Estranged from my Mother ~ Still A Little Sadness on Mother’s Day

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EFB door 2For the past few years I have not thought about myself as a daughter on “Mother’s day”, I have thought of myself as a mother instead. When I used to think of myself as a daughter the purpose of mother’s day was to celebrate someone who constantly reminded me that I was not the daughter that she wanted. I celebrated someone who treated me like I was lacking in some ways. I celebrated someone who seemed to be exasperated with me and communicated to me that I was somewhat of a pain in her butt. I celebrated my mother even though she blamed me for more things than I care to list in this post and I celebrated a mother who caused me untold grief. (Well actually, it was untold until 6 or 7 years ago. Now I have told…)

Mother’s day in the past was a time of great anxiety for me. It was difficult to decide ‘how’ to celebrate my mother; what kind of card, what kind of gift and what if she didn’t ‘like them’ and what if she didn’t show any appreciation and what if she made that ‘disappointed face’ which crushed my soul and spirit so many times on previous Mother’s days and on other gift and card giving holidays. I had so much anxiety over the fear of ‘that face’.

Mother’s day in the past was about celebrating someone who hurt me. It doesn’t make much sense to me today when I put it that way but back then I never thought about it that way. I was in the deep fog of conditional love, brainwashed to believe that mother is god and that parent entitlement rules over all else, no matter what…

I celebrated my mother on Mother’s day, yet my mother was someone who communicated to me that she was more important than I was, that only her feelings mattered, that I was somehow unworthy of the things that she was worthy of such as respect, equal value, honor, love, validation, comfort, my own personality, thoughts, opinions and choices.

In the past, in fact for the better part of 45 years, on Mother’s day I celebrated someone that taught me there were two sets of rules in life; one set that applied to her and a different set that applied to me. God help me if I got mixed up about those rules. I learned to prove my love and to prove my worth by trying to guess what she wanted and then trying to do it. Those guidelines did not apply to the way she loved me. She did not show me love in the way that I was required to show her love. She didn’t respect me in the way that she demanded that I ‘respect’ her.

There were consequences if I questioned my mother. I learned to try and avoid those consequences when I was very young. The worst consequence that I feared was of being rejected by her. I was afraid that if I didn’t prove my love in the way that she wanted, that she would withdraw her love from me. That seems a strange fear to me now; all of the ways that my mother regarded me and disregarded me were a rejection all along. All of the ways that she taught me to love her were withheld from me. All of the ways that I tried to show her how much I cared were not reciprocated.

The entire relationship between my mother and I was up to me to maintain; if it failed or if it succeeded (on any given day) it was up to me. Society agreed with this dysfunctional definition of mother daughter relationship. I was told all my life with statements such as “you only have one mother” ~  “I am your mother” ~  “I am THE mother” ~ “You will be sorry” and I believed every one of those statements although today I am not sure I knew what she meant by them back then. They communicated my disrespect, they put me back in “my place” (which was UNDER her) and they enhanced the ever growing fear of rejection.

And there were other statements aimed at me perhaps more blunt such as “you are so ungrateful” and “I can’t take it Darlene, you are going to make me have a breakdown” and “nothing I ever do is enough for you is it?” and I believed all of those statements too.  They communicated my failure and that I was a burden when deep down all I wanted was to show her that I loved her and to be loved by her in return. I wanted to be seen and to be heard and to be validated by my mother.

When I was in my forties I got so sick emotionally that I had to face the truth. The truth was that rejection, my biggest fear, had already happened. My days were spent trying to figure out what was wrong with me so that I could finally be loveable in my mother’s eyes. I never considered that the problem belonged to my mother. And today I understand how I never could have considered that; all my life my mother communicated to me that I was the problem. I had no choice but to believe it and to try to fix me. Today I see it all differently.

For the last few years I have celebrated being a mother on mother’s day. I celebrate with my children; I celebrate my love for them and theirs for me. I celebrate the relationships that I have with them and how wonderful my three children are; each unique, each amazing, each with their own gifts and personalities. I celebrate my choice to be a different kind of mother than the one that I had. I celebrate knowing what love really is and how to express it and I celebrate the mother that I became for myself; I learned to sooth myself and validate my own pain the way a mother should which went miles towards my own healing.

