Becoming A Mother Is Hard When You’re Estranged From Your Own

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The week of Mother’s Day is usually the week I dread most out of the entire year. The commercials, the pop-up ads, the warm and fuzzy Facebook posts where people honor their mothers and celebrate their relationships – it always gets me thinking about my mother, or lack thereof. Of course, I recognize those who have lost their mothers probably feel similarly or worse. But my mother is not dead. My mother lives less than twenty minutes from me. She is alive and married and has a whole new life completely separate from the lives of myself and my sister. But she hasn’t been my mother in a long time, and we haven’t spoken in four years.

This year, I’m a mother-to-be and while the Mother’s Day Marketing Hoopla stings slightly less because of that, I’m finding that the entire experience of being pregnant and becoming a mother still feels…off, I guess, by not having a mom. I will say it’s fueled me into feeling positive and passionate about the kind of mother I want to be, the kind of mother I will be. But I have so many unanswered questions that only keep multiplying the farther along I get. I have no idea what her pregnancy with me was like, what her labor was like, how she felt, where she got stretch marks, etc. I wish I had the kind of mother I could call and ask a million ridiculous “is this normal?!” questions per day. But I don’t. And that’s okay, really. I’ve made my peace with that through the years. There will always be something missing though. A void that even my own child can’t fill, but hopefully will benefit from, because I’ve got a lot of love to give that’s had nowhere to go for a very long time.

I don’t need to go into all the gory details of our dysfunctional relationship, but suffice to say my mother suffers from mental illness, extreme narcissism, addiction, and a host of other things that make it impossible for me to allow her presence in my life. If I did, it would be at the risk of my own mental health and overall happiness. Was our relationship always this way? No, thankfully. While I can recognize some red flags now as an adult looking back, for the most part I felt loved and protected until my teen years. Once I went away to college, our relationship started to crack. Once my parents divorced when I was 21, our relationship crumbled. It fucking imploded, to be more accurate. Her depression went untreated for awhile, and then the personality disorders (my opinion, not an official diagnosis that I know of) presented themselves in an alarming way. Basically, she demonstrated a complete lack of self-awareness and culpability of her destructive and, eventually, abusive behavior. She blamed my sister and I for a lot of things that most certainly weren’t our fault. She initiated our final parting on my 26th birthday, but is now a completely mutual estrangement.

Along with that relationship, my sister and I no longer have a relationship with our grandparents – whom we lived next door to for twenty years. They are huge enablers of my mother and therefore also a detriment to our mental health and wellbeing. It’s unfortunate, to say the least, but it is what it is and it’s not going to change. Like I said, I’ve made my peace with it. My dad the rest of his family are an active part of my life and I love them all very much. My husband’s family is also big and loud and loving and wonderful, and my mother-in-law is very nurturing. I’ve found fulfillment in many other areas of my life and with many other people. But it doesn’t change the fact that being estranged from my mother and her family feels weird now that I’m going to be a mom myself.

Honestly, I’m scared. I worry that my mom’s mental illness will at some point present itself in me, or worse, my child. I worry that as I get farther along, I’ll miss having a mother even more. (It’s important to note that I don’t miss her, necessarily, I miss the idea of her – the place she should have in my life.) I worry that my child will ask me about her before I’m ready to answer those questions. I worry that I won’t have the right answer. I worry that my child will feel sorry for me, or that he or she will feel the effect of not having their maternal grandmother in their life. I worry that my mother will attempt to contact my child someday. I worry that my child will somehow become aware of the awful things my mother has said about me, publicly, to anyone who will listen. I worry about all sorts of things, and not having a mom to soothe my fears is really hard sometimes (when I allow it to be).

I’m sure plenty of people with dysfunctional parents and/or families out there can relate. So while I’m a little less depressed this Mother’s Day (because yay baby), it still feels…weird. Something will always be missing. While I have found ways to cope with that fact as it applies to just myself, I now have to figure out a way to make it okay for my child.

(Photo: Shutterstock)