A little more personal…

“Motherless by Choice” at The Archipelago

Of course this isn’t easy to write about, but there’s a surprising lack of writing on a topic like this that affects so many people. I wanted to tackle it the best I could, unresolved ambiguity and all. Hearing from those it resonates with means a lot to me!

My writing here was influenced by this wonderful piece at The Hairpin, which I read for the first time in 2012.

14 responses to “A little more personal…”

  1. Oh how this resonated with me. I came to my estrangement with my mother (and by way of her with my father) at a much later stage of life (in my 40s and I am 48 now). When in therapy in the 1990s, I came to the realization that I didn’t love my mother (certainly not in the way a well unconditionally loved child would love their parent) and learned VERY quickly how socially unpopular it was to feel this way, let alone utter it to another living person. I’ve blogged about our estrangement, which started when my maternal grandmother, matriarch of our family died in 2005 and was cemented almost 4 years ago and there are many women, motherless daughters by choice, like us.

    Even though I have come to terms with the way things are (and I do have two young children and having children only cemented that I could not expose them to her for their own good) and I know they will never ever be any different or any better, it still stung that my parents neglected my recent birthday. As a parent myself, I can’t even fathom it. And, while I know it is about them and not about me, it is so backwards, so against the construct of the parent-child relationship, that I couldn’t help but notice.

    Thank you for writing this, for sharing what many of us don’t feel free to. I get it, I support you, and I applaud your strength in the face of this loss.

    And, many friends, even those that know and I believe understand my circumstance, have wondered whether I will be filled with guilt and regret at her passing, and I have play the eventuality out in my mind so many times and still arrive at the same prediction: relief and ultimate freedom. That is what I expect to feel. And, like you and others, I will mourn the mother I wished for but never had.

    Be well, be you. You are enough, more than enough.

  2. Great writing and awesome that you’ve been inspired to write about something so personal.
    I have a very different and definitely easier past with my parents and instead estranged my father. But never the less I’ve related to your story and especially about the connection with siblings and making it on your own.
    I am not worried however about having family connections as I know I don’t need any. I have wondered though that I may have become too independent of anyone even besides family. So since then I’ve asked for more help even though I knew I could have done it on my own…

  3. Bravo for you! I am 41 and have been estranged from my mother by my choice several times. The last time it happened last year she passed away in hospice by her choice due to COPD. I spent the last days of her life by her side as much as I could bear. Even though she was dying,I could barely bring myself to visit. She was still making me feel shitty up until right before she died. At the very end as her life slipped away she told me she loved me and I believe her. I endured judgement from family and friends for years because of her. She was a borderline,suicidal,alcoholic. She spent childhood putting me down to everyone and especially me. I am now a mother of a 15 year old daughter and ended up in much the same circumstances as my mother. Single and poor. I now have chronic debilitating anxiety. I have been a better mother to my daughter than my mother was to me, although my daughter doesn’t believe this. I have also had moments where I lost it and yelled at my kid and made her feel bad. The guilt is awful I’ll do anything to not be like my mother. My mom also had her rare good side and that is the side I mourn. I do not regret the estrangements in the slightest and I am also estranged from my aunt and fathers side of the family. Both my parents were mentally ill. Father abandoned me and mother tried her best I try and believe. Now that I am a mother I do have more of an understanding of my mother and how hard it is to raise kids. I just do not want any toxic people in my life. Family or not and that’s just the way it is. One day I just had enough after my mother left a nasty message on my phone. I was done just done being her whipping post. Even if your mom dies and you don’t see her you can still find peace. Thanks for speaking out. Go girl I commend you. You deserve the best. Love yourself the way you should have been loved.

  4. Thank you so much for writing this. Due to similar experiences (although a bit less severe) as a child I keep my mother at arms length and have gone through periods of no contact. I’ve been learning to come to grips with not having a typical unconditionally loving motherly relationship. I was blessed with three little girls and the best therapy for dealing with my experiences as a child of a mother like this is that I get to rewrite this relationship with my daughters. I am aware at how cutting words and manipulation can be to a growing girl. I understand what psychological mind games do to a young woman- name calling, competition and criticism. And I completely redefine it. And I keep my mother at a safe distance from my girls and we have lots of talks about the difference between kind, loving treatment and constructive criticism and selfish, controlling behavior. It’s set the stage for so far, my most incredible accomplishment: being a healthy, good role model for my girls. Good luck to you and thank you tremendously.

  5. You are right, this topic isn’t discussed often. I too am estranged from my mother and father. While both were difficult to deal with, I get more pitying looks about my mother. Your honest tone really resonated with me. The way you weave in and out from your past and present kind of captures how difficult events from childhood can be to heal from. Our stories are rather similar. I used to try to explain why I no longer speak to my parents but I realized that for some people it’s really difficult to understand parents not being there for them. Parents failing is a very scary story. Thank you for writing this.

