My mother makes me want to die sometimes.
June 9, 2007 7:17 PM   Subscribe

Do you hate your mother?

My mother has psychologically tormented me (and my younger brother) all of our lives. She lamented having children (she could have gone to medical school), she had no joy in raising us, she preferred anyone else's children to us, she told us we were worthless.... there is so much more. She was cold and she was cruel. We are the only ones who seem to know the truth about how ugly her heart is- my father is in denial, her friends worship her, and so does her own mother.

I'm 36, have my own life, children that I adore, a life partner that I adore. But I am consumed with bitterness. I know I need therapy and I am actively seeking it.

But I would be so encouraged by hearing from others who have prevailed over experiences like mine. How did you know when you got to the point where your mother could say anything at all- and it wouldn't make you wither and die inside?

The day I dread is the day where she requires eldercare and it falls to me. My brother was so shaken up by her - I can't imagine him being able to step up.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (40 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
The day I dread is the day where she requires eldercare and it falls to me.

It can only "fall to you" if you let it. From what you have described of your mother, it sounds like you should cut ties with her, and she ought to be left to fend for herself, eldercare be damned.
posted by jayder at 7:27 PM on June 9, 2007 [3 favorites]

My wife's mother tormented her. Letters from the woman
would arrive, and the mood would be black for weeks after
that. Until the day my mother-in-law disowned her daughter.
That's when my wife cut the cord.
There have been attempts to uncut the cord, but I can't
imagine what it would take for my wife to "re-own" her
mother. A contrite letter, acknowledging bad behavior and
regret, and asking for nothing but forgiveness. But it hasn't
happened in a decade.
My mother-in-law could still tear my wife up with words. The
only peace she has gotten is in turning her back on her
mother, and closing the door.
posted by the Real Dan at 7:30 PM on June 9, 2007

Follow up from a poster who would prefer to remain anonymous:

There is a level of detachment that you have to work to achieve. The
fact that this person - someone who has exerted so much meanness and
cruelty on you - can cause you to "wither and die inside" means that
they still hold a powerful sway over you.

This next thing is particularly hard, because it's something bad parents
are so good at preventing: you need to fall deeply madly totally in love
with yourself, to the point where you can look at this person (whether
it's a mother or a father or an abusive ex or whatever) and say "You
know what? Fuck you. You don't deserve me in your life." And really mean
it. Because you know what? They don't deserve you. And they certainly
don't deserve to hold any sort of power whatsoever over you or your

You have children and a partner that you adore. Man alive, that's more
than most people get in this life. Time to celebrate all that is good,
and sever all that is bad. If this person brings you nothing but misery,
have as little contact as possible, make the contact entirely on your
own terms, and walk away whenever you need to. Some people will
certainly tut-tut you for being so harsh with your mother (I've gone
through that for ten years now), but they're not who you're living for
either. It is time to put you, your partner and your children first - in
precisely that order.

Best of luck with this ... it's hard as hell, but you're up to it.
posted by jessamyn at 7:42 PM on June 9, 2007 [13 favorites]

My mother was paranoid schizophrenic and bipolar, and alternated between being very loving and very cruel. I think I was about nine or ten years old when it really sunk in to me how sick she was. She died of metastasized breast cancer when I was thirteen.

I ended up not being mad at her because, ultimately, her life was so sad and unhappy. She used to throw up after she got off the phone with her mother. How can I hold it against her that she was sick.

I'm not sure if that's helpful to you, anon. Good luck letting go. Your mom is just another person, and if she's an asshole, then she's an asshole. She doesn't need to be your asshole (so to speak) unless you let her.
posted by alms at 7:49 PM on June 9, 2007

I had similar feelings for my mother. For awhile I hated her and then I began studying her more as a character and less as my mother, trying to figure out what series of choices and actions and thought processes led her to where she is and who she is. And then one day I was thinking on my childhood and my sisters' childhood and I thought "she did what she could," followed by "it wasn't enough," followed by "no," with a sort of mental sigh. The anger and bitterness is mostly gone; now the overriding feeling is sadness and an increasingly distant hope that someday she'll be happy.

Good luck in your struggles.
posted by Tuwa at 7:50 PM on June 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

I knew I couldn't maintain the objectivity required to not react when my mother pushed my buttons - after all, she installed them - and I ended contact with her. I don't regret this at all. She was rude to my husband. She was vindicative about my sisters-in-law. My little son told me, after we hadn't seen her for a couple of years, that she used to put him in another room and ignore him while she doted on my daughter. Even my daughter, favoured grandchild, was relieved when the relationship ended.

