Mother's Day

I now realise that I want, or expect, my mothers reactions and feelings towards me to be black and white.  I want her to care, or not care… love, or not love… nothing in between. I don’t understand the ambiguity of her reactions to me.  I don’t understand how she can come up here when I ask her to support me; but then treat me with casual disregard in other ways.

I need her to be the bad guy, because then I have somewhere to direct my anger.  In many ways, she is a safe outlet for that anger (the anger for the father is too immense to go near).  I acknowledge some of the anger directed towards her is justified… she suspected that I was being hurt, but did nothing; and she can say the most cruel and thoughtless things.  But she doesn’t deserve to be the sole beneficiary of the anger that I direct outwards.

My mother was brought up in a house that was dysfunctional – Granddad had at least one affair, and brought a woman pregnant with his child into their house to live for awhile; and Nana had Parkinson’s Disease, so my mother had to take on extra responsibilities from a fairly early age.  Her marriage to my father was also dysfunctional.  She knew this fairly early on in the marriage; but in those days, you didn’t divorce.  Divorce would have been seen as a failure – when she was still married, Granddad told her that at least one of his daughters got it right.

So, she comes from a history of dysfunction.  She has superficially sought help for the issues that arise from that dysfunction; but didn’t see it as worthwhile, so never went too deep.  This means that her ability to change is minimal.  Over time, she has come to accept my mental health issues with a little more understanding… she’s now less likely to ask “when is this all going to be over”… this indicates that she can change, or at least lower her expectations of me.

In many ways, my relationship with my mother is all about my own failings.  This is the reason I react to her thoughtless words… I used to be the perfect daughter, and I no longer am.  I don’t have the ability to compartmentalise my reaction to her, as well I used to.  When she is around, I can usually do it… but I’m now aware of the consequences of bottling all of that hurt up and putting it away.  That’s not to say that I lash out at her, I don’t… I just shut down while she is around.  It’s a very compartmentalised way of interacting with her.  It may sound harsh, but it’s probably how we’ve always interacted, I just wasn’t aware of it.

It was Mother’s Day here yesterday.  I was in a dissociative fog for most of the day… I reached out to my mother, but it wasn’t a good interaction.  I was expecting a level of interaction that will never be.  I need to understand that.  I need to understand the ambiguity that comes from being human…  It’s not a personal insult when she cuts off our Skype call to talk on the phone to my brother, it’s just how she is.  She will never change, so I need to change my reactions to the hurt caused.

It’s this sort of relationship that makes me realise how far reaching the effect of any abuse can be.  My mother never had the skills to make the lives for her children better than her own… I don’t think she realised that there was anything better.  That’s probably the saddest part of this whole situation, my mother will never know anything better.  She escaped an abusive marriage, but never addressed the underlying issues which drew her to that abuse to begin with.  This is why healing is so important… learning to change the way we view the world.  That takes time, effort and perseverance…  some days, those qualities seem in very short supply.

Now playing: Silverchair – Ana’s Song (Open Fire)
via FoxyTunes


19 thoughts on “Mother's Day

  1. Thank you for this post CG. It made me very thoughtful. Life means changing – every day. I like your last sentence that healing is learning….. and learning is the precondition for changing.
    I’m sorry it’s so difficult with your mother. I couldn’t handle with the situation which you apparently have with your mother. It would cause hurt, confusion in our system (some of the little ones still loves the mother and defend her) and as you have written: dissoziation…
    I’m glad that our “contact” with our mother is unambiguous. Most of us don’t want to see, hear or feel her. We don’t want any contact and we never ever can call her a “Mother”. We want her to stay away. This makes it easier in a way… in the other way.. it’s sad we don’t have a mother which cares, supported us and loves us. On days like yesterday we have this deep feeling of sadness. So many happy families around us, celebrating ….
    Take care my friend and I’m sorry I couldn’t comment a lot the last months. I would if I had the strength.
    Warm safe hugs to all who want them (((())))

    • Hi (((LSC)))

      I’ve been thinking of you, and wondering how you’ve been doing. It’s good to see you again. There is no need to apologise, I know you’ve been going through a rough time…

      I’m glad my post encouraged you to think…

      My relationship with my mother is complicated, and that’s ok in some respects (being human often means things are complicated). But what isn’t ok, is the confusion and pain that is there for both of us. My mother once asked what she could do to help me, and I shut down the question… just as I usually do. There is a resistance to needing anything from her, probably out of self preservation. This is why I can see that your unambiguous relationship is better for you.

