Getting to Know My Mother

I’m becoming concerned that I very well may have a bad mother. As I mentioned in a previous post, my mother hung up on me for trying to set boundaries. It seems we’re going on a couple of weeks that I’ve not heard from her. My mother is 76. I’ll be 50 in May. She hung up on me and hasn’t called me since. Do grownups behave this way? Do parents hang up on their adult children when they hear something they don’t like?

Of course I feel guilty. She’s been peddling the guilt my whole life. Spankings were nothing. The guilt I would feel for having disappointed her was crushing. Here I am today, still feeling it. So last week I sent her an email. I asked if she’d given Al-Anon a try. I told her I bet it would help her feel supported in the midst of all she’s dealing with, and it would help her to better relate to my brother, now that he is sober. I told her she will have to treat him differently now that he is sober.

She hit him one day when he came to the office intoxicated. She hit him. A grown man. I explained to her countless times, he wasn’t drinking during the day to piss her off. He was doing it because he couldn’t not do it.

It’s like when my father’s Alzheimer’s got bad and she ridiculed him and got impatient when he couldn’t do things. She acted as if he’d simply chosen not to do them any more. Phone calls were disturbing. He couldn’t quite get the hang of the phone any more. Which button to push for “talk.” She’d insist on yelling at him across the room to push the button that said “talk.” He couldn’t read any more. He didn’t know which button said talk. She’d tell me that he’d wet himself again, with him sitting right there. I’d keep telling her to stop picking on him and talking to him that way, and she just kept at him. She never bothered to educate herself about the disease.

I’m getting side-tracked. So I sent her an email about Al-Anon, very calm, non-confrontational, and I told her she should give it a try. What has she got to lose? It’s free!

She ignored my note. This was Tuesday of last week. I was beginning to wonder how long she was planning to keep me in the deep freeze. She didn’t speak to my sister for three years after she took a new job and left my father’sΒ business. Perhaps it was my turn.

Today I learn from my brother (his first day back at work) that my nephew wrecked my mother’s car over the weekend. He’d driven it to Galveston to take care of some things for her at the beach house, and apparently he’d gotten in a wreck. I was upset to hear this news. So I called her. She didn’t answer her mobile. I left a nice message and told her I was sorry to hear about the car. I know she’d been angry when last we spoke, but I hoped she’d recovered from that and would call me back. She has not.

I haven’t spent a lot of time with my mother since I moved over 150 miles away 13 years ago. Her focus was on my brothers, trying to save them from themselves, and later on my father. In truth, I’ve never spent much time thinking about the kind of woman she is. Her character. But as I begin to collect memories, rake through the coals, it’s occurring to me, she’s a shitty mother. And quite possibly a shitty person.



  • Sometimes our parents don’t end up being our BFFs. YOU are doing a good job being a caring and good daughter. The rest is up to HER. So hang in there, no matter what she does, because you know you are doing ok.

    Lecture over. Sorry.


  • I agree with Katie’s comment.. All you can really do is continue to love & support and if she chooses to shut down , then perhaps she has always really done that and now you see it with clarity.. head up sister, you are on the forward path πŸ˜‰


    • I was hoping for something nice after my father died. A new relationship. Two grownups enjoying spending time together and being mutually supportive. I worry about my brother being back at work with her and his fledgling sobriety. I think I need to pull out my meditation cushion and star sitting again. Something. Anything. Anything but this hollow feeling in my chest.


  • ain’t that a b? πŸ™‚ the mother-daughter relationship is so complex that it’s hard to get perspective. but i know from experience that it’s quite possible that mothers can be shitty people. and still be your mom. and you still love them and can see their good qualities. i know it can’t be easy, but stand you’re ground, you’re doing great!


  • I’ve been pondering…yes when a ‘mask’ is removed it can be unnerving. It is not your mask! As difficult as it may be, let her have her mask/ways; you don’t have to react or be concerned. You said it yourself…’I think I need to pull out my meditation cushion and start sitting again.’

    Just for today, you are peaceful, calm, kind, devoted and grateful for all the abundance in your life.