I had been, as the only daughter, forced into a kind of caregiver role while my busy brothers got on with their lives. Since I've dropped the ball, they've picked it up and cope, but neither of them like her, though one is still desperately trying to please her.

Some people think I'm cold for having no relationship with my mother, but I think they don't know what hell mothers can make. Damn it, I'm entitled to basic courtesy from her and if she can't give me that, then I do not owe her a thing.
posted by b33j at 7:55 PM on June 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

In answer to your question: yes. In answer to your title: bad reaction. You didn't ask to be born and dying before your mother would be a good way to inflict some degree of pain on her, but you won't be around to enjoy her suffering. Better to wait for her to die (you can out wait her, that's the great thing about being younger), then every day when you wake up you can smile. But it sounds like your life isn't that bad, so you really ought to just let it, and her, go. Perhaps as she lays dying in her own filth, attended once a month by an under trained and underpaid state employee, she'll realize what a bitch she was. You won't get any satisfaction from it, though. So best do what jessamyn says:
You have children and a partner that you adore. Man alive, that's more than most people get in this life. Time to celebrate all that is good, and sever all that is bad. It isn't your problem.

The short version: stop caring about what your mother thinks and says. Why should it matter to you? Would you want to die if I said something nasty to you? Why should your feelings be any stronger just because the woman squeezed you out her cunt and sheltered you until you were able to fend for yourself?* They have to earn the rest, love, affection, and respect, just like everyone else in you life.

*That, biologically, is what mothers are for. If it was a difficult thing for her, if she had to make sacrifices, etc (common guilt trip themes) keep in mind that she didn't have to give birth and even reptiles are smart enough to refrain from reproducing when environment doesn't favor them. So how dumb must your mother be?
posted by Grod at 7:56 PM on June 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

I want to second the thought that you need to develop a sense of detachment. One important but extremely difficult thing to keep in mind is that you probably shouldn't take what your mother says and does personally. It's not your fault that she has treated you and your siblings so harshly. She has issues that she needs to work out and that may or may not ever happen.

But it's also very hard to detach yourself from a parent for the very reason that he or she is your parent. There is a biological and often deep psychological bond between a parent and a child such that what each says and does affects the other in very powerful ways, much more so even than close friends or more distant relatives. Detaching from that kind bond certainly means that you have to love yourself and even act in ways that might at first seem selfish.

Last summer I lost my mother to suicide. She led a very strained mental life and so I really lost her long before her physical presence was no longer available to me and the rest of our family. Throughout many of my years in high school, college, and continuing on into graduate school, I felt tremendous anger toward her.

I felt anger because she had really failed me and my brother as a mother in so many ways. I was angry because she destroyed her life. I was angry because I would rather have been with my friends than worry about whether my mother had overdosed again. I was angry because she could never give me the sort of guidance and closeness I wanted from a female figure in my life. And I was angry with myself because I always thought that I could have done more to dig her out of the hell of hole she was in with her life.

But, ultimately, in order to keep all of those thoughts from consuming me or from constantly bringing me down on a day to day basis, I had to really try and push her away in certain ways, not necessarily as a person, but as a mother. That was very hard and not completely successful. It was only after her death that I felt the relief of never having to worry about the things she would say to me or about the things she would do to herself. And all the while before her death and afterward I kept having to remind myself that her problems were not mine (to an extent) and there was nothing I could do or have done to change the situation for her or between us. That sort of thought helped motivate the sort of detachment that I needed.

I know my situation is not similar in a lot of ways to yours but I do understand how it feels to want or have to push a parent away for your own well being. And it's hard, as I said earlier, for the reason that it is your mother. The choices we don't get to make can lead to a lot of very, very difficult ones down the road. I wish you the best regarding this situation and I hope that your well-being and happiness prevails as a result of the decisions that you eventually make.
posted by inconsequentialist at 8:05 PM on June 9, 2007

I wrote a long thing about this before for another post. If it's okay, I'll just link to it here.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:10 PM on June 9, 2007

i'm so sorry. i hope therapy will help you. although my experience with my own mother was not as painful, it has been very hard for me to accept that she was not and will never be the mother i wanted to have.

on some level i know i need to grieve for that lost mother, which is difficult because i can't cut her out of my life (she's married to my father, whom i love). still, i know if i don't come to terms with the loss of that ideal mother (which we are all, i think, imprinted with at birth), i'll never be able to accept my real mother.