This year my youngest daughter is graduating high school and going off to college in the fall. This year, perhaps because this is the last “Mother’s day” before I am an empty nester and there is a bit of sadness around that for me, I have been thinking about my mother a little bit more than I have in previous years.

I am feeling a little more grief then in past years. My mother walked away from relationship with me when I asked her for mutual respect. I will never understand how a mother could make a choice like that but my mother did. This year, along with a little more sadness I feel a little bit more sorry for my mother as well. I feel sorry for her that she didn’t find freedom from her own pain the way that I did. I feel sorry for her that she didn’t find the glorious fullness of knowing what love really is. I feel sorry for her that she lost me because I am pretty awesome, but I didn’t know that until I stood up to her definition of me.

I feel sorry for her but not at my expense anymore….

Happy Mother’s day to all of you who are mothers and to all of you who have become the mother you never had~ to yourself or to your children. Celebrate YOU today. (this encouragement includes men!)  

In honor of Mother’s Day for each person who purchases a copy of my e-book “Emerging from Broken ~ The Beginning of hope for Emotional Healing” between the dates of May 4th and May 22, 2015 I will enter the receipt into a draw for a complimentary one hour consult or a conversation with me (valued at 125.00 USD per hour) either on the phone or on Skype. You can ask me anything you want. If you have already purchased the book, all donations for $10.00 or more will also be entered into the draw. Due to the nature of this website, the winners name will be kept confidential unless the winner decides otherwise or if the winner will allow me to post a screen name or first name only.  (Click on the book picture in the upper right side bar)

The winner of the free one hour consult / conversation with me is KAREN R.
Karen has been a frequent participant and supporter of Emerging from Broken for several years! I am excited to talk to her in person.

Here is what Karen had to say when I emailed her to tell her that she won the prize!

“I feel like I know you already;
I think I started reading EFB in Nov of 2011. I wasn’t searching for it. It showed up on my Facebook as a “you might like” suggestion.
As I read thru the articles I realized pretty quickly that they described my childhood circumstances, upbringing, and family treatment throughout my life.
Within 3 months it radically changed my understanding of my behavior, coping and issues.
The many insightful comments by other posters were just icing on the cake.”

Karen has been a huge blessing to EFB and I and has regularly contributed both in comments and in donations and I am very pleased that her name was drawn!

Thanks to EVERYONE who participated.

Hugs, Darlene

Exposing Truth; one snapshot at a time,

Darlene Ouimet

More related posts ~ Honor your Mother and Father ~ Is drawing a boundary as sin? 

~ Mother’s Day and Dysfunctional Mother Daughter Relationship

479 response to "Estranged from my Mother ~ Still A Little Sadness on Mother’s Day"

  1. By: julie mann Posted: 8th April 2016

    As with allowing others to talk down to me, I find the Mother-Daughter subject a reflection to my life. My Mother and I always got along until the day I went to her to inform her that my husband had been cheating on me and I was leaving him. For acouple months, I had never gone to my Mother or inlaws to tell them my husband had gotten into drugs and all these other women but I couldn’t hide it anymore. It was too painful for me. My Mother sobbed when I told her this, as she loved my husband as well. At first, the change was so small I didn’t notice it but it grew to where she was critical of me over everything I was doing in my life and how I raised my two children. I didn’t brush my daughters hair correct or feed them right or dress them properly. Her comments were so hurtful to me to where then I was sobbing, but alone. I began to avoid my Mother afraid to lash out at her or to see the sneer on her lips and the snide comments any longer. The day I finally responded to one of her critical observations, “Mom! I do not know of very many single mothers, who owns their own home, without any financial help from their father, a new car in the driveway, vacations to places like Disneyland every year, always camping, and each kid with new clothes and my working 40 to 50 hours weekly and volunteering 10-20 hours weekly after that and AT TWENTY SIX YEARS OLD!” She didn’t say a damn word and just left. When I needed my mothers support the most in my life she wasn’t there. It would have been the best time for her to tell me verbally for the FIRST TIME in my life “I LOVE YOU”! Since then, my Mother and I have an estranged relationship. We will go 5 years or more without talking. I love my Mother and I miss my mother-how we were prior to my divorce. Two years ago on one of those periods we were trying to have a relationship, I said to her, Mom, I have never ever heard you say to me, I LOVE YOU. (This was brought up because I overheard her telling a friend goodbye on the phone and she loved her). She responded in a cynical tone, “I LOVE YOU”. Even from my mother I felt I couldn’t receive the love. Each and every day of my son and daughters life, I tell them I love you. I always hug and kiss them. Overcompensating for the lack of love, I was always hugging and kissing my friends on the cheeks-male or female. Reflecting on the time period of when this began, how it affected my self esteem, I left my job and my life spiraled downward to where I am now as I stated in the other article.

