Blog #16: Why I Had To Cut My Mother Out Of My Life
I have been going back and forth about whether or not to post this blog for a while now, mostly out of fear of upsetting loved ones or relatives by putting family business out there for all to see. I ultimately decided to post it because when I started this blog, I wanted to be 100% open and honest with my readers about my life, and this has been a major part of my life these past couple months. I also feel this is a great platform to share my side of the story, and a healthy outlet for me to just vent and express my emotions on the subject. So if anyone is upset by reading this, I'm sorry you feel that way, but I hope you can gain some insight into my perspective on what is a tough situation all around.
I had to completely cut my mother out of my life a little over two months ago. I cut all lines of communication and severed all ties to her. There are a lot of reasons why I did this, and to fully understand you have to know about my relationship with her and the relationship between her and my husband. So I'll start with her and I...
Growing up, I always felt my mother was very cold towards me. She was strict and tough with her discipline, but that wasn't the part that bothered me as a kid; It was the lack of emotional connection I felt from her that hurt. She didn't show affection often, and seemed upset or angry more than she seemed happy. Now this perception may be wrong, she may have been more loving than I remember, but that is how I genuinely felt growing up. I'm not saying she was a bad mom at all! She did a lot for my sister and I and raised us well, all I'm saying was I didn't receive a lot of warmth or tenderness from her, especially in comparison to what I received from my dad.
With my dad, there was no doubt that he cared. He showed his love with millions of hugs and kisses and constant "I love you's", and that comfort was given with ease. With my mom, any emotional display felt forced or stiff. Saying goodnight with a hug was not commonplace, and when it did happen, it just felt unnatural. If you've been following my blog, you know my parents divorced when I was 5 years old (see Product Of Divorce), so I would only see my dad every other weekend, and I cherished those weekends. I looked forward to any time with my dad because it was just easy with him. There was no tension or fear, just fun, laughter and love. I know it broke his heart every time he dropped my sister and I back off at our mom's house, because I dreaded it and would often cry or try to push our time as late as possible.
I'm tearing up thinking about it now, because it was hard. But I've always said, that as hard or as painful as that time was, I was always okay because of the balance I felt. My dad's overwhelming love and care for me balanced out any negativity, bitterness or anger I felt from my mom. Now, it may very well be that in comparison to his affection, she seemed much harsher of a parent. When I would cry to my Abuela (my mother's mom) about it, she would explain to me that my mom was not good at showing emotions, but that she loved me very much.
The lack of emotional connection with my mom wasn't the only problem I had with her growing up. Her discipline was physical at times and verbal A LOT of times. I was scared of her. She seemed to fly off the handle for any little thing, and her reactions to things I did wrong, I felt, were often far too harsh. I understand, especially as a mother now, that kids can be frustrating, and that frustration can lead to outbursts, but the frequency and severity of the displays of anger from my mom were just too much at times.
If I didn't wash a dish when I was supposed to, for example, it would lead to yelling and screaming to a frightening level. I remember every day after school being so afraid when I heard the garage door opening at 5 pm, knowing my mom was home. In a panic, I would run around and rush to make sure everything was clean and in perfect order, all to avoid another blow up. As early as I can remember, I would see the loving way my friends moms treated them, and wonder why my mom wasn't that way with me.
I want to make it clear that I am not trying to bash my mother, that is not what this post is about. I know there are moms out there who treat their kids way worse than she treated me; I'm just trying to paint a clear picture of the relationship I had with her my whole life and why she no longer a part of my life today.
Sometimes the verbal anger would turn physical. When she got really upset I would get hit, with her hand, a shoe, whatever. Now I know this is a sensitive subject, and that there is a fine line between discipline and abuse, but I often felt the punishment received didn't match the crime. That's not to say I never deserved it or that I was the perfect kid, but I do know there were instances where she got physical when she shouldn't have. And again, parents aren't perfect, we often make mistakes we regret, but that doesn't excuse or negate the pain I felt at the time. One instance in particular led to actual charges brought against my mom from the Department of Children and Families.
I will tell you exactly what happened. I was maybe 14 years old, and I wanted to go on a school field trip, so I asked my mom. She said that she wouldn't pay for it and that my dad would have to pay if I wanted to go. At the time my father did not have a lot of money. He was a travel agent and was laid off after 9/11, and just found himself in debt (partly from spoiling my sister and I with whatever we wanted and more). Despite this, he never missed a child support payment or let us go without, ever. So knowing he didn't have extra money to spend, I didn't want to ask him. I decided I would raise the money myself by selling cookies in school.