so, i'm trying. i'm trying to be more gracious to her, because i recognize she is flawed and foolish and makes bad decisions and i'm not entirely sure that she loves me, but she loves my dad, who loves me, and she had me and my sister only to please my dad, and she did step up to the task, no matter how uninterested she was in it, and i'm glad to be here, so i guess it wasn't a total mistake. it could have been much, much worse.

you do not have any obligation to take your mother into your home when she gets too old to care for herself. if you are able, financially, set her up in a nursing home, and if you are not able, sign her up for medicare and whatever social services she's eligible for, and walk away.
posted by thinkingwoman at 8:18 PM on June 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

My mother was the best mom ever, until she had my youngest brother when I was 7. She developed some mutant strain of Post Partum Psychosis and acted like a completely different person, even using a different name. She could not view something as it was - her mind made her twist everything inside out. Case in point: I've talked - no, ranted - on my blog about how I was 10 years old and came home from school one day, only to get grounded because my mother said I gave some kid head.

Nevermind that at age 10:

a) I did not know what sex was.
b) I did not know what oral sex was, and
c) when I found out, I was thoroughly disgusted and actually said, "but why would anyone WANT TO DO THAT?"

It goes without saying that no, I did not give that kid, or any other kid head that day - or for the next 10 years, actually. It just shows how twisted she was, mentally.

She's gone onto do countless things that have made all of her friends and family turn their backs on her, from lying to stealing to using their credit information to get stuff (she not only did that to me but SEVERAL other people). It was only when she had thyroid surgery earlier this year that she suddenly went back to being the way she was when I was 7 - the cool mom that stopped on the side of the road and picked buttercups so I could give them to my teacher.

Unfortunately, I still hate her. I do. There is NO way that she could successfully mingle with me, my boyfriend, his family or our friends. I'm truly embarrassed by her, and I'm trying to just get to a point where I can tolerate her.

See, I had the same issue with my absentee father. And once I stopped viewing him as My Absentee Father, and started thinking of him as Bob, The Friendly Family Friend, I was ok. I still get mad at the things he did, don't get me wrong. But now that I don't view him as my father, I feel so much better about the situation. I'm trying to get there with my mother. Not sure it'll happen, but I'm really trying to get to that place where I can be in the same room with family members and not go hide in the bathroom until they leave.
posted by damnjezebel at 8:26 PM on June 9, 2007

my mother was abusive, manipulative and unflinchingly self absorbed. as an adult I tried for years to have a good relationship with her but, she was the same person that tormented me as a child. finally I realized that she would never change and, three years ago i cut her out of my life completely. it was the best thing i have ever done. it was not easy and i didn't do it all in one step.(caller id is your friend)

from time to time people give me this "how could you do that to your mother" speech. i just smile and say i am sure you don't understand but it is the choice i have made. (and my life is so so so much better for it)

now when i think of what will happen when she is old. i can't say i won't care but i can say i will not be there for her. children are under no obligation to care for their parents.

not to be dramatic but, you have an obligation to protect yourself and your children. Having a constant reminder of the bad times isn’t good for anyone.

anyhow best of luck!
posted by kantgirl at 8:42 PM on June 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

You are not alone.

For me that feeling is a difficult one to remember. Prevailing is an ever evolving process. I began to make progress when I started to realize my mother's anger was not really about me - I was / am just an easy target at that time. I find comfort in the love I have in my own family.

This isn't for everyone, but sometimes it helps me to be a little new-agey about healing. I'll tell myself a positive affirmation about me and my life. I'll light a candle and give the flame some sort of role in healing me at that moment. I'll visualize my sadness/anger/whatever as some sort of chemical or element that I'm physically exhaling out of my body as if it's waste. Other times I'll go for a long jog with one of the dogs until I'm physically exhausted. Do whatever you can to work that bitterness out of you.

I'm trying to stop ranting to my partner about it all. At this time that doesn't help - it seems to cement those bad feelings inside my head. I also try to stop listening to my adult siblings rant unless I'm particularly strong at that moment and feel like it's helping them for me to listen.

You have 10, maybe even 20 years to make the decision of your role in her eldercare. You don't have to solve that one today. Let yourself consider your options every once in a while, but the weight of this burden isn't yours to bear yet - don't let it ruin your happiness now. You'll make the right decision for you and your family when the time is right.

