To My Absent Mother and Abusive Stepmother on Mothers Day

What follows is a reflection for Mothers Day that I have been debating on sharing for years. It deals with abuse and describes several abusive events. It may not be suitable if such topics trigger you.

For those who had absent and abusive mothers, Mothers Day can feel burdensome and tiresome. Many of us are married and we are grateful for our mother in laws, but there’s still grief to be wrestled with. Our stories matter just as much as any other on Mothers Day.


To my mother,

You were young when I was born. Unprepared for the responsibilities of motherhood. You did drugs and relished in adultery. You taught me what emptiness felt like. You severed our ties before I was old enough to grasp them in my hands. But I’m learning to forgive you.

To my stepmother,

You pledged to love me like “one of your own”. That’s a big commitment. Did you realize that every time you looked in my eyes you would see the face of my mother? Were you prepared for the stress that would come with the baggage thrust upon me? I doubt it. 

The beatings started early in my life. It’s difficult for me to recall a time when they weren’t a condition of our relationship. You beat me for my slow development, but you never took the time to teach me what I needed to learn. You beat me because I wasn’t your child. Can you imagine being six years old and having the woman you call “mom” telling you that you’re not hers? 

You deprived me of food and water. Then you would beat me for getting sick. I had to learn how to lie quick and early in my life. You told me I lied a lot because I was just like my mom. You’re wrong. I learned to lie so I could avoid the beatings. And yet, you found a way to beat me anyway. In reality, you didn’t need a reason to do what you did.

I remember when my grandmother was dying when I was in my middle teenage years. You had to drive me over to my aunt’s house so we could take my grandmother to church from the nursing home. You threw a clothes hamper at me to wake me up. You picked me up, forced me to sit in the back of the SUV and yelled at me the whole drive home. Did you stop to think about the grief I was dealing with watching my grandmother deteriorate? Did you know she would be dead not even a month later? You cried. Some days I don’t understand why. Some days I wonder if it’s because you watched as I visited my grandmother everyday in the hospital during her last week on earth and read her scripture even when she couldn’t respond. Maybe you realized that despite your best efforts, I was learning to differentiate between true loving bonds and the “love” you said you had for me after the beatings.

You once remarked that you didn’t appreciate what my grandmother wrote about you and your actions in her journals that you had no right to even read. But did you ever think about how she felt? How helpless she was to intervene? What about how I felt? You build yourself up for giving a roof and some clothes. That’s not motherhood. That’s responsibility and they are minimum of what you’re supposed to do for your children.

I want you to know I’m learning to forgive you to. It won’t be easy. In the most formative years of my life, you taught me to live in paranoia, pain, and fear of even myself. 

I imagine that your children will rally around your table on Mothers Day. I remember my father telling me he it’s what I should be doing. But it has been almost ten years since I severed ties.

And you’ve missed so much. I became the first in our family history to get a degree. I got married and I’m learning how to love myself, my wife, and allowing others to love me. I became part of a family that wanted me to be a part of it a week after knowing me. And you’re missing all of it. 

You always said that I would amount to nothing and no one would ever want me. I believed you. Then I got out from under you and learned that you were wrong.

You were so wrong.


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My name is Charlie Tinsley and I blog about The Bible. In particular, I post my thoughts, commentaries, and Bible Study teachings I have done. I hold a Bachelors Degree in Science in Religion Summa Cum Laude with a Biblical Studies Minor. I am currently studying for a Masters In Divinity at Eastern Mennonite Seminary with PhD ambitions in the study of Theology. I am married and have been for several years and I currently reside in Virginia.

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