Through the comments discussion on my recent post “My Value and Learning to Love MY Self” here on Emerging from Broken, Lynda recently asked me the following question and since it is such a popular