  6. Oh you don’t know how grateful I am for your courage to share this very “secretive” topic and how many men and women are “motherless by choice” both my brother and I are estranged from our mother. The story is long, and it took me much longer to make the decision then it did for my younger brother. We both struggle intermittently with this. I can’t thank you enough for writing this. Blessings to you and you are enough, just as I am enough. A.

  7. Thank You from the bottom of my heart for posting this! I was frozen with speaking of my history with my mother, it seemed the older generations had the hardest time digesting my decision….you just don’t do that, cut ties…but abuse and accepting it, is always a choice. When I ignored my gut and when it started affecting my daughter at a young age, mother bear kicked in and said NO MORE!! No regrets, yes, healing your inner child is a must (see Homecoming by John Bradshaw) and some grieving for the fantasy of the “mother” you hoped she’d be is necessary, but once you do the work (a counselor/therapist is a great support system in this work), it’s loses a lot of power over you! Feel good that you don’t get her thinking and ways, it’s a blessing…you are your own power house of human spirit and not one controlling person will stop you…you are a light to reckon with!!! Continue sharing, as you are healing us all as you journey to your own strength and autonomy!! 🙂 Gratitude for sharing….I too, was dismissed for going to college….so bizarre in conversation isn’t it??

  8. Thank you for posting this. From one hugely wounded daughter to another. It’s amazing how we have had such a similar experience. We are even so close in age, a year apart. You took so many words I have written down straight out and published them here, without fear. I admire that. Thank you more than I can convey. And to everyone leaving comments, thank you, too. It is so easy to feel completely alone in this. Although I am sorry that all of this has happened to all of us, I am grateful to know I am not the only one.

  9. The “sins” of a mother have been prevalent for generations in my family. My mother perpetuating the same behavior of her mother and yet saying every day, how lucky we were that she didn’t treat us like her mother treated her. The most difficult process in dealing with physical and emotional abuse, is the daily struggle to never repeat the behavior learned by your own upbringing. I make this choice every day! I am so grateful for the relationship I have with my children and even more grateful that I was strong enough to walk away from a relationship with the toxic people in my family, mostly my mother. Thank you for your courage in talking about this “unnatural” choice that you have had to make. I sent you peace and love and wish you many loving relationships with the family you choose!

    • In reading your comment, I also wanted to echo that the dysfunction is often passed down from generation to generation yet each successive generation claims to be SO much better than the one before. It is the same as in my case…my mother had horrible things to say about how my grandmother raised her yet my mother did her ‘duty’ and fulfilled her ‘obligation’ as a daughter by putting on airs that my grandmother was beloved by all and eventually taking care of her until her dying day. Now that grandmother is gone, my mother (and I believe her revisionist history as my uncle doesn’t share the same memories (but my mother is entitled to her) reminded us of just how bad she had it and aren’t we ‘lucky’ that she isn’t the monster that my grandmother was (side note: I had a deep and loving relationship with my grandmother and she was the only person that kept my mom in check. It was upon her death that everything unraveled as my mother was ‘free’ to be, do, and say whatever she wanted).

      I know I am not the mother to my children that my mother was to me and I am grateful beyond measure that I’m not.

  10. What a beautiful, well told story. While there were times I haven’t spoken to my mother for sometimes up to 1 year. I’ve never had the strength to leave her completely, because I felt responsible for her in some ways. Instead, I moved to another state, where I maintained once a week phone conversations, and holiday visits….which were often fraught with difficulty.

    You statement of overturned furniture, and broken dishes….haunting. I rebuff my stories with humor. As I describe those incidents to friends, I end with, I swear my mother was Greek in another life….oopa! Not funny, but it got me through.

    When I finally got into law school, at one point I didn’t speak to my mother for a week. She left a series of messages on my answering machine, which progressed into a crescendo. When I played the tape for my therapist, she asked if I wanted help having my mother committed……I declined, but felt eternally vindicated.

    I have thankfully managed to block most of my childhood. I met a wonderful man, and we just celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. My mother was not invited to my wedding because she treated him like dirt. Today, oddly enough, she adores him.

    While I love my mother, not a day goes by where I wish she was not in my life because of her delusional, narcissistic, and toxic behavior. Yet, I know I will miss when she is finally gone.

    Good for you, and stay true to yourself.

  11. Thank you, it is nice to know there are people who understand and who don’t look at me like I am a horrible person for this choice I have been forced to make. This is still a new experience for me, the last time I heard from my mother was 5 months ago. It is so incredibly painful to make this choice and something so necessary that very few people can understand. I have felt very alone and hate the look you described so perfectly when someone asks me how my mother is and I can only say I don’t know. The relationship with a mother is unlike any other and getting a friend or acquaintance to comprehend the choice to end such a relationship is impossible. Trying to get my husband or my father to understand the emptiness and pain mother’s day brings is unbearable.

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