Cartoon: Happy Mother’s Day!

Seven years ago, I left an abusive marriage of almost 25 years. The ex never wanted custody of our kids (he’d made that very clear all throughout our relationship). But the moment I said the magic words, “child support and spousal support,” he went on a charm offensive to have me branded as unfit, someone who could not possibly take care of our children (which I’d been doing non-stop for over two decades). This is a classic divorce tactic by an abuser, determined to keep his money in his pocket, even if it means damaging his kids.

In what is also classic, our kids went along with it. Maybe they feared him. Maybe they were angry with me, both for being “too weak” to leave and finally finding my strength, enough to leave. Maybe they were just grieving the destruction of their world and tried to save themselves however they could.

Since then, Mother’s Day, and all holidays, have been painful (as noted in this article on estrangement by the Atlantic Monthly that popped up on Facebook yesterday). Holidays in the US are all about family. I have almost none: me, my mother, my dog, a few friends. Family was always the single most important thing to me. If you know me at all, you know that.

I don’t know what’s worse, strangers saying Happy Mother’s Day not knowing how hard it is, hearing friends (who often think of me as a mom-away-from-mom) tell me Happy Mother’s Day, or knowing that none of my own children will probably not bother. In fact, they often tell others what a bad mother I was–this is also classic, domestic abuse narrative. If I was a “bad mom” then it’s okay to hurt and abuse me. It erases me as a mother and as a person, and makes it okay to cause me pain, and to replace me in my children’s lives. It excuses the abuse and perpetuates it. Some guy here is always posting that passage from 1984 about how suffering is the essence of control. By Alienating the kids, the abuser can make you suffer without lifting a finger.

For all of you who did have abusive mothers, disabled mothers, or just mothers who did not live up to the impossible standards placed on them by American society in the 21st century, my heart goes out to you. It really does. Kids deserve to have parents they can count on, who love them, who they love. They deserve secure attachments. But spare a little compassion for the estranged and alienated. We miss our kids. We love them. We want to be in their lives. We are left with unanswered questions, grief and rage, and no closure or sense that the future might be better.

Mother’s Day is not “happy” for everyone.




PS — As always, if you have thoughts about creating a comic using AI, please feel free to express yourself in the comments. Spirited discussion and thoughtful commentary is always welcome.

For the curious, here is the prompt which generated the cartoon. Notice that it’s almost but seriously “not quite what I asked for”:

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