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MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Mon 23-May-16 12:45:33

Guest post: "It's hard not to cut my mother off completely"

All Light with a Piece of Dark believes we don't owe our parents a relationship if they were cruel to us

All Light with a Piece of Dark

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Posted on: Mon 23-May-16 12:45:33

(62 comments )

Lead photo

"Perhaps the women in my family just aren't capable of being good mothers."

There's a picture of me sitting on my mother's lap when I'm about nine months old. I'm smiling. My mother is smiling. If you only saw this photo, you would imagine a typical childhood: normal ups and downs, normal lives, hard times perhaps, but a loving relationship nonetheless.

You need to imagine harder. Darker. Wider. Outside your own experience, if your experience was good.

This is the true story of my relationship with my mother: behind the photo is her mental illness. A mental illness in hiding. It's hidden in the gin she has when she gets home from work. It's hidden in the jobs she doesn't get, the friends she can't keep, the relatives she won't talk to. It's hidden in all the events that go on at home that we're not supposed to tell anyone about. But most of all, it is hidden from her. She can't see it in herself, and thinks it's everyone else.

I loved being around my mother in public. Out there, she was like the other mothers I saw. She said the right things. She smiled. She was kind. If it was a day when we were going to be out a lot, I would wake up relaxed, knowing that nothing scary would happen.

In private, though, the other mother came out. The one I was afraid of. While this mother could be relied on for basic sustenance, the other things crucial to raising children - unconditional love, appropriate responses, support - were largely absent. She had a line we could not cross - and if we did, we became her enemies rather than her children.

Some believe that adult children who cut off, or are distant from, their parents are selfish, or ungrateful. I reject this. I don't think we owe our parents a relationship if they were cruel to us.


When I was 18 I started crossing the line, and our relationship did not recover. I naively brought up the past and questioned why things had happened as they did. She told me coldly that I was making everything up and was crazy, and I felt a trickle of terror wrinkle down my spine. I never brought it up again, but the past remains there between us.

Now I have enough distance to see her as a profoundly damaged person - like her parents. I am not the first daughter to go through this in my mother's line. I am the fourth. My great-grandmother hated my grandmother. My grandmother emigrated to New Zealand. My mother hated my grandmother. She cut her off completely, severing any ties she had to me, her granddaughter.

Now it's my turn, and I too have a daughter. Between us, we could be the fourth and fifth, and if my daughter has a daughter, the sixth, unless we are able to change the pattern. Currently my daughter is in contact with my parents, albeit at a distance because we live far away.

I know the pattern will repeat if I'm not careful. I sometimes don't know what appropriate boundaries are regarding what to tell my daughter and what to keep back, and this reminds me of my mother who made me her confidante at 11 years old. All I can do is try to do better.

Some believe that adult children who cut off, or are distant from, their parents are selfish, or ungrateful. I reject this. I don't think we owe our parents a relationship if they were cruel to us.

But at the same time, I wonder if I have to follow the pain of generations of estrangement. Is there such a thing as fate? Is fate genetics? Perhaps my mother shouldn't have had children. Perhaps the women in my family just aren't capable of being good mothers.

I look at the pattern and I know it's my choice. I feel as if I've been given a superhuman task but without any of the superpowers: it's incredibly hard not to repeat the actions of past generations and cut off my mother completely.

I have been left damaged by my childhood, with mild PTSD among other things. Being around my mother brings on panic attacks. My past experiences have led to my own issues with mental health, but unlike my mother I can acknowledge this and seek support. I live in a culture and time in which it is safe to do so.

I look at my daughter and I know the action I take is something that she will always remember.

And I don't know. I really don't know what to do.

By All Light with a Piece of Dark

Twitter: @katiepeheakoe

ThumbWitchesAbroad Mon 23-May-16 16:19:08

thanks for you. I think you're awareness will largely save you from allowing the pattern to continue - as you said, your mother refused to accept her role in any of the adverse life events that occurred, but you see it. You can therefore avoid this situation, because you can take what responsibility you may need to, and thus avoid the problem. Your DD may still have a difficult relationship with you, because such is life; but your ability to see your own part in it will stop it from being destructive in the same way. I hope that you and your DD have a great relationship though, because of open and honest interactions between you.

