Mom issues rarely happen in isolation.
Don’t get me wrong–if you struggle with an unloving mother, or an abusive mother, or a narcissistic mother–or a mother so unlike that of “popular” culture–YOU feel isolated. YOU feel alone, unloved, and unlovable.
You look all around you and see other moms and daughters–shopping, having lunch, traveling together–and in YOUR heart, you feel a pang of sadness, regret, and loss.
If you are anxiously attached and seek relationships–ahem, ME–you might seek out other women as role models, letting them mother you as much as they can and also fearing the day they might take their leave.
But, maybe, one day, you will also transcend some of the pain and loss and bullshit. Maybe, one day, you will work your ass off in therapy, erect the strongest boundaries you can muster, and learn that you can be loved–and some people will continue to love you even through your less than stellar moments.
I’ve let my mother back into my life, slowly, but along the way, she has had to learn what I will put up with and what I will not deal with. End of Story. I am pretty clear with the level of bullshit I will deal with and what I will allow my children to see and hear.
It isn’t always perfect. I still have moments where I wish she could be a “normal” mom, and other moments where I trick myself into thinking that maybe she is??? But then, I quickly find myself back in my usual role–the one where I mother her more than she mothers me.
When I was in the crux of my therapy and my mom-loss, I could have cared less about why my mom was the way she was.
…It was just enough that she was.
At the time, I couldn’t forgive the fact that she had a very clear choice to be a different kind of mother, and she was either (1) unwilling or (2) incapable.
(And, to be fair, I would still say I have not forgiven her. But..I do believe I understand her more.)
This summer, we took a big family vacation that I was dreading. A whole week with MY family–parents, grandma, siblings, nieces, nephews. Close quarters. Nightmare.
Yet, it was at the beach. And it was free. And I thought I could escape enough with my own kids to make it worth it.
Pretty much everything that could have happened on this trip did. It was a COMPLETE and dysfunctional disaster.
However, this trip was also illuminating in ways that I did not expect. While my mom was not on her best behavior, and got drunker than I have ever seen her in front of young girls–it was my grandmother’s behavior that shocked me.
My grandma has always loved me most. I don’t say this in a bragging way. It is like a family truth. Everyone says it. Grandma says it with a laugh. My mom says it jealously. My grandma has always said that I am more like her than my mom ever was, and my mom would sigh and mutter in frustration, “You are SO boring like your grandmother.”
It was kind of a joke. But also a truth. One that whose true meaning didn’t occur to me until this specific trip.
On this trip, I witnessed my grandmother’s temper, her passive aggressive nature, and her abusive words towards my own mother. I saw how she became a victim and refused to apologize. I saw how my mother took it, apologized when she didn’t do the thing that required the apology–AND, I saw it happen more than once.
My own daughter, unfortunately, was in the room during one of the blow ups and saw and heard something I deeply wish she hadn’t. When she came to me, crying, because of the yelling, I took her out of the condo, looked her in the eyes, and gave her a big HUG, saying, “Honey, this is why I never yell at you. And this is also why we don’t spend much time with my family. I’m sorry you had to see great-grandma yell at grandma like that. It isn’t normal and it isn’t how moms and daughters should talk to each other.”
I saw my grandmother, who I have always seen somewhat as my savior–the one who rescued me and fostered me when my mom couldn’t–the one who provided me with support and who I credit my resilience to–act the way I hated.
The way my OWN mother treated me, growing up.
I saw my mom kowtow to her. I saw her apologize and take it. I saw my own behavior.
And I realized…my own mom? She mothered the way she knew.
Was–IS–it okay? Nope. It’s not.
But, it also didn’t happen in isolation. It didn’t happen because I am who I am.
It happened because that is what she saw. It was what she experienced. Perhaps it is also the way my own grandmother was raised.
Why did they not hate it? Why did they not try their damnedest to be different for THEIR children?
…I can’t answer that.
…All I CAN do is hope that I am doing enough to break the cycle.