I bought the cookie dough, baked them, and sold them for $1 each. And it worked! I was selling out every day and on my way to paying for the trip. When my mom found out she got upset. She told me I was not allowed to sell cookies anymore, even though I had already made a batch for the next day. I responded by saying "whatever", kind of under my breath, and she heard me. She then began hitting me. She started slapping me in my face, head and back, then took her shoe off and hit me repeatedly with that.
After this occurred, I did what I often did after an altercation with my mom, I called my dad. I cried to him and told him what happened and I guess that was the last straw. I found out later that he reported the incident, which led to a difficult chain of events. Police officers came to my house one day after school before my mom was home, to question me about the incident. I remember being so fearful as I explained what happened. They didn't believe that all I said was "whatever" and asked "what else did you do?" in an accusatory manner. They also said "if you have any marks or bruises, your mom is going to jail... is that what you want?". I don't think I did, and I don't think I would have shown them even if I had; Despite our troubles, I loved my mom and didn't want to cause her any harm.
So after that scary interaction with the police, a social worker came to my mom's house and questioned her and I separately. I eavesdropped from upstairs while my mom spoke with the woman downstairs first. I heard my mom paint me out to be such a difficult child who she had so much trouble with, gaining sympathy from the woman. Now, I will say that this was not true at all! Like I said earlier, I wasn't perfect, but I honestly was not a bad kid. My mother has said this herself to me when I was older. She told me how good I was and how easy I was to raise. I got straight A's, was social, active in extracurricular's, I was well behaved, and very respectful. If I ever got in trouble at school, it was for talking too much. So it broke my heart to hear my mom talk about me so negatively.
Then it was my turn. I was genuine and honest with the social worker. She even remarked that I didn't act or seem how my mother described me. Then she left, and we were left to deal with all the pain and emotions from the whole ordeal. My mother was furious with my father and I'm sure a bit with me too, and I was hurt, and just drained overall. I regretted ever saying anything. I have mixed feelings about the allegations. On one hand, I think that it was all a bit much for just one incident, and I did technically disrespect my mom. On the other hand, I can see where my dad was coming from and why he reported it.
It wasn't all for just one incident, it came after years of holding his tongue after having to hear countless calls from his daughter in tears for things my mom has said or done. I still don't fully know if I was "abused" or not. Therapists have told me I was, particularly verbally, but I have trouble accepting that as truth. I don't know if it is because in comparison to the horror stories of other abuse victims, my situation didn't seem as bad, or because I am minimizing my pain and what I went through, as I so often did and still do. Either way, I know my childhood (the good and the bad) continues to have an effect on me today, as is the case with most people. All I want to do is heal from any lingering pain and become the best version of myself (as cliche as that sounds!).
My mom's style of discipline was tough, yes, but it was normal for her culture and common in her household growing up. I can understand the reasoning behind spanking your kids, and back in the day you could hit your kids and no one would blink an eye! I know things are very different now, but part of me feels that this generation could benefit from a spanking here or there. I know that is politically incorrect to say, but that's how I was raised- if you do something wrong, there are consequences. The fear alone kept me from a lot of trouble! And I want to point out that my dad did give us spankings too, but I can count on one hand the number of times it happened, and he cried more than us afterwards!
So this whole topic is so complex with so many layers and point of views. As a mom now, I don't hit my daughter. Partly because of my history, and partly because I'm pretty sure it's not legally allowed (lol)! Even if it were allowed, I just can't physically bring myself to do it! I don't ever want my daughter to feel an ounce of what I felt. I'm actually working with my husband on not being such a pushover with her. My daughter definitely knows who the softy is, and tries to use it to her advantage! Plus I don't want to make her dad the "bad guy" all the time. Parents, please let me know your opinions on this very touchy subject in the comments below!
So that pretty much sums up the relationship I had with my mother growing up. It was definitely rocky and filled with moments of drama and pain. There are so many more instances that stand out, but I see how long this post is already, and I know your time is precious. It wasn't all bad though! There were plenty of good memories too. Financially, my mother and her new husband were pretty well off, so they were able to take us on vacations and provide memorable experiences that way.