If your DD is suffering in any way through contact with your mother, then why let her see her? Depending on your DD's age too - at some point your mother may start either turning on your DD, or trying to turn her against you, neither of which would be beneficial. Be open with her, but only in an age-appropriate way. Good luck!

MummyBtothree Mon 23-May-16 17:15:15

I haven't had any contact with my parents for nearly seven years. My mother is a narcissist and im her outlet, my father & my only sibling are her flying monkeys so thank goodness for my husband and children otherwise I would have nobody. It was my choice to break all contact, she was even trying to break up my marriage and turn my three boys against me. Ive got no friends as I find trusting people difficult and am currently waiting for a psychological assessment & on antidepressants. I just hope my children can turn around and say I was a good Mum in years to come, nothing could make me happier. Such a horrible situation.

MerdTheFuck Mon 23-May-16 18:14:34

Thanks OP - a well-written post on what is such a taboo idea for so many people; the idea of cutting off family members.

I completely agree - we don't owe people relationships just because we happen to be biologically related. It's something we're talking about a lot right now on another current thread - (don't know if you'll have seen that or not - a poster there mentioned this post).

The problem is that the parents involved cannot understand the problem (literally!) and people from healthy normal families can't understand the resolution. Because of that, many who try No Contact get questioned, criticised and even mocked by others ("go no contact" often pops up on the "what Mumsnet advice do you hate" or "jokey Mumsnet" threads) - when actually it's quite literally a life-saving or sanity-saving measure which is a last resort.

I really really hope that your life keeps improving, and that your relationship with your daughter is a happy, healthy one for her when she looks back. flowers

Yorkiebar71 Mon 23-May-16 19:53:43

Reading your post sounds like me, my mother is a chronic alcoholic who refuses to accept there is a problem. In her eyes she just likes a drink but that like has lead to her stealing thousands of pounds to buy alcohol and lead to me being threatened by a group of men she owed money to. If I ever talked about it she said I was crazy and needed help as I had mental issues and then she threw me out of the house when I was 18. She then started phoning every day to scream abuse at me and separated me from my family. For my own sanity I have cut all contact

facebookrecruit Mon 23-May-16 19:54:11

Sharing someone's DNA doesn't mean you owe them anything. Parents who treat their kids badly can have such a destructive negative effect on their whole lives, and I would wholeheartedly support anyone who cut off a parent like this

Misspapia Mon 23-May-16 19:55:08

I started crying as I read this; I felt as though you wrote what I'm went through with my own mum.
My peers would always tell me how lucky I was to have such a 'cool' mum but she was only cool to them, never to me. She has driven me to do unspeakable things in my youth that will always be a dark past to remember, just so I could avoid her.
My salvation came through meeting and marrying husband and looking forward to creating my own family.
After the birth of my son, things went too far and she'd meddled for the last time. My son was where she crossed the line, I cut her off completely, along with my Dad and brother.
People think I'm mad and it's an unheard taboo but this post is another reaffirms my adoration for mumsnet as a whole:
I'm not alone.

buttermymuffins Mon 23-May-16 20:09:26

I'll be back but this is as if dh wrote this.

lalaroo Mon 23-May-16 20:13:24

i too has suffered emotionally and physically at the hands of my mother, beaten and verbally abused and mistreated. sure these things was not every day maybe a few times a year but her punches were too much for a child to take, as i grew older i got used to it. and made excuses for her, she receives counselling now to adress the issues that made her this way, our relationship is better but i hate her for never admitting she was wrong and hate her for making me the shy, anxious untrusting woman i am today.