      I understand some of the sadness you experienced on Mother’s Day… there is a sense of grieving for what will never be. Mother’s Day evokes so many emotions for what was in the past, and what won’t be in the future.

      Please take care of yourself…
      (((warm safe hugs))) to those who want them,

  2. There’s so much I want to say, but where to begin… I’m sorry you don’t have the sort of relationship with your mother that you deserve. I know from bitter experience what that’s like, and it’s never easy. But you do have a mother who cares, and that is something.

    You said “my relationship with my mother is all about my own failings” which is just so not true. She was the adult, she’s still the “adult” in some respects – by which I mean the mother is always the adult in a parent-child relationship, just as the child is always the child, even when they have reached adulthood themselves. But I digress… your relationship is not about your failings. Your reactions to your mother are normal, human reactions. I remember a wise friend telling me that wasn’t failure – it was normal. 😛

    What is heartening in this post is that you can see your reactions, and your mothers behaviours, for what they are. And you’re not blaming yourself so much as recognising the need to “manage” your own reactions. That’s healing. And that’s wonderful.

    ((warm safe ones))

    • Hi Kerro,

      I understand intellectually that she must care, but I don’t feel it. I had this discussion with Allison last week, and I said that her visits up here were out of guilt and keeping up appearances, rather than anything positive. Allison didn’t agree, but even if I was right, there has to be caring in order for there to be guilt.

      I didn’t explain about the failings very well… what I meant was that I react so badly because that failure to connect triggers a negative response in me. Just as any failure is a trigger for me. What’s worse, is that the failure is about a basic human connection that is meant to be positive, instead of negative. So it all adds up to a big trigger, and a huge mess ensues.

      Take care,

  3. Once again, I was thinking about how Mother’s Day would affect abuse survivor’s. Since I don’t do holiday’s I don’t deal with that, but I was thinking of you and others that I know.

    I’m sorry about what happened. The biggest and most important thing that I wanted to say was along the lines of what Kerro said: You haven’t failed. It’s not about any failings on your part, it’s about failings on her part. Maybe it’s easier sometime for us to believe that something is partially our fault, I don’t know, but, this is about your mother and her inability to see the truth and do something about it.

    I don’t care what kind of family she came from, a mother’s responsibility is to protect her kids and she didn’t. She didn’t deal with the truth then and she doesn’t deal with it now. And you’re right, she apparently can’t change or is unwilling to.

    What’s brilliant about this post, is YOU. You see that there is a flaw in her character. You see that she’s not the mother you wish you had, and you realize that you can’t change her. It’s sad, yes. It’s not what you’d wish for, but you’re facing it. And now you’re looking at your relationship in a way that you can investigate how to minimize the hurt she causes you. I think that’s spectacular! You’re a freakin’ amazing person you know that?

    • Hi tai,

      I wasn’t trying to make excuses for my mother, but rather, trying to understand her. If I can understand, then maybe I can ease some of the pain, and react to her in different ways. I can’t force change in her, but I can change my reactions to her… that’s where things are my responsibility.

      The thing is, she thought she did protect me. I remember when one of the men felt me up in front of her, and she told him to stop. This is probably the worst that she knew happened. She did admit to suspecting that something was happening with one of my sisters boyfriends, but she didn’t take those suspicions any further.

      I don’t know if it’s a flaw in her character, but there’s a lack of understanding regarding her actions. I have to keep remembering that she is a human, and therefore has those human traits of making mistakes. Because I react badly to those mistakes, it compounds the problems. She’s not perfect, but she could be worse.

      I also know there’s a reaction to people talking in any way negatively about her… parts of the system always thought she needed protecting. So I’m starting to get myself confused about the whole thing.

