Silver City: Mother’s Day, for Some the Most Dreaded Holiday

Happy Mother’s Day! Sunday, May 14. A time for a loving chat or maybe even a visit with mom, gifts of flowers – even to a graveyard – or a card just to say “love ya,” “thanks.” Or even the minimal send: a ubiquitous heart emoji on a text from a busy millennial to his/her new techy mom. How simple is that. Easy. Everyone has a mom so why not a national day to recognize her – even despite the risk of commercialization? Everyone can do something to remember their moms – even the less good ones and those who have passed away. What could possibly go wrong?

Almost everything can go wrong, actually. Turns out Mother’s Day is becoming the most fraught American recognition-holiday of all. For some moms, it’s the one they dread the most.

It’s not just the heart-breaking smashing of their hopes and prayerful expectations of a meaningful conversation with their sons and daughters sometime on Mother’s Day Sunday that turned out to be false –  even as they were busy with activities such as church, dining out with friends, hikes or even a drive. It’s the dreaded reality and gut-punching horror that hits mom after midnight on Mother’s Day when she must face the clear fact that she did not and now most likely will not hear, see, receive anything at all from her adult child. If not on Mother’s Day, when. 

This profoundly disappointed mom is one of the increasing tens-of-thousands of American mothers who have been abandoned, frozen out, canceled, alienated and in every way completely thrown and wiped out from any contact, communication (social media, address, phone numbers, school and work) by their adult child. And they have no idea why.

Some call it estrangement, although estrangement technically often happens in families for a reason: known abuse that has not been corrected despite therapy, a contested will or other family financial issue, harmful behavior for which even if forgiveness has been sought, one party or the other just can’t – yet. But the cause is known and often has even been discussed at least partially. Worse for a parent is not having any idea what has caused their cancellation by their adult child – a condition called alienation.

On March 16, Georgetown Village, an aging-in-place non-profit, hosted an afternoon Cocktails, Conversations, and Community program with Dr. Carol Weissbroad to discuss “The Psychology of Parenting Adult Children.”

Many families now live physically long distances from one another. Both parents often work in professionally-demanding jobs and their kids are busy 24/7 with school and extra-curricular activities. Their social interactions are reduced to social media and often short texts with emojis – some of them culturally exclusive. All this reduces time with even a small nucleus of family members – siblings and parents – to a minimum without counting the increasing numbers of “entitled” step-mothers and dads and grandparents and half siblings and live-in girl and boy friends and all their “urban family” friends that often take priority over their blood families.

Even those who go into family therapy have found a new reality: a parameter of successful and happy childhoods determined by whether or not the adult child feels their emotional needs were met or not. How does one know if their emotional needs as children were met? Simply by looking at one’s present situation,” Dr. Joshua Coleman writes in his 2022 book, Rules of Estrangement”: Especially powerful is the way that today’s therapy self-help and even 12-step groups have adopted the neoliberal logic of success achieved through overcoming inner obstacles of causality – which often result in turning away from difficult situations and people from their youth.”

The rising value of individualism and an increasing cultural emphasis on happiness dependent on economic security often underpinned by family resources, have added to the shut-out of parents who were not/are not able to supply that now (and who in fact might have current financial needs they hope their children will help them meet).

There are increasing numbers of books, magazine articles and websites dealing with helping the grieving wailing abandoned mom. A national organization, Alienated Grandparents Anonymous, helps local groups of abandoned grandparents with strategies to try to stay connected with their grandchildren and on the state level to urge the rights of loving grandparents and grandchildren to have a way to exercise their right to a relationship as established by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000. It will require that community counselors, family therapists and judges understand the impact on society of frozen-out grandparents from their children and grandchildren. This week, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy reported about the severe negative impact of loneliness and isolation on our national health.

Adult parents need to be empathetic to the harm they are perceived by their adult children as having done them (almost always unintentionally and in the context of the times, such as walking home from school alone), Coleman writes. “And vice versa. Adult children need to be empathetic to the extreme physical and mental harm their silence is causing in their extended families. Both sides need to hear the plea to be understood,” he concludes.

What better time is there to open that door a crack than on Mother’s Day? 


One comment on “Silver City: Mother’s Day, for Some the Most Dreaded Holiday”

  • Linda says:

    The best help for parents of estranged adult children are the books by Sheri McGregor (Done With The Crying and Beyond Done With the Crying) and Ms. McGregor’s helpful website ( ) She also has a free newsletter. She’s the most informed and understands the pain and how to manage it.

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