Toxic Mother Daughter Relationship and Oprah Winfrey’s MotherBy Darlene Ouimet
This article is based on a page from the unauthorized biography “Oprah a biography by Kitty Kelley”
When I grabbed this book off the shelf at Costco, I didn’t realize that it was an unauthorized biography about Oprah Winfrey. I thought that it was the real story. I thought that Oprah had agreed to the publication. I quickly realized that I had picked up something that might be full of lies and conclusions that had no right to be drawn; but since I bought it, I decided to read it anyway.
One of the most popular subjects here on Emerging from Broken is the subject of dysfunctional and toxic relationships between mothers and daughters. I think that as humans we are born craving love, community and acceptance from our mothers and when it appears that our mothers hate us, disapprove of us, judge us or generally never seem to love and accept us… it is a mystery that we are attracted to solving. I want my mother to LOVE me. I want a relationship with my mother. But I got tired of how the entire burden of that desire was left up to me with zero accountability on the part of my mother.
I came across a part in Kitty Kelley’s book about Oprah Winfrey that bugged me a great deal. I realize that this is an unauthorized biography, but the example that I found about dysfunctional and toxic mother daughter relationship was so good, that I just could not resist writing about it for Emerging from Broken. It shows the way that society views how we SHOULD respect parents no matter what. It shows that the definition of love is often communicated in a very dysfunctional way. In my opinion, this part in the book explains the just how toxic mother daughter relationships can be and that society actually views this toxic false definition of love and respect as the right way to view it.
The following is a quote from page 175 of the book Oprah; a biography by Kitty Kelley. This quote is in the context of a conversation that a very close family friend (whom Oprah calls her Aunt Katherine) Mrs. Esters has with the author of the book.
Mrs. Esters says
“Oprah takes very good care of her mother, who now buys five-hundred-dollar hats and has drivers who have drivers and helpers and cooks and all, but the story of Oprah and Vernita is sad and complicated”. said Mrs.Esters. “Oprah does not love her mother at all…She gives her a great deal financially but she does not give her the respect and affection a daughter should, and that bothers me. Vernita did the best she could with Oprah, who was a wilful, runaway child….Her mother has had to bury two of her three children over the years and I can tell you that when a parent loses a child it can you to your knees. I know. I had to bury my son. So Oprah should be more forgiving of her mother…”
This paragraph bothered me. It reminded me of my own life, and the way that I have been blamed for the problems in my relationship with my mother. It irritated me. Notice the word “should”. (…“but she does not give her mother the respect that a daughter should” and “Oprah should be more forgiving…)
Notice that Mrs. Esters brings up two children who have passed away as though that has something to do with the whole thing. That is what I call a “rabbit trail” The fact that two of Opera’s mothers children died has NOTHING to do with why Oprah should love her mother or with Oprah’s relationship with her mother. See how the lies are told? Does this mean that the definition of love is “feeling sorry” for your mother?
And you “should” respect your mother, because she is your mother? Because she did the best she could? The best according to who? And why does she use the word “forgiving” because that implies that there is indeed something to forgive and it bothers me that the word “should” is in the same sentence as forgiving. There is just something wrong about all this.
These quotes are a reflection of how society is brainwashed to regard parents as Gods.
Mrs Esters also comments that Oprah was “a wilful and runaway child” which puts the all the blame for the behaviour of her mother squarely back on Oprah’s shoulders. And that is the whole problem in the first place. Children are always blamed for whatever the parents do or “have to do”. Like I said this paragraph is a great example of the way society views “toxic mother daughter relationships” blaming the daughter or blaming the child no matter what age they are, for all the problems.
There is so much “truth leaking” about what really went on in this paragraph but in our society, nobody catches it. Everyone hears it the way that it is intended to be heard; that Oprah, the child, failed her mother and continues to fail her to this day.
This part of the quote in the statement “Oprah does not love her mother at all…She gives her a great deal financially but she does not give her the respect and affection a daughter should, and that bothers me.” … well that Really bothers ME. Respect and affection? That phrase made me cringe. We are supposed to give our mothers affection? Why? Even if they beat us? Even if they sexually abuse us? Even if they disregard us as human beings and neglect our emotional health? This whole thing implies that being a daughter is a duty; that this “duty” has guidelines that need to be abided by or else you are NOT a good daughter. And there is no accountability on the part of the mother. And what about the concept of “RESPECT”? If the childhood history that Oprah endured is actually true, then her mother was not a very loving mother, and her mother didn’t respect Oprah at all, so why “SHOULD” Oprah give her mother respect and affection?
I don’t believe that children learn by being told HOW to be loving daughters. I believe that we learn by example and the example that my mother set for me is exactly what I learned. My mother was not nurturing or respectful. Her example of “love” was dysfunctional. She taught me things from a very one sided point of view. What applied to me, didn’t apply to her because she is the mother, and society accepts that view.
I don’t think my mother is very happy with our relationship because we don’t have one, but honestly, whose fault is that? Why does society view it as MY fault? Based on the small parts of the toxic mother daughter relationship I had with my mother and have shared here in Emerging from Broken, it is clear that my mother did a lot of damage to me. I am not going to take the blame for that because my mother and society are more comfortable blaming all relationship difficulties on the kids, no matter what age they are. I think that it’s time that everyone looked at the difficult subject of toxic mother daughter relationships through the eyes of truth.
The problems don’t start with the child. Even if that child was never abused by the parent, the adult child is often angry that said parent didn’t protect them from the abuse that did happen and that is understandable. Think about that in relation to yourself as a child. I believed most of my life that the problem was me, because I was always told it was me. But does that mean it was the truth? No.
I had a very strong reaction to the way this story about Oprah Winfrey was presented and to the way that her relationship with her mother was viewed by a family friend. It triggered all the memories of how no matter what my parents did, no matter how dysfunctional and toxic they were, no matter how I was regarded and devalued, I was the problem and any lack of acceptance or complaint was regarded as disrespectful and therefore viewed as my failure as a daughter.
Please share your thoughts on this example of toxic mother daughter relationship. I look forward to the discussion in the comments.
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