The other kind of bad mom

Sometimes you read something and you feel as though it was specifically written for you. As an aspiring wordsmith, I often find myself having blog envy where I sit and think ‘Damn, I wish I had thought of this’ or ‘Wow I wish I could describe things so accurately’.

I stumbled across Finding Joy on Facebook and almost every single post speaks to me. The way Rachel describes the ‘ugly’ side of motherhood is refreshing and a huge relief to moms such as myself who feel as though we are drowning in all this perfect pintrest mom bullshit.

There’s one area of motherhood that she hasn’t addressed yet, and that is the evil and cruel mother. My guess was on point, she didn’t have the misfortune of having a bad mother. And no, I’m not talking about the mom that forgot to pack your favourite lunch, or the mom that gave you cereal for dinner because she was too tired to cook.

If you find yourself sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for me to drop the bomb then I’m pretty sure this post is for you.

  • Did you grow up wondering what you had done to piss your mom off?
  • Did you grow up living in fear of her anger?
  • Did you grow up with ‘tough love’? Being told to shake it off when you clearly needed medical attention?
  • Did you grow up with abnormal punishments such as the silent treatment for days on end, or withholding food or affection until she decided to let you back in?
  • As an adult, do you feel intense anxiety every time she calls or visits?
  • Do you mentally prepare yourself in order to interact with your mother?
  • Is your strained relationship with your mother a dirty secret that no one (even yourself) understands?
  • Have you cut ties with your mother?
  • Do you fear turning into your mother?
  • Did your mother’s passing bring you relief?

 

I am writing this post today to enlighten you about narcissist personality disorder, more specifically the way it relates to the mother daughter relationship.

I grew up knowing that my mother and our relationship was very different to other families I knew. I only discovered the term narcissist when I was 24 and it opened my eyes in so many ways and brought to my heart a huge sigh of relief.

I finally had answers.

I think that society has a very warped view of what narcissism is. We picture a man staring into a mirror admiring himself from every angle. And while that is part of it, that is not the sum of all parts.

Narcissists are selfish. They manipulate, they lie, they seek to control, they are only out for self gain.

The narcissistic mother is loved by all. In public she has a very very likable persona and she might even be involved in charity or social groups that endeavour to do good. Meanwhile back at home, her children (especially her daughter) lives in fear of the next punishment, insult and sometimes physical abuse.

My mother’s favourite weapon of choice is silent treatment. For those of you that aren’t aware of this punishment, it might seem harmless in comparison to physical abuse but it is in fact quite an effective form of abuse. Being 10 years old and ignored by my mother for weeks on end was very unsettling for me. She would only communicate with me if absolutely necessary and if we had company over. Needless to say we never had many visitors and the silent treatment kept me on my toes, waiting in despair for it to end.

Another firm favourite with her is gaslighting. Using gaslighting on a child is definitely one of the cruelest things you can do to break down their self-confidence and perception of the world and the people in it. For a long time I doubted EVERYTHING someone said to me, even if in passing. I was never quite sure if they were being sarcastic or if they were genuine. Gaslighting is one of the ways in which narcissists keep you under their control, because when you doubt yourself, you never confront the abuser. You stay on the emotional rollercoaster that is a web of lies and manipulation.

I have been no contact with my narcissistic mother for 7 years now…a choice that has kept me alive.  I did not consciously do this. At the time I had no idea what narcissism was, all I knew was that I had to get away for my own survival. My mother had missed my wedding (which she was almost invited to but cursed my marriage to end in divorce so hence…no invite) she has missed the birth of my daughter. She has missed 7 christmases, easters, mothers days and every other special moment inbetween. Because she cannot change. Because she doesn’t respect me. I am not her daughter, I am a person that was made to obey her at all costs, even my own happiness. And seeing as I do not obey her rules I am therefore not worthy of being treated in a loving way.

I am the scapegoat in my family. And it’s rough. I won’t lie. I can’t lie anymore. I have to speak my truth. For me and for everyone else that is living in shame with this dirty secret that society refuses to acknowledge even exists.

‘But she’s your mother!’

‘ I’m sure it wasn’t that bad!’

‘ I love my mom dearly and have no idea how you could do this.’

These are some of the remarks when people find out about my…situation. Society will not accept this. We accept the disappointment regarding the dead beat dad, but no one stands up to sympathize with those who have suffered abuse at the hands of their own mothers.

And this is why I have this blog. I am not an accomplished author. I do not have a wealth of information to share with the masses, I do not have a degree in psychology. But I have my story. And I have my truth. And I know what it feels like to live in the dark.

So if I can save one person from the inner torment that is a toxic narcissist mother then these random ramblings will be worth it.

I am not healed. I don’t think that anyone completely heals from the abuse that is caused by the one person on earth that is meant to love and protect you above all else. I have dark days. I have days where I doubt myself. I have days where I feel like giving up.

