Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

For the past few days, I have been trying to write a Mother's Day blog. But, I find that I am still, at my advanced age, ambivalent about my mother. The problem is, I didn't like her very much. I have spent a lifetime determined not to be like her.

It's not that she was a horrible person. She didn't drink or have a drug problem. After over-analyzing the situation for so many years, I have decided that she just wasn't cut out to be a mother. She did everything that she was supposed to do for me, except love me. She was cold, but not neglectful, and she "did her duty". There were never any hugs or spontaneous days out together.

After my Dad died, she distanced herself and consequently, me, from Daddy's family, and all of her friends. She wasn't close to her sister, and her parents had retired to Florida by this time, so we were pretty isolated. If it hadn't been for school, I'd have probably gone crazy. Luckily, after a year, I went off to college. When she left, after helping me move into the dorm, she said, 'Don't come home for a while."

She had to go back to work, after being a stay-at-home mom for all of my seventeen years, and after she got used to working again, she seemed happier. She was a registered nurse, and worked in Obstetrics at a local hospital. She put all her time and energy into the job, even going so far as to volunteer to work every holiday so "the nurses with small children could have the day off". At home, every day, she retired to her bedroom to read and watch tv. She would come out to cook dinner and then go back again for the rest of the evening.

When I think back on that time, I think she must have been depressed, and could have benefited from Prozac or Paxil or some mood altering drug, but those drugs didn't exist. Also, back then, you didn't just go to a psychologist or psychiatrist and talk out your problems. There was a stigma attached to it. I know she must have been terrified to have to go back into the workforce, after all those years. Her answer seemed to be to draw into herself even more than usual, which pretty much left me to fend for myself.

After DJ and I were married, she didn't even warm up when we had children. I think she actually loved them, and derived a lot of pleasure from them, and she told us that when they were older, she would have them come and visit for a week every now and then. But, it never happened, because she died before that could happen, so we'll never know if that would have occurred.

Over the years, I have softened a lot in my feelings for her. I think she was her own worst enemy, not being able to reach out for the acceptance she needed. One of her neighbors described her as "poignant", and I guess that is a pretty good description.

I spent my life trying to please her, until it became obvious that it wasn't going to happen, so I finally let it go. I don't dislike her any more, but I do often wonder how our relationship might have been if she had been able to get the help she needed, and by extension, the help I must have needed, too.

It makes me feel sad.


Peggy said...

Aw Betty, she must have had some other stuff going on. I can't imagine having a lovely person like you as a daughter and not being loving. You deserved better. It is obvious that you let that stuff go and are an attentive and loving mum to Jay and Kelly.

Jodi said...

Happy Mother's Day!
Hope your son took you out to eat!

patsy said...

to bad about your mother but it was her loss.

Cazzie!!! said...

For you Betty, I hope Mother's Day was great.
I can feel your emotional struggle with your mum, indeed, our stories are so uncannily similar.
I did struggle for a long time over my mother's lack of love, and her subsequent not wanting to be part of my life with my kids..her grandkids.
I had spoken to her about the need to seek professional help...I think, as a nurse, that she would benefit so from this. But, you can lead the horse to water, but not to make it drink.
I had to make a decision, that was to go on, an forward, with my own family.
As your friendd aptly put it..their loss.

katy said...

hope jay an kell gave you a good mothers day, well jay as kell is away! i was one of the lucky ones i had a mother you was very loving, i thought all mums were the same until i met my husband and heard of his mum.
sorry you lost out on a mothers love, enjoy the love of your children x

Joy Des Jardins said...

Someone said that just because you're related by blood, it doesn't mean you have an automatic bond that is deep, nurturing, and strong. Sometimes those blood relationships are the most difficult ones in our lives. Many people won't acknowledge or admit that they have anything other than great relationships with their family members; certainly not back when we were growing up. You are honest and brave to say so Betty. Today people are much more open to admitting their problems within their families.

I will say that something/someone contributed to the person you are today. Maybe you, and how you adjusted to your situation, are the biggest factor in who you came to be...a person who has a great sense of humor, who is honest and open, who obviously loves her kids....and who obviously love her back. You made something work Betty. I hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day.

Annie said...

Your situation seems to me to be one of the greatest sadnesses possible. It's so counter to all our cultural expectations of mothering. I can't help but feel sorry for that little girl you were (and probably still are in many ways) who needed her mother's love and nurture.

CarmenSinCity said...

You got tagged!

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Anonymous said...

Hello Betty,
Your story was touching.I am sorry that your relationship with your Mom was not loving and suppportive. My Mother was also problematic. Looking back on those times I realize that my Mother needed therapy. She was very paranoid. If a neighbor did not include her in a bridge game or other activity our whole family paid the price. Everybody was against her, including my Dad and siblings.This was a way of life for us for years.We learned to tip toe around her delusions and try not to upset her.We walked on eggs and weighed every word we said to her for fear of offending.
Now a funny thing happened on the way to MY motherhood. I had 4 children and my Mother adored them. She changed completely when they came into her life and she spent the next 30 years loving my children and those of my brothers.She was the most loving, generous and unselfish Mom Mom there ever was.So, as it turned out, the grandchildren were her therapy and she lived out her life until age 84 as the most cherished
and beloved Mother and Grandmother . My children still tell Mom Mom stories with great love and affection.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm glad you turned out pretty good depite your says a lot for you.

I don't think everyone is cut out to be a least nowadays the stigma of chosing not to have a child isn't nearly as strong as it was in the past...

Going Like Sixty said...

Thanks for sharing this. My wife has the same experience, except her Mother is an alcoholic.
She read it and said "I can relate."
You don't know how important that is for her to admit.

unknown said...

Although there is nothing you can do now, or could have done then, having the kind of mother that is emotionally empty had to have wounded you in many ways. Your ability to finally let it go shows that you are far from being like her. I think you are right, it had to be depression and/or feelings of worthlessness that she was feeling that caused her to be this way. I know your children do not have those feelings for you...........and that is the best healing you did for yourself. :-) hugssssssssssssss

Betty said...

Thank you for your comments.

Carmensincity: Arrrrrgh! OK, I'll work on this and post in a couple of days.

Hi, Nancy: Thanks for your comments, and I'm glad your mother had a change of heart.

goinglikesixty: Welcome. It is surprising to me how many people (mostly women, it seems) have had similar experiences.

To all: I think I was very lucky, because I had a very loving father for the first 17 years of my life, and our next door neighbor was a very nurturing woman, who treated me like the daughter she claimed she had always wanted. She had a son my age, and still had time for me. It certainly helped.

Anonymous said...

Parents hold so much in the palm of their hand, don't they? I'm glad you made it through.

Tink said...

I think she gave away her best when she had you...

steph said...

I'm sorry that your mom wasn't there for you in the way that you wished she could have been. Sounds like she missed out on a lot.

Newt said...

Tink pretty much nailed it.

Sister--Three said...

Aren't you glad that you did not raise your two 'her way'. She taught you well!

dc said...

I am a little late to leave a comment but just got around to catching up on my reads. I understand how you feel. My sisters and I have agreed that our mother suffered from depression also but like your Mom it was not identified or treated. I think we are about the same age so that puts our Moms around the same years. We all grew up feeling rather neglected. My mom was a stay at home, read alot, headaches, didn't clean much, and was abusive to the older kids. So we don't all have happy mothers day memories. But I feel she probably did the best that she could with what she had. And as adults we can forgive them for that.