A card for Mommy Dearest

notmother's day

I hate Mother’s Day.  Maybe this seems strange coming from someone who is a mother, who very much loves my children.  My hatred of this holiday isn’t about ME and it isn’t about my kids, though I admit to stressing, in the past, due to their lack of effort to honor me for all I’ve done. 

My children’s failure to be appreciative didn’t stem from any fault of their own.  For that we can thank my unloving ex- husband.  He refused to set any kind of example for them in this regard, despite all that I had them do for HIM for Father’s day.  The children are not to blame and I was reluctant to try and drum anything out of them for fear of being selfish.

 So most Mother’s days preceding my divorce, I received nothing, not even a handmade card, from my children.  I would always ASK for help in cleaning the house, for one day, because this is all I truly wanted, a shining clean home for the day that I had nothing to do with.   The kids would try somewhat, but due to the passive-aggressive undermining of their father, it was never done the way he knew I wanted it to be.  Like, I’d ask for them to clean the floors and bathroom and kitchen and he would insist that it was really the ceiling fans other nonsense that needed a touch up.  So, I’d still be left with the very chores I was stuck with the rest of the year.

Anyhow, since becoming a single mom I have had the opportunity to take stuff like this into my own hands.  My children, in the past couple of years, seem to have become MORE appreciative of me and are happier to pitch in.  Maybe it’s growing older but I also think they see for sure that I’m the one doing all the work, when before it was more dubious and we had their dad going out of his way to put me down and acting as though I never did “enough”. 

God, I am SO GLAD to be out of that situation.  Last year I had to buy a tray and set out the stuff in advance myself but they actually managed to make me breakfast in bed and it was something they enjoyed doing.  It may seem self- serving to do stuff like this but I believe it’s important for them to show some respect, even if it has to be forced.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, what is my REAL reason for dreading this day?  How can anyone purport to “hate” a day celebrating the women who gave us birth and all that they have done in our lives?  Perhaps you’d understand if you had a mother like mine.

All these glowing statements and quotes about the wonderfulness of mothers, how they are always “there” for us, all that they do, none of these pertain to her in the least.  It’s a very painful reminder of the very things I never had as a child, or even now as an adult, as far as a relationship or bonding with my mother.

When I describe my mother to people I usually try to put things in terms that they can understand.  I mention facts like that she is a drug addict who tried to kill herself twice and nearly died, that she lost 6 nursing jobs stealing meds from her elderly patients. I state that she’s been in jail for stealing.  None of that even begins to scratch the surface of what it’s been like in my life having this “non-mother”. 

I don’t usually mention the fact that she picked me up and threw me across a room as a baby for daring to wake her up wanting something.  I was 18 months old and this was witnessed by family members.  I don’t talk about how she used to leave me waiting for HOURS places (like cheerleading practice in junior high) because she “forgot” to pick me up.  I don’t tell people what it felt like to try and try to call my mother on pay phones and not get an answer or have any idea where she was. 

I might mention the fact that I was physically and mentally abused by several stepfathers but I don’t talk about how she tacitly turned her head the other direction and did nothing to protect me or my siblings. I don’t talk about the verbal abuse, the horribly cruel things my mother would say, the way she referred to me at times, the sudden rages she would have.  Once in a while I might bring up the time she told me, when I was about 13, that she wished I’d never been born, that I had singlehandedly ruined all of her marriages.

I might talk about how I rarely saw her for long stretches of time as a child and was left mostly in the care of abusive stepfathers or on my own but I don’t usually tell people how they would lock me out of the house as early as age 7 on her days off from work and tell me not to come back until dark.  Sometimes I’d have one or more siblings to watch over as well and I would get in trouble if we came home.

Nevertheless, I am a human being and rather than hate my mother for the things she did I still desired her love and affection.  I can remember saving every penny I had one Mother’s day, when I was 8 or 9, and buying her a little jewelry box at a corner store.  She took one look at it and was like “I don’t need that!  Why would you waste your money?  I can’t use anything like that!” rejecting it (and me) out of hand. 