dragonflygirl1 Mon 23-May-16 20:15:26

I can relate so much to what you said. I grew up terrified of and abused by my mum and am still affected in many ways by what went on when I was a child and a teen. I have not seen my mum since I was 18, but for a different reason: she died. This left me with an unresolvable situation, which I have been able to think about a bit over the years. What you do have is a gift of an opportunity to resolve some of those feelings. Not necessarily by confronting her or having some unbelievable conversation that magically mends everything. Let's face it, what you say would probably not be well received by her, but just in that quiet standing up for yourself/asking questions/just letting her know if something she says is not ok with you, you can change how you feel in the future and if you do cut her off in the future: you can feel strong about it and not feel like that frightened child any more. Good luck with it all. xx

kelper Mon 23-May-16 20:45:20

God are you me? I'm not quite in a cut her off place though. She denies so much of my childhood. She also denies the existance of mental illness so i can't move on. Thank you for writing this at such a pivotal moment in my life currently. You are not alone

Hepburn14 Mon 23-May-16 20:50:25

Really interesting post and the follow-up comments...

I'm in a difficult situation myself with my mum. I was terrified by her as a child (and still am!) but I'm her only living relative - I'm an only child and my dad died when I was little. I think she was abused by her mother and to complicate matters I suspect she's either autistic or has a personality disorder and has no self-awareness and is never able to see anything from another person's point of view. I think she has a good heart but she's regularly made my life hell and I think was a major cause of my PND.

Now she's already starting to shout at my daughter when she does something naughty (she's only 18 months old) and if I tell her I don't like that my mum makes out that my whole parenting style is wrong, I'm too soft and in her mind her way is always correct.

I can't cut her out because we're all she's got but I don't want to expose my daughter to the fear I've had all my life.

MerdTheFuck Mon 23-May-16 21:36:57

I can't cut her out because we're all she's got but I don't want to expose my daughter to the fear I've had all my life.

flowers that's poignant reading there Hepburn.

I say this a lot on MN, but that's because I mean it with all my heart: the needs of children should come first in these situations, not the needs of the abuser (and it's a hard word to swallow about parents like this, but it is abusive, even if it's totally unconscious on their part).

I don't know how much access she has or if it's more about the state that she leaves you in more than anything, but please look after your little girl first and foremost - and that means looking after yourself too.

If you can't or don't want to go NC (and that's usually the very last step) then you need to work on limiting contact at least; building your own mental and emotional defences; and verbalising, monitoring and sticking to really strict boundaries around your daughter.

Nettynoo71 Mon 23-May-16 22:03:10

Don't ever feel guilty for someone else's actions!! Ever!!!
My mother was diagnosed with early onset alzheimers at 50 and all my sister and I have felt is relief that she can no longer hurt or upset us and we truly believe in the karma; 'what goes around, comes around!'
Sadly, somehow, our mother still ruins our lives as my Stepdad is so dedicated to her that we seem to have lost both parents due to this disease!!!
Keep being the best Mum you possibly can be but cut yourself some slack every now and then!! Hugs to all Mums! Xx

Hepburn14 Mon 23-May-16 22:39:21

Thanks Merd - some very good advice there.

To complicate things even further, this year already she's been diagnosed with cancer, had an op and radiotherapy and I've been her sole carer over that time despite the fact we live about 40 miles away, working full-time and with a toddler. And she's come across as ungrateful for a large part of that and almost even blamed the fact she didn't go to the doctor with her symptoms for more than a year on me - because I was pregnant, had a newborn, etc.

I'm getting better with defence mechanisms and not letting her get to me but I worry my daughter won't come armed with that against her. I suppose first sign she seems affected by anything my mum says/does and I'll have to rethink the relationship.

In the meantime I'm secretly enjoying her toddler disobedience when my mum tries to tell her off wink

caramac04 Tue 24-May-16 07:13:29

I've not seen my mother for almost two years and my life is much better for that. She was and is a cruel person although I recognise she is damaged by her childhood. But that's not my fault and I can't fix her. I need to try and be kind to me. As a mother I tried to be very different and I mostly succeeded. I have loving and respectful relationships with all my children and often care for my grandchildren so I believe the cycle of abuse is broken. flowers to all those who have suffered and smile to those whose mothers were kind and loving.

Janecc Tue 24-May-16 07:32:21

Thank you for the article. I think it gives many of us lots to think about. You are a very brave person.

