What if Your Mom Was More Like Peg Bundy than June Cleaver?

What if Your Mom Was More Like Peg Bundy than June Cleaver?

Love him or hate him, Bill Maher has a pretty funny recurring segment on his show with made-up greeting cards you’ll never find in a store, but wish you could.

bad mom

Mothers Day seems ripe for such a set of cards. Even as the greeting card, flower, candy, and TV advertising industries badger us with all the reasons we love and cherish our moms and how buying that really expensive gift will prove the extent of such love and cherishment, not every kid has a mom they want to celebrate. And I’m not talking about birthmothers here – just moms in general.

My personal experience was nothing close to Carol Brady, Clair Hustable, or Maggie Seaver. No one on TV really comes close to my relationship with my mom, but I suppose Toni Collette’s portrayal of a mom with multiple personalities (United States of Tara) at least mimics the weird because of a mom who wasn’t always fully in her right mind. My mother’s issues stemmed from years of undiagnosed strokes that caused increasing degrees of brain decay and malfunction. She was never really a mom to us in any of the conventional ways, from being our confidant about romances and heartbreaks to teaching us hygiene things like shaving our legs and using tampons. I remember watching the NBC drama Sisters and longingly wondering what it might have been like to have had a mother who would go to bat for me, no matter what. I don’t blame my mother – anymore. But I hated her with a white hot passion for many years, until I finally understood that it was an illness and not a choice to be an absent mother, even though it would be many more years before the precise nature of the illness came to light.

My husband’s mother was an abusive alcoholic. He said it wasn’t until he was well into his 20s that it finally dawned on him that her behavior hadn’t been his fault. She still calls every once in a while, but he finds it difficult to sustain any lasting contact because she’s still an addict and she has never quite been able to forgive herself for the traumatic childhood she caused him and his sister. All he wants to do is move on, but she is still living in regret for the past. I’m pretty sure he didn’t send a Mothers Day card this year – although he always remembers the date of her birthday, even if he doesn’t call to wish her a happy one.

The mother of a friend of mine committed suicide, leaving her and her two sisters to fend for themselves through their teens while their distraught father drank himself into oblivion.

Another friend had a mother who did nothing but constantly point out her flaws and faults. My friend eventually wised up and walked away from this damaged person who was biologically her mother, but an emotional enemy. They didn’t speak for the last 10 years of her mother’s life.

My goal here is not to focus on the negative, but to acknowledge that not everyone has had a rosy relationship with dear ol’ Mom. Nor should they be made to feel guilty for finding Mothers Day an obnoxious holiday they’d rather skip over completely.

Not every woman is cut out to be a mother. Sometimes, they are discerning enough to know their limits and opt out, whether via adoption, abortion, or never getting pregnant in the first place. Other women, whether because of societal, religious, or peer pressure, have children they probably have no business raising. Some women are born to be mothers – crafting costumes with aplomb, happily whipping up treats for homeroom, and cheering on their little athletes or thespians with raucous applause.

Most women – most mothers – fall somewhere in between. Sometimes a little flaky, forgetting permission slips and lunches. Sometimes irritable because they just found out their best friend’s husband passed away. Sometimes overprotective, wishing they could keep their kid from ever getting hurt. Sometimes irrationally irate because they’re angry at someone else just as their youngest daughter asks to get her bellybutton pierced for the 37th time. And sometimes – maybe only once in a while – in perfect harmony with their kiddos.

It’s disingenuous for merchandisers to sell us the fairytale that all moms are June Cleaversending_you_love when, in fact, the average mom is probably closer to Rosanne or Peg Bundy. Yes – really. Think about it. So if you happened to have a less than stellar relationship with your mom, give yourself a break. Love her as much as you are able – even if that means from a VERRRRRRRRRRY long distance. Send up a prayer or good thought, and move on. Release the guilt for not wanting to gush over her. Stop sending cards or making calls that make your skin crawl. Quit apologizing to your kids for their grandmother.

And, if you can, send love. A very good friend of mine offered some sage advice when I was first working on releasing my anger toward my niece. She said, “Even if you can’t send your own love because you just don’t feel love for that person, try sending the love of the Universe (or God). It doesn’t have to be your own love in order for you to shower that person in love.” Wow – what a relief that was. I could stop being angry and instead send love – even if I didn’t personally feel love. You could try this with your mom today (or any day) – or any other person with whom you have a challenging relationship.

Wishing you, at minimum, an OK Mothers Day!

Laura Orsini is an author, speaker, and consultant who coaches other authors to make and market exceptional books that change the world for the better. She is birthmother to Eric, who is finishing college in Boston this summer. Their adoption has been open for the better part of Eric’s life. She continues to toy with the idea that these posts will one day become a book. In the meantime, you can learn about her novel in progress, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World.

Is There a Birthmother in Your Life?

Is There a Birthmother in Your Life?

When I was 12 years old, attending St. Agnes Catholic School in Phoenix, we had a remarkable assembly in the parish hall one afternoon. To my recollection, it was the only assembly of its kind we ever had. I have no idea who orchestrated it, or to what end. The meat of the presentation was an adoptive couple telling their story. What I took away from it was: Be a good girl. Don’t have sex, or you could get pregnant. But if you do get pregnant, choose adoption, not abortion. And definitely don’t even think about keeping and raising that baby.

I’m not sure why the memory of this assembly still aggravates me so much, but I get agitated as I recall it because it strikes me today – 38 years later, in the midst of an open adoption with a seemingly well-adjusted kid who is, himself, 10 years older than I was at the time of that presentation – as brainwashing and/or propaganda.

