I have often heard stories of how when women become mothers, it strengthens the bond with their own moms. They understand firsthand the sacrifice, love, struggle, and joy that comes with being a parent and have a new appreciation for their own moms and dads. Unfortunately, I have experienced the opposite with my own mom. Parenthood has made an already tenuous relationship deteriorate even more.
My mom and I have never had a strong bond. I spent the early part of adulthood figuring out how to forgive her for the damage she inflicted on me as a child and defining my boundaries as an adult so we could have a tolerable existence.
While I have grown and taken the necessary steps to heal as a person, there has not been significant growth on her end. She is still the taker with me giving and receiving nothing in return. I would have walked away from such a toxic relationship a long time ago if it was anyone other than her.
Last year, my husband and I welcomed our son into our lives, her first grandchild, and my entire view of my motherhood changed. From the moment I laid eyes on my little boy, I swore I would do anything to protect him.
I couldn’t imagine putting him through even a fraction of what she put me through. When I was a child she made decisions that put me in harm’s way physically, mentally, and emotionally, thinking only of herself.
For years, I prayed a change would occur within her.
My last hope was that becoming a grandmother would bring out her warm and caring side. In the year since his birth, her actions have proven otherwise and there does not seem to be a change on the horizon.
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Her first visit took place when he was two months old. As a first-time parent, I was a mess. My top priority was to take care of this tiny human. I was barely able to keep up with my own self-care let alone whip up a home-cooked meal or deep clean the house.
Each day of her visit she slept in until 10 a.m. and wondered where breakfast was when she woke up. She pointed out the baseboards weren’t clean and brought to our attention the two burned-out light bulbs in the bathroom. There was never an offer of help, just criticism. While it was frustrating, it wasn’t surprising.
Yet it was how she treated my son that made me seethe. It was reminiscent of how I was treated. I was always an afterthought with my wants and needs put on the backburner to hers. I could see the same behavior on display when she interacted with her grandson. On the surface the incidents were small, yet they were big in their message.
During one of her visits, she agreed to watch him for a few hours. I left her with specific feeding and napping instructions and told her tactics to help him stop crying if he got worked up. Upon my return, I noticed there were a number of half-empty bottles.
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When questioned, she said she gave him a bottle each time he cried. I had told her he loved being outdoors and usually calmed right down when he was fussy. She simply stated she hadn’t felt like going outside. Once again it was what she wanted rather than what was best for another person.
There have been other incidents I previously would have brushed off since the only negative impact would have been to me. Now as a mother, I see them in a new light. Her actions continue to be reckless and hurtful with no regard to anyone but herself.
Seeing the pattern repeat itself is heartbreaking, but this time there is a difference.
I have control.
I only have so much to give and my role as a mother takes precedence over my role as a daughter. While it breaks my heart knowing we will never have a strong bond, it is her I feel most sorry for. Her inability to change will ultimately cost her a meaningful relationship with her grandson.
For those of you who are blessed with amazing mothers, hug them tight. For those who cannot reconcile the meaning of true motherhood with your own mom, know you aren’t alone in the loss you feel. It is OK to mourn the loss of a relationship you always hoped for but never had.