They are everywhere on social media, those sentimental memes about mothers. But because I was abused, to me they read like my worst nightmare:
My mother actually does stalk me. I cut off contact with my mother over ten years ago because I did not feel safe, and because I decided it was more important to protect my child from her manipulative behavior. Whenever I move, she finds my address. She will send cards to my children, acting as if everything were normal. Two of them were born after I cut off contact, yet she knows their names and when they were born. She will not engage directly with me, or address any of the issues, but she will let me know she is there attempting to control me. Recently she sent me an email with “Urgent -Response Needed” in the headline. It was not urgent. It did not need a response. It was an attempt to manipulate me once again. “Hoovering” is the term, borrowed from the vacuum cleaner, whereby a person tries to suck people in to their drama. She does not ever express any remorse over what happened, because to her, the problem never existed. In her eyes, if there was a problem, surely it wasn’t that big a deal, and surely it was my fault.
I spent the first thirty years of my life exhausting every possible way to be a good girl and play nice. I used to think it was my fault that the relationship was dysfunctional. I had been trained since birth to take responsibility for their feelings and behaviors. I was hypervigilant about empathy, yet never once was empathy reciprocated.
Good mothers protect their children. Good mothers are interested in their children as individuals, not just extensions of themselves. Good mothers want to understand. They want to nurture. They want to listen. They want to connect. I did not have a good mother.
For too long I’ve held on to guilt. If I admit that I did not have a good mother, I would be perceived as ungrateful. A complainer. A victim. I am so used to taking responsibility for the faults of others that my default coping skill is to remain silent. Even now, the worry that I would be perceived as being negative about my mother makes me hesitate. My motives aren’t to be mean or get revenge. My motive is simply to tell the truth. My motive is to let go of a burden I’ve carried too long.
My motive is also to start a conversation for those who also see the meme above as a horror movie synopsis. Here is a place you will be heard and understood.
4 thoughts on “When Your Mom Is Not a Good Mom”
Ohmygosh Thank You! You just put my life into words.
*aside from a few of the minor details you described my situation and my feelings EXACTLY
This will be the second Mother’s Day I have been able to enjoy, without the dread of failing yet again. I have been able to reclaim Mother’s Day as mine…and my youngest child is 32! No more feelings of dread as the day approaches, as I scour the card section for a halfway acceptable card, no more justifying why I can’t fly out to be with her, no more apologies for flowers that were too smelly or for sending the wrong present- one that she just can’t understand why I would imagine she would need or like. No more phone calls! Hallelujah! Each weekly call was an exercise in quick thinking, avoiding tricky topics, and making up the fake compliments on which she thrived while she shared snide zingers, nasty Barbs (her name!) and lots and lots of ‘shoulds’. Emotionally she was a dysfunctional child and I do not miss her at all. Her passing meant only my freedom from toxicity and it was certainly not a loss. Quite the opposite. The quote above and all of the other Mother’s Day posts over the years were nothing more than reminders to me that I have never had a mother and I was never a daughter. To her, I was there to project onto, to blame, shame, and to be a servant and caregiver. To me, she was only a woman with a personality disorder passing on her family’s tradition of inter generational narcissistic abuse. Very sad.
“For too long I’ve held on to guilt. If I admit that I did not have a good mother, I would be perceived as ungrateful. A complainer. A victim. I am so used to taking responsibility for the faults of others that my default coping skill is to remain silent. Even now, the worry that I would be perceived as being negative about my mother makes me hesitate. My motives aren’t to be mean or get revenge. My motive is simply to tell the truth. My motive is to let go of a burden I’ve carried too long.”
Yes… Silence. Hesitation. Backlash. Oh the backlash… Isolation, too. It’s you, they say. You’re too sensitive. Relax… She’s just kidding. It wasn’t that bad. You think that’s abuse? Thank you for making sure others know they aren’t alone.