Stories of Love and Pain and the Complex Bond Between Mother and Daughter
In an ideal world it would be just like the movies.
Mother would be loving and wise. Daughter would be adored and proud. But that would be a perfect world. A Donna Reed-by-the-way of Claire Huxtable world where mother knows best and there’s always fresh bake cookies at the end. It the real world we have pain and we are flawed and we make mistakes. Some hearts mend, others are broken beyond repair.
These relationships are complex and demanding, but you only get one mother.
On May 28 I wrote a post on writer Rebecca Walker, daughter of “The Color Purple” author, Alice Walker. Rebecca recently penned a column on how she felt abandoned by a mother who used her belief in an extremist view of feminism as an excuse to neglect her. Some thought it smacked of opportunism and betrayal. Others thought it was shedding a light on something most never talk about — loving the imperfect vessel that ushered you into the world.
When we are hurt by those we love we are told to keep quiet. That there is bravery in our silence. That it is a noble thing to lock away all the bad and focus on solely on the new even if the pain is still raw and destroying us from the inside. Loyalty above all, even our own well being. No one is celebrated for outing their own mother as neglectful or judgmental, but I encouraged my readers to bare their souls about the good and the bad and ten women responded.
All the stories sent will run over the next two weeks. They will run in full with some minor editing. I hope that in reading them other women in pain will realize that they are not alone. That countless other women share their burden and too want to be freed from it.
Some of these tales were not easy to read. Others were uplifting. But they all came layered in the same truth — sometimes families fail. Even when they mean well. Even when everyone tries hard. Sometimes things fall apart. And it is left to the children to put them back together again.
My mother and I have an odd story.
She was unable to have children, so she adopted me as an infant. I have had an amazing life and am truly blessed, but our relationship has been tumultuous. Often times, I am my mother’s only friend, which is a difficult thing for a child to be. She is brash, offensive, and loves too hard, and occasionally, she drives people away, and I am all she has left.
When she was high on drugs and rambling about life, she talked to me, when her and my father were having serious problems, she talked to me, when her health began to rapidly deteriorate and she feared death, she talked to me. Often times it was more than I could bear. On top of all that, we fought fiercely for attention. My mother has always been attention starved, and I stole her sunshine on more than one occasion. She was quick to remind me that I was not wanted by my real mother, and that my father did not even want to adopt me, that only she wanted me, only she loved me.
In 2006, during winter break of law school, she kicked me out of the house. I have never returned to live there. With all of this though, I love her.
She is fiercely protective and she loves so hard. I know she loves me more than anything, and I have personally seen her put my needs before her own. She raised me to the best of her ability and I have to learn to love her for what she is and is not.
I know what it feels like to intensely hate and love someone at the same time. She has stopped drinking (for over a year now) and stopped doing drugs, and her personality has calmed down severely. I think, as I look back over it, our problem is that we wanted to have a best friend relationship as well as a mother-child relationship. I’ve seen this with many people, and ultimately, you have to find a balance.
I think with all the fighting we did when I was a teenager, she wanted to be my friend again, and confess and gossip to me like she did when I was young, only I no longer would listen. When she tried to flip on me and become a mother again and put me out of the house, I didn’t understand why. We still work at it everyday, and I love her, and I think I understand her more than anyone. I have no idea how to wrap this up so I’ll end by saying that I love my mother, some of the shit she did was unnecessary and has left permanent scars, but she did the best she could.
And I think at the end that’s all you can ask from anyone.