Thursday, January 24, 2013

Mother issues continued

Since getting pregnant I feel like my issues with my mother have gotten worse. Not in terms of our actual relationship with each other, but in terms of how much I think about my mom on a daily basis and feel hurt by it.

Since I told my parents I was pregnant about a month and a half ago, I have heard from my father several times. He's sent me many emails and has even called a couple of times since then (which is more frequent than he usually calls).  I sent him and my mother emails with pictures of the two ultrasounds I've gotten and he wrote back right away saying things like "Wow that is so amazing, you can see the face, it looks like you and B!!"  And wonderfully, he hasn't brought up religion in any of those communications.

I haven't heard a word from my mother, not even a response to the two emails I sent her with pictures of the ultrasounds, even after she said she would write back to my email (when I talked to her to tell her I was pregnant). And while I shouldn't have been surprised by this, since even though we have supposedly "reconciled" my mother still never initiates any contact with me and hasn't...well basically ever, I am still hurt by this.

Recently, elsewhere, someone posted a link about narcissistic mothers.  It has a list of 33 questions about your mother and "yes" answers indicate narcissistic traits. I answered yes to 25 of the questions.  And since then I've been reading a lot about narcissistic mothers, and so many things perfectly describe my mom. The way she was so focused on outward appearances constantly, the way she seemed to have one personality when she was home and an entirely different personality when in public, even the concept of the "golden child" vs. the "Scapegoat" perfectly describes me and my brother (I have an OTD brother who lived at home openly OTD, driving to work on shabbas, etc, until age 28. I was told to find another place to live after college because I was OTD even though I would never break shabbas or any rules in front of my parents.  He got a car from my parents and monetary help from my parents to this day, didn't work until he was done with college, I was told when I 16 that if I want to have any new clothes or do anything fun I should go get a job and have worked since then, and I've never owned a car except the one that came with my husband. As a child I had a very heavy chore load while he did basically nothing because "I'm older so I have more responsibilities" even though he's less than a year and a half younger than me).

According to what I've been reading there are two types of narcisstic mothers- the engulfing type (who doesn't let you have your own life) and the ignoring type (who only pays attention to you insofar as how you reflect on them in public).  I think my mom is the latter. 

Here's a description: Ignoring Parents: are Narcissistic Parents who don't actually care much about their children. Unlike Engulfing Parents, an Ignoring Parent sees the boundary between themselves and their child, and has no interest in their child.

This can be extremely confusing and bewildering as the child grows to feel unloved, uncared for, hindering future relationships for this child. Often, an Ignoring Parent doesn't even bother helping a child with physical cleanliness, teaching hygiene, or helping with school work.


I have tons of memories from my childhood of time with my dad- playing games together, him telling me and my brother stories before we went to bed, going on adventures every weekend (without my mom).  I don't have memories like this with my mother. Mostly because these types of things never happened with my mother- even though my dad worked like 70+ hours a week and my mom was a stay at home mom.  My strongest memory of my mother is the iconic position she had for most of my childhood - sitting on the couch with her nose buried in a book, not paying attention to the kids.  I felt like I struggled in childhood with hygiene issues because my parents never taught me certain things, and that I experimented a lot with how to take care of myself until I found things that worked for me, because I never had any guidance.

Once when I was around 3 years old and my brother was 2 years old, we were upstairs watching sesame street on tv by ourselves. And my brother climbed up on the window seat and pushed the screen out of the open window and fell out of the window. This is one of my earliest memories. My brother was perfectly fine (he landed on a bush) and my mom later loved to tell the story about how I came downstairs to where my mother was sitting on the couch reading, and said to my mom "D fell out the window" in a matter of fact voice.

But looking back...why were a 2 year old and a 3 year old sitting in front of a tv with no supervision on an entirely different floor of the house from my mother, while she was downstairs reading? Is that normal? I mean I don't have kids yet, but that seems a little young...why couldn't she be reading in the same room as the kids?  Why do I have so many memories of hanging with my brother at a very very young age and entertaining each other, alone, without my mom around?

