychologist, based in Hobart, Tasmania. She completed a PhD in 2004, researching psychopathy in young women and is a former lecturer / clinic director at the University of Tasmania. Tess has worked in the Tasmanian and Queensland prison systems, among a variety of other clinical roles, before opening her solo private practice in 2001. Tess launched her group practice in 2009, Dr Tess Crawley & Associates. Tess has a special interest in perinatal mental health and rural mental health, and spends much of her professional time mentoring other psychologists, both those new to the profession and mental health leaders. She provides online mentoring programs for those professionals further afield. Tess is a busy mum to two boys, a mad Star Wars fan, and loves ice cream, coffee, and good red wine (not necessary all at the same time). The Stigma Rebellion blog is named after one of Tess' online communities, and continues her work towards increasing dialogue and reducing stigma around mental health issues.

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APA Reference
Crawley, T. (2018). Mothers Day Ghosts. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 20, 2019, from


Last updated: 12 May 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 12 May 2018
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