Adoption, Depression, Empathy, Family, Half-brother, Mother as Guru, Mother's Day, PTSD, Therapy
I’ve got some confessions to share with y’all. And some venting.
Today is Mother’s day. I’ve always had a problem with those cards expressing gooey sentiments about wonderful mythical mothers who are loving and generous to their children. I’ve felt a little guilty that I don’t feel that way about my own mother… that I’ve never once wanted to write ‘thanks for being a great mum’ on her card…
Anyway, the family plans for today changed when mum came down with a nasty dose of the flu, all aches and pains and totally bed-ridden. So, Mother’s day lunch was transferred to my sister and brother-in-law’s place with everyone except mum.
Sorry as I am that she’s unwell, to be honest it was something of a relief that mum wasn’t there. Sounds horrible, I know.
Jaliya has written a thought-provoking post for Mother’s day, and the innate ability within us all to develop mothering-type qualities. Even if we aren’t mothers, or even females.
In Tantra and Hindu traditions, one’s mother is considered the first Guru (teacher) – for many years, the mother is everything to the child. Then, as the child gains independence, the mother’s role morphs to provide support, love and advice, but her life-sustaining qualities are no longer required. All children eventually need other teachers.
While I understand the reasons its hard for mothers to let go, it’s crucial for the health of the parent/child relationship. Mothers and fathers must learn to adapt their ‘job description’, for want of a better term… to grow with their children and enable new ways of relating to them.
So I confess… I love both my parents, but I’m finding increasingly difficult to have a relationship with my mum.
Partly, the reason for that has to do with her inability to see me as an adult. The few months I spent living at my parents’ place revealed this very clearly.
The other part of the problem has to do with our seemingly incompatible emotional states.
As I’ve mentioned before, my mother had a child out of wedlock in the 60’s. The method of dealing with such things in Australia at the time was to put pressure on young mothers to give their children up for adoption.
This happened to my mother. Between the doctor and my nan, mum was coerced into giving up her child (one she almost died giving birth to). She wasn’t allowed to see her boyfriend, and never saw her newborn child.
There’s way more to this story than I’ll ever know, and I’ve heard plenty. Neither my grandmother or mother have a penchant for telling the truth. Rather, they’re both proficient at re-writing history to suit their tastes. Possibly, this has coloured my desire to be as utterly and painfully truthful with myself and other people as I can be.
According to my mother, nan destroyed the adoption papers and told mum they would never speak of the matter again. She was expected to keep it all a secret. And she did that for a long, long time.
When she met my father, mum did tell him at some point. Maybe part of the reason they suited each other is because she doesn’t want to let stuff out, and he colludes with her desire to remain as she is…
Because of the ‘lost’ papers, mum never knew her son’s exact date of birth (til they met decades later – another story). She only knew it was some time in February. And apparently she’d always ‘go a little funny’ around that time of year. Not that I ever noticed, because while growing up my experience of mum was that of an emotional yo-yo. There was always a crisis, she was always mad about something and then in tears. We kids would have to be quiet, say nothing, and walk on egg-shells for days afterwards to avoid any flare-ups.
Eventually, I was told about my half-brother, but sworn into secrecy too (which I found to be rather impossible). I’ve given as much support to mum as I’ve been permitted… I was there to support her the first time she met him, suggested ways to get professional help, and talked to her about it whenever she felt like talking.
However as the years passed, I noticed her unavailability whenever I was a mess. I don’t mean physically, just emotionally. If I called in tears, she couldn’t find anything to say. So she’d say things that were just… inappropriate… awkward… strange.
My sister and I gradually realised that mum has no plans to ever put down the mantle of her life-wounds. In fact, I’m certain she intends to carry them to the grave.
All of which means she has no capacity for other people’s issues. This has been particularly hard for me in the last few years, while I’ve been dealing with depression and a vicious case of PTSD.
Except for the weekend directly after the assault, I was never once asked how I was doing. There wasn’t a single attempt to find out what happened, offer support or even anything practical. And there was a long time there when I could barely take care of myself. Cooking was impossible. Getting out of bed was outrageously tough.
But it wasn’t just a lack of care from mum – seems to be a trait going back generations on both sides of the family. And maybe that’s part of the reason I over-share, and feel the need to talk about things so much? I seem to be the polar opposite of my family in so many ways!
Then, maybe I’m like her in other ways… do I focus too much on what’s happening in my life to the detriment of those I love? Perhaps sadly, I do…
It’s been an added source of pain, and I’ve often discussed it in therapy – it’s natural to want to turn to one’s family in times of need. But mine is not available.
Additionally, things haven’t exactly been good between mum and I since I stayed with my folks after my return from Thailand.
But it’s tough to resolve problems with someone who won’t talk, and lets you know they’re mad in very subtle ways, every time they see you. So, we’ve limped along in this half-life of a familial bond for months now… when I lost my job, mum didn’t call me, not even once.
On one level, I really do find it hard to understand how my own mother has no empathy for the suffering of others. Even though I understand what she’s been through.
But my own experiences of trauma cause me to feel for others very much, and it’s generated a desire to help other people.
And so, on this Mother’s day, day of thanks for the gift of this life, I find myself glad I didn’t have to see my own mother.
It’s not something I’m proud of – it just is what it is… part of my process of recovery, I suspect.