Someone recently posted on facebook asking about childhood memories of being sick. Well my childhood memory of being sick is that every time i was home sick, I would sit in my parent's bed and watch all 3 star wars movies, or all 3 Indiana Jones movies. What I don't have any childhood memories of re: being sick is my mom. I mean I'm sure she was in the house since she was a stay at home mom, but it seemed her solution to me being home sick was to park me in front of a tv and go on doing her thing (usually curling up on the couch with a book). I remember having to get out of bed to get my own drinks/food/etc when I was sick.

Anyway these are all small things by themselves, but when taken together I just see a pattern of feeling like my mom was preoccupied with other things and that i was in charge of taking care of myself.

Thinking back, I almost think all the issues I had in high school re: fighting with my parents constantly might be related to this. Before high school I felt I was constantly ignored, while my brother, the "Golden child" got all the attention.  I got good grades and he didn't, and he got into trouble a lot at school while I never did (before high school).  Then in high school I stopped caring about my grades/stopped getting good grades, and started getting intro trouble in HS constantly.  Now I'm sure a lot of that was normal teenage rebellion/finding myself stuff, but looking back I think a part of me just wanted my mom to pay attention to me the way she paid attention to my brother, and I had this idea in my head that breaking the rules would get me more attention.

Realizing how much this stuff still affects me now makes me scared to become a parent...there is so much power to screw up your kid's head. Like take B- whenever B gets really depressed about something/feels bad about himself he said "I'm useless, I'm just completely useless."  Recently while hanging out with B's dad, his dad was telling a story about some fight they had when B was a teenager and said something like "B was being useless and I got really mad, etc"  And look- that's the exact same word B uses to describe himself when he feels bad about himself. 

My mom had lots of favorite expression as a kid that haunt me.  One is "I may have to love you but I don't have to like you."  She said that countless times to me as a teen and young 20 something, pretty much up until the time we stopped talking for several years. This was the only time she ever told me she loved me too- it was always followed by "but I don't have to like you." WTF is that? What that says to me is "I don't like you or love you (cause who loves people they don't like?) and I like pointing that out"  And you know what? I'm 75% convinced that the reason it was SO EASY for my mom to disown me and not talk to me for years on end whene I got married to B, was because she never liked OR loved me to begin with, and this was just a convenient excuse to cut me out of her life.

So where does this leave me now? I don't think my mom is going to magically change to be a warm loving person who gives a crap about me. And I definitely do not want to emulate her behavior subconsciously with my own child. And what I really don't want is to go on feeling bad about my mother. I already feel she has too much power over me.  I haven't even talked to her in over a month, and yet I woke up at 5am feeling bad about her today, and I think about her way too much in general. I want to move on from these issues because I feel they are holding me back, and I feel it's very important to have my mental shit together as much as possible re: my mother, before becoming a mother myself.

After checking around the internet I got a book from the library with the sappy title of "Will I ever be good enough? Healing the daughters of Narcissistic mothers." I read the book last weekend and there were lots of points in there that made me tear up a bit because they so accurately describe how I feel, and explain all these weird things I do and all my weird self esteem issues (like never becoming friends with people at the same "Rank" at work, always becoming friends with people at a lower "Rank" because I never feel like I'm good enough to be friends with people at the same level as me...).

The book basically says that the way to heal from mothers like this is to a) accept the fact that they aren't going to change, accept their limitations, and try to come to an understanding of why they are the way they are b) let yourself feel bad if you feel bad about things, let yourself grieve the mother you never had and the childhood you never had because if you repress your feelings about it and don't feel bad about it you'll never get over it c)start working to get over feelings of not being good enough that are based on your childhood