  2. By: Tammy Posted: 27th February 2016

    I am going through everything that you wrote about. It’s almost as if our stories are identical! Thank you for putting in print my thoughts and realizations. I will use this article as a guide to remind me that when I start feeling down because I never had my mother’s love, to be thankful that I broke the chain and turned my relationships around with my children. I turned a negative into a positive and that is key to recovery.

  3. By: Kris Posted: 20th August 2015

    Alaina,

    What you said makes sense when it comes to explaining why my parents feel so foreign to me. Their lies were the glue that bonded us together and once I realized that what they taught me about my self was a pack of lies so they could continue to abuse me and get away with it was a real eye opener. Like you said we are dealing with trauma here and that puts a totally different spin on everything for us where people who didn’t have to go through this don’t have the ten zillion hoops to jump through to finally see the truth. They just automatically know when someone treats them like crap and they aren’t afraid to tell them and to stay the heck away from them without feeling guilty unless that person makes an effort to make amends which most of us never get to experience on this site because our FOO never admit that they did anything wrong so they can keep on doing what they want to do at our expense. I am at the point where I think death is the only way that I will finally be free from my parents but even then I get the feeling that they will still haunt me!! It has to me who is the one who dies to finally be rid of them once and for all.

  4. By: Alaina Posted: 19th August 2015

    Kris,
    I wish I had something else to say than just—I know. Me too. It’s all so hard.

    I do see myself as having been punished because I do know the truth about them, because I can see them and do know them; I have felt and experienced what they wished to get away with (and get away from), am a mirror to all of that, and am punished for it. But there’s a very surreal quality to this whole experience, to understanding what you’ve always known, all the stuff that made up your life, that it feels so foreign and like they are strangers to me, perplexing, because of believing their words for so long, I guess. I still have this. A sense of this can’t be real, this can’t be true—but that is also a normal response to trauma and this is definitely trauma we are dealing with here.

  5. By: Kris Posted: 19th August 2015

    S1988.

    I get what you mean. I tried to stay clear of my father for the same reason. Being yelled and screamed at is so demeaning. Your mother is good at playing the blame game when the truth is she is the problem. Sorry you had to go through all of that. So unnecessary.

    Alaina,

    “Always screwed one way or the other and so easy to lose time and energy trying think your way out of a problem when you can’t and the real problem isn’t even you.”

    I feel like this has been my life over the last year and now I am sick to death of trying to figure out things that will never make any sense. I needed to hear these words. I think it is a matter of accepting what is and that is so hard to do when you are looking for a way to excuse your parents poor behavior so you can tell your self that somehow, some way, they really did love you even though the evidence points to the contrary. Hard reality to accept. Still not there yet. I just don’t know who they are or maybe I do and that is the problem.

  6. By: S1988 Posted: 19th August 2015

    Speaking of homework, in my situation, I would’ve preferred the neglect. (Not to trivialize your experience, Kris.) It’s just that with my mother, her not being around me much was the lesser of two evils than receiving her “help”.

    Until I left 8th grade, she would check my assignments and scream at me until I was in tears for mistakes or messy handwriting. I’m not sure if she remembers this, but if I were to bring it up to her today, she would say something like, “Oh, my job made me mean, and it’s your fault for not understanding.” Oh, come on. If you’re not sorry, then don’t apologize. I rather that someone was honest about being unrepentant than pretend to be remorseful. Of course, she would use this on her list of how she’s a “good” mother, and not care how she “helped” me. And she wonders why I cut her out of my life TWICE.