You are not alone. The love in your life can heal you. Let that love fill you.
posted by dog food sugar at 8:55 PM on June 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

Well, I linked to my comment in an old post above, but then I thought to myself... nobody's probably gonna go read that. Since I grew up hating my mom and have now been her caretaker for almost 10 years, I want to weigh in though. My mom very literally used to drain the spirit out of me and now she is one of my best friends. So I'm going to go ahead & copy what I wrote before here so it's in the mix. It's just that it took a lot for me to write it the first time & so I don't know that I want to try again or could say it any better really.

Here it is:

"I spent 3 years not speaking to my parents, also starting when I was about 18 & left home. I am not lying when I say that upon first moving to Los Angeles I used to tell people that my parents had died in a plane crash because I didn't want to talk about them.

Fortunately I soon realized that if I didn't fix this & if they passed away it would screw me up for life. So I moved back to where I grew up and I tried to get to know them. I made a point to sit with them and ask them questions about themselves. About their lives. I took road trips with my mom, when before that I wouldn't have stepped in an elevator with her. At one point I even pulled out that Book of Questions thing and played that with her. I sat around my dad's house & listened to him. I worked my way from asking them about little things to eventually asking them about big things when the timing was right and they felt comfortable.

What I found was that I began to understand them. With my mom in particular, I realized why she did the things she did and why she is the person she is. I realized that while I might not agree with her, she has always done the best she could with what she had to work with. Which is what everyone does. And I realized that her life was actually a lot harder than I'd realized. I gained an immense amount of compassion and the anger left me.

And something interesting happened, as I took the time out to get to know my mom SHE BECAME A NICER PERSON. She was so happy that I was trying to get to know her, it really softened her. She had someone to confide in who actually listened and cared. So she started talking to me about her deeper feelings, and I was actually able to help her get through things that she couldn't have gotten through without my help. For example, she wasn't on speaking terms with her oldest son from another marriage ever since he went to live with his father, and she had buried that pain deeply & hadn't talked to anyone about it. By understanding her instead of judging her, I was able to help the two of them to reconcile.

Now mind you, I'm very clear with her about the things I disagree with her on (and there are many), but I have made a point to let her know that although I don't always agree with her or think she's right I also don't judge her. I have let her know that I expect the same respect in return, and she has learned how to give it to me. I just tell her I don't agree and when she gets on my nerves now, I can just say "You know that you're annoying me, right?" We can laugh it off without getting emotional or personal because we accept eachother for who we are now. It took years, but learning how to like my mother was one of the best investments of time I've ever made.

As my mom gets older and her health has failed, out of her five children I've been the only one that's been there as comfort for her. Through strokes & pneumonia, I nursed her. Meanwhile, the others are still reliving their petty childhood problems & talking about things that happened in the 70s they can't get over.

When she passes away I'm going to feel sadness but no regret. I know for a fact that my siblings will not be so lucky. I can honestly say that I have a mother that I love, and that when she passes away I will miss her a great deal. That was not something I could've said when I was younger. And that's worth a Hell of a lot."

posted by miss lynnster at 9:05 PM on June 9, 2007 [3 favorites]

On the elder care: One more thing that has helped me is after much cajoling some family and I got my mother into a seniors' apartment. She was too isolated on her own and it made her more prone to weird anger, threats, outbursts. Now she's around people her own age; there's structured social activities that she has slowly started to be a part of, and a meal plan that makes her eat better. And most of all - there's a staff trained in dealing with common problems of aging. It is a huge comfort to have this help.
posted by dog food sugar at 9:06 PM on June 9, 2007

Anonymous. I really feel for you. I had a similar situation. Mom never was happy -- with my less-educated dad who was of a "lower" class (whatever the hell that is!), with his not-high-paying jobs, with her lot in life. She told me several times she could have done so much more if she hadn't married Dad or had us kids. She was an alcoholic and prescription pill abuser, often mixing the two and causing horrible scenes.

After I married -- a man who Mom thought wasn't "of my class" -- she kept reminding me I should have married that rich lawyer who adored me. After years of telling her that I loved my husband and wouldn't leave him for the lawyer, I finally decided MY mental health was more important than trying to please her. Her berating didn't stop until I just quit communicating. To this day, most of my relatives don't understand why, but I don't owe them an explanation. My mental health, my husband's welfare are of utmost importance.

And so is YOURS, and your children's, and your partner's. Look out for YOU. Believe in YOU. Be happy for YOU! And don't let her bully you into being her caregiver in her old age. You've got enough on your plate, and your kids need you more than she does!
posted by Smalltown Girl at 9:20 PM on June 9, 2007

I have a friend who is in her 60s and is still angsty about her relationship with her mother. You don't want to be like this.