So I'm working on step one with a little bit of step 2. This weekend I called my grandmother (mom's mom) to tell her I was pregnant, and that really reminded me that my mom has her own narcissistic mother who probably taught her to act the way she does. That's scary because I see the inter-generational transmission of bad mothering that I don't want to continue, but it also helps me understand my mom a bit more. And the book also helped me understand my grandmother too- when I told her I was pregnant she was like "Ok" no congrats, no "bsh'aa tova" no nothing, and then instantly changed the subject to ask whether I had gotten a new job, since the last time I had talked to her like 6 months ago, I had mentioned that I was going to apply for a couple of jobs this year to see if I could move to a better university.  I told her the truth, that I didn't get a different job this year (I only applied to 4 and they were all top 20 universities, so a reach) but that I'm happy with my job now so I'm in a good place- if I get something better I can move, but either way I'll be happy. And she kept asking more about jobs and moving to a better university (not that the university I work at is "bad" by any means, but it sure ain't Harvard) even when I tried to change the subject back to the fact that I was pregnant.

Why change the subject to that? Well after thinking about it I can only conclude that my grandmother loves to brag about my academic achievements to her friends (which she does, the last time I saw her at my cousins' wedding she was going around introducing me to people as her granddaughter who was about to be a professor) but she can't brag about me having a kid because my husband isn't jewish and/or she has so many great grandchildren from my charedi cousins (8) that she doesn't care about more at this point. She only cares about the stuff she can use to make herself look better to her friends. And where does *she* get this from? Well her own mother died when she was 14, and she then had to basically raise her little brothers because she was the only girl and her father assigned all housework and childcare to her after her mom died. I can see how that would mess you up. 

Meanwhile, I see no indication that my grandmother cares about me as a person, anymore than I see my mother cares about me as a person.  Even before we stopped talking for several years, my mother never really wanted to hear about anything about my life and gave the distinct impression that she disapproved of anything I wanted to talk about- the only thing she wanted to hear about was my academic achievements and whether or not I was losing weight/going to the gym. She has always focused a LOT on my weight, ever since I went through puberty and stopped being a skinny bean pole kid. Appearances and achievements, but what about getting to know me as a person? I don't think she knows me at all.

I'm not really sure how to conclude this blog post other than to say these are things that have been on my mind, and I would like to move on from them, but for now I am in this "Processing my thoughts and emotions regarding this stuff" phase which it seems I have to go through in order to move on. Or at least I'm hoping that moving on will be the end result, that I will accept my mother's limitations and stop feeling so damn disappointed all the time because she's not being the mom she never was and is probably incapable of being.

Meanwhile, resolved to never use expressions like "I may have to love you but I don't have to like you" to my kids. Resolved to tell them I love them on a regular basis without it being followed by a snarky followup. Resolved to get to know them and their unique personality and not bury my nose in my laptop all night long the way my mom buried her nose in a book. Resolved to act more like my dad and less like my mom.

Also, I'm thinking I might want to learn more about quilting and make my baby a quilt from me, since my mom doesn't seem to be offering to make me one even though she's made dozens over the years for various other people...I guess those are only important when she wants to impress other people, not when her own daughter is having a baby. But why sit around being disappointed about her, why not just make the damn quilt myself? I found a link to an online tutorial for a simple-ish pattern here and it doesn't look too hard, although the person didn't really include info on how to do the back of the quilt...but I'm sure I can find info on that too. I don't know, maybe it's a ridiculous idea, and i may never actually do it, but something I'm contemplating...

Meanwhile today I am officially 14 weeks pregnant, which means as of today I am officially out of the first trimester and into the second! We recently did another ultrasound and got even cooler pictures in 3d. It was so awesome, we saw the baby jumping around and flipping over. At one point the baby flipped over so it's back was turned to us and it looked just like B does when he turns over in his sleep.  Much more exciting than the first ultrasound when it just looked like a peanut with a heartbeat. Baby was also tested for downs/trisomy stuff and it was all negative, yay! :)  I sometimes think I can feel the baby move now, but I'm not entirely sure. I'm not showing a crazy bump or anything, but I'm definitely getting wider, and I can't button my regular jeans anymore.  Unfortunately my daily throwing up has not gotten better but I'm hoping it will soon...

