The gift of a bad mother

After a lifetime of a strained relationship, five years ago I severed ties with the woman who gave birth to me and raised me. I don’t call her mom since she’s never behaved like one.

We live oceans apart and she came for an extended stay at my house when my daughter was eight months old. Another attempt on my part to reconcile. Since I was a mother myself I thought there was a chance for redemption. I thought we’d relate better to each other, that we’d become closer. The opposite happened.

Four months with her day in and day out made it clearer than ever why we never got along. As long as I was only her child, I kept longing for things to change. I wanted a mommy. I wanted to be loved, cherished, nurtured. Nothing more than what any child should expect from her mother. Nothing more than what any child deserves. Again and again I’d step into the cage with a lion hoping to find a cat to pet. The lion never transformed. The kitty cat never appeared. Again and again I’d come out hurt, battered, and bruised emotionally.

My mother has never told me she loves me and her actions proved otherwise.
She never rejoiced over my happiness. She is jealous of me, jealous of the life I have made for myself. There is much ugliness that doesn’t deserve to be revisited.

Maybe her behavior can be explained. Although she was never officially diagnosed with any mental illness she fits almost all the criteria of a psychopath. The woman obviously has problems. But explaining is not excusing and when I became a mother six years ago, I started running out of excuses for her. My sister once told me: “You’re a mother now. You know it’s not easy. You must have some compassion for her.”
To which I answered: “I’m a mother now. I would never treat my daughter the way she treats me.  I will not tolerate it any more”.

The day my husband drove her to the airport, air began to flow better inside our house. The big black cloud looming over us had been displaced. I breathed better.
I thought I would grieve. I thought I would cry over it. I never did. Most people assume that being estranged from my mother is a bad thing, that I must be sad about it. Not so. Life is so much better.

Acceptance is powerful. I can’t be mad at a lion for acting like one.

Buddhism teaches that all suffering is caused by craving: wanting deprives us of contentment and happiness. When I stopped hoping that she would change and accepted who she was, I freed myself. My life was no longer consumed by the turmoil of our relationship. I closed the door of the lion’s cage, never to return. When the wounds were not constantly reopened, healing happened. Yes I have scars but I am healthy now.

Do I wish I had a mommy? Yes I do. But I now know SHE will never be it.

Yet even my mean unfit mother has bestowed upon me a most beautiful gift:
Because of her, I know who I want to be.
Because of her, I am a good mommy to my own daughter.

I am the mommy I’ve always wanted for myself and for that I am thankful.


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4 thoughts on “The gift of a bad mother

  1. An inspirational post. How to take a very bad life situation and use it to improve yourself. I’m so proud of you Sarah!

  2. Oh Sarah,
    I’m so sorry for all you’ve been through, but the perspective you shared here is really powerful. We can’t change other people, but we can use our own experience to do so much better. Hugs, friend.

  3. Wow Sarah. I’m at a similar place right now with my sister. It’s been a year since we haven’t spoken. Her last words to me were “To me, you are dead.” Those were powerful words she spoke. But nonetheless, I have chosen to move on. There have been a couple one or two word text messages, but that was only on a holiday. I have recently read about forgiveness. In my heart, I have forgiven her. But I am also lead to share that with her verbally. And I am at peace if she chooses to not accept them.
    I liked how you found the gift out of all of this. I understand that because of some of those same characteristics my mom had. I called it a change in perspective. Yes, the scars are there, but I feel so much better once I opened up and let it come up to come out.
    Thank you for sharing.

    1. I’m glad you are slowly coming to peace about these broken relationships. It takes time and it’s not easy. Aloha. Sarah

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