I have been able to reconcile some of my own anger and irritation with my mother through setting some boundaries and sticking to them. I have limited contact with my mother, we see each other briefly on holidays and once in awhile when family circumstances dictate. I don't tell her anything too personal or that she could use as ammunition in the future. I keep our conversations short, polite and upbeat. She usually follows my example and when she doesn't, I end the conversation.
posted by pluckysparrow at 9:20 PM on June 9, 2007

i have no answer for you. i added an anecdote from my mothers day...

"i didnt call my mother on mothers day. i couldnt. she's in a place where she cant receive phone calls. she hasnt committed a crime - or at least she hasnt broken any laws. but she's incarcerated just the same. its good for her it what she need.

me? i'm torn up over the whole thing.

one part of is fiercely dedicated to my mother. the way i'd fight and die for my wife or my kid or my brothers. that dedication overlooks the awful things i had to live thru because of her. my loyalty doesnt hold her responsible for her crimes against us. it drives me to help her when i know she's just gonna turn on me. it forces me to give her another shot when she doesnt deserve it. i was raised to love family beyond all reason.

thats why she takes advantage of me.

she knows i'll never truly turn on her. she knows that i feel guilt that far outweighs the anger i feel over my life and her role in it. she knows i long for a normal mother than fusses over motherly things. i see my friends and their mothers and i want it. its hard. some of my buddies get angry with their family over the dumbest things. i wish the worst thing to happen to my family was something stupid like money owed, or a hard word said. i'd trade the drug addictions, the alcoholism and the emotion abuse for that.

i'm a big boy now. i havent been a part of a family since i turned 18 and moved away, never to return. but it would have been nice have gotten care packages when i was in basic training. maybe a phone call on one of the 12 birthdays that've passed since i left. maybe a christmas present or a damn card. maybe a visit while in college. it might have been nice to wake up from my coma and see someone other than my pregnant girlfriend crying for me. it wasnt so bad. my bestfriend sneaked a hamburger into the hospital for me. and i got visits from 3 or 4 of the girls i was fuckin at the time. but i wish i had a mother who wanted to be there.

i wonder what its like. i wonder what its like to go home for the holidays and be loved by family. to sit around a packed house of people who look like you. to fight and argue like a family. to realize that 'hey, we're family!' and make up.

My girl had a great mother's day. i wonder what my mother did on her day? do you think she regrets whats happened? do you think she cries herself to sleep remember all the unneeded horror she visited upon her kids? do you think she misses a grandchild she's only met twice?

i doubt it. i'm sure she's bidding her time planning her next fix. the people in the hospital dont realize that she's not some junkie off the street. she's educated. she has patience. and she's smarter than they are. she'll bide her time saying all the right things. they'll release her because they think she's cured. then i'll start getting the phone calls at 1am. the ones where she cries and apologizes. she doesnt even remembering calling me, most times.

i often wish both my parents were dead. then the Son in me feels guilty."
posted by Davaal at 11:51 PM on June 9, 2007

You say "I'm 36, have my own life"...

... so have it. Walk away.

Get such therapy as you feel you need to get for your own peace of mind, and let her life evolve as it may. She's not your responsibility. Get yourself healthy so your kids and life-partner can enjoy you for yourself, instead of you saddled with this baggage.
posted by foobario at 12:10 AM on June 10, 2007

As many others have said here, it's entirely your choice to keep her in your life or not. If you do keep trying, ideally you'll one day get to that place miss lynnster got to of mutual respect and communication.

But that's a long road with a lot of work and no guarantees, so let me mention an intermediate benefit that's more immediate and less... noble. Work your therapy, try to understand her, rewire yourself; and one fine day she's going to push one of your buttons and nothing'll happen. And she'll realize vaguely that something's gone awry, and she will jam on that button like a sugar-addled ten-year-old on a PlayStation, and all you'll feel is vague irritation. Here to tell you - in a petty, self-centered, ignoble little way, that day is hella fun.
posted by ormondsacker at 12:34 AM on June 10, 2007 [2 favorites]

Ultimately you're going to have to forgive your mother. She might not deserve forgiveness, but that's your only way forward.

Once you've done that, you're going to have to end your present relationship with her, a relationship that dates from your childhood and has grown stale. At the same instant you'll need to start a new relationship with her, that's more on your terms.