33 comments:

  1. It wasn't until I had my own children and my feelings as a mother fully-bloomed that I realized how vastly different my own mother must have felt about me. You inspired me to go and look up narcissistic mothers and hell yes- my mother fit the profile to a T.
    And she just died eight days ago.
    If I have any advice it is this- don't expect your mother to ever, ever be the mother you needed or wanted or need or want. This is very hard and very sad but it will save you so much grief. And do not get pulled into any games trying to get her to be a different sort of mother. She won't be.
    And one more thing- congratulations again! You are going to be a terrific mother and I am so very happy for you and B.

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    1. Thanks ms moon. I'm sorry to hear about your loss, and sorry for both of us not having the mom we wanted...the neat part though is that now I get to give my kid the childhood I never had...I'm looking forward to it :)

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  2. You learn a great deal from your parents. Some of it is what to do with your own kids. Most of it is what you should never do with your own kids. Still, it's a learning experience.

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  3. Your posts made me stop and wonder how my kids are affected by my reading habit. There were some things that I had to put on hold when they were really young (like sleeping and privacy and time to myself), that I've started again. This is good reminder to make sure that they see me making them a priority.

    Yes, it's a good time to process the mother issues. My mom did this with her mother issues - I once found a diary where she consciously talked about how she was going to do things differently. To her credit, she did. Sometimes, the effect was a bit "textbook", but I appreciate that I did NOT get the sort of mothering that she endured.

    While it's really important to remember how small things have a huge impact on children, also remember that your mother is a person in her own right, with human limitations. I'm not sure if she had a low energy low or possibly some sort of depression. It sounds like she didn't do a great job of showing you that you were loved, but that's not a reflection on you. She was likely dealing with her own issues.

    Do you have a good parenting mentor? Someone with kids who seems to have a great relationship with them, who can be a role model for you? One thing that may be a challenge is that we are basically hardwired to see our own experiences as the norm, and it takes real, conscious effort to go against our automatic instincts.

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    1. I do wonder if she was depressed, she has never seemed like a particularly happy person. But you are right that she was probably dealing with her own issues. I don't think she wanted to have two young kids as close together as she did (she's told me as such and we all grew up knowing my brother was an accident, which she loved to remind us of) she was kinda forced out of her job to take care of us because of daycare/boss issues...so yeah I guess maybe she was bitter about that stuff. Plus she has her own critical mother to live up to.

      I don't think it's wrong to take personal time for yourself, as long as you have kid time too.

      I don't have a lot of good friends who have kids, but I do have a couple and I love hanging around them seeing how they interact with their kids. Unfortunately most of my friends with kids still at home live far away, while my friends here who have kids, their kids are all grown up. It always strikes me how different they are with their kids vs. how my parents were with me though...actually one of my role models is B's parents, who seem to have actually figured out how to have a good adult relationship with B despite having many past arguments, and have an awesome family where they actually just sit around talking about life and stuff and seem to actually genuinely enjoy each others company. It's downright pleasant to visit them.

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  4. this reminds me of my kids

    their only memories are of the bad things, nothing of good things, or thankful for care and love over the years (especially the times and years from before memories begin...i.e. young age) - they only remember the ONE time they got a potch...or when they got yelled at for being chutzpadick, no memories of trips, buying clothing, feeding, caring for, bathing, chaninging diapers, making birthday parties (not fun!) etc

    ungreatfulness is a bad midah, hope you dont pass it off to your kids

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    1. But I have plenty of memories like that...trips, getting cared for. Don't remember diaper changes. Only all the memories are of times with my father. I even remember being brought to bed as a kid when I would fall asleep on the couch, and it was my dad every time.

      I do remember buying clothes with my mom because every time was a humiliating experience with her criticizing me for how fat I was, never letting me choose my own clothes, and then buying stuff 2 sizes too big to hide my "fatness."

      Yeah your kids may be ungrateful, but I don't think this is what that is.

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  5. clothing shopping....sure...that was all post (probably) age 13....what about 13 years of buying you clothing? of cooking you dinner for years? of making your lunches? of calling your teachers? going to PTA meetings? dealing with your "friends" issues?

    my kids happen to NOT be ungreatful, but as a parent, who has pioured my entire life into raising them - completely unselfish, it stings when all they bring up are the negative things that stick in their memories.

    can you understand that?

