Things I wish my father knew…

If you haven’t been following my blog then have a look at my family situation before reading this post if you have time. If not, I’m sure you will catch up soon enough.

My father was hospitalized for something minor a few weeks back and this prompted loads of inner turmoil on my end. Unlike the situation with my mother I haven’t officially written off my father, but I never see him. Because he is so involved in his own life and taking care of my half brother which he made with a woman that is roughly the same age as me.

Yes. Sounds a bit like a far fetched dramatic soap opera but sadly it’s all true. Even the story about her slashing his tyres and burning his clothes.

After I ended the call with my gran and told my husband the story, he immediately asked if I wanted to go through to the hospital and honestly my gut answer was no.

My father has been a part of my life from the very beginning but essentially he is a stranger to me. Or actually, more accurately, I am a stranger to him. I didn’t turn out the way he expected and I’m pretty sure he is highly disappointed. I am not religious. I didn’t marry the man he expected me to. And I am not good for his public image.

My father is known in psychology textbooks as an ‘enabler‘.

I lived with an abusive mother and a father that enabled her to abuse me.

And yet my father does not see the part he played.

He not only enabled her bad behaviour but also enforced his own brand of abuse. Namely shaming on the basis of religion and gender stereotyping.

As long as I didn’t attend his church…I was going to hell.

As long as I was a daughter I would never have the same amount of respect that a son would automatically earn.

I am not able to have an honest adult conversation with my father, because everything always comes back to religion (which I am not against, but not involved in). But there are so many things I wish I could tell him, if only he would listen.

I wish he knew how I longed for him to take me away from my abusive mother. I wish he knew what a difference it would’ve made in my life to have someone in my corner. I wish he knew how hard it was for me when I finally realized that he too was part of the problem. I felt like an instant orphan in that moment. I wish he knew that there are many times I wish to talk to him honestly and open but every single time I do, I get shot down with a Bible verse and a back handed comment because owning up to the truth is just too much for him.

I wish my father knew the gravity of his actions. And while people (myself included) will argue that he is aware, a big part of me knows that he is so self involved that the abuse was a by-product of that and not the actual intention. I wish he knew how long I waited for him to change. I wish he knew how I PRAYED for him to change. I wish he knew how having BOTH your parents abuse you feels to a child.

I wish my father knew my daughter. She is the most amazing, soft hearted, funny and gentle soul. I wish my father could step outside his closed minded way of thinking for one second and see the child he helped create for who she really is.

I have had a deep raging anger towards my father for many years. At this point my defense mechanism is in over drive and to spare myself from any further heart ache…I feel nothing. But a longing for what could’ve been.

I wish I had a dad that knew what my favourite meal is. I wish I had a dad that knew I love to sing and dance when I’m home alone cleaning the house. I wish I had a dad that could sit around a fire and tell people warm funny stories about my youth. I wish I had a dad to call when times are rough and I just need someone to say “come over, I will take care of you”.

For the most part I get along fine without either parent, but the hard times and the dark times often bring out the sense of longing. And I envy my adult counterparts during this time. Wish I had a dad to call when I have an emergency…sadly not.

I wish my dad knew and understood that the minimal contact between us isn’t because I’m ‘punishing’ him or because I hate him. The silence is because I was neglected and abandoned and so learnt to live without him.

If your knee-jerk response is ‘why not call your dad?’ then you know nothing about paternal abuse. I know who my audience is. And my heart goes out to each and every one of you. You might feel alone but here is this blog to show you that there are others. And we are here, carrying the same silent burden that you are.

I share these words here because I know someone reading this can relate. I’m sharing this to put it out in the universe with the hope that some good will come of it.

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I am not my hair. I am not this skin. I am the soul that lives within. 

First off,that is obviously not an original title. That is taken from the famous India Arie song,but it is just so fitting that I couldn’t help but use it to describe this post.

While I was sleeping a natural hair movement started taking root in South Africa and though I caught on very late I did participate albeit only for six weeks.

So just in case you didnt know,the South African apartheid regime initiated this horrible thing called the pencil test by which people of colour were divided by the sleekness or lack thereof of their hair. This was but one of the apartheid practices that sadly still divide our country and our people. People with ‘kroes’ hair are looked down upon and subsequently they spend hours straightening their locks.

While I understand that this must’ve been intense for the people in the apartheid era I dont exactly connect the dots in the year 2017. I was never subjected to a pencil test. But funny enough,the first people that made me conscious of my hair were my own parents. I wasn’t allowed to go out with ‘that bush’. My mother would bitch and moan every weekend while doing my hair,as if it were a battle to be won. When I started doing my own hair I was ill equipped,I wasn’t taught how and I didn’t have the right tools or products. When I was 19 I chemically straightened my hair for the first time. I thought it would wash out…it did not. I was mortified. Instead of curls I ended up with waves.