  7. By: Alaina Posted: 19th August 2015

    Ugh, yes, and the world is full of it, too. It’s hard to go any significant length of time without butting up against dysfunction somewhere. But in childhood you’re dependent and luck is maybe the greatest determinant. People can say if you had done this or that or if you had this personality instead of that or whatever… but you’re right about the double binds. It doesn’t matter. Experience in dysfunctional work places makes it easier for me to see it has nothing to do with the actual individual choices and responses to dysfunction. There’s no avoiding the negative, no winning ever in any way. Always screwed one way or the other and so easy to lose time and energy trying think your way out of a problem when you can’t and the real problem isn’t even you.

  8. By: Kris Posted: 19th August 2015

    That teacher had 11 kids in her poetry class and 8 of us got D’s. She sucked!!! We didn’t feel comfortable going to her because she made an ass out of you when you did just to add more insult to injury. I only ever remember going to my mother for homework help a couple of times because she taught me by her emotional neglect and abuse that somehow I was just supposed to know how to do everything on my own and if I didn’t then there was something wrong with me so me going to my mother for help was when the fear of failing was greater then my fear of asking for help. It usually was a toss up between the two!!! Either way I couldn’t win. That usual double bind from living in sick dysfunctional families.

  9. By: Alaina Posted: 19th August 2015

    Yeah, I get it, Kris! You were a pawn. I can’t imagine that trip could be anything but uncomfortable. I wonder what I’d do if I was the teacher in that position. I wonder if she felt she did a good job, though, because I imagine it worked insofar as your mom probably never did your work for you after that or you wouldn’t ever have the gumption to bring it in to this woman’s class ever again, though she probably wanted to take your mom down professionally speaking. But, yes, you, your best interests and needs were definitely swept aside by both of them, and your response of being miserable on that trip makes perfect sense, and your mom knows (if she knew that woman was the chaperone, then she knows) exactly why you couldn’t appreciate the trip and the whole convoluted mess! …they do tend to bring these things up later on with that need to reassert.

  10. By: Kris Posted: 19th August 2015

    Alaina,

    You were able to encapsulate the exact same sick dynamic that I had with my mother. I thought about her motivation behind some of the things that she did for me. When I was in 12th grade my mother wanted me to go to Spain for a class trip and I didn’t want to go. No one knew that the reason why I didn’t want to go was because the teacher who was chaperoning it was the teacher that my mother got into a big ta-do with over a poem that she accused me of not writing in her class and the truth is she was right. My mother wrote that poem because she didn’t want to take the time to SHOW me how to do it and that teacher called her out on it and my mother was going to deny that truth until she died because she worked in that same school district and my mother involved me with that cover up having me convinced that I did indeed write that poem when I knew darn well that I didn’t but that’s how brainwashing goes and that poem ended up being printed in the school newspaper because that teacher said if I really wrote it then she would print it in the paper knowing good and darn well that I didn’t, using me to get back at my mother because she knew how embarrassing it would be for me because I knew that I didn’t write that poem and now this is who my mother wants to send me on a trip to Spain with!!! Keep in mind that we all called this teacher Steinbitch for a reason!!!! lol

    Both this teacher and my mother used me. Neither one of them cared about me and my well being or me having fun on that trip to Spain. The whole incident sucked and on the outside I am the one who looked like the ungrateful kid because I didn’t want to go on this trip when the truth is my mother sent me on that trip as a way to prove to that teacher that she wasn’t afraid of her to get the last word in over this whole mess and she used me to do it with. My mother didn’t have to deal with her I did.

    To this day I have that trip to Spain thrown in my face as this wonderful sacrifice that my mother did for me and how I never appreciated a darn thing that she did!!! Try convincing someone of this truth when it involves a free trip to Spain!!! I know you get it!!!