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    1. I actually cooked dinner for my family (meaning me and my brothers) at least 2 nights a week starting at around age 6 or 7, and made around half of the shabbas food every friday. The other nights we got take-out, leftovers, or were on our own, except one night a week (Thursday) when my dad was home (he worked at nights the other days of the week) and we would have a fancy dinner. My mom would only ever cook for Thursdays, shabbas (the other half- I was in charge of the chullent and most of the side dishes, she would make the main dishes and the challah) or when we had guests over. I ate a lot of eggs as a kid for dinner because they were one of the few things I could cook at a very young age.

      Dealing with my "friends" issues? I didn't really have any friends until I got to middle school (which I attribute to major self esteem issues I had as a kid), and my mom would never let them come over to my house anyway. I never talked to my mom about any sort of issue I had with a friend. It didn't even occur to me to do that, as she didn't seem interested and would just start criticizing all my friends if I brought them up in any capacity.

      I don't remember her ever calling a teacher as far as I know (I didn't think moms of my generation did that...did they?), although both my parents went to parent teacher meetings which were mandatory for parents in my school. They certainly never joined any PTA.

      I understand it stings, but do you understand that that stinging feeling is a reflection of your own relationship with your children that you seem to be projecting on to me, and not a reflection of my relationship with my mother? You seem to be saying that I have no right to be angry at my mother for basically letting me raise myself from the age of 6 or 7 onwards, because she took good care of changing my diapers (possibly, I don't remember) when I was an infant?

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    2. we seem to be talking past each other

      never mind

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    3. try this. make a list of the things that your mother did for you (directly) or on your behalf. since your birth. ask your siblings to help you compile the list....and even your father.

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    4. what exactly would be the point in doing that? I'm trying to reconcile all this behavior that for years I thought meant was something wrong with *me* that made my mom not love me enough or something, with the actual reality that it was not actually my "fault" so I can deal with the current situation, in which my mom only talks to me when I initiate contact with her, and then only briefly, and still shows no interest in my life.

      How exactly would writing a list of everything my mom did for me as a young child help me get over the fact that she currently has no interest in being a part of my life?

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    5. it wouldn't.

      I get that you have mother issues. I am only saying that you keep going back to that your mother never did jack shit for you - and all I am saying that she did, its just you only remember the negative experiences. i dont know why that is.

      you claim that she really never did anything positive to or for you your entire life - and only bring up the negative things you remember. I object to that.

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    6. Wow, ksil, this isn't about you. Some mothers are just crappy. There's no getting around it, no matter how many lists AE might make and no matter how many diapers she might or might not have changed. Mentally ill mothers are just incapable of having normal relationships with their kids- as the granddaughter of such a mother, I can attest to how true this is. The best thing she can do is just make peace with it and move on, which she's trying to do.

      As for your case, maybe your kids are ungrateful to you because you can't acknowledge that you might have done anything to make them angry with you. Instead of labeling them "ungrateful" maybe make a list of things that you've done over the years to make them sad and angry with you and ask mechila from them. It might go a long way to repairing your relationship with them.

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    7. wow abbi, who said it was about me?

      her mother may be mentally ill. i dont know. but i know that AE brings up these anecdotal stories showing how horrible this mother was to this child (how do her other kids feel about her mothering skills, i am curious) but never bringing up other anecdotal POSITIVE stories.

      I actually am very close, and get along great with my kids, i was pointing out that kids seem to cling to any and all negative experiences in their life, something ALL kids experience (anytime a parent says "no" to the kid, for example) - AE seems to be doing that in her writings, that was my point.