Then I moved out of my parents house and I was free. I was free to do what I wanted,with my clothes and my hair. And I chose to keep it straight most of the time. I then went on to marry a white man. The first person I dated ‘outside of my race’. And he wasn’t even really phased about this hair story. I sat every weekend with my rollers (hair curlers) as usual and when I went to bed I used either a scarf or a swirlkous. My husband is now familiar with the `limitations` my hair has and during winter he often makes jokes as he is running to the car screaming MY HAIR IS GOING TO MINCE,but its not meant in a derogatory way. He has dated white women with sleek straight hair and now he is married to me with not such straight hair and there are no issues. Every couple of weeks when I do wear my hair curly…and I complain about it..he always says he likes my hair curly,as if to say I don’t have to straighten it for him. But I don’t. I prefer my hair straight.

Curly hair vs straight hair

The ‘problem’ I have with the natural hair movement is that now I am a target. I’m seen as a conformer. But as a person who does not feel pressured by society to have straight hair,why does using my flat iron make me a ‘slave to society’ when it is my personal preference?

The other ‘problem’ I have is the grading system. Unbeknownst to me,they have names for the type of curls you have. And I fear that there are women aspiring to have curls that their heads will never grow no matter how much they twist and coil it,regardless of how long ago they threw their relaxers and flat irons away.

We all experience life on our own level of understanding. I have had so much shit happen to me that I honestly cannot sweat the small stuff. And in my opinion hair makes it on to the short stuff list. You do what makes you happy. There are so many women wearing make up,glueing false nails on their fingers,dyeing their hair,tinting their eyebrows and altering their appearances in some way or another.Some are doing it because of pressure and others do it because this is their preference.

I followed (at least attempted to) the natural hair movement for about 6weeks. And I stopped because I was tired. And broke. It actually costs a lot more to be natural. I bought flexi rods and new products. And then I had to find time to use all these new things. No more wake up and go,I had to actually spend time in the bathroom fluffing my bush just the way it wanted. My hair was weighed down and my ends were suffering. The naturals might argue that I needed to experiment with different products etc but honestly,I have had this hair for 31 years,I know what it wants. And it did not enjoy being constantly washed and fed products and being combed. I have now gone back to my usual ritual,which consists of a once a week wash and deep condition followed by an old school roller set and then a flat iron.

I am not completely anal about my hair. I wash and go when I don’t have time but I prefer having my hair straight because its low maintenance and effective. I don’t have to change my hair to suit anyone so I wear it in a style that suits me and only me.

So I admire the curly bushes on facebook,and I support the movement but I am not a follower. I only hope that this will continue to be a positive uprising. I sincerely hope that this isn’t yet another way to divide us. Respect someone else’s choice as they do yours above all.

Does my husband know?

I am scared to have another baby.

There. I said it.

Currently this isn’t even an option for us financially but I fear the day we are able to afford it..because I’m scared of doing it all again. But at the same time I do want to give my daughter a sibling. And I want to experience pregnancy again. To savour it one more time.

Does my husband know the intense sleep deprivation I experienced in those first few weeks? Does he know how anxious I was? Does he know how I felt like I was drowning? Does he know how I longed to go back to not having a child? Does he know how neglected I felt? How I longed to shower more than twice or once a week in those first few weeks?

Does he know?

Does he know that he actually has no idea what tired means? Because the person who got two hours of broken sleep really knows what tired is. And that person is me. The mom. Does he know that I switch between loving him and hating him in 5 minutes on certain days? Does he know that I blame myself because I wanted to prove I could be supermom and do it all but all I ended up doing was being super burnt out?

Does he know?

Does he know how my body betrayed me? This vessel that had served me my entire life and which created and moulded and birthed a miracle then decided to just fall apart. Does he know that I wish I could go back to the days of wearing what I want and feeling good about? Does he know that even though he thinks I’m hot I don’t?

Does he know?

Does he know how many nights the baby kept me up and how we both cried silent and not so silent tears, clinging on to each other for dear life not knowing which way to go? Does he know that I suffered through that alone because I felt like he needed his rest to function at work while I could ‘recoup’ during the day on maternity leave? Does he know that when I went back to working full time I just wanted to run away?

Does he know?

Does he know everything that gets done around the house?

