Monday, February 28, 2011

Mom - A Complicated Word...Complicated Relationship...A Request for Advice

I've been dealing with being abused for many years.  I've done some healing  about the abuse.  I think that I'm in an okay place regarding my father.   I'm angry with him and I know that it is okay to be angry with him, to blame him and to place the shame of the abuse where it belongs - - on him.  (As simple as it sounds, it took me years to get here.)

Things are more complicated when I think about my mother.  Why?  Well, in many ways she failed me as a mother.  She didn't protect me.  She didn't stop my father.  Yet, it isn't that simple because she too is abused by my father.  Throughout the time I was growing up in my parents' house my father emotionally abused my mother, belittled her family, belittled her dreams, belittled her accomplishments and worst of all routinely sexually abused her in front of me and my sister (and even my friends! when they were at the house).  So, the part of me that knows that she is a victim, that she is depressed and that she too is stuck feels sorry for her.  How can I blame her?  Yet, I'm her little girl and she didn't protect me.  How could she not protect her little girl?  I feel protective of my friends' kids, of my students, of kids in the neighborhood.  How much more the maternal instinct must be.  Why didn't she protect me?  So thus it is complicated.

To my sister and brother survivors and thrivers - - if this resonates with you what advice do you have for me?  If your situation is similar how do you handle it?  Thanks in advance for your comments.


Jahda said...

Hi Leah, I think sometimes that can happen because the mother in this case is in denial and can't deal with the reality and so to "do" something would be to admit to herself that the unthinkable was happening to her and her children. To admit that such a thing is true can be devastating psychologically and probably the best way to work through it is with the help of a good therapist. Denial is a powerful avoidence technique - survival technique....

I know very little of your story - just what you write here - so there could be many more reasons that only you could know of since you know your mom personality etc.

But my therapist has often said that this is a common reaction of the mother in that type of situation--it's just too painful to admit it's true and so by not looking it kind of isn't happening thus nothing to save her children from!

One hypothesis anyway. I was just checking out some of the folks who posted on the Mindparts blog carnival (some new names!) and when I found your question here I just wanted to share that one perspective of it with you anyway. In a way it helps don't you think?

It's almost a subconscious thing on her part (if the hypothesis is true) and so perhaps thinking of it that way might make you understand your mom a bit better and help your own healing?

Wishing you the best in your Healing Journey Leah!


Leah said...


Hi. Thanks so much for reading my post and for your thoughtful, kind and astute comment. I think that your points are very on target. My therapist (who I spoke with after writing the original post) echoed many of the same thoughts.

I think that I will need to find a way to grieve the mom I didn't have and find a way to bridge the gap with her for any future relationship we might have.

Thanks again and I look forward to reading more on the Mindparts blog.

Your sister survivor,

Just Be Real said...

Leah, just finished reading this post and I am touched. I am so very sorry for your pain dear one. Appreciate you sharing. Blessings.

Sara said...

Hi Leah - No advice here. I havent spoken to my mother in about 17 years. I waffle back and forth between anger and pity for her. Anger for not "saving" me from my father's abuse and pity for her (now) obvious mental illness which I chose to believe prevented her from doing so.

Anyway - best of luck and keep us posted on your progress!

Kim said...

I can SOOOO relate to this post. I feel like I could have written a big chunk of it! I have major mother issues. It is such a complicated relationship and even moreso when there is such a history. My struggle is to accept my mom for who she is today and for what she's capable of.

Here's one of my many Mom posts:

Megs said...

Hi Leah - just found your blog from the blog carnival against child abuse.
Heavens, I can relate to this post. I felt conflicted for a long, long time about my relationship with my mom (still do, I guess). My story is a bit different. My mom moved in with an abusive man (after leaving my dad) and essentially delivered me to him on a silver platter. She is a very fragile, needy person and I've always assumed responsibility for her mental health. I've always thought that, because she's a victim, too, she deserves lots of empathy and consolation. Well, after many therapy sessions, I've come to realize that may be true, but she doesn't deserve it from me! I was NOT the adult in the situation. I had NO control, no ability to leave, no way of protecting myself. At least she was an adult, she had power even if she chose not to exercise it. And she was a mother - with the responsibility to protect me. She failed, miserably. She didn't even console me after it happened.
She was emotionally distant and unavailable. She was not a mother in any meaningful sense of the word. This was the first year I didn't call her on mother's day. I'm actually preparing to send her a letter telling her how much I still suffer from her selfishness.
I don't know the specifics of your situation or what you hope for your relationship with your mom, but do remember - you were a child. She was an adult. Abused herself or not, she had a responsibility to you. She may need help herself, but you don't need to be responsible for it. You have all the right in the world to focus on yourself and heal yourself. You don't owe her anything if you don't want to.
I hope you find some resolution and comfort. Mother issues are so poignant and painful.

Leah said...

Just Be Real - Thanks for your comment. Blessings and hugs to you too.

Sarah, Kim and Megs,

Thank you for your comments and for sharing bits of your story. I think that one of the reasons that the relationships with our moms is so complicated is that we and our society have so many expectations of the relationship.

Thanks again for your sisterhood and your comments.

Your sister survivor/thriver,

Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to you. I had an abusive dad and my mom was not able to totally protect us either. I was born 3 years after their marriage and I think he already had her under his control then. She did try to protect us. But she had to measure what she did against how whatever she did might anger him further, making him more violent. She did almost leave him, but felt that her elderly parents would not be able to deal with all of that, tho' they would have taken us all in. Also, in my day (I am 59), often a child might be removed from the home, rather than the parent. And making a living for a woman was almost impossible if you did not have a college degree at that time. I had one brother who was very attached to my dad (and the most abused of us all) and for some reason she felt he might not do well away from him. My Grandma later told me that no one had ever crossed their path like my dad and his family. At 2 weeks prior to the wedding, they offered to help my mom call it all off. She refused, being a wise 18 yr. old (NOT), saying how his family was, was not his fault. Yea, true...but she lived in hell for 50 more years before dying. My brothers and I will have to deal with our raising for the rest of our lives. We were strong church goers too...oddly enough. But that is one thing that helped me so much...other people there reached out to me, without knowing what the problem was. My brothers and I are all law abiding citizens and care deeply for others, doing what we can to help them. My Mom and her parents were themselves the best of humans...that too helped us. My Mom cried so much while we all were at home...and prayed all the time. I still think she should have left him...but you know, my kids might think that about me too because of how my marriage was too. Long story. Abuse comes in many forms. Mine was beatings and emotional abuse. I am grateful it was not worse. I read this on a blog: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." I think that right there is the base line...maybe the reason we get involved in dysfunctional families after coming from one of our own, is that we cannot identify one where the dysfunction is different than the one we grew up in. I married into a family that did not do physical abuse, the plenty of emotional. And I TRIED so hard not to. My hubby has changed a great deal in the last decade of our life, due to our faith path. I just wish we had had that truth early in our married life. And the truth is, probably very few perfect families exist these days. I hope you can find a way to still honor your Mom, and be ok yourself. THAT is so hard. My dad just died 18 months ago. I am sad my hopes never came true, but now I am SO RELIEVED...I no longer have to be afraid when the phone rings. Of how to talk to him and have the chat go ok. The last 8 years I have lived across the USA from his location and THAT helped most of all!! DISTANCE can be a great thing!!
Elizabeth in NC

Amanda said...

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