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  6. I'm so sorry all this happened to you. I have several close friends with mothers whom all exhibit narcissistic personality disorder. The effects are far reaching and surprising. The thing is, I really don't think that you can attribute it solely to the way these women were raised. This is a recorded and diagnosable disease. I feel like it's counter-productive to your own rehabilitation to attribute your mother's terrible parenting to something that might have happened to her. It does us no good to have compassion for people whom are toxic to us: that's how people end up in abusive relationships. Besides, having lived a difficult life does not give anyone license to force the same on someone else.
    It's also detrimental to believe that she might ever get better. Once you can accept that she literally has a chemical imbalance which prevents her from being a good mother (and indeed, from being a good person in general), it's easier to stop taking things so personally and to move on. You just can't fix crazy. Don't cling to false hope here - it will only hurt you down the line.
    Oh, and please don't get me wrong, just b/c this is a disease does not excuse her behavior either - but understanding it can help you figure out what you need for your own recovery. Once you can accept that she will NEVER be able to give you what you want, you can go about getting it from more appropriate people, and you can let go of that painful nagging hope.
    It really sucks that you ended up with a mother whom is incapable of providing you with the relationship that you want. The shitty things that happened to you are still shitty, and you are more than justified in being upset by them.
    She's severely broken, and it's really good that you've found this out now. With what I know from my friends' experiences, narcissistic parents become equally and sometimes even more violently narcissistic grandparents.

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    1. Well i think you can be compassionate at a distance and not have it turn into an abusive relationship...not for their sake, but for my sake, because compassion makes me feel like it's less "my fault" that mom mom acted this way.

      I don't think she'll ever get better. I think part of the reason all these feelings are coming up now is that for years, especially on this blog, people have been saying to me "you know she'll come around when you have kids." And part of me was really holding out hope that when I told her I was pregnant somehow that would magically fix her and she would suddenly be a new person. And then when that didn't happen, it brought up all this shit.

      I don't like the idea of a chemical imbalance though, cause that's something she could have passed on to me/something I could pass on to my kids! And I don't want to be this way! And I see some worrying signs, like my tendency to sometimes bury my nose in my laptop and ignore B and my pets, the way my mom would bury her nose in her books and ignore us...

      The good thing is at least my dad is being cool! Although he totally enables her to be this way...

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    2. It's good that you've accepted that she won't get better. You'll be able to move on when you've digested everything. As for noticing these tendencies in yourself - not all psych disorders are genetic, but it's fairly possible you picked up some coping mechanisms from her, since she was the one who raised you. It's definitely a good thing to start keeping tabs on yourself now.
      As for your dad.... this seems to be the pattern. Narcissists marry people who put up with them. Hopefully he doesn't put up with it to the point at which he is complicit in causing you or your future family any pain.

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  7. Wow this is a heavy load. I wish you a lot luck in processing it all. If it's at all possible, I urge you to find a good counselor to help you process it. Books and quilting are good, and you have a great attitude, but I think they can only get your so far, especially as the hormones surge harder as you get closer to your due date.

    Congrats, and I agree with the above. Now that you know what not to do, you'll be a great mom.

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    1. thanks, unfortunately with trying to save for kid stuff/ my upcoming medical bills (for birth) + my crappy health insurance I'm not sure I can justify the $60 copay I have to go see a therapist on a regular basis.

      I also have been to therapy a few times and I've found writing about things in a blog is almost more therapeutic...when I go to therapy I start obsessing about all the things wrong with my life to tell the therapist (even in between sessions). When I write a blog post it's like this cathartic thing where I got all my thoughts out of my head and onto the paper (/screen) and therefore I don't have to worry about them anymore.

      Actually I've been thinking about this stuff for a few weeks now, and after writing this blog post this morning I feel like it doesn't bother me as much...I almost feel like lighter. :)

      Oh and yeah I know part of this stuff is definitely hormones surging and all that :)

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  8. My first reaction to this post was that your mother was and is depressed. It doesn't change what happened to you, but it may be a different psychiatric disorder than the one you're thinking about.

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    1. Why can't it be both? I think it's very plausible my mother was depressed which may explain why she was so emotionally absent as a kid. But that doesn't explain her obsession with appearances, her fake (nice) public personality vs her real (jerky) private personality, constant criticism and never getting to know "me" only wanting to hear about my achievements and weight loss efforts vs. anything else..

