“Motherless by Choice” up at HuffPost!

“Motherless by Choice” up at HuffPost!

HuffPost Women asked recently to share my piece “Motherless by Choice” with their readership, and I was more than happy to do so. The post went live this morning, and my phone has been buzzing nonstop with notifications since then! Welcome, new readers, and thank you so much for all your comments. I’m very moved by your thoughtful responses, and sympathetic with those of you who have been through similar experiences, and glad it was able to resonate with you in some way.

I chose to share my story because there is not a lot of writing out there about this highly significant and emotional experience that affects so many people. It is not something that is easy to write about without rage and grief coloring your words, but I wanted to make that effort. Reading or writing about something deeply affecting you can be a good way to help work through it; at least this is my experience, and a major motivation for me in sharing it with others. While some might question sharing something so private and personal, it was a decision that was many years in the making, and was not made lightly.

I’ll have a less personal piece up at The Toast in the near future, and more to come soon; thanks for stopping by! Be well.

18 responses to ““Motherless by Choice” up at HuffPost!”

  1. You cannot imagine how much this hit home with me. I get the same reactions fro people I don’t even know if they ask about my mother. Even at the doctors office when they ask about my family history. Sometimes I feel as though the looks I get are evil. I’ve been estranged from my mother off and on my entire adult life. I never felt that love, that connection someone should have with their mom. The physical and verbal abuse I endured for 21 years (until she left my dad for another man) would make you cringe. For my first 3 months of life my grandmother and aunt took care of me while she popped in to visit. She was married to my dad at the time but I guess she didn’t want to be tied down. I was the brunt of every unhappiness she ever had in her life, the worst being a 3rd degree burn from an iron on the inside of my right hand and still at 52 years old the scars are very visible. My whole goal in life, I have this vivid memory in the middle of one of her beatings if I ever lived long enough to grow up and have kids that I would never, ever inflict this pain on them. Well, I did and I never beat or hurt my kids. There’s so much more but this would end up more of a novel than a comment lol. I hadn’t spoken to her in 8 months and happened to find out on Facebook that she was being transferred to Hospice, no calls from my step father or my aunt. My daughter was in town for a wedding at the time and she wanted to go see her with me to say goodbye. After going back and forth with one of the nurses at Hospice I was told “the family” said it was ok I receive updates but her words were “I do not want to see her or her children.” I was crushed. I could not believe even on her deathbed she could hate me so much and she knew by not wanting to see my kids it would hurt me even more. I never heard a word from my family. I decided to go to the wake. I broke down at her casket and my husband had to pick me up because my knees went weak. I walked right passed my family and out the back door to the funeral home. It’s not the fact that she’s dead thats crushed me, it’s the realization that she never wanted me in the first place.

    • Many people don’t like you when you don’t like your parents. They write you off so easily, when they find out you are estranged from your mother. This makes it doubly hard to get the toxic parent out of your system. I get the sense that you carry around a need to be approved of, and a need to be understood. You’re not there yet. I think you (and Katie) need to see that you are still wounded, you still hear her voice in your head. You’ve got to define yourself in a positive way, and not as motherless. That’s still letting her define you as a person. Break free and focus on the positive aspects of life.

      • I have not spoken to my mother for over 15 years. I tell people she is dead (to me). Only two people, very close friends, know the truth. She was physically and emotionally abusive and the attempts to control and the constant criticism never stopped. I don’t feel bad on Mother’s day or her birthday or at Christmas. I have friends and close relationship that have filled the gap. The moment I walked away from that relationship my life changed for the better and has been peaceful ever since. Until I read this article today, I had not thought about her for years. I have focused on the positive, yet this article touched me……I felt a connection to the author and silently thought “Yes!! I too felt crazy and was told that no one else will ever love me the way my mother did.” I know exactly what that is like. To have knives or scissors pointed at you menacingly because you have not done something “their way” or the constant yelling and screaming of obscenities because the parents have had a bad day….every day. For those who have just made the break, Bravo! For those who fear making that break….take it one day at a time and just keep moving forward. Don’t look back. Good Luck.