I was 27 years old when I got pregnant – and yet my very first instinct upon confirming my pregnancy was that I wasn’t going to keep the baby; I would place him for adoption. Who does that? What kind of mother even thinks that way? Why, when the birthfather asked me to, did I consider abortion for two days but never, not once, seriously consider parenting?

I also remember being 14 and thinking that I was never going to have children. So maybe it was just a thing with me – the biological clock skipped over me. My younger sister got married and pregnant at 22. Her first husband made Tony, my son’s birthfather, look like Ward Cleaver by comparison. David did eventually mature and mellow out a bit over the years, but he was fairly irascible and somewhat easily triggered until his death of heart failure nearly five years ago. He wasn’t marriage material, though, and my sister soon found herself a single mom, so I had a front-row seat for all that entailed. Additionally, my mother had raised my older sister on her own, and I saw the results of that relationship in my dysfunctional sibling. Come to find out, my mother had health issues that did not make her the ideal candidate for single parenting – but these were the facts, as I knew them, when I found myself pregnant.

I have heard that birthmothers tend to go one of two ways, when it comes to having additional children. They either never have another kid, or they get married/find a partner very soon after the placement and have several children in quick succession. I most definitely fall into the first camp.

I was 42 when I met my husband – first marriages for both of us. We hit it off well from the start and were pretty sure we were going to get married by about four months in. His sister and I are the same age, and she had a 1-year-old daughter at the time. Because of my age, John and I were forced to have a difficult conversation very early in our relationship: did we, or did we not, want to have children? If we were going to, the timer was ticking loudly. Even had we decided that we did want kids, nothing was guaranteed, and health-wise, things could have gotten dicey. As it turns out, we decided – together –that we were fine with not being parents. I did occasionally ask John for a long time afterward if he was really OK with our decision. You see, because even though I did not parent Eric, he is still my son and we have a nice relationship. John won’t ever have that, and I needed to be sure he wasn’t feeling bad about it. He finally had to tell me to stop asking. Yes, he was fine with the decision. No, he did not have any regrets. Yes, really.

I don’t know who that couple was who first planted the adoption seed in my head. Their child would be about 40 now, I’m guessing. I hope whoever he or she is, that they grew up well adjusted. That adoption would have taken place about a dozen years before open adoptions began to become more commonplace. I hope that he or she found their birthparents – if they wanted to – and that their reunion was a positive one.

I’ve no idea who is reading or will read this blog. No idea what kind of influence I’ve had over anyone with regard to adoption through the years. If I could leave one lasting legacy with regard to this crazy, mixed up, incredibly peculiar way to build a family, it would be that birthmoms embrace their roles in their children’s lives and be fearless in claiming that role – to themselves and to all who know them. It’s time for birthmothers to come out of the closet. Everybody knows an adoptive parent and someone who was adopted. The thing is, there’s a third side to the triad. The stork didn’t bring that baby, a birthmother did. And you probably know a birthmother, too – you just may not realize that once upon a time she placed a baby with another family. That she is also someone’s other mother.



I was 27 when I got pregnant. I’d been dating Tony for about five years, and he was a righteous asshole. To be fair, I was also a mess – a needy, clingy woman who made bad relationship decisions, presumably out of some sort of self-loathing I didn’t realize I was indulging at the time. Also to be fair, my husband told me once, “When I was in my 20s, I was probably a lot like your Tony when you knew him.” Meaning that people grow up. Guys who were assholes at 25 aren’t necessarily still assholes at 45.

At the time, I wanted to marry Tony more than anything in the world. Thank the stars and angels for looking out for me, because he wanted no part of marriage. He asked me to at least consider abortion – which I did, for two torturous days.  No doubt the fact that I was still a practicing Catholic at the time had something to do with why it wasn’t ever really an option for me. That left single motherdom or adoption. Thing is, I’m not sure I’d make a different decision today if I found myself pregnant and unable/unwilling to parent.

I started what I thought would be a book about the adoption a long time ago. It was handwritten on one or two yellow legal pads. I remember getting about 80 pages in before it got too hard to write. I was still too close to the experience, too raw. Over the years I’ve thought about resurrecting the book, but the will, enthusiasm, desire just hasn’t been there. I’m thinking now that the story may turn into a blog. In part, it’s self-indulgent. I’d just like a place to put the thoughts ping-ponging around in my head. But  it’s also possible that my story might help somebody else. I don’t know that it will, but I don’t know that it won’t, either. And, perhaps my son might one day read it. That would probably be a good thing. Someday.

I don’t really want to write a chronological story. I also don’t want to be beholden to anyone about finishing it – the way I would if it were a book. I’d just like a place to put the random stories, ideas, thoughts, and memories that come to me.

It’s possible, if I publish this online, that other people – including my son’s family – will stumble across it, and read it. Which means I may have to occasionally tread lightly – or at least more thoughtfully than would necessarily be my initial instinct. It’s not that I have anything bad to say about them. They are all amazing people, and I am truly blessed to have such a good connection with all of them. It’s just that my perspective is mine – and it probably differs from theirs in places, and I have no desire of any sort to step on toes, create hurt feelings, or to convey any ingratitude. So, that said, we’ll see how it goes.

This might be Post 1. Meaning there might be another post tomorrow. Or in a couple weeks. If you’re still up at 1 a.m. pondering the past 23 years of your life, maybe we’ll connect again soon.