And then…I experience a moment of pure joy with my husband, or with my four year old, or with a friend. And I’m reminded that I do have a life. I do have things to look forward to. I do have people that rely on me to be who I am. I shut down that negative voice in my head and just live in the moment, not thinking about where I came from and what I came from.

I have found solace in accepting my truth. Accepting my life without a mother. I have found support in unexpected places such as narcissist support groups on Facebook, I have also stumbled into beautiful souls that share a similar story and these souls I am lucky to call friends. I have found books,such as Mean Mothers by Peg Streep that speak to the depths of my soul. I take each day as it comes,but now with the knowledge that I am NOT the problem.

If this sounds way too familiar…know that you are not alone. I am there with you and so are many of us who suffer in silence.

 

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.

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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The Biggest Decision of my Life

Reading the title of this post you probably assumed – marriage, kids, changing jobs or buying a house…these are all big decisions we make as adults and very often it feels like this huuuuge undertaking and then six months down the line you’re like okay I was being a bit dramatic. but no, I’m not talking about any of those. I’m talking about the fact that it has been roughly 8 years since I last spoke to my mother.

I say ‘roughly’ because I never set a date to do this. It kinda just happened. (yes,how does something like this just happen) well, after years of emotional and sometimes physical abuse I had to choose between me or her, and I chose me.

I packed my things with my heart racing in my chest. I stood in my room going back and forth between “this is a bad idea” to “I need to get the fuck out of here NOW“. Trying to pack your bags when you are running away from life as you know it is really hard. Mostly because you’re doing it in panic mode and you don’t have enough bags for all your crap.

Surprisingly I didn’t actually have much of value. Nothing in the house belonged to me or carried any good memories so I literally packed my clothes. (Years have gone by and I still have those weird moments where I look for a certain trinket or item of clothing like ‘damn why didn’t I pack that?’)

And then I left. And the world didn’t come crashing down and no she didn’t pull up and demand that I come home. This is a fact that not many people are unaware of. Just in case you missed it SHE DID NOT FORCE ME TO COME BACK HOME.

Her story for the record was that she respected me as an adult and so let me go be my own person. (insert sarcastic cackle here) but she and I know the truth. On my 18th birthday she literally told me “now you can move out”. She was happy to see me leave BUT she also had no idea that I would be gone for good. In her mind it would only be a matter of time before I’d had enough of the cruel world and come running back so she could say “I told you so”. The irony of it is that I had already suffered all the cruelty at home so the cruelty of the real world was not a factor for me.

I won’t lie though. It was hard. Giving up the financial benefits was hard. Living on 2min noodles, living in a commune with strangers and walking to work rain or shine was not easy. But I was free, so regardless of my living arrangements I had succeeded.

My ‘mother’ and I never had a true relationship beyond pretending with other people. So to answer the question that is bothering you right now; no I don’t miss her. I miss the feeling of what having a good mother feels like but I do not miss her one bit.

What’s to miss?

oh you mean besides the constant insults and belittling and lies and aggression?

Not for me, no thanks.

Years have gone by and even though I stand firm in my choice, it still stings.

I miss having a mom but I don’t miss her. There is nothing to miss, unless you consider abuse to be a fond memory of your childhood. No, I don’t expect you to understand, I don’t expect anything from anyone anymore. I have set the bar really low so that when someone ‘gets’ it I’m super chuffed and share my story in order to educate them.

Contrary to her belief, I don’t tell the truth in order to create a smear campaign. I tell the truth to lift the silence on this heavily guarded secret. If my story can save one person, just ONE from living the life that I had then I will feel relief. Society guards maternal abuse in a bank vaulted safe, away from reality. But the truth is that this is an everyday reality for many people. And as long as it stays hidden this abuse will continue for generations to come.

I think I speak for all my people when I say that the path to recovery and freedom is a lonely one. We meet in the shadows, on private closed groups on Facebook, we blog anonymously, for fear of the flying monkeys. And it really sucks but it’s okay, we have each other. Until society accepts this as a real issue, in the shadows we will stay. But I feel that soon this perception will change. We made some headway with the dead beat dad situation, so surely we will graduate to a point where mothers will be seen for who they are. (I live in eternal hope)

Being a mom without a mom has been challenging. And will continue to be challenging. I am relying on books and the internet and my gut instinct to guide me. because I do not have a responsible and nurturing maternal figure to guide me. I’m four years into my parenting journey and I don’t think I’ve done a bad job so far.

But doing this alone is truly a slice of heaven instead of heaven in comparison to what it would be with her being a part of it. Constant criticism, disappointment, gas lighting, lying and forced interaction.

So all in all I think it is a fair trade. Rather no mother than a narcissistic one.

Photo Credit: www.dekeldesigns.co.za

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I have become a ‘selfish bitch’

Okay, let me explain what I mean.

After years of living in an emotionally abusive home, being told what to do and what to eat, and who to talk to etc etc I am finally making a stand and realizing that I have more options than my parents made me realize.