  2. While I wasn’t sanctioned to one section of the room, the rest of your story could have been written by me (stopped talking after my grandfather passed, etc). Not only does it resonate, but it’s almost scary and at the same time comforting, that I’m not the only who has these thoughts about mother’s day and the times when love did break through the illness. It is a beautiful piece. Crazy beautiful. It’s so true that living without her is hard, but it’s easier (and healthier for me and my children) than living with her. Thank you for putting this into words. xoxo T

  3. I registered on WordPress just so I could comment on your piece. I could not read all of it because it hit to close to home. For you it was the kitchen floor for hours. For my sister and I it was the front door of our apartment, noses “stuck” to a white chalk circle drawn on the door…all day. Imagine being grateful for someone knocking on the door so you can move and flex your knees while your mother answers the door. I remember when one of her friends, obviously someone as into control as she was, introduced her to kneeling in sand for long periods of time. Imagine if you will a hardwood floor, a couple of newspaper pages, and a cup of sand from the sandbox out back. Lay your newspaper on the hardwood floor, preferably next to a wall, one must still have a place for the nose ya know. Sprinkle a thin layer of sand on the newspaper. Finally, order your children to kneel bare kneed on the newspaper with their noses on the wall in front of them. Now that’s creative wouldn’t you say.

    I apologize for ranting. Truly I could go on. I guess we all could. I really just wanted to thank you for sharing this part of your life. You touched a place inside me that has hurt for 50 plus years. My mother was my first love. My father was gone, and all my sister and I had was her. No matter what she did to me I loved her. She’ll never know. I guess she doesn’t want to. I’ve tried to reconcile, to let her know I still love her. Believe me it was a struggle. I was scared of being rejected. But, I made up my mind, did the research, found her house, and managed to spend a few hours with her. I have not seen her since. That was five years ago. She has no interest in having a relationship with her son. I feel lost at times. I see others with loving fathers and mothers and I want what they have.

    I want what they have but I won’t have it. That is my reality. However, I have my sister. We survived. We have each other. That is my reality as well. I don’t know what I will do when my parents die. I do know this…I made an attempt to try and bring us together, to let the past be the past. I made an attempt to start anew. It didn’t work. It hurts. But my conscience is clear. I tried.

    Again, thank you so much for sharing this part of you. It’s much easier to deal with pain when it’s shared by someone who’s been there.


  4. Thank you for putting into print what many of us have hidden for one reason or another. At 48, she still haunts me by finding a way to get through my email with a simple: “happy birthday – love, mom”. I quietly delete them now. It took a very long time filled with tears, rage and introspection (not to mention a fortune in therapy) to not allow her into my head where only cruel shadows lurk. I have friends for years and years who assume that my mother passed away when I was a child, I speak only of my father. He was a flawed man that will forever be perfect to me, I lost him four years ago and miss him each and every day. He saved me from her, despite his imperfections. I began his eulogy and live my life by the words of Anne Sexton: “it does not matter who my father was, it only matters who I believe him to have been” (poorly quoted, as it morphs in my head). In an ironic twist of fate and the calendar, my father’s service – memorial, the day that I eulogized an exxagerated idol was on Mother’s Day. It certainly wasn’t planned that way, but I do believe that there was a symmetry in the closing of both on the same day.
    Be strong.

  5. Wow. Thank you. There are so many parallels here it is breathtaking. I too am motherless by choice. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have a father I am very close with and supported by – to help me know unconditional love and a healthy way of living. Still, I feel guilty about my decision and question if perhaps I were “stronger” I could find a way to rise above, not let it bother me, to be in a relationship with her despite the dysfunction. So I tried this for 28 years with the same crushing results. Eventually, I had enough. I have moved on and know now that doing so is an act of self preservation. It will be almost three years. Already I feel less anxiety and insecurity. In fact, I would describe what is happening to me as blossoming into myself – full of possibility and peace. This decision is my commitment to a brighter future. Thank you for sharing this and letting me share.

  6. Ms. Naum, this sounds a lot like borderline personality disorder. You might find some insight in Christine Ann Lawson’s groundbreaking “Understanding The Borderline Mother”. I’m glad you’ve survived your ordeal (and are still surviving 😉 ) and have reclaimed your life for you. Best of luck to you!

  7. Dear Katie,

    Thank you for writing this. You have no idea in how many ways (except being restricted from specific rooms, perhaps) this resonates with my own story, from the strangers’ “oh you’ll forgive her one day, she’s your MOTHER”, to the nightmares that still haunt me at 37 and show no signs of abating.

    I won’t go into a long letter because others have already said this in so many true words, but it feels good to know that I am not entirely alone in this. The damage that some ‘mothers’ do to their children is very real, and I, too, have the experience of people around me who know why I do not speak to her, telling me repeatedly that I am right to stay the hell away.

    So, thank you, and thank you again.

  8. Thank you for writing this. I think some (even most) people assume having a baby automatically makes you a “mother” in the nurturing sense of the word. It doesn’t. Emotionally damaged and/or mentally ill women can also bear children, and it doesn’t suddenly make them sweet, loving, mothers who magically know how to raise a child in the most healthy/rational manner. Any person can produce a baby, with zero qualifications, all they have to have is working reproductive parts. It’s a wonder more children of maternal abuse haven’t spoken out in the way you have. But, as you said, there is a very real stigma cast upon a child who cuts off a mother who seems to want to be involved in their lives, I’ve experienced that with my own mother.

