I Realized My Relationship With My Mother Was Actually Toxic And Learned to Parent Myself
Not everyone is blessed with a good mother and unfortunately, the consequences of growing up with a toxic parent can have lasting effects into adulthood.
My mom prefers to act as though we have a great relationship. She pretends, she tells stories, then she covers up her lies with bigger lies. And back when I thought it was possible to move the dial on our relationship, her default move was to play the victim.
Outgrowing my childhood wounds
I shouldn’t have been surprised though, because after all, she was the self-proclaimed ‘best mom’ who did ‘everything for her kids.’
The truth, unfortunately, was far from it.
So, with her strong denial of my reality and her inability to let go of the selfishness, control and manipulative behavior that caused so much pain in the first place, healing the fallout from our relationship was a journey I walked alone.
Sometimes, the apple can fall far from its tree
Healing from my relationship with my mom meant being brutally honest about my childhood. As anyone who has a tough relationship with a parent will tell you, it’s not easy to admit. You almost feel ashamed that your story is different than the beautiful nuclear family that’s so readily advertised, so your first instinct is to hide it.
Shortly after my mom’s divorce, her best friend (and our aunt) came for a visit. She sat with me and asked how long I knew about my mom’s affair (which, to make things more complicated, was with my dad’s sister’s husband). I let her know that my mom told me about their relationship when I was about 5. She was baffled that an adult would share something so heavy with a child.
Granted her surprise, I skipped the details about how my mom not only blatantly continued her affair in front of my sibling and I, but she also used us to lie to our dad on her behalf, treat her lover like a father (while she vilified our dad), and spend the majority of our free-time with the two of them while they played house.
“Promise, to never be like your mom”
Even with the little my aunt did know, she still found it revolting enough to have me promise that I would never be like my mom.
I think about that day often. It was about 15 years ago, and I’ve come a heck of a long way. I’ve put in a lot of work to end the generational trauma of affairs, violence, chronic lying and shame induced manipulation tactics– and frankly, it’s the best gift I could have given myself.
So, no matter what your pain, how similar or how different it may be than mine, I wish the same healing for you.
Learning to re-mother myself
With a mother that was entirely preoccupied with her affair and her societal image, and a father I watched dwindle into an alcoholic, then into a violent threat in the household, good parenting was hard to come by.
But none of that really became apparent until I entered my first serious relationship. It was then that things started bubbling up. I was anxious. The feeling of someone walking away felt like being abandoned. My anger was always just one misunderstanding away and I had a complete inability to self-soothe. I felt like a child masquerading as an adult.
It was only when I started walking the path of self-development that I learned the vocabulary I needed to address the root causes of my issues, many stemming from my upbringing.
I learned about my attachment style and how it repeated itself in romantic relationships, I learned about co-dependency and the necessity of boundaries and I learned about how my anger was really just poorly veiled sadness.
But, I didn’t just wake up with that knowledge, I found them in the pages of books that changed my life. Here are a few of the books:
-Healing the Wounds of Childhood by Don St John, Ph.D.
-Unconditional Forgiveness by Mary Hayes Grieco
-Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry & Jean Greaves
-Getting the Love you Want by Harville Hendrix
-Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting or Self-Involved Parents by Lindsay C. Gibson
Through this work, I found validation, empowerment through information and the tools I needed to parent myself.
I also combined this with journaling and affirmations, a powerful combination of tools that allowed me to rewire my psychology and take small, daily steps towards betterment.
Positive change slowly but surely happened
It was only when I was well on this journey of understanding and resolving my earliest experiences that I started to find relationships that were of a higher quality.
Since then, many mentors have appeared in my life who later shared about their similar childhoods, I’ve stumbled upon podcasts and other nuggets of information that have helped me change in massive ways, and best of all, I’ve learned to love in a way that doesn’t hurt.
I guess it’s true what they say, ‘when the student is ready, the teacher will appear,’ and I believe that you being here and reading this is a cornerstone to your healing journey.
It will not be easy, but it will most definitely be worth the inner peace that you find on the other end.
In my journey, I’ve learned to own my story and integrate it into my life’s narrative in a way that strengthens my purpose. Now, when I see dynamics similar to my own, I can’t look away. So, here I am creating. I hope this helps.
More inspiring stories: