Mother-daughter relationships are some of the more complicated ones we have. As I mulled over the idea of writing this, I seemed always to devolve into a “defense” of my position. Nothing would delight me more than than you agree that I made the right decision. I want sympathy, not coherent criticism.
Yet, I instinctively know that I don’t really want that at all. I don’t want it to be a her side, my side kind of thing. I want to explain myself, and express my continuing questions about whether I’ve made the right decision. How does this all square with my faith?
So, I shall begin. If I can say it all in one post, I cannot yet say. It will take as long as it takes. I will try to be honest.
I’m not sure when I realized that my relationship with Mother was dysfunctional, and not the norm. I certainly didn’t feel that way as a young girl still living at home. My mother was no better nor worse than most of the other mothers I encountered. Let me state clearly, I was not physically abused unless you think that the average spanking and a couple of slaps here and there are abuse. I did not consider them as such.
My parents had similar parenting styles, learned no doubt from their own experiences as children. Both were clearly (knowing what I know of their upbringing) the victims of conditional love. And so they practiced it as the only kind they knew.
Without delving into specific instances, I can only relate that there is nothing quite so exquisitely painful as entering a house and being met with a cold stare, a turned back, and one word responses. Your mood falls, your stomach clenches, and you wait in silent emotional agony, as you search your mind trying to figure out what you have done wrong now.
The game that ensued usually only took minutes to play out and become the lecturing, demeaning diatribe of how incompetent you were, yet one was draw to the flame much as the proverbial moth. I never learned to simply go to my room and wait it out. For in truth, that would never work, you never got off the hook that way.
I had no siblings to be comforted by. I had no idea that this behavior was emotional blackmail. I assumed it normal. On the up side, along with being siblingless, I learned to be rather independent, a good quality to acquire.
What I mean by emotional blackmail, is that the indictment eventually came to the following questions: Was I incredibly stupid? Had I no common sense? Was I so selfish and self-centered? And then followed the comparisons with the ethereal “other people’s kids” who didn’t exhibit all these awful qualities. I was an embarrassment, an unnatural burden (chubby, braces, glasses–a wonderfully self-esteem trifecta to begin with!).
I was smart at books, and stupid at life. So it went.
But, again, I must point out, that I did not overall feel abused in any way. I thought it normal. But, you can understand why I was happy to graduate from living at home to having my own life.
Somewhere, as an adult, I started meeting women professionally who had quite different relationships with their mothers; and I could witness, sometimes, a mature mother-daughter relationship. You mean you call your mother every day? I had to steel myself to call once every three months!
As I entered my 30′s and then 40′s, I began to resent this upsetting in my life. Why should I have to endure such periodic rejection. There was never an apology. I should point out that my father did exactly the same thing and when I lived with him in his last months, I was subjected more than once to the same childhood agonies, and I admit I never outgrew the queasy stomach that ensued.
Still, I let the relationship limp along, getting through somehow, and breathing a sigh of relief once the dutiful call had been made and I was free from all this for another quarter year. Yet, the insanity of it all, seemed to escalate in some sense, and my patience and endurance grew weak.
A number of incidents seemed to coalesce into a condemnatory document in my mind that in the end, I could not ignore. I determined to end this circus of a relationship, this unhealthy misery inducing thing that was Mother and me.