Back then I never had the option of saying NO. And for a long time after I left I never used the word no because that sense of obligation was so ingrained in me that I never considered it an option. Until all of these obligations started weighing on me like a ton of bricks. It gets hard to breathe. Each day is a struggle. You sit waiting for the next request to come up and drag yourself to wherever you need to be.

It is an exhausting way to live. It is not a life, it is an existence.

I waited many years for this ‘storm’ to pass. There I was like a fucking idiot standing in the rain waiting for it to stop when all I had to do was go inside. But when you are a victim of abuse you are so accustomed to not having a choice, that long after you break free from your abuser, the habits live on.

Whether it is in my mind, or just the way it is, I have become somewhat of a selfish bitch. I make time for my immediately family (my husband and child) before I schedule anything with anyone else. And if any social engagement does not suit my schedule I just decline.

I am an introvert of sorts. I love being around people but I equally love being at home in my own space. I do not like spending time with people who do not add value to my life or people who disrespect me.

Many will claim that my ‘issues’ are standing in the way of me having a larger group of friends and family but I disagree. It is all about quality over quantity is it not? So why am I branded as this selfish bitch for wanting to make the most of my time with the people I prefer?

You know what it is? Social obligation. Society hands us this set of ever changing rules that everyone just blindly follows.

You MUST be close to your family.

You MUST be seen out every weekend surrounded by a group of people.

You MUST do everything you can for anyone that asks.

I call bullshit.

I now handle my life the same way I handled my wedding guest list: If I haven’t seen or heard from you in the last 6 months AT LEAST then you’re not welcome. Life passes us by so quickly. I blinked and suddenly it’s almost Christmas. I can’t make up for the lost years of my childhood but I can work towards creating a better present for myself and a better future for my child by living for myself and not others.

I have a few close friends that I consider my people and for them I always have time, a shoulder, a cupcake, a glass of wine. But I don’t interact with them out of a sense of obligation. I interact with them because they add value to my life and they are invested in me as a person.

So no, I won’t be making it to your house next week, I’m just a little busy taking care of me.

Your mother is a what?! Part One

Hi. My name is blah blah and my mother is a covert narcissist. Say what now?

This is a conversation that every single child (adult or not) dreads to have with anyone who is not aware of the narcissistic parent. And just my luck, I happen to have a complete set.

My early years were confusing to say the least, always wondering what I did to provoke such an intense level of anger from my mother. Strongly believing that if only I was pretty enough and skinny enough and smart enough, then she would love me. She was clearly capable of love because she doted on my younger brother. (Actually this is a lie, the love shown towards my brother was just part of the tools in her arsenal, but at age 10 I didn’t know this)

For the longest time I thought I was adopted. Looking through photo albums and discreetly questioning family members I discovered the sad news that yes, I am biologically linked to this woman. So scratch the escape and look for my ‘real’ parents plan. Ask me about my childhood and I clam up. I’m not interested in reliving the worst part of my life. I don’t want to think about the sadness and the isolation and the suicide. No let’s not mention the suicide. Never attempted but always contemplated.

I don’t understand that little rhyme we were taught as kids: Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.

Words hurt. They fucking hurt to the core.

Words that will stay with me forever: Why is your nose so flat? You will never find a husband being this fat. Why are your lips so big, can’t you keep them in?

These words were not thrown at me by school yard bullies. These words and many other were gifted to me by Mother Dearest herself. She only told me she loved me on birthday cards. Happy Birthday. Love M (for mom) She never showed any physical affection unless we had company over (Keeping up appearances are crucial) She made me beg for everything. Everything was a huge sacrifice. Doing the family laundry was a sacrifice. Making us food was a sacrifice. Buying said food was a sacrifice. Paying for my education was a sacrifice. Basically my entire existence “drained” her financially and I was a burden.

If you ever have the honour of meeting Mother you will love her. You really will. She draws people in and most people think I’m insane or have a vendetta against her because she’s so friendly and lovable and kind hearted (insert eye roll here)

Satan and I have not had contact since 2008. And while it hasn’t been easy, I am experiencing a better quality of life since she is no longer part of it. To the person blessed with a wonderful NORMAL mother that is reading this with confusion,shock and horror, I do apologise but this story needs to be told for the many silent sufferers.

Society is very willing to accept the dead beat dad with ‘oh he is such a pig’ or ‘don’t worry you are better off without him’, but mothers are sacred. Anyone who decides to disown their mother is met with ‘but what did she do?’ or ‘Surely it couldn’t have been that bad?’ or ‘Where is your spreadsheet proving that she did these things, she is your mother, you can’t do this’

This blog is about my life, and a huge chunk of what shaped my identity as a person is growing up with a narcissistic mother. If this offends or confuses you…tough shits. This was my reality for 21 years. 21 long, miserable lonely years.

The story of MD (Mother Dearest) cannot be told in one blog post. I am not sure how many posts it will take but keep your eyes peeled for the next one. You might just learn something.

While you are waiting do a bit of reading:

Books:

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