      Even the fact that she disowned me when I got married- I know plenty of people with parents more religious than mine, whose parents came to their non jewish wedding, and/or who didn't disown them and make an effort to keep in touch with their kids. I think her obsession with her public image and what it would "look like" if she was nice to us or invited us over, is what is keeping us from truly reconciling, and why she disowned me in the first place (I mean that + not actually caring about me).

      I just went and looked back at the letter I wrote to my mom in response to her disowning me, when I was basically like "fuck it, if we're never talking again then I am getting things off my chest and telling her what I really think for once in my life." letter is here: http://abandoningeden.blogspot.com/2009/02/some-random-thoughts.html

      Looking back at the things I was really upset about, they seem related to this kind of stuff. This line jumps out at me "The way you reacted to anything I did that went outside your notion of the way things SHOULD BE made it impossible to share anything personal with you. All you were focused on was the way YOU wanted me to act, not what was best for me, what made me happy, or what was important to me."

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  9. AE,
    I couldn't even make it to the end of this post, it was too painful. I have lived this too. I never felt the absence of a mom as much as I did when I had my first child. There has been no other milestone in my life that has caused me to face the pain that comes from the absent mom (yours was more present and critical, mine more entirely absent, similar pain, similar internalized messages). The book you are reading is right on regardless of whether your mother's narcissism was interrelated with depression or not. These issues led me to professional help. It was heavy, heavy stuff to process. As you know, I got to the other side. Not only have I loved being a mother for almost 15 years now, I have great relationships with my kids and it is my life's passion to support the unloved children of the world. It is my chosen profession and of course what led me to the path of foster-adoption. In a way, I guess my mom gave me that?
    You need to work through this because on the other side is you knowing and feeling so sure that it was not about you, it was about your mother's limitations. And on the other side is you as a completely different mother. A mother who is going to love being a mother and love being the mother that she didn't have.
    Your mother will not be there for you. The grandmothers that offer to come and help for a while, the mothers that help you buy all of what you need for the baby, the mother that teaches you how to swaddle, bathe, breastfeed/bottle feed a baby, the mother that shares in your excitement when the baby gets her first tooth or says his first word, that isn't your mother. That wasn't and will never be my mother. That is other people's mothers. My dad emails me every time he knows my little girl has a court date or some significant date on the calendar for her adoption process. My dad sheds the tears. My dad read me bedtime stories. My dad sang "sunrise sunset" at my wedding. My dad hugged me as a child. He coached my little league team. He told me I was beautiful and that he was proud of me.
    If and when you choose to have a second child, I swear, it will be so much easier with this processing being in the past. Your child is very lucky. S/he will have two loving parents.

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  10. Ok, after I left my comment, I was able to read the rest and all the comments left before me. This is not a "chemical imbalance" that you have to fear your children will inherit. Depression is heritable but narcissism is not. An inability to bond with your child, to love your child, is not heritable. Depression is treatable and having a loving mom makes it a whole less likely to inherit the depression because of all of positive self talk that goes on in the heads of those that feel loved.
    This issue of gratitude is always interesting to me. I did not choose to be brought into this world but the woman who brought me into this world who did not like being a mother at all continued to bring 2 more unloved by her children into this world. I do not believe that she is a bad person or is in any way malicious. I believe she let societal expectations force her into motherhood. That is not only not my fault but it was my cross to bear in the end. Mine and my siblings have suffered the price and have fought to get to the other side to break the inter-generational cycle.
    Children know when they are cherished. I knew which ones of my friends were cherished by their moms. They are the ones who have close relationships with their moms now in their 30s and 40s. It was not about clothes. It was about who made you feel loved unconditionally. Kids know. My kids know. My husband knows that his parents feel that way about him.
    And the "I have to love you but I don't have to like you" is a horrific thing to say to a child. I can't imagine ever thinking that of any of my children. There is nothing my children could do that would make me stop liking and loving them. The love just is. It is permanent and unwavering. Just like it is for the mothers of my friends who have always cherished their children.

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  11. Hi I commented on a previous post kind of about this, but I'd like to reiterate-

    Becoming a mom is going to bring back all these unresolved issues in bucket loads. And one way some people process this is to direct the anger inward. Leaving you open for post partum depression.