Hepburn. Your DD comes first and foremost. My mother is a better grandmother than parent. I have to be very strict and boundaried with her. Now that DD is almost 8, she is very good at dealing with my mother and her infantile behaviour: DD is now more emotionally mature than her! I have talked extensively to my daughter about my mother and her behaviour and have given her age appropriate snippets of information about my mother's treatment of me as a child. Dd understands so much. Recently mother said some awful things about my DD. I really took her to task. DD now wants to be alone with my mother for the night. I did let her stay over for one night for the first time ever last year but this was before my mother really ramped up the bullshit and threats to smack her. I will not let my mother treat me badly in front of my DD as I this would be teaching my DD very poor life lessons and I want her to learn that you stand up for yourself and refuse to be abused. So, yes, Hepburn even though your mother is very ill, you do have choices however hard these choices may be.

Lottapianos Tue 24-May-16 07:55:58

Huge hugs to everyone on this thread. I have a narcissistic mother (and father actually) and am in very low contact with both of them. I relate to a lot of what was in the OP - my mother treated my sister and i as her possessions and as counsellors for her awful marriage. It was so wrong and highly abusive. We've both had issues with alcohol and abusive men, and have suffered dreadful anxiety for years.

It hurts. It's intensely painful to realise that your parents can never give you what you so desperately need from them. Psychotherapy and detaching had been the way forward for me, but I can absolutely understand why no contact feels like the only way forward for some people. It's a very lonely place to be because so few people understand

lastuseraccount123 Tue 24-May-16 08:33:01

Hi everyone, thanks for reading. I've been reading all your posts and feeling relieved - I was (half) (mostly) expecting to be called out for thinking about cutting off a parent.

It's so good to know we're not alone.

AgaKhant Tue 24-May-16 09:14:23

flowers flowers flowers flowers flowers
To you all.... so brave and so loving of your children (especially your daughters).

Very moving thread

Abetterfuture Tue 24-May-16 12:47:41

This thread really struck a chord with me. I decided to break all contact with my mother 2 years ago now. She lives in Australia which makes it easier to be honest and we basically made the break following my visit out there with disastrous consequences. My mother like many others mentioned here it seems was quietly and emotionally abusive in her own way largely due to the fact my step father has influenced her in the negative over the years. It's actually quite sad, my mother was very different when I was growing up, both of them had difficult childhoods, and my step father has spent many years instilling this sort of attitude in her. He's now fully succeeded and she doesn't make any decisions for herself anymore, he dominates her totally.

I have long given up on getting her to try and see how his influence has affected her and for her to try to make decisions for herself esp when it comes to myself and my brother. My step father never wanted children and has none of his own.

As a result of his controlling nature, my mother is a shadow of her former self and took it out on me and my DS, once throwing a football at my son's head when in a fit of rage because he was being a bit cheeky. She also had a bad childhood and I suppose not that bizarrely once my DS was born even more of her negative association with children was exposed, involving events where I would drive an hour to see her for lunch only for her to turn round and say things like 'oh, I'm with my friend aswell, maybe you and your DS shouldn't come, he'll disturb the lunch' ....as he was a baby then, etc and so forth. There's not much that can be done now as I see it. Besides which I live thousands of miles away. They moved out there some years ago.

My life has been much lighter and brighter since. No one seems to understand and by that I mean, I'm being pressure to resume contact with her by all sides, friends don't understand it, they seem to believe I'm being disrespectful and mean. I'm now even receiving pressure from my partner. Again, having no clue as to the toxicity of being around her. So I have to gently explain that it is not beneficial for either of us to resume contact, in particular, me. This is an anathema to some friends who have loving positive experiences of their mothers, ergo they don't 'get it'.

I've explained to my DS that his gran didn't mean to be so nasty to him and that if he wants to continue a relationship with her (via email/fb or skype) then he's welcome to (he's 15 now but was younger when she was living in the UK). But guess what, they've barely tried to contact him in all these years. He's not interested, I'm afraid his experiences with my mother has not been that positive that he can recall and he's smart enough and old enough to realise that respect for his elders needs to be earned, he doesn't tolerate bad, negative, nasty behaviour. I've taught him to have respect/to stand up for himself.