    I am in awe of your strength and ability to see the difference between a mother who wants to be a part of your life, and a tormentor who just doesn’t want to let go of her control over you. No one benefits from that kind of poison in their lives, no matter who it is coming from.

    My sister is very much like your mother, cutting her out has been hard and I get the looks/judgment, but it can’t be near what you have experienced. When they’re old enough, I can only hope that my nephews will read articles like this one, and gain the strength from them that they need to carry on healthy lives which I can only imagine will also be away from their mother.

  9. I never have this convo either, bcs know one gets it and they never will. These are powerful words I have lived with all my life. “I did it without you”. To include raising the rest of my siblings after she died suddenly. I have often struggled with how I should feel about her death and our relationship but now I know it is as it should be. I am also in full acceptance of my feelings and thoughts on my motherless life and have been blessed with many women who stand in the gap and fill the role whenever I need the love of a mother.

  10. You are braver and stronger than I could ever have been. I think you know instinctively that you will never ever be able to get the unconditional love from your mother which you will always crave and, sadly, always be denied, even on her deathbed. While I did not face the same intensity or kinds of abuse you faced, and I may say, survived with such grace, I learned this lesson the very hard way on my 40th birthday. I hope you will not have to wait that long to learn it.

    In fact, when your mother is dying will be the most dangerous time. That is when she will struggle hardest not just to hold on, but to seed you with herself so that she might live on, a ghost in her own daughter. I hope you continue to find the strength to stay away, especially when the woman is dying. With any luck she may will become frail enough and with even a bit more luck, demented enough that it would be possible to have her committed to a nursing home where she will be held secure and unable to reach you, until she dies. You think me harsh? I’m not. I’m totally on your side. The problem will be that in order to do that you’ll have to have contact, which may not be worth it. Believe me, I learned all this the very very hard way and wasted many years I cannot ever get back.

    The hole will always be there and you will not fill it because it cannot be filled by anything other than a mother’s unconditional love, which you are fully entitled to, which your mother owed to you, and which you were cheated out of. There is nothing to be done about that. But I hope you will continue to escape the enslavement of hoping for and waiting for a rapproachment that will never come. You cannot get her approval and love. It simply won’t come. Don’t let others talk you into believing otherwise.

    You are brave. You are strong. Especially when you don’t feel as if you are. Best of luck to you. 🙂

  11. I’m at a loss for words, so my response will be short. I just wanted to express to you in some way, the deep gratitude I have to you for writing this. I don’t even know if you will read this given the outpour on your page… But if you do, thank you, with every fiber of my being I thank you for writing and sharing this. I have been estranged from my mother for almost two years now, and the parallels I see between your story and mine are haunting. I have been in a place between making a way for myself in the world and suicide ever since. My world has been devoid of hope for a very long time. Thank you for giving my collapsed lungs a fresh breath of validation.

  12. Thank you for this, nice to know im not alone. My mother has the biggest persecution complex you could ever imagine, to listen to her you would think that the number one goal of every relative, friend and neighbor was to screw her over, snoop on her business or whatever other imaginary slight she could dream up. Her way of coping with all these terrible things was and is to completely stop speaking to them and shut them out entirely. My father and me and my sister were no exception, and there would be periods of time when we all lived under the same roof that ahe would speak to no one, and it would be days, weeks or months. One never knew how long she would go. Then one day she would snap out of it and be her usual negative, suspicious self, but at least speaking to us. This behavior continued as my sister and I became adults, married, had children, etc. My father passed away during one of her silent episodes. About two years ago, she pulled this on me again when I had the nerve to suggest that maybe she be a little nicer to the man my sister was about to marry. She did not return my phone calls for weeks, and I assume she threw away the birthday flowers I sent during this time, as my sister reported no flowers were in the house (she lived there at the time and I have delivery confirmation) That is when I decided I was done for good with this emotional abuse. She has chosen this, but this time I won’t be waiting around for her to snap out of it and start speaking again like nothing at all was amiss. Last Christmas she sent a card addressed to my daughters with barely any words in it and a sizeable check enclosed for them. I sent it back. That may seem harsh, but trying to buy off my children in that way, when she otherwise has nothing to say to us, was pretty offensive to me. I envy people who have good relationships with their mothers. For me, however, life is better without this relationship. I have many great older women in my life that I cherish that fill in where my mother fell silent, and im doing great.

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