I personally think my mother is Bipolar, like myself. She refuses to even talk about it, let alone seek help with therapy or psychiatry. I think it explains a lot of the behavior and mood swings that I've seen from her my whole life, but I know she will never accept that she has any sort of mental illness. I am no doctor and in no position to diagnose her, but if it is true then I feel very bad for her. I can only imagine how I would act or feel without the proper medication and treatment, it must be difficult to deal with all alone.
Another major note is that after my father passed away when I was 17 years old, my mother completely changed the way she showed emotion- for the better. She was caring and loving and showed great compassion for me; It actually took some getting used to. I remember she went in to hug me in the days following his death, and as she reached her arms towards me, I instinctively raised my hands to protect my face. Unfortunately, when she came around, I had already started running- from the pain, from her, and from life in general. Our relationship did get a lot better, she was there for me through some very tough times and helped me out of numerous bad situations I put myself in.
That doesn't mean things were perfect, she still hurt me in a lot of ways- primarily with my mental illness and using it against me (see my post, The M Word- Manic), but also physically. She hit me at least two or three times, even after I was technically an adult. One time led to a full on fight between her and I, which was the first and only time I ever fought back. Cops were often called, every time by her, and she would try to tell them I was a danger to myself or others, whether it was true or not, leading to numerous baker-acts (a 72 hour mandatory stay in a psych ward). She just wanted complete control over me and got that control however she could. I can admit my part in some of our disagreements. I was not always in the best state of mind, or sober for that matter, but she did have fault as well.
So when Nick (my husband) came into my life, she lost a lot of that control over me. I met him at a very low point in my life- after years of addiction, institutions, and my 2 arrests. He saw me at my lowest and still loved me unconditionally. When we first started dating, my mom was hesitant and cautious, with good reason... I didn't have the best track record for bringing quality men around those days, and he had his own history of addiction. Over time, she saw his character and our love and she actually really seemed to like him. He was invited on road trips, dinners, family outings, everything! He fit in well with the family and was genuinely accepted.
My husband actually didn't believe me when I warned him about her behavior. This is because she is very good at putting on the front that she is perfect and everything around her is perfect. It took about a year for him to see her true colors, when she tried, once again, to have me baker-acted. This time he was there to witness it all, and for the first time, saw my mother unravel. I thank God for Nick, because he became my ally, a sane and reasonable voice on my behalf. Up until then, it was her word over mine, and she always painted me to be crazy, so my word didn't hold much value.
I actually believed I was crazy for a long time, which is another one of the many things my loving husband has helped me overcome. I've had to learn that just because I've had moments of mental instability, and a diagnosis, that does not make me "crazy".
Despite all the good that has come from my relationship with Nick, I have to be honest about our setbacks. A major factor in cutting my mom out of my life is because of her treatment of him, and I want to be 100% honest about how this treatment began. We relapsed together. We made a lot of mistakes and we hurt a lot of people, including my mom. We had a lot of growing up to do, both individually and as a couple, and we lost the trust of loved ones around us. We gave them plenty of reason to doubt us. The thing is, if we both did something to hurt my mom, she would forgive me and blame him. No matter how much I tried to take responsibility, it didn't matter. He became the enemy.
I don't know exactly when the switch occurred, where my mom went from liking him to doing everything in her power to get him out of my life. I do know that she seized on any opportunity to convince me to leave him. A couple times I did; We would take a break, but it never lasted very long. During those breaks she would feel comfortable openly bashing him, then would get very upset when we got back together.
Nick is a strong Italian man, and he is not afraid to speak his mind and defend himself or I, but he also knows respect. I don't know if she felt threatened by him or that he was taking me from her, whatever the reason there was a shift, and it never really shifted back. No matter how much good he did for me, or how happy I was with him, she hated him and she made it known. It didn't matter that we were clean and on the right path. It didn't matter how much he did for me, the bitterness and resentment towards him did not subside.
It wasn't until I became pregnant with our daughter that she saw he wasn't going anywhere. She also knew that if she wanted a relationship with her granddaughter, she would have to come around with Nick. That was motivation enough for her to try, and things seemed better at first, at least on the surface. She loves my daughter so much and wanted to spend as much time with her as possible, so we all began all spending time together. She played nice with him whenever they were in the same room, but it all seemed very fake.
I knew however, those angry feelings didn't go very far, as she made negative comments regarding him whenever she could. She knew she could no longer directly insult him because he was now my husband and the father of my child, and I wouldn't allow it, so she did it in subtle, indirect ways.