My view is fairly simple on this now, I DO NOT tolerate toxic relationships in my life anymore. Life is too short. I don't care if they are family members or dear friends. I gave it my best shot with my mum. I tolerated alot and paid the emotional price. But I've made my own peace with her and forgiven her (privately with myself).

Because, a bit like banging your head against a brick wall, there comes a time when you have to say ... ENOUGH. My mother is a damaged person, for that I feel sorry for her. But I can't fix her and refuse to keep reliving these feelings I always endure when being involved with her. Not to mention her unpredictable physical outbursts.

My conscience is clear, if she passes without all this past being 'resolved' (if there is such a thing) in therapy or similar (which we've done previously) then I will be fine. I love her and I know she loves me, but sometimes that means you don't have any more contact with each other.

Thank you to everyone who has posted here and especially to the OP. I had no idea my feelings towards my mother were so similar to others.

I see her fairly often and spend the whole time quietly seething whist she sits there in blissful ignorance of the pain she has caused me. It's pointless trying to broach the subject of my childhood with her because it just ends up being a pity party for her . Like Heps mother I too suspect mine is on the autistic spectrum and definitely has learning difficulties which leaves me feeling very conflicted about what to do.

I hope by being more aware than our own mothers, we can all break the cycle of abuse flowers

Hepburn14 Tue 24-May-16 21:16:06

Hugs to all of you!

I wish there was some or other support group for us all (apart from MN). Even the counsellor I saw for my PND didn't really know what to suggest to do about my mum and clearly hadn't come across a situation like it before!

DreamingAboutSleep Tue 24-May-16 22:13:08

Thank you for your post, I have been struggling with my relationship with my mother who was just as you described yours growing up. My saving grace was meeting my husband too along with a substantial amount of counselling. Even then I found being around her quite toxic but she seemed different with my children in their early years and that made me so hopeful that things could be different for them and for her and I thought I could manage it all.

However, she things have changed as they have got older. She is totally unreliable for example I've bought countless tickets for their performances or days out and she doesn't show up. I'm then left sat next to an empty seat watching their plays. On one occasion she was so offended I had arranged for a child minder to collect them after a school play (I was working that day so she went on her own) she left straight after the play without saying goodbye to dd2 or seeing dd1 at all. Dd1 was so upset dd2 got to see nanny when she didn't. We didn't hear from her for months after that. I am really struggling with what to tell my girls who are now 5 & 7, when they ask when she's visiting or why she hasn't called them. I've never shared anything about my childhood or said anything about her behaviour to them as I'm afraid of repeating the cycle I experienced growing up. When she does stay she we never know how long she will be here for and she will often sleep for most of the day, doesn't join in with the family routines and stays up on her own into the early hours.

I have no idea what to say to them or how to explain her behaviour to them and am not sure I want this toxic stuff in my life any more but feel I would be responsible for depriving my children of their grandmother and also be harshly judged and need to justify the lack of contact to everyone else. I guess there are no easy solutions its just nice to know I'm not on my own with it flowers

lastuseraccount123 Wed 25-May-16 01:15:00

hi everyone, I started this FB page for us if anyone's interested: www.facebook.com/alllightwithapieceofdark/ but no expectation from me, just a few people wanted to follow me/etc so I thought I'd set it up (I only just did it hence not much posting!)

Dreaming it is hard isn't it - you could maybe try telling them it's no reflection on them and sometimes nanny just is like that, and it's nothing they did. Oh I feel for you and them and their little feelings being hurt xx. They are going to figure it out eventually, but I know, it's hard....xxxx

and yes yes yes to the pressure to stay in contact - for a long time I allowed that pressure to define what I did and didn't do vis a vis my mother, because I felt guilty, but now I'm through the other side and I think society needs to get over it's need to pretend all mothers are good. That pressure it toxic and has kept too many of us silent for too long. People who don't' understand need to realise just that: they don't understand. Their experience is limited. They don't get it. And shut the fuck up (imo).

:flowers: to all.

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