You're too old for this. It's time to take control and sort it out. Throughout it all, remember to try and keep smiling. I know it can be hard sometimes, but life's there to be enjoyed.
posted by humblepigeon at 1:05 AM on June 10, 2007

Stopping the old relationship and starting afresh is something that happens in your mind, by the way. It feels like an almost imperceptible shift in your perceptions. Your interactions with your mother might start the same as they always did, but they won't proceed the same way once you make this change.
posted by humblepigeon at 1:09 AM on June 10, 2007

I have a good relationship with my mother, but she had a very difficult one with her own mother, who was abusive, physically when she was younger, and verbally after she was an adult.

Eventually, she decided that she had to "cut off" her mother. Not entirely - she didn't stop talking to her, didn't keep us from seeing her - but emotionally. She said she had to learn to let go, to just ignore her mother. It wasn't always easy - especially when my grandfather died, and this led to all sorts financial disputes. But she said she realised that she had to make an emotional distance, to just leave, for example, when my grandmother started getting ugly (instead of sticking around, as she would have done when we were young, trying to get her mother to calm down).

Now that my grandmother has died (in a great deal of pain), it was my mother and her sister (who had also put a great deal of distance between her and her mother, physically in ger case) who dealt with her the most well in her last months. My uncle has not really dealt with his feelings about his mother or made that kind of distance, and even two years after her death he is still very hurt and angry.

I know I can't understand what you are going through directly, but from what I've seen in my family, I think that distance may be what you need to create, whether you do so literally (like my aunt, who moved to be 25 hours drive away) or my mother (who made the change within herself). I don't know that you have to forgive your mother - certainly not if she doesn't understand how she has hurt you. But there are ways to distance oneself without having to forgive -- it's not about her, it's about you and your life. If the only way to do this is to cut off contact, that may be something you need to do. Or you may be able to, as my mother did, continue to see her and then just leave or ignore her when she gets to be too much. (My mother has more patience than I ever would.)

But you certainly don't owe her anything -- no one "owes" their parents just for having donated some genetic material. I feel like I do owe my mother, who was always there for me and still is -- but I don't feel like I owe my father anything, as he has been largely absent from my life. He didn't take the time to create supportive relationships with my and my brother. And we all reap what we sow, at least when it comes to personal relationships. If parents want support later in life, they need to be supportful to their children.
posted by jb at 5:26 AM on June 10, 2007

I'm going to give the same answer I always give: move. Far away. It does wonders. It'll mean that you see her less often, communication will lessen, and your mother won't be able to affect your children.

You'll also be sending a pretty clear message.

I won't go into detail here, but I'd be happy to discuss this with you via email.
posted by chuckdarwin at 5:38 AM on June 10, 2007

I have a similar story. Both my mother and my father hurt me verbally and physically. They raised me coldly and merely with negative feedback, which helped me to become a sensitive, self-insecure, dependent person, feeling like a burden in other people's lives.

The experimental combination of moving to another country, remembering ugly memories under a humorous light and trying not to accuse them for being bad parents (since they had good intentions), helped me so far.

If it comes to eldercare one day, I will see that they get proper care, but I will not be there for them all the time as in happy ending movies. I guess that is the bitterness you mentioned, and I do not really want to get over it, since I want to remember the bad example with bitterness for not repeating their mistakes in my own family.

I have forgiven them, whatever that means, I still have contact with them, which got better with the distance, and life goes on. All I know is, I will love my children and let them feel it.
posted by randomDirtPattern at 5:59 AM on June 10, 2007

I stopped having anything to do with my mother while I was still in college. It was the best thing I've ever done.

My experience has been similar to Tuwa in that there's been a long journey to come to peace with her. I disagree that forgiveness needs to happen (esp prior to cutting the cord -- just the opposite!), but you can understand that she did the best she could and that chances are she's got some kind of mental illness (at least for my situation). It doesn't make what she did ok, but it at least helps with the anger.

I also agree that you have no responsibilities for elder care when the time comes. In most cases, yes kids should help the parents. But in cases of abuse, your mental health is more important, esp as you have kids. You aren't perfect, and can't do everything, so you need to focus on what you can do.

About the title of the post...I was first suicidal in middle school because of her. So I probably understand what you mean. One thing that has helped me is making sure "she doesn't win" -- ending my life, ending up like her in some way, etc are all things I work hard at. It may be silly or petty to use the "make sure she doesn't win" as my motivation, but it works for me. Maybe it'll work for you too.

The best of luck to you.
posted by evening at 6:40 AM on June 10, 2007

I think the thing is, you're an adult, you have kids, and there's all these societal pressures telling you that hating your mother is just this immature thing to do, that when you reach this age you should realize that everything your parents ever said or did was The Right Thing.

