I’m working on getting along with my mother this year. I have always had a fraught relationship with everyone in my family, and I do not have much of a relationship with any of them. Sometimes, I don’t understand how it’s possible that we’re actually related – if we didn’t look so similar, I don’t know if I would believe that we actually were.
My mother and I have never gotten along. Or I guess we got along marvellously when I was a child, and then slowly did not get along at all, as we realized that we had absolutely nothing in common. My mother was horrible to me during my teenage years. I know that most parents/teens have phases of not getting along, but my mom really lost it during a few of those years. She basically took out all of her aggression from a horrible failed marriage on me. And though the aggression eventually toned down, the continual criticism, lack of respect, and glowing favourtism of my brothers did not. The thing that makes this difficult to deal with though is not just that my mother is often horrible, but the fact that she is also so very broken. She wants so desperately for us to have a relationship, and it hurts her so very much that we do not. On top of this, she honestly does not understand how the things that she does are hurtful. She just doesn’t get it. And she forgets. With my mother, in her memory she praises me continuously and we always have a wonderful time together. In reality, even when I threw her a surprise 70th birthday party (cooking dinner for 10 of her closest friends, and bringing in a professional photographer, and decorating her apartment), the next day she couldn’t help but tell me all of the things that were wrong with it.
Earlier this year, the guilt/emotional abusiveness/craziness came to a head, when I snuck home for a few short days and didn’t tell her. I didn’t tell anyone in my family. I had 4 days at home, and I just wanted to soak in goodness and warmth and love and support, and I’m sorry to say that those are not things that I get from my biological family.
To this day, I don’t know how, but my mom found out. She found out, and not only that, she found out the airline that I was on and the day that I was leaving. Instead of calling me, or emailing me, or asking me what had happened, like a normal person she went to the airport and she waited. She waited for three hours, until she saw me checking into my flight, and then she walked up to me and started a fight, which ended with her screaming at me and calling me a liar, and telling me “goodbye forever!!” and storming off. This was followed by a call 30 minutes later, which I didn’t answer, where she left a message sobbing and wishing me “happy birthday for the rest of my birthdays” and that she’d always love me and blah blah blah.
I couldn’t deal with it anymore. And so I stopped living under any pretence that I would talk to her again, and just tried to let it go, like I have let go every other person in my family. This time, however, was different. This time, there was guilt. SO MUCH GUILT. And whether or not it was warranted, it was eating away at me. And so, with the advice of my therapist, I made a plan. A plan to call my mother for ten minutes, once a week, every week. And on this phone call, it was not my job to fix her, it was not my job to try to fix our relationship, or to try to make her understand how the things that she says hurt me. For these ten minutes, my job was just to be there on the phone with my mother. Not for her, but for me. Because I just can’t live with the guilt.
I don’t know if from an outsider’s perspective this makes me seem selfish. I haven’t gotten into a lot of the heavy details of our relationship, so it could very well come across as me being an ungrateful daughter who just doesn’t appreciate her mom. But this is the way it is.
It’s been a month so far of ten minute calls, and so far it works. So far it’s been positive, and none of the horrible things about our relationship have had a chance to sneak in. So far, it’s reasonable and it’s easy. I know that it might not always be this way, but all I can do is take it one ten minute phone call at a time, and hope that it continues to help us both.