  11. By: Alaina Posted: 18th August 2015

    Kris,
    my heart goes out to you as well. I know what you mean about thinking it must be you. Sometimes I think I’ve brainwashed myself into believing they were bad parents when they were actually great parents and the problem was me and that my anger is misplaced, my difficulties is life stem from elsewhere, and my fear is the product of the story I created and if I just realized the truth that they love me and want the best for me and that I’ve been off my rocker for the last ten years, the fear will all dissolve and everything can be patched together and made good… My mom wasn’t outwardly abusive either, not in the sense that people usually mean when they say abusive but I think when someone’s pattern of behaviour towards you does significant, palpable harm, that’s abuse. Abuse can be meted out with hugs and I love yous. I feel that she was mean and overly controlling of me when I was young but after her brother killed himself, the dynamic changed. When I follow through the story line of my life, I can see a kind of systemic destruction of my personhood in order to create a person to fulfill my mom’s needs, to help alleviate her pain/grief over the tragedies and abuses in her own life. It wasn’t like she plotted it all out but you can see the undercurrent motivation is there and the desire to blind herself to reality when it was butting up against her version of life. I actually have a lot of sympathy for her in this aspect because I have a pretty good understanding of delusions but when life was destroying me and I brought the undercurrent to the surface, my mom didn’t want to see it… It’s then when you start to see the cruelty because the outcome and implications of not admitting what happened are harsh in a way that the “abuse” I experienced wasn’t, if that makes any sense, and I think that’s part of the reason why I’d want to think I’m wrong—like they couldn’t possibly be this horrible to let the fallout come to this… It’s strange. I didn’t trust my mom in the sense of sharing things with her and was often scared to tell her anything, scared to ask for permission for anything I wasn’t sure she was okay with already, but I also believed that she was a really good mother. I thought everyone thought my mom was a great mom. She always said she was born to be a mom. And I often took her words and opinions as gospel. I believed that I did belong to her and that she had a right, that she was a good mom and that rebelling was okay if you had bad parents but my mom was a good mom, so I had to live inside what she wanted and just wait, wait so that I could be free, that she would one day allow me to be, but she never wanted to let me go and the guilt trips were heavy but subtle. I was a prisoner, emotionally… It’s strange, though, because even while that’s all true, that I thought she was a good mom, I had another me that was cynical and judgmental, standoffish. There’s great cost in realizing that they weren’t good parents—not just in all the losses and everything but in understanding I was never really loved because I didn’t know that I wasn’t. I was treated special but I didn’t understand the deal that had been made, that I was being used, although at times I did understand that there was a deal. In my teens, there was a suicide scare with me because of something I’d written. Then in my twenties, I’d went to an info session with my mom for a writing program and she made a comment about how if I wanted to get in I could tell them about how I was such a good writer that I’d convinced people I was depressed and suicidal when I wasn’t just because of this novel I’d written (those weren’t her exact words but something like that). I just looked at her like “what are you doing?” and remember thinking something along the lines of “we had a deal,” the deal being we’d both pretend I was fine when we both knew I wasn’t. I now understand what a raw deal it was. I was just scared of being seen, of all the stuff inside me, of being “found out,” etc. Also the incredible guilt trips of causing my family to worry when I lived in a kind of post-suicide tragedy, every family drama came back to my uncle’s suicide…. like how could I do this to my mom after all she’s been through and how much she loves me and what a good mom she is, particularly if underneath it all so much of the problem was her, like there was a desire to say it wasn’t her fault (because of how much it would hurt her to know that it was and feeling apologetic toward her just for the truth of the matter)…. but all that is also the brainwashing that leads away from understanding the very basic narcissism that someone would risk, then sacrifice, their child rather than face the truth of her own behaviour/motivations… I suppose I feel sad for her but I feel sad for myself, too, sad for the situation… Anger and frustration starts to come in when I think of all the other dynamics with other family members. I think I’ve accepted my mother’s incapacity and accepted the loss of a relationship in a way I haven’t quite done with everyone else…. well, anyway, thanks for reading and caring, and I definitely feel for you and appreciate your words and I appreciated reading the conversation you were having with S1988 too—I could relate to all that.

  12. By: Kris Posted: 18th August 2015

    Alaina,

    When I look at pictures of my FOO I say to my self “I don’t know who any of you are” and I really don’t. We were all taught that who we were wasn’t good enough. All too afraid to share any parts of ourselves for fear that we would be banished from the group. It makes me sad. My mother was not outwardly abusive. One would never know the damage that she did to me by looking on the outside which makes it all the more difficult for me. She comes across as a nice and caring lady and for the most part she is but when it came down to taking care of her own children she failed miserably and I don’t know what happened to her to make her so afraid to show her own daughter that she loved me but she didn’t. This is why I struggle so much regarding her. She is not like other mother’s on this site beating their children to a bloody pulp. In ways she was worse. I trusted my mother through and through only to find out all she ever did was lie to me.
    She infiltrated me from the inside out brainwashing me all to protect a man who did nothing but hurt me. The betrayal is almost unimaginable but it is true. I don’t know where to put her in my life so I have her in limbo. A part of me is still afraid of them both and I probably should be but I get the feeling it is just another warped belief system getting in my way that tells me how mommy and daddy can do no wrong so it has to be me who is the problem. It attacks me every time but I know better now but it is still hard to stop that voice inside of my head.

