Mother yourself

Joey Garcia

Do I owe it to my mother to take care of her, even if it ruins my life? We never had a family life. She left me with sitters. A male sitter sexually abused me. A female sitter gave me drugs. After that, I was home alone. At 21, I had a daughter and thought that would bring my mom and I closer. She moved 3,000 miles away with a stranger I later learned was her husband. I’m 51 with a pain disorder and had several back surgeries. My mother has Alzheimer’s disease. She and my stepfather have moved nearby. If I invite them over, he’ll say yes but cancels last minute. Instead, he bangs on my door at odd hours saying my mom is having a psychotic episode. They come in my home arguing and get me involved. He leaves her with me and she cries for me to call him to pick her up. Recently, my mom broke her hip. At the hospital, my stepfather complained that my husband and I are rude. Something in me snapped. I haven’t spoken to my parents in months. Am I a horrible person?

No, you are a person with horribly rigid expectations. By the most basic definition, a woman who gives birth is a mother. We hope adults will raise children with care and affection. Children deserve to be nurtured, with full attention given to their health, welfare and protection. But an unbiased view of mothers carries us beyond stereotypes: A woman who appears to love her child is actually smothering that child. A woman who abandons her child is a woman unnecessary to that child’s life. See what I did there? A billion alternate perspectives exist for every story. Why not be grateful that your childhood hours with your mother were limited? If you still desire mothering, mother yourself. Mothering is a gift anyone can give to another or to oneself.

It’s interesting to read your justifications for ending your connection with your mother. What would it be like to exit the relationship without justifying the exit? Doing so requires you to step fully into adulthood and accept yourself as equal to your mother. You would also have to quit trying to be seen as good. Drop the qualifier (“good”). Serenity arrives. Drop the role (“daughter”) and experience freedom in interactions with your parents.

Alzheimer’s complications are likely behind the last-minute cancellations. Since you choose to take cancellations personally, why continue to extend invitations? If your mother and stepfather show up at the door arguing, and you allow them in, take responsibility for placing yourself in the mix. Stop blaming your parents. Stop interacting with them like they are rational. It just makes you seem like you’re not in touch with reality.

One last thing: Our bodies speak our minds. Decades of emotional pain can embed in the body. The spine is a symbol of our ability to stand up for ourselves. Is it any wonder that you are suffering? Ease up on your expectations. Break the habit of returning to your past to mourn what you think you needed. Mother yourself. You deserve that sweetness.

Meditation of the week
“Whoever loves, becomes humble. Those who love have, so to speak, pawned a part of their narcissism,” wrote Sigmund Freud. Can you count the ways you have surrendered self-interest to become selfless in love?

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