I have a very difficult relationship with my mother. I now have a baby. Things are getting worse and I don't know what to do. Very long background inside.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (24 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I'm sorry this is so long, but I want to include as many details as possible since this is an anonymous question.
My mother and I have a complicated relationship. She is mentally ill, and has been throughout my childhood. She has severe depression, anxiety, and a dissociative disorder. She also is in poor physical health. She is in her mid-60s and lives in a retirement community. She does not need to worry about money because of the alimony she receives from my father (from whom I am estranged).
I had an unhappy childhood. My father has always been distant and angry. I have several half siblings from my father's first marriage, who were raised believing that my mother was also their mother until they were teenagers. My mother’s problems stem from her own childhood, which was horribly abusive. She was sexually and emotionally abused by her family, and repressed a lot of her pain until her brother committed suicide as an adult (which occurred the summer I turned 9 years old). I feel very bad that most of my issues with my mother were ultimately caused by her awful childhood of abuse.
When I was a baby and small child, my mom was a “good” mother in the sense of being affectionate and encouraging my development. She constantly told me how much she loved me. However, at the same time she was also physically and emotionally abusive towards my half siblings. She prevented me from having normal relationships with them. She was paranoid that I would be sexually abused by one brother, so she wouldn’t leave me in the same room with him. She locked two of them in their bedroom whenever she and my father would leave the house. She forced one of them to eat her cigarette ashes and made him run around the neighbourhood to exhaustion. I didn’t understand this and I was also afraid that she would turn on me one day. However, during this time my mother maintained an appearance that we were a normal family to outsiders. She volunteered at my school, and had many friendships.
When I was 9 and my uncle (who I had never met) committed suicide, everything changed. My mom became severely depressed and attended therapy three times a week. She began drinking, and she was prescribed many different drugs that made her zoned out a lot of the time. She began attempting suicide. I saw her in many horrible states – after taking 100 sleeping pills and having her stomach pumped, covered in blood from slitting her neck, etc. She spent a lot of time in mental hospitals. My father was very distant so he never really told me anything about this. I sort of just learned to go numb when these things happened.
My father divorced her when I was about 13, while my mother was hospitalized in another state. She eventually was released, and I went to live with her for most of my high school years. These were the worst years of all. She was depressed and spent all her days and nights in her bedroom. She stole money from me to buy more and more clothes, which she never wore because she spent all her time in her room. We were barely on speaking terms. I felt nothing but hatred and contempt for her and couldn’t wait to get out on my own.
I moved far away for university and have barely seen my mom since then. I am in my mid-30s and have been married for more than a decade. I’ve built a life of my own and I consider my husband’s family to be my family now. I spent some time only speaking to my mother sporadically, but for the last 10 years or so I speak to her on the phone once a week for 30 minutes. My husband and I visited her several times more than a decade ago, but we stopped because she made him so uncomfortable – she does not have boundaries, so would ask him about our sex life, etc. I went to visit my mom in 2010 by myself, and the visit was okay for the first day. After that we got on each other’s nerves but were cordial. My plan at that time was to visit her on my own once per year, due to my feelings of guilt. I did not visit in 2011 due to my pregnancy.
I feel nothing for my mother but numbness and frustration. The only reason I still am in contact with her is because of guilt. She has no one else. She has no family besides me. She became a conservative Christian somewhere along the line, so she has a church, but she often isolates herself from them due to her depression. She has a few friends in the retirement community where she lives, but she seems to hate them since she is always insulting them to me.
We speak once a week on the phone, but basically just discuss her physical complaints (she is in poor health). For the last decade, the pattern is: we have these boring conversations for several months, then she calls me out of the blue and screams at me for being a “terrible daughter” since I never visit her or discuss anything substantial about my own life. She is right that I don’t let her in emotionally – this is mainly because she has hurt me so much in the past, and I have built a life away from her. Oftentimes she claims to have no memory of these conversations after they occur, and she sometimes apologizes profusely afterwards. During the “good” times, she tells me how much she loves me and seems to have an idealized view of the first 9 years of my life. She thinks she was a great mother until her mental health issues got in the way.
I now have a 5 month old baby. I told my mom we would visit her so she could meet the baby in the spring (it is a 10 hour drive away). This makes me uneasy but I felt like I owed it to her. Recently, my husband’s mother has had a sudden serious health issue and may die. I spoke to my mom this week and told her about it, and again it became all about her. She phoned me a few days ago and again told me what a terrible daughter I am, since I haven’t visited with the baby yet and since I am closer to my husband’s family. (Her immediate response to my mother in law’s health issue was to ask me what I would do if this happened to her.) Then, last night, she phoned again and claimed she didn’t remember what was said in our previous conversation. After a strained 5 minutes of conversation, she informed me that her friend in the retirement community was listening on the other line! She said that she “needs” to do this since her memory is so bad. However, during the call she kept disputing everything I said about our earlier conversation.
I don’t know what to do now. I hate my mother and feel nothing but anger and numbness when we speak. However, she has no one else. I feel guilty. I feel like I should care about her. I don’t know whether I should visit with the baby. My husband hates her too but tries to support me. To outsiders I think I appear uncaring and cold towards her. But they don’t know the details of our past. My mother has this fantasy in her head that we had this great life until she got sick, and that I’m still punishing her for it.
I know this question is long and rambling, and I’m sorry. I just feel so lost about this issue and don’t know where to go from here. Any advice is appreciated.