Does he know that I do so many things that don’t even cross his mind? Let’s do some laundry, Oh and don’t forget the kid must wear something blue on Tuesday and take a treat with for the picnic on Wednesday and their favourite toy on Friday. Must not forget. Let’s wash the dishes. Go find the random forgotten sippy cups and half eaten treats before we have a different set of problems. Remember which day is trash day. Remember to pack in sneakers for soccer practice. Talk to kid about school. Remember names of friends and names of friends moms. Birthday party this weekend. Directions. Gift, gift wrap, cute little birthday card. Do we have everything? Shit we forgot to buy shampoo. Let’s sweep the house. Oh look, need to go through this pile of art work. Can’t keep it all so have to pick favourites when kid is asleep. Friday is bake sale day? When the fuck did that happen? oh…here it is in the email I got three weeks ago but forgot to read. Must pluck eyebrows so that I don’t look like big foot’s sister, but wait, kid needs me to open juice box even though dad is sitting around doing nothing. Eyebrows later then. Must paint nails to look presentable at work, but wait…waiting for nails to dry is not productive. Skip nails. Hang up washing. Do more washing. Change bedding. Must get ready for work. Make sure we have everything. Get to work. Shit forgot lunch at home. Go home. Let’s bath the kid. Let’s have tea. Let’s remember everything for tomorrow. Husband needs pants mended. Kid needs new socks.

Does my husband know that this is what my brain feels like on a daily basis?

Don’t get me wrong. My husband is a modern man. He isn’t an old school pig that expects me to do everything, he just has no idea what gets done on a daily basis. And I think many men don’t realize what kind of WORK goes into organizing the daily activities of a family. But I fear that having a second child will catapult me back into those first few weeks of desperation and also once again infringe on my personal time and our time as a married couple. I am over thinking this. And our daughter is 4 so I fear we have left it for too long because I am comfortable with the way things are. I like having a shower everyday. I like having a relatively clean house. I like being able to sleep for longer than 1 hour at a time.

Does my husband know that I fear losing myself again? Does he know that while having a baby was the best thing that ever happened to me, it was also the worst thing to happen to my confidence, self esteem and sanity? Does he know that I love our daughter with all my heart but that the first year of parenting led to our worst year of marriage and I don’t want to experience that again?

Does he know? 

Does he know that while I have all these fears, I also fear NOT having a second child? Never cradling a small tiny human at 3am again. Never experiencing the joy and wonder that is pregnancy ever again. Never nourishing a child from my breast ever again. Not giving my child a sibling while our immediate family circle is so small that I have to perfectly coordinate playdates on weekends so that she can associate with her peers.

Does he know about this inner war raging inside my head? How I try to find the words every day to tell him but I can’t translate it into man-speak so I just leave it or I start and end up looking deranged. Like do you want it or not want it?

Our financial situation right now means a second child would be financial suicide, but by the time we are financially able I fear we will have missed our window. Yes yes, I know some people have their first kid at 36 and well into their 40’s but that’s not for us.

I just sometimes wonder if my husband knows how I feel about it as I made it clear that I wouldn’t whine about a second child because I feel totally blessed having a healthy and happy child while someone can only dream of one, why cry for two? But that is the practical side of me speaking. The emotional part of me yearns to have a big belly to rub that I can talk to and play music to and create dreams for.

I just needed to say this. Because I know there are others out there. With the strain of the cost of modern living deciding how big their family is.

I am glad I have one. (I say this while my hand hovers over my belly wondering if I will be lucky enough to grow another human in there)

does my husband know

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.

cry

Blood may be thicker than water but it doesn’t always taste good

As this blog continues you will get to know my family a bit better,as well as my relationship with them and without them.

My ‘mother’ is a covert narcissist. My father is part enabler,part self absorbed and part Bible basher. My one and only sibling is estranged from me on and off,very socially awkward and generally just not well adjusted because of the emotional abuse that stunted childhood development.

I am just in the middle of all this mess because I decided I couldn’t live in the dysfunction anymore.

I remember the first time I discovered that my family wasn’t ‘normal’. I was over at a friend’s house and she had been a bit clumsy and broken a glass. I sat back in fear,trembling from head to toe,my heart beating out my chest. The rage I was expecting never came.

Her mother rushed over and asked her if she was okay. Made us both sit very still while she cleaned up the glass. And even gave her a hug and some ice cream afterwards.

In my house I wasn’t allowed to break anything or lose anything unless of course I wanted to feel my mother’s wrath in the form of silent treatment,a solid grounding and the sweet satisfaction of her having a good enough reason to beat me with a belt.

I had many of these awakenings from age 10 to 15. I felt trapped. I felt like I was living in a prison. I felt alone because no one knew what my life was really like.

Everyone thought I was extremely shy and socially awkward because I never went anywhere without my parents present. When in actual fact I wasn’t allowed out anywhere. This was in part to prevent me from having any fun and part so that I wouldn’t create any strong bonds with anyone and blab the family secrets.