      Thanks for your support tai, I really appreciate it.

      Take care,

      • I’m really glad that you said your system is reacting to negative talk. I would never want to do anything to cause a bad reaction for any parts. So, no more negativity from me. *zips lips*

        Safe hugs if they are wanted.

        • It’s ok tai, honestly… I’m just getting confused and I need to get back to work. Nothing you or anyone else did, it’s more a sign of where I am at the moment.

          Take care,

  4. Hi CG…this is a good post. Your reflections and thoughts for both sides show so much healing on your part. Keep in mind that your mother was the protector in your life while you were a child. She failed at that job and as a result you suffered horribly. Where it took you in your head was and still is survival for the child. I know you are trying to adjust your way of seeing/dealing with all of this but I hope you don’t do it thru minimization? What happened to you and all of us is huge and at all counts our mother’s failed us. I hear you saying that when it comes to your mother you need to stop having any expections for her to be a responsible person in her relationship with you? I have been there and will share this with you…try to figure out what it is you want and need from your mother in the here and now in a relationship….set aside what you can and have awareness for the things you can’t set aside. Will she meet a reasonable level of responsibility in a relationship in the here and now? We know she failed in your childhood but is there anything salvagable today that you can build on? Can she hold her fair part in a relationship? What do you have to compromise in order to have a relationship with her and is that reasonable? Try to be as fair as you are comfortable with and then go from there. I mean this with all respect CG…sometimes healing and growth bring about new sets of pain that come from the here and now. There is a certain amount of sadness when we say goodbye to the dysfunctions of life that have always felt safe to us cuz they were all we knew. It is so scary to step into new and healthy behaviors that we are unfamiliar with in order to continue our growth. All we know today is, in part, still be governed by what happened to us back then. I have no idea about any other life than dysfunction. BUT I have to step into the unknown in order to get to a better place in life. I am slowly gaining confidence that even tho I don’t know where I am going and have no experience with it…it will be better than where I have been.
    I mean all of this stuff in the best way for you. I hope I haven’t offended you in anyway…Just sharing about how things went for me and hope there may be something in it that offers you some insight. BIG HUGS for you and take good care of yourself!

    • Hi Nansie,

      Thank you for this… I’ll have to think it over a bit more, as I can see where you’re coming from, but I’m not quite in the space to really get it.

      Take care,

    • Hi Nansie,

      Reading through your comment has made me think of some of the things that Allison has said to me over time… Allison believes that my mother has a knack of distancing herself from anything that is too uncomfortable, and has a great set of blinders on. She needed this to survive herself – within her dysfunctional childhood and then marriage.

      She is unlikely to bend from this behaviour, my only hope is to change the way I interact with her. I’m not sure I can do this at the moment, as there is so much confusion and pain there. Maybe in time.

      As for boundaries, they are actually pretty strong, in that I block her from much of my life. I think this might actually be a big part of the problem, as she is used to control. So I’m not sure what level of responsibility that she would be willing to take on… and she does already in many ways.

      I don’t know, like many relationships, it’s all very confusing.

      Take care,

  5. I have no contact with my biological mother. She is a toxic person. She had a lot of dysfunction she lived with too, and she chooses to continue that dysfunction. She has no desire to change.

    My adoptive mom is something else. There is no ambiguity between us, there is a great deal of affection and concern, but it is far from the warm, fuzzy, idyllic mother-daughter relationship that the Hallmark cards talk about. There are days I long to have those frank conversations with her, and others I do not have the energy for it. However I wouldn’t trade her for anything.

    I guess all I wanted to really say is that no one’s relationship with their parents looks like a Hallmark card. You seem to recognize what your mom’s shortcomings are and the fact that you can’t change her, and that you need to change your reaction. That’s a great start. Now you just have to decide what’s acceptable and not acceptable from her, lay boundaries and enforce them. Its easier said than done, I know. But your healing is all you are responsible for, and you don’t have to let her interfere with that, even with ambiguity.

    • Hi Storm Dweller,

      I think the Hallmark relationship is a myth… and I’m ok with that. I don’t want perfect, I’d be happy for workable. I’d be happy for a little less tension surrounding any contact with her.

