Toxic Mothers

Client “Lisa”:

My mother was an alcoholic when I was a child.  She drank for years, but it was never acknowledged.  Even now, she runs a support group for other alcoholics, but she denies that it’s related to her experience.  Every time I try to talk to my mom or dad about the past and the impact her drinking had on me and my childhood, they tell me to stop being ridiculous, that I’m imagining it, that it didn’t happen.  And yet, I remember being sick one week and off school, but instead of my mom minding me at home, I was brought to my dad’s office every day and played quietly while he worked.  I also realise now that she used to keep me home from school to mind my younger brother, and my dad never even knew about it.  The stubborn refusal to recognise MY story, MY experience, kills me.  How can I ever even begin to be a whole person, when I’m told the whole foundation of my life is a fabrication, a lie?

Client “Jess”:

I am a single mom and still live with my mother, with my 3 year old daughter.  I would give anything to be able to move out, but I simply can’t afford it right now.  My mother is unbelievably cold and can be very cruel.  She does nothing to help me and never has from day one with the baby.  If I want to go out, I have to pay her to babysit.  I have a fridge for all of our own food because my mom doesn’t let me use the kitchen and certainly never lets me use any of her food, washing powder, nothing.  I have to pay for full time childcare while I’m at work, it’s barely worth my while working.  Mom charges me rent, far more rent than normal for a mom, and I get nothing only literally a roof over our head for it.  Our house is a wreck, she relies totally on her maintenance from dad and has never even tried to get a job or re-train or anything, and she’s beginning to panic now because my brother is almost 23 and his maintenance will stop then.  She takes this out on me.  I wouldn’t even repeat the things she says to me.  I know I made a mistake when I got pregnant at 17, but I wouldn’t not have my beautiful daughter in my life and I swear I will NEVER treat her the way my mom has treated us.  No matter what I do, or what other people tell me, I feel worthless and ugly and unloveable.  How can anyone want me if my own mother doesn’t even want me?

Client “Frank”:

I’m the second of five children and we grew up in a rural community, on a farm.  My mother just took against me when I was young, and I was her whipping boy every time she got angry.  She beat me, once she put my head through a door, she broke my arm.  As soon as I was old enough,  I used to go and stay down in my friend’s house and just avoid being home.  They never knew the details but they knew things weren’t right and they looked after me. She never abused any of the other kids the way she abused me.  To this day I can’t sleep in a bed, because if I came home late she’d come in to my room when I was asleep and just start hitting me.  So I used to creep in and sleep on the couch.  I still do that, leave my wife in bed and sneak downstairs to sleep on the sofa, I just feel safer there.  My mother died about two years ago, and it’s beginning to drive me mad now that I never got to a) stand up to her and b) ask her why.  Why me? Why did she hate me so much?

Validation

As children, if we do not get the validation we need from our parents that we are loved, cherished, respected and protected, we will grow up with a part of our inner ego missing.  To fill that hole, we can look to others for our validation in an unhealthy way and that can be anything from always being a people pleaser, to being sexually promiscuous. We also look for validation through our appearance – if I’m thin, I’ll be beautiful and people will love me – but our external appearance doesn’t match how we feel on the inside, so it actually never works.

Parenting is a huge part of my client’s experience, and I invite you to either post a comment or email me with a brief summary of your story.  I’d like to run a series on the blog of reader’s experiences and my responses to them.

Take care.