  • I’m sorry to read this. But yes, it does sound like your mother is the one with a problem–an anger problem, if nothing else. I’ve been there, and while it can be shocking to realize that our own mothers just aren’t very nice people, it is also freeing. It means we can stop trying to please them, and begin to live on our own terms.


    • Oh, Karen, you’re right! I hadn’t realized it, but it is freeing. Thank you! I think deep down I’ve always thought she was manipulative and an emotional bully. But I never wanted to look closely at that. But now that I’ve seen it, I can’t unsee it. It keeps getting clearer, in fact. Okay, time to soak in how it feels to be free.


  • That’s such a great picture. I can relate. I should say that every time I have a self depreciating thought!

    Sorry you have heard from your mom. Don’t let the guilt trip get to you. You did the right things.


    • That picture helps, doesn’t it? I’m doing pretty well today not falling into the venus flytrap of guilt. And as I type this, I’m thinking about the carnivorous plant, which is really odd. A plant that eats bugs? And what if it doesn’t catch any bugs, but you water it? Does it starve? Or can it stay alive just with hydration? It’s rabbit trails like this that keep me on my iPad way past my bedtime. Maybe I need to write a Venus flytrap post.


      • How about all those animals that eat or kill their young? What’s up with that? (That’s bad mothering!)

        If you don’t know what I’m talking about I’ve had fish, gerbils and anoles that ate their babies. Now that’s a mean mommy (except I think with the gerbil it was the male). πŸ™‚


        • I had mice. The male was white. I named him jinx It was horrifying when they ate their young. I was so upset my mom got rid of them. I thought maybe it was my fault–ill-fated because of the name.


          • πŸ™‚ I had mice and once a big fat one died and my girlfriend and I dissected it and in it’s belly was a row of connecting baby mice. I recall it was about 12 of them. How sad. I was so distraught but I couldn’t tell anyone because who would think it was okay for an 11 year old girl to be dissecting mice? I blame my girlfriends who’s dad had a dissection kit (sort of like a manicure kit).


            • Oh that must have been terrible! I remember the dissection kits in science class. I got my one and only D in biology in college because I wouldn’t do it. But I did when I was in grade school. I also used to put worms on a hook. Not any more!


            • Funny! My only D was in HS biology. I just did not understand the subject at all. But, I’m an animal lover and will hold just about anything.


  • Great post – I can totally relate. Growing up, I always thought, I want to be just like Mom when I’m older…until I got older and am now realizing all the ways she’s mentally and emotionally manipulated me over the years (but that’s what moms do, right?!). Now I have the guilt because she’s no longer the same person who did those things, yet I hold onto the anger and pain. Being able to realize this is the first step towards healing, so good for you!!


    • It’s hard to see these things in my mother. I guess it was easier to ignore when my dad and brothers were absorbing the brunt of it. You’re right–I can begin to heal now. I know what you mean about your mom not being the same person. Alzheimer’s mellowed my dad. I liked to think he let down his guard and showed who he was underneath. Maybe I’m just romanticizing it. But who really knows?


  • I’ve reached the point of realizing my mother doesn’t know how to be anything but what she is. That doesn’t mean I excuse her behavior or allow her to manipulate me anymore, but it does allow me to let go of anger. I haven’t seen or talked to my mother in nearly three years. The last time I heard from her, she told me she wouldn’t be at any family function if I were there. I decided to treat her like an adult and respect her wishes so I’ve stayed away. It’s been liberating. My siblings keep trying to make me feel guilty about it, hinting that I should make up with Mom. I keep telling them this was her choice. She’s the one who needs to change her mind. I can’t fix my mother. Ella, I think it’s good you’re looking at the truth of who your mother is. Only the Truth can set you free. (((Hugs))) Thanks for liking one of my posts, by the way.


    • Being set free by our mothers is a gift. But they think it’s punishment. πŸ˜‰ it’s funny how siblings tell us to make up with our mothers when it’s what our mothers chose. So it was a bluff? As my mother would say, too bad!


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