A new spin on Mom

Well, my parents left this morning after a 10 day visit.  I’m sitting at my laptop in my favorite room in the house, happy to have some time to myself.

There is lots of think about.  Lots that has been rattling around in my brain for the past day or so.

I wrote before about some of the issues I have with Mom and how I fight her constant judgment and criticism, subtle though it may be.  I can’t change her judgmental nature, and I never will.  That’s a hard thing to acknowledge but I think I finally get that.  I understand it and I believe it.  The fact that I believe it is important, and new for me.

Even last night as we ate a quick dinner of hot dogs, one of the kids mentioned that I had made hot dog rolls before.  Yes, I know it’s crazy – who does that?!?  In my defense, I did it during a particularly stressful time when I was truly, in all ways possible, baking away my anxieties.  So I fully admit that it’s crazy, and am all too happy to poke fun at myself for it.  But Mom said, in all seriousness, “And I guess you have nothing better to do with your time?”  She didn’t say it maliciously (?), or with a mean tone, and she went on to try to clarify, but wow – she actually said that.  Even more shocking was that although I was floored by her remark, I took it in stride and replied, “That’s not a very nice thing to say to someone, is it?”

No need to hold your applause.  🙂

A few months ago, I would never have responded that way.  Hell – I might not have responded that way even a week ago.  Ordinarily I would react emotionally, or worse yet – stuff my feelings into an emotional black hole.  Then begin a cycle of self-criticism and hatred.  But not this time.

So what changed?  It’s hard for me to put my finger on it, but there’s been a shift somehow in my head and in my heart.  A seismic shift in how I view and relate to my mom.

The thing is that she grew up with no emotional connection to her parents.  In turn, she didn’t have much real emotional connection with my sisters and me.  We certainly didn’t learn any tools for handling our feelings – in fact, feelings in general were strongly discouraged.  On top of that, Mom displays some borderline tendencies, as I’ve mentioned before.  She is capable of cutting people off without ever looking back, and she can also switch on a dime from thinking someone is absolutely wonderful, to thinking they’re the devil incarnate.  There’s no middle ground with her.

Yesterday in a few different conversations, I recognized some of the traits of a borderline.  I started to see her less as this woman I was so desperate to please, my mother on a pedestal.  Just as I don’t want to be put on a pedestal by my kids, I shouldn’t put my mom up there either.  I would love for her to show some insight.  I’d be thrilled if she displayed some sensitivity for my feelings.  I’d feel so much better if I didn’t read descriptions of toxic people and realize that’s kind of what my mom is to me.

But I can’t make those things happen.  My mom is ill, on some level, and has mental health issues just like the rest of us.  Except many of us go to therapy, or seek out insight from others, or blog about our struggles.  Most importantly, we have compassion for others and we’re learning to have compassion for ourselves.

My mom deserves at least that much from me.  I still love her, and I am so very grateful for all the things she has done for me.  I have no doubt that she really does wish all the best for me.  But she is limited in what she can offer me emotionally, and that’s okay.  I’m learning to get that emotional support in other ways, and I no longer rely on her for that.

I feel like there should be some grand, wonderfully written sentence in conclusion, but I’m coming up empty.  I need to sit with all of this for a bit before kids come bounding in and Life takes over.  So instead I’ll close with a picture of one of my favorite trees that makes me smile every time I see it.

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend.  And thanks for all you have done for me.



6 thoughts on “A new spin on Mom

  1. A year ago, I basically turned my back on my mom. We don’t live in the same state so I stayed with her when my sister passed away. They day after my sister’s funeral, she was humming around the house. I was devastated, and she was humming after the loss of her daughter. To me, there was something very wrong with that. A couple of weeks after my sister died, my mom’s dog died. Whether she was holding back her grief from my sister’s death, and it came out when her dog died, I will never know. What it felt like is that she was more upset over losing her dog than her own daughter. I understand that everybody grieves in a different manner, but I hadn’t expected a reaction like she had.

    This was the last frustrating thing of a lifetime of frustrations I experienced with her. I couldn’t believe the guilt I had for recognizing that I didn’t like my own mom. I don’t believe I will ever be close to her. She doesn’t believe she suffers from depression, yet I have memories of her locking herself in her bedroom for days on end. I love her for being my mom and for doing the best she could, but I seriously can’t handle being around her much.

    But, I’m learning to overcome my guilt. It is what it is, and I can’t change her.

    Big applause to you for managing 10 days! 🙂


    • I can’t even imagine being in the throes of grief like that and realizing that your mom is in such a different place emotionally. I’m sorry that you had to limit your contact so much – no matter how much you understand it and process it, it’s still sad.

      I was reading a book recently about emotionally absent mothers and the introduction talked about how mothers are almost canonized just for being mothers. And as a result, people have a lot of guilt and shame when they try to process their feelings about their less-than-ideal mothers. It reminded me of those years of therapy when I would start to cry if I thought I was admitting something “bad” about my mom.

      Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts. 🙂


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