And the tension went both ways. My husband knew she disliked him, and he wasn't the biggest fan of hers, but I just wanted peace, so he tried to give me that. For a while I tried to be Switzerland and remain neutral, walking on eggshells trying not to upset him or her. Unfortunately, peace did not last. A couple months ago I made the mistake of venting to my mother about a simple argument Nick and I were having about a dentist appointment. She saw this as an opportunity, and the whole situation quickly escalated.
She tried to tell me that I needed to get out and take my daughter with me. She literally told me to call a women in distress hotline or go to a battered women's shelter! She told me to lie to trick Nick into thinking I would be right back with Grace, while she drove 3 hours to get us. (I am so grateful we moved 3 hours away from her this year by the way!) It was crazy! Yeah, we had a fight, but it was no where near the level she was trying to take it to. And Nick has never been a danger to me in any way! He actually overheard her telling me all this, and can now never trust her again, especially with our daughter, which I don't blame him.
Surprisingly that wasn't the last straw for me. It was an eye-opener for sure, but I still had her in my life. (Don't worry we're getting to the end of the story... I know this is a long read!) I continued to talk with her despite all the drama. I looked the other way when she gave me backhanded compliments and criticized my blog. I looked the other way with a lot of things, frankly. It wasn't until I told her that I got approved for WIC (benefits for woman, infants and children) that she made the comment via text "I'm happy and I'm sad... I'm happy you got it, but I'm sad that you are in the position that you need it", basically saying my husband wasn't a good provider.
I had enough. I wrote a long text telling her I was done and needed space from her and why. She said she wasn't going to apologize for caring for me, which is a common theme for her- she never takes ownership or accountability for ANYTHING, and has never admitted to doing anything wrong in the 26 years I've been alive. So that's it. I cut her out completely. And for two months I didn't speak to her at all or have any form of communication. I had to see her this past Thanksgiving weekend at a family gathering that we had already committed to, and it was not good.
Basically, she tried to be overly friendly and hug my husband and I when we walked in. When we didn't reciprocate the love, she was not pleased. Immediately the elephant in the room was brought up when my aunt asked if my mom could hold my daughter. I said we weren't comfortable with it and my mom stormed off and cried for about 30 minutes. In that time we had an amazing visit with the rest of her side of the family, then my husband and I agreed to sit down and talk with her. The conversation didn't even last one minute before she was screaming and cursing in my husbands face!
She started by asking why I was so upset and said she didn't do anything wrong. When I brought up the incident with her trying to convince me to take my daughter from my husband she said, "Yeah, I was trying to keep my daughter from harm". I responded by saying that he has never and would never hurt me. Then my husband commented that she was the only one that's hurt me my whole life". That's when she got up and screamed, "get the f*** out of here!" in his face, so we started to walk out to leave. I went back in the room to grab a gift for my daughter given by my aunt, when apparently she grabbed it and aggressively came towards me. (I didn't see it, my husband did). That's when my husband went off. Up to that point we didn't get loud in the slightest, but when he saw that he exploded.
He began yelling back at her "don't you dare lunge at my pregnant wife!" and I had to get in between them and try to push my husband toward the exit. It was terrible. Everyone ran down to see what the commotion was, family members were in tears. Thankfully, one of my aunts took my daughter outside as soon as things got heated. So we quickly explained what happened to the rest of the family and left.
It's really sad that this is the situation. This is not what I want, nor what my husband wants. I think my mom is under the impression that he is the reason I cut her off, or that he convinced me to do so, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Yes, he has his issues with her, but he is so against breaking up families and even asked me if I was sure this was what I wanted to do when I made this decision. I honestly feel this is the best thing for me at this point in my life. It's sad to say that I felt so much better after first cutting her off, and still feel like a weight has been lifted by not having to talk to her, but it's true. I wish things were different, but I am at the healthiest point of my life and am finally putting myself first. At times I feel like an orphan, with no parents in my life, but I have my own family to worry about now and that is my biggest priority.
So that's the story! Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. It's hard sharing such personal details with the world, but I also find it cathartic. What are your thoughts? Am I being too harsh, or do you feel I'm setting healthy boundaries? Please feel free to be 100% honest! Have you ever had to deal with a similar situation? What boundaries have you set with loved ones? Let me know in the comments below! And also please share this post with your friends and subscribe if you want to keep up with all things 'Don't Judge Me'! Also let me know what other types of posts you'd like to see from me!