The price I pay to see her smile

Sometimes when my daughter is happy a piece of my soul dies.

Every once in a while when she gets a new toy, book, or even a bowl of ice cream I find myself envious of the life she has in comparison to the childhood I never had.

No ice cream for me. No hugs for me. No words of encouragement.

Everything came with a price.

Every hug (when someone was watching of course), every gift (special occasions only) came with a price. It came with threats and accusations.

‘YOU BETTER CLEAN YOUR ROOM OR I’M TAKING IT AWAY.’

YOU UNGRATEFUL CHILD, YOU DON’T KNOW HOW LUCKY YOU ARE.

For a long time I thought I was adopted. This is the way my mind tried to cope with the abuse from my mother.

Adopted. Not hers. Not hers to love and cherish.

Motherhood is challenging for those with abusive mothers. The fear.

The fear of becoming HER.

Kids are angels. And they are also demons, especially when you’re standing in a queue. They test your patience push your boundaries, trying to find their place in the world. But when you grow up in an abusive environment you question yourself when you enforce discipline. You question yourself on those normal mom days of wanting to run away.

The fear.

Am I becoming HER?

Its very overwhelming to be in charge of shaping a human soul and everything that goes along with that. There is no manual for parenthood and even more so when you come from a broken or dysfunctional home. Because you have no frame of reference. You are literally taking each day,each experience as it comes and deciding what kind of parent you want to be. But one thing is certain, you know exactly the type of parent you do NOT want to be.

As much as it pains me sometimes, I love planning little surprises for my daughter. Although I never received one single thoughtful gift from my ‘mother’ I am quite skilled in the art of gift giving. Even if I do say so myself. There’s nothing I love more than seeing someone open a gift that they love. That magical mix of surprise and thankfulness gets me every time. I am not so good at accepting gifts though.

Seeing my daughter interact with my husband, her father is something that can dig right into the depths of my soul asking ‘why couldn’t my father love me like that?’. It’s hard. It’s hard being a parent when you grew up with abuse at the hands of your own parents. You ask yourself HOW, and WHY? You finally realize that how you grew up was not normal. When you finally know what love is, your know that you never had it growing up.

As much as my childhood sucked,as much as adult life without a positive mother figure sucks,that legacy cannot become my daughter’s. I am dedicated to breaking the cycle. So while I cant go back and reclaim my childhood I can look forward and pave the way for my daughter to experience unconditional love and acceptance.

Being a mom without a mom

Being a mother without your mother is really hard. Every woman who has given birth to a human being without her mom by her side can relate. Wishing her mom was there for support, advice and simply just taking the baby for a cuddle.

But…here’s the spoiler alert: My ‘mother’ is still alive but not in my life.

I would hate to do any type of comparison or diminish someone else’s pain and grief but this situation somehow just feels more painful than when a good mother has passed on. A good mom in heaven can be thought of in a loving way, and missed on special occasions.

Mine is best avoided at all costs. That doesn’t mean I don’t wish things were different. But my mother is a covert narcissist, and no good can come of having her in my daughter’s life. I went ‘no contact’ a few years before I was pregnant and it would have been nice to reconcile ‘for the sake of the child’, I knew that my child would be nothing but a trophy to her.

‘Mom-ing’ without a mother, especially when yours has been toxic, is a confusing journey. You wish you had that maternal shoulder to lean on, especially in the early days when you have no fucking clue what to do. But you are also struck with a horrible realization. For many years, many of us in the struggle can and will find many ways to justify the behaviour. We justify the way we were treated in many ways. ‘Oh she had a hard life’, or ‘I’m sure there is a reason why she is this way’; and then you have your own child. And you’re scared.

You’re fucking scared shitless because you worry that you carry this evil in your DNA.

But then you look into your child’s eyes…and a horrible awakening overcomes you. And you ask yourself ‘How could my own mother have treated me that way?’.

I am not a perfect mother. I’m human. I get short tempered when I have had broken sleep. I get cranky after the 50th ‘why this, why that’ from my now ever curious four year old. But the love I have for my daughter is deep and real and like no other love I have ever known.

And I’m scared. I’m still scared. I’m scared I raise her with a whole different set of issues. I’m scared I spoil her too much. I’m scared I discipline too much or too little. I’m scared because I feel I have no idea what ‘normal’ motherhood is because I have no frame of reference. I’m scared of the day she asks me ‘Where is grandma?’ and doesn’t accept ‘far away’ as the answer. I’m scared of the day my ever psychotic mother tracks her down as a teen and fills her head with so much lies and manipulation about me. I’m scared.

Some days I live in the moment. I exist as the person I am. Wife, mother, coworker and friend. And other days I feel like I’m drowning. I don’t know how to do this. Am I capable of doing this on my own? Should I just give up now because I’m going to fail anyway?

The love I have for my daughter comes naturally. There is no switch for that. But all the years of manipulation are hard to switch off. I still hear her voice in my head. You’re not good enough. You will never amount to anything. You will never find someone to love you. You are overweight. 

And while for the most part I feel I have succeeded, my inner child keeps tripping me up.

There are moments of clarity I have as a mother. Those moments mean so much more to me than the average mom. When I get home from work and my daughter comes running to me with the biggest smile on her face. When she leans in for a cuddle and tells me ‘I love you so much mom’, when the house is full of friends and family and she chooses to sit by me. Small things that mean so much to someone who grew up in a house with no affection.

As women we all have a very skewed view of motherhood before we actually have children, and I’m sure I can speak for everyone when I say that the first week is a rude awakening. I haven’t lived up to the ‘ideal’ I had in my mind. I’m not 100% patient, my child doesn’t eat 100% organic (fuck I’m lucky if she eats an apple), I went back to work much earlier than my heart could handle, and the ‘love hate’ phase of toddlerhood really tests me at times.

But I am proud of the mother I am. My husband is proud of the mother that I am. My child loves me. And chooses me over everyone when she is hurt or ill or heartbroken. Even on my worst day, I am not my mother.

Many people look at my life and may find my parenting style weird. But I know why I do what I do. And having lived the life I have lived, I’m not going to explain myself to anyone who isn’t open to understanding that not everything is all sunshine and roses.

Motherhood is a different ball game for me. I do not deny it. I actually own it. And anyone who doesn’t respect my choices as a mother for my daughter can actually fuck right off. I waited for these moments, I earned my stripes, I have come out the other side much stronger than I ever thought I would. I am fucking proud of that and won’t allow anyone to take it from me.

The questions have started. (‘where is your mommy?’) And the questions will persist as she gets older. For now I am enjoying the untainted time I have with my innocent, beautiful, emotionally in tune child.

I’m not sure when the day will come, but it will. And we will sit down side by side, and I will have to tell her the tale of my childhood. The scars, the pain, the abuse, the blood, the tears.

Until then, love.

I’m looking forward with love.

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