Well, just being a parent doesn't make everything you do The Right Thing; my experiences with my parents were not as bad as most of the people here but I really have to check myself regularly to make sure that I do not turn into either of them, not in the sitcom "haha you're turning into your mom" way but in serious ways.

Being a parent does not make you a good person, basically.
posted by dagnyscott at 9:04 AM on June 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

I disagree that forgiving is the only way to resolution. Moving forward is the goal, getting yourself to a better place. For some people that includes forgiving, but it isn't mandatory for everyone.

I second the suggestions that you move far away, limit contact to a bare minimum, and get therapy for yourself. You have lots of years ahead of you to share with your wife and children, and the sooner you begin therapy, the sooner your can improve your life, your relationships, and your parenting.

If I were in your shoes, I would get very clear in my mind that what she did is cruel and unconscionable, has everything to do with her, and nothing to do with you. I'd hold her responsible for her actions. I'd feel hurt and angry, and I sure wouldn't forgive her for what she has done.
posted by exphysicist345 at 10:31 AM on June 10, 2007

You know, a lot of people crap on Law and Order: Criminal Intent, for some reason I'm not sure of. But it might be worthwhile to watch the last season or two. The dynamic between Det. Goren and his mother (and a few times, his brother) is apropos, particularly when healthcare issues start to arise on the show.

It does a great, and realistic, job of portraying his conflicting thoughts and emotions: his feelings of obligation, love, and a desire for acceptance from her; the realization that she won't change; her deteriorating health; and the torment she puts him through.
posted by vsync at 11:15 AM on June 10, 2007

Try to treat her like the troubled person it sounds like she is. How would you treat a really crazy person? By dismissing what they say as irrational and untrue, and by giving them as much compassion as you can muster because it's not their fault they're crazy. Your mother sounds like a really troubled soul - most mothers do not tell their children they regret having them - and it sounds like she's pretty unhappy as well if she resents her life with you so much. Is there any way you can find sympathy for her?

If you can't do that and she continues to torment you, save yourself and cut her off. It sounds like she has people around who can take care of her.
posted by walla at 1:18 PM on June 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

The passage of time, and your own family can help you find yourself in a place of joy. Let that happen and it will.
posted by longsleeves at 3:18 PM on June 10, 2007

i feel for you.

i don't think ive ever experienced this problem quite like you.

my father could sometimes be "trying." i was lucky that i had a very loving mother. there was love to spare.

this capacity for loving is the way that you are supposed to be and live.

sucks when you just don't feel it because you're standing in a rainstorm. after all you've gone through you deserve nothing less for yourself.

unfortunately i believe that your mother, to be the ogress that you say she is, most likely has some sort of severe mental or emotional problem.

A wounded beast will lash out. She needs help and you have to understand that you aren't always the best person to try and give it to her.

You're going to have to start making conditions for you to allow her to even be in your life.

she has to be nice for one. especially if you're changing her frigging diaper later.

if she can't and she won't seek help for it then you're going to have to accept that the government will have to change her diaper.

make sure that she has full coverage and can be taken care of. don't kill yourself over it. like i said, if it is mental illness then you are going to have to accept it and do what you can.

you will still have been a good daughter.

for now get out from under that damned sheet of rain. f.k.
posted by fargokantrowitz at 3:51 PM on June 10, 2007

I found that I can bear my mother better since she became bedridden in a nursing home 600 miles away (and unable to move her arms well enough to use email or the phone), but on my latest week-long visit "home" last week Mom still managed to infuriate me with one "let me get this off my chest" thing over something that happened in 1984. (I was very patient with her and didn't yell or argue or even make a shitty remark; people who know me only through my comments here might suspect I'd been replaced by a Pod.) When I discussed it with my sister the next day I found out that most of the family has avoided her for years because of her habit of making hateful comments, giving demeaning unsolicited "advice" and "pitching fits"; even my very sweet older cousin, who lives within easy walking distance of the nursing home, only visits during holiday seasons (and then with family backup along).

Why Mom is receiving full-time "elder care" in a nursing home is obvious to everyone who knows her. She does get pretty good care there (and my sister, "the patient one," sees her at least weekly and keeps close track of her), though maybe Mom should count herself lucky that few of the attendants can understand her speech.

For what it's worth, Mom tells my sister and me she loves us and she's happy she had us. Maybe anonymous should count herself lucky to have been unwanted.
posted by davy at 12:53 AM on June 11, 2007

Last time I spoke to my mother was New Year's Day, 2001. She got bitchy with me, pushing my buttons. I never spoke to her again. My life improved. She died this March. Life has improved further, and I didn't go to the funeral (living in Africa is a great excuse!)