I had many dark days. Many. This type of abuse was hard to explain and still is. Very often we don’t have physical injuries. Physical injuries serve as proof,and when you don’t have proof,well you need strong emotional ties to someone to make them believe you. So as you can see,this is all part of the abuse,it keeps you locked in.

The family I have now don’t keep secrets. They don’t isolate me and make me feel afraid of offending them and being punished for challenging their authority in any way.

The family I have now aren’t related to me by blood at all.

They are however the people that I have come to depend on and who also depend on me. They have seen the darkest corners of my soul and led me back into the light when I was too weak to walk.

They are people who believe me and believe in me when I can’t summon the strength to do it myself.

I have found them in the weirdest ways. Mom groups on the internet,clients turned friends,coworkers, and a few on support groups.

Though my journey is still a difficult one,the kind souls I have met along the way have saved me in ways they don’t even realize. The hardest part of not having a family is feeling isolated. Having a few good friends can make the world of difference.

I often tell my friends that I love them and that I appreciate their friendship,this world can be cruel,you never know what those words can mean to someone.

Regardless of whether your relationship with your blood family is good or not,don’t ever take your friends for granted.

Photo credit: flowers from one of my besties

Spring Cleaning – House and Soul

So I find myself living between two extremes, wanting to reuse everything in order to recycle and save the environment, and the polar opposite being please dear God I can’t live in all this clutter!

Every 3months or so I ATTEMPT to declutter my house in order to make cleaning more efficient. Halfway through I kinda lose interest and shove everything back in the cupboard but nevertheless, 3months down the line I swear to get rid of everything. How is it that we accumulate so much junk every week? Receipts and tiny knick knacks, it never ends. To complicate matters even further I am a crafty person and a keen gift wrapper. So very often my little treasures are useful and then I am thankful I kept some of other random oddity. But I am in a transformation phase right now, so I guess my cupboards are in for a shock as I try to reinvent myself and the way I do things on a daily basis.

Everyone knows that the key to a good spring cleaning is a strategy. Start in one room, or even one corner of a room (depending on how much crap you have) and work your way from there.

Easy Spring Cleaning Tips:

  • Have three separate piles, one for trash, one for charity and one for storage
  • Find a place for everything
  • Be ruthless, if it hasn’t been used in the last 3months then chuck it
  • Clean as you go

And Separate Tips for People Who Procrastinate:

  • Stay focused on the task at hand
  • Only take a break when you’re done with one section
  • Don’t shove it all back into your cupboards after 3hours
  • Don’t justify keeping anything just because you paid for it

I must admit when I pull it off I feel pretty damn chuffed with myself. The house instantly looks neater and more inviting. And I always promise myself in that moment that I will maintain this beautiful clutter free existence. But little by little everyday, I get home after a long day at work and I don’t have energy to sort through my daily clutter and it just accumulates all over again. Oh well, better to have tried than never to have tried at all right?

Is spring cleaning your soul a thing? i think it is. And if it isn’t the I’m making it a thing right now. As you’ve read in previous posts I was stuck in a dead end job for many years, taking this new job was a HUGE change for me, like ENORMOUS but I find myself now wanting to change other things. namely my personal life and relationships with people and how I interact with them.

When you are generally unhappy it is hard to pinpoint when you are genuinely unhappy about something. Reason being that your life just sucks in general so you can’t really point fingers at the source. But when you have a huge shift towards a happier space, suddenly every negative vibe is a threat to your happiness.

I go to work every day so amped to get started (yes even on a Monday) and I find myself looking at certain negative things bringing me down and every day my resolve gets stronger. Like I don’t need this shit, I deserve better.

Whether people in my life know it or not, I have made a promise to myself to make next year and the future in general, a better one for myself. For years I’ve put the needs of others before me but I really feel like I need to be selfish and take care of me in order to stay sane.

So I’m cutting the dead weight. I’m cutting out people who drain me, people who don’t support who I am and where I’m going. As harsh as it sounds I feel it needs to be done. I don’t want to wake up one morning 20years from now with regrets. It’s corny as fuck but it’s true ; you only get one life, so live it well.

I have wasted far too many years already, and I don’t plan on wasting anymore. So whether we interact in 2017…is all up to you. Add to my life, don’t tear it down.

Now excuse me while I walk around the house aimlessly in order to avoid the pile of laundry, dishes and 4year old treasures that need to be packed way.

For the house I recommend this book: Ditch your glitch by Kate Emmerson

For the soul..I suggest having a look online at various self-help books that best suit you but one of my favourites is The life changing magic of not giving a fuck by Sarah Knight.

Happy Cleaning!

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