In college one time, my mother told me she wanted to spend some time with me, to go shopping together.  I was actually really excited and went to meet her at the mall, only to be left waiting for hours and she never showed up.  I later discovered she’d gone to jail and was in the custody of the police for stealing merchandise from a department store.

Perhaps too many times, both as a child and an adult, I have come to her aid, comforting her when she was crying and upset, trying to help her with her myriad of problems and issues.  I took on the parent position in her place, trying to take care not only of her but of my siblings from a very young age.  I tried to help her get out of an abusive relationship, taking great risks for my own life and safety. 

When she tried to kill herself I was there, though I also turned her in to the FBI and the people she was getting the pills from.  I searched her house, finding piles and piles of stolen items and bottles of hidden drugs (only turning in the drugs).  I tried to talk to the doctors, about the possibilities of things like liver transplants (due to drug addiction she didn’t qualify) and encouraged her even after they said she was going to die (she didn’t, either time).  I stayed by her side and made sure she wasn’t mistreated and got into a rehabilitation program (three times now I’ve helped her into inpatient rehab).

The thanks I get?  Well, really not any.  She still spent her time trying to manipulate me into getting her more morphine and acts angrily towards me, as though I am the parent and she’s a resentful, rebellious teenager.  She still asks me for money, even though I probably have less than her, and if given turns around and uses it for things like buying cigars to fill with weed, when she told me she needed gas for her car.

I don’t know that I’ve ever met anyone as selfishly narcissistic as my mother so it’s frustrating to see all these memes talking about how sacrificing  all “mothers” are by nature.  I think about the time she lied and said my brother was threatening and “scaring” her so that she could get him out of the house at 19, taking him to court for a restraining order.  I mean, there are nicer ways to get a kid out of the house and just watching the bullshit that came out of her mouth when we were in court had my blood boiling.  She comes across as such a “victim”.

Yes, my mother has been abused by one of my former stepfathers (who was undeniably cruel), she had a rough life and started using drugs when she was very young.  She probably suffers from Borderline or Bipolar disorder and has been diagnosed with both at various times, as well as generalized depression.  In addition to that there is something just “wrong” with her that is hard to describe. 

She’s intelligent and managed to go back and get a nursing degree despite having dropped out of high school but there is something wrong, something lacking in her basic social interactions with people.  I’m not really sure what it is but one might suspect some sort of autism or mental disorder that prevents her from relating normally or bonding to her kids the way most people do.

I wonder sometimes if she just damaged her brain due to all the drugs but she is kind of an embarrassment to be around in public.  People notice there is something “off” and I pray to God it’s nothing genetic.  When I was a kid people used to call the house and be like “what is wrong with your mom??” and laugh at the way she sounded when she answered the phone.

 I always thought it was just due to her working late and so many hours and often being asleep but probably she was doing more drugs than I realized.  She’s admitted in recent years that my stepfather smoked crack and I know she’s done it before, though maybe or maybe not back then.  She once even slept with a neighbor to obtain crack. I was in college then but yeah, talk about embarrassing.

My mother has a habit of saying things that are very blunt and very uncouth.  You just want to cover your ears, like, I can’t believe she just said that out loud, and it’s a wonder I managed to grow up with any degree of social skills.  Now that she’s getting older she seems to really be going off the deep end.  She will corner you and start talking about off the wall things like how she believes aliens are going to take over the planet.  You want to laugh but sometimes it also makes me want to cry.

As awful as she sounds, well, she’s still my mother and it still hurts to hear OTHERS insult or talk bad about her.  I still call her every Mother’s Day, even though she acts somewhat annoyed and like she wants to get off the phone quickly.  I don’t talk to her much though the rest of the year and she never calls unless she wants something.  Did I mention there are years she’s even forgotten my birthday?  Or she will call and mostly complain about how old I am making her feel, not really caring about ME.