I felt a little guilty that I was more happy she was gone than not. But I got over that rather quickly. She had alzheimer's, so she wasn't there in the end, anyway.
posted by Goofyy at 1:07 AM on June 11, 2007

"How did you know when you got to the point where your mother could say anything at all- and it wouldn't make you wither and die inside?"

The day that I changed my phone number, insuring that I wouldn't even half to talk to her if I didn't want to.
My mother is also atrociously mean to her children, cruel and selfish to a fault (add a 'ladies who lunch' style alcoholism into the mix just for fun). I was lucky enough to realize by the time I was a teenager that I was never going to have a good relationship with her, and have done my level best to avoid her as much as possible. I have not spoken to her for years now, and I do not plan on ever speaking to her again, if I can avoid it. Here's the thing - where is that point when you won't wither and die inside? Doesn't exist. The only way you can avoid that sensation is to avoid contact with her alltogether. My poor sister, who was still somewhat attached to our mother (mostly for financial reasons) is presently going through this process of cutting off contact with our mother as well. Dear mom flew out to "care" for my sister after she had surgery on her spine. Whilst recovering in the hospital bed, writhing in pain (her birthday, no less), mommy dearest decided that it was time to let my sister have it with bher pyschological howitzer. Topping her tirade off with heavy dollops of guilt (something about her inheritance, if I'm not mistaken). My sister was devastated that someone who allegedly loves her would work so hard to make her feel positively awful while recovering from surgery, on her birthday no less. I told her to change her number, and get a throw away email account to give to our mom. She needs to control the means of communication, and then time and distance will help heal her wounds.
Some mothers really suck. I am sorry you feel so bitter. Time and distance really helps.
posted by msali at 10:09 AM on June 11, 2007

Thank you for posting this.
It is more than awkward when you meet new people and they want to get to know you to tell them you do not have a relationship with your mother (I'm female). I have a hard time even talking about my mother, let alone trying to politely deflect the obvious "how can you cut your mother out of your life" questions.

I have not spoken to my mother in almost 11 years and am better for it.

My mother is a rapid-cycling bipolar, has mania-driven bouts of Psychosis (which doesn't make anyone a bad person) and is a histrionic borderline (which does - usually).
Borderline diagnostic "label" being given by my therapist after kicking my mother out of two successive sessions where mom attempted to get very, well, threatened and histrionic and give the therapist boundaries on how the sessions would be run (she also tried to take over both sessions and talk about ALL HER issues...classic borderline antics).

Long story short, therapy brought me to the moment where I realized I could not trust my own mother - in any way with anything.
Anyone who is not in this situation cannot fathom this dynamic, much the same way they cannot fathom how someone could cut their mother out of their life. I was worried that even therapists would not believe me when I started to work out the damage done by such neglect. Luckily, they did.

Also, mom's a stalker - she stalked me and other members of my family when we cut off contact. She also stalked a former boyfriend who broke up with her - when I was about 18 or so, she bragged that she followed this ex-boyfriend home from work one evening, sat outside his house, called him on his home land line and described the outside of his house to him. She was very proud to tell me all this in detail.

Growing up with a disturbed mother desensitizes you to so much - you have no idea what a normal relationship is, and no clue how to get there.

Self-preservation is not a bad thing.
posted by Carnage Asada at 1:56 PM on June 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Carnage, thank you for your post. You are not alone--there are lots of us in this situation. We don't discuss it with others, even if they inquire about our mothers. If they ask, an answer like "She lives in (some-faraway-state)" suffices. None of their damned business! Perhaps open up a little after getting to know to a really good friend, but still not a necessity.
posted by exphysicist345 at 11:33 PM on June 12, 2007

Thank you for reaching out exphysicist345 - It's good to know there are others out there with the same issues.
You just made my week. :)
posted by Carnage Asada at 10:29 AM on June 14, 2007

Carnage, there are apparently many of us with these same issues. Went to church on Mother's Day, expecting to hear the same old cliches about mothers being devoted, loving and caring. Delighted to hear a sermon about mothers who aren't devoted, loving and caring. I emailed the minister with a thank you, noting that it really touched me, and she replied "We're all in this together." We.
posted by exphysicist345 at 11:18 AM on June 17, 2007

Thank you, thank you thank you again. :)
posted by Carnage Asada at 9:47 AM on June 25, 2007

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