      I’m sorry what happened in your past that made you break all contact with your biological mother. I’m glad you had the positivity of your adopted mother…

      Take care,

  6. I know this is ages after you posted this blog…

    I think your last paragraph sums everything up very well. Remember your mother came from an era where mental health issues either did not exist or were something you had to hide. My mum is the same and struggles to understand mental health issues. I remember my aunt who has a friend with bipolar trying to explain it to her. It was difficult and confusing.

    I could be wrong here, but you maybe right that she comes to see you because of guilt and to be guilty you must care. But then Allison is right too. To put it simply, she wants to help, but does not know how to. I feel she probably see some of her dysfunction in you, but struggles to help due to her generations beliefs. Remember PTSD had only started being diagnosed after Vietnam in the late 70s. That is really is not long ago and was probably only diagnosed in soldiers back then.

    I am not sure if I can give any useful advice. Your mother probably will not change a lot, but you two may find a common ground where you both feel comfortable. Keep working on getting better and things may start falling into place.

    • Hi Ringonz,

      You’re right, she comes from an era where those with any hint of a mental health issue were put in an institution – out of mind, out of sight. Those who weren’t in the institutions were meant to “just get on with it”, and not draw attention to themselves. I know she is still in this mindset, and to put an extra layer of complication on the whole thing, she was exposed to some of the psychiatric wards during her career as a nurse, and had very little patience for the people there… it was considered that if you ignored all of the symptoms and behaviour, it would all go away.

      She has indicated in the past through her words and actions that she does want to help; but I keep shutting her down, because I’m too caught in not trusting her. This is why I say that part of the issue lies with me.

      Thanks Ringonz, I’m trying to accept that I can eventually get to a place of comfort with her. The trip to Wellington will hopefully help with this.

      Take care,

  7. I thought about this very thing on Mother’s Day also. A young part of me had an intense reaction about my mother. Here’s what I think.

    When you say: “But she doesn’t deserve to be the sole beneficiary of the anger that I direct outwards.” This is a mature, adult, wider world view perspective. It’s totally accurate.

    The problem is that it doesn’t represent all of you. Some of you are not at that place yet. Some of you don’t understand that.

    For me, the way I got through the day was to accept and validate that parts of me had that view (of not being protected, of blaming her). I tried really hard not to make a judgment about how they felt. And you clearly are doing the same here. Although I would be careful about saying your interactions with your mother are about your own failings.

    I think we often hope that our parental relationships will be better. On some level we know they won’t be. But we so desperately want them to be so we keep on trying. And in some ways if we are able to make them better in the present, I think that’s an effort to right the past. All of that is normal. You have every right to want to change the past and change the present. And despite all the issues you have with your mother, she is obviously important to you, and probably that is as it should be.

    That says a lot about you, in a positive way. Your willingness to keep trying with your mother is sort of a commitment to the younger parts of you. You don’t give up on those parts.

    And addressing the realities in the present, helps those parts know that you know that you all deserved better.

    • Hi Paul,

      I used to say that there are two things that aren’t allowed to die – my mother and my cat. I haven’t said that for a long time, but I know parts of me firmly believe that. They saw her presence as protection and a hope for a “real” family/mother/relationship, I’m not sure what, but there was hope… still must be, considering that I do keep on trying.

      I realised when reading your comment, that part of me wants, or needs, an apology from her. Or maybe an explanation, I’m not sure. But I doubt that it will ever come. She may have already done so, and it’s gotten lost in the dissociation. I know nothing will change the past, but through my nightmares and dysfunction, I keep on reliving it. So while nothing will change the past, there can be actions to help ease the pain experienced by it.

      I realised I was dancing along the edge with my talk of blaming myself. In many ways I do blame myself for the relationship with my mother, as I don’t meet her expectations… but then, she has said she now realises that I never was that daughter she thought I was. I’d forgotten she said that, but it shows that she can change… doesn’t it?

      I’m sorry you had difficulties on Mother’s Day too. Thank you for sharing a little of what it was like for you. It helped me to think, and feel.

      Take care,

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