My kids barely know who she is.  They will ask me questions like “who is YOUR mom?”, forgetting they have met before.  For the most part that’s probably a good thing.  Every so often she will try and play grandmother, showing up with piles of stolen toys and books.  It’s pretty bad when I’m even worried my own mother might steal things from ME. 

Anyway, I guess I’m lucky I had a grandmother who at least stepped in and tried to do some of the things my mom never did. Even when she was living a few hours away she came to some of my plays and choir concerts, the games I cheered at, the things my mother never bothered to show up for.  She sometimes paid for me to take classes or for other enriching activities and at various times even lived with us, eventually taking me in high school after I had run away and been sent to my dad’s for a year.  Even now she has much more of a role in mine and my children’s lives than my mother ever did and it’s HER daughter.  So she always gets Mother’s Day wishes too.

In any case, I am once again dreading The Call, the one I know I will go ahead and make.  I’ll call her and she’ll be kind of fake and talk about herself for a bit without letting me get a word in edgewise, then be like “okay thanks for calling” and hang up.  Well, maybe she will throw in a comment or two that will make me feel like she’s making judgments on things she knows nothing about. 

So  why do I do it?  Even despite the seeming underlying hatred my mother has for me I somehow feel obligated.  It’s like I just don’t think it’s worth rocking the boat.  One of my brothers hasn’t talked to her for years and openly rejects her which is really hard to see.  Another of my sisters spent years angry with her as well and she will say she “misses” them but never seems to give a fuck about the daughter that’s always been there doing everything to try and help.  Go figure. 

Some of my siblings call her by her first name yet I still call her “Mom”, a title she really doesn’t deserve. At times we’ve joked about how we are lucky she never took us all and drowned us in a pond somewhere, but behind the laughter is the very possibility that if a man had asked her to, well, who knows? She didn’t have much of a mind of her own.

Freud would have a heyday with me huh?  He’d probably say I hate my mother, lol, and I don’t know that I really do but I have a lot of resentment.  At the same time I feel sorry for her.  I pity her and her life and the fact that she just can’t seem to get it together.  I cringe each time she gets involved with a new man because it’s always the same old story.  He always ends up being abusive in some way or another and part of me feels awful for her while the other just wants to scream, quit doing this to yourself!  It’s your own damn fault!!

I guess the big thing is that I have to be ever vigilant not to follow in her footsteps.  That’s one of my biggest goals in life.  Fortunately I seem to be blessed with a mothering instinct that my own “mom” was severely lacking.  Still I am missing that role model and it’s forever a challenge to figure things out on my own.  Again, I am thankful for my grandmother in that regard and books and the internet and the ability to watch other people and learn.

I have a terrible example before me as far as men though and sometimes I wonder if I’m ever going to figure it out.  I feel like I really am starting to care about someone, like the Professor, and then lack the ability to know how to make it work, despite my efforts.

 My marriage, that I thought was going to be SO DIFFERENT from my own childhood, turned up a man who eventually showed true colors of being a lot like my mom.  He’s distant from the kids and unloving.  It kills me to watch.  Somehow I’ve got to figure out how to end the vicious cycle, so that my own children have better luck with relationships but I don’t even really know where to start when it comes to that.  The difference, at least, is that my kids know I love them.  Even my oldest, who has had some behavioral issues since the divorce, has admitted time and time again to various counselors, teachers, the police, etc. that he knows I care and believes I am a “good mom”. 

Still Mother’s Day comes around and I question every decision, everything I’ve said and done and wonder if I am “good enough” to deserve the accolades.  I’m nowhere near as awful as my own mother was but I’m definitely not perfect either.  All my years of being “Suzy Homemaker” seem like a failure because of the divorce and realizations about my ex.  I guess all I can do from here is my best and keep on keeping on. 

In the end none of us are perfect, though many appear from the outside to be so and we can only work with what we’ve been given to the best of our ability. Living up to what is expected of the “ideal mother” image isn’t easy and I sure as hell ain’t the Virgin Mary, lol.

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