    I feel your pain when you talk about your mother. My heart goes out to you. I don’t think that I will ever get it. I guess some things just aren’t meant to be gotten.

  13. By: Alaina Posted: 18th August 2015

    She also knew that she didn’t know who I was, knew that I didn’t trust her, yet still the expectations… my duty to get over my issues so that we could live up to her ideals with me behaving according to her ideas of what a loving daughter is simply because of the “fact” that she “loves” me because… I don’t know I’m her daughter and so she loves me… even though she didn’t know me… I have no idea who she loved. There’s no doubt that her love was something fierce but… I have no idea who it belonged to, just a fantasy… I suppose she couldn’t know me because who I was was profoundly influenced by the way she had treated me and she could not ever look at herself and her behaviour in the particular way necessary to be able to care about me and truly see me and the impact she’d had on me. So she saw me through strange glasses. Yet knew that I’d closed myself off from her. I suppose pride stopped her from going down any road that might have fixed things, or fear, or need for control… or I don’t know what. It doesn’t really matter.

  14. By: Alaina Posted: 18th August 2015

    Kris,
    yes, but of course my family would not know what I was talking about, would definitely say that they always wanted me to have friends, to fit in, etc. but those are just general statements. If you take a look at what would be necessary for close relationships to form, it was certainly against what the family wanted, but they don’t understand that and don’t want to because of course at core they really don’t want me to have what they say they want me to have. It’s not possible to want your child to be free and to be themselves, etc., (in theory) but also want to possess them and have them think and act and feel what you want them to. I agree about fear of abandoning them—for my parents I’m sure that was a big one. My mom thought that as a mother she was supposed to be the most important person in my life and was entitled to hear everything important to do with my life first, before anyone else, meaning if I didn’t want to share with her, my ever loyal psychology meant I kept everything inside to myself, not able to be closer to anyone than I was to her. Maybe to make up for having such an empty mother-daughter relationship with her mom, she wanted very badly to have this super close relationship with me, regardless of reality. She felt entitled to that which you should only really hope for. And I’m not sure how you can in any way expect to have this super loving relationship if you never built the foundation for it. I really don’t understand how she could have these ideas of “i’m the mother, so I’m entitled to these emotional responses from you” when her mom did the same thing to her. I suppose in her mind she wasn’t like her mom, so therefor… but it’s very childish to have a child with the expectation not only that they love you but that they act in very specific ways to prove that they love you. I mean, it’s the child who is needing to grow into their own person who really needs the parent to provide love in fairly specific and consistent ways. It’s really screwed up how often it is the opposite—the parent requiring the child to behave in ways that will fill in emotional holes for the parents somehow. My mom totally engulfed me and yet had no idea who I really was.

  15. By: Kris Posted: 18th August 2015

    S1988,

    I don’t know what the heck that means either other then it is a bunch of bunk!! I was taught my loyalty was to remain with them or there would be hell to pay. They didn’t allow for anyone from the outside to get in UNLESS they were just as sick as them because in their mind they knew that they would still be safe but the outcome was the same for us. Another person who was absolutely useless in helping us out reinforcing all of the same sick warped belief systems as if we didn’t have enough of that from our FOO.

  16. By: S1988 Posted: 18th August 2015

    “Our Foo’s didn’t want us to have anyone else in our lives because to them that meant taking a risk that we would abandon them.”

    Wow! Took the words right out of my mouth!

    I was told things such as “It’s better that I treat you this way than anyone else.” (I have no idea what that’s suppose to mean.) and that “outsiders” were boogeymen out to get me, and family members were the only people I could trust. Truly healthy people aren’t possessive.

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