    My mother was also narsisstic much like yours. She modified this when my older stepbrother died, when I was 21. She then directed heaps of the false cheeriness and self serving selflessness on us in an effort to atone for her previous neglect and indifference. Which was painful in its own way, as it was controlling and suffocating.

    Anyway, therapy isn't cheap. and you sometimes have to try a few before you find one you click with. But leaving these issues to fester could end up hurting you in the long run. It's no fun to have to spend the first year or longer of your child's life medicated and in therapy because the post partum hormones push you into depression. Which is more than being sad. It's unable to function or think straight or appreciate what should be the happiest time in your life.



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  12. AE:

    I think it's a huge step forward to recognize that the issues lie with your mother, not you. Religion may have been a flashpoint for conflict, but I hope you can see now that even before, there was no normal relationship there.

    There is a Toxic Relative in our family who likely has the same personality disorder, and part of dealing with the aftermath of her most destructive behavior was realizing that even many of the "good" parts were bad. Even before the times of open conflict, there was no unconditional love expressed, and there was an effort to create dependence and undermine independence.

    It also means coming to terms with the fact that what you have also seen as "normal" is not. For example, my mother had LOTS of discussions with teachers, not just on parent-teacher interviews, and I'm 11 years older than you. You will need to deliberately develop different skills. When you are tired or frustrated or your child is pushing your buttons (which is part of parenting), you'll need to react in a way that may be completely unfamiliar to you. Do you have the tools to express love and affection when you are exhausted? To react to someone challenging your POV without taking it as a personal attack? To parent in a way that you can be authoritative without setting up power struggles?

    I'm also wondering about how the dynamic with your mother may have affected your relationship with your father. Did he feel the need to be more involved because he knew that your mother was not? Was that part of his feeling of lack of control, which led to some control-freak over-reactions? Is it possible that your mother was jealous of your relationship with your father?

    For the parenting piece, you may find these helpful:

    Anything from Gordon Neufeld
    "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk" by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
    "Kids are Worth it" by Barbara Colorosso
    "Raising Roses Among the Thorns" by Rabbi Noach Orlowek (this last book is aimed as a frum audience, but it's really about the value of creating a strong attachment and expressing unconditional love, and I use stuff from it all the time even when talking to non-Jewish parents)

    There are also some books that you should avoid like the plague, including anything in the Babywise series and anything by John Rosemond. You do not need books that encourage you to see normal childhood behavior as a power struggle.

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  13. I think you're on the right track. I encourage you to make a parenting journal. Start one end with How to Do Things: and the other end with How Not to Do Things, and make notes of stuff you've observed from your own childhood and your friends and any time you see people parenting. There's always more to learn.

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  14. I worry my kid is doomed. I spend a lot of time absorbed in myself with my nose in a book and all that, and I'm resentful of a lot of the changes having a kid is going to bring into my life.

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  15. AE,

    My mother said the same thing to me (love you but don't like you). It doesn't bother me because I was impossible then. We were and are very close. I think the difference is your mother wasn't close to you.

    I think the trick to being a good parent is to balance the needs of your kid(s) with your own needs. Most of their needs are primary, but not all.

    I think you'll be a great mom because you want to be. I think being a mother (for me) is a learned art with challenged at every step of the way. Its a wonderful journey though.

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  16. this seems to fit your experience, as in your case the narcissistic parent was your mother. however that website with its complete focus mothers giving fathers a free pass, totally turns me off!

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  18. Dear AE,

    I thought about my comment some more. Obviously I don't want to tell you what to do that would be presumptuous but I believe that you still have a bunch of issues to work out that the blog hasn't resolved. I agree with Mariella's comments. Also how are things with B's mother? I think that she will be your mother figure and grandmother to your child. I truly believe that even if B converted with the beis din in Bnei Brak and you sent your daughter to Beis Yakov, that your mom would essentially treat you the same. That's the reason that you left home to begin with even when you were somewhat observant. Hope that helps and hope that you can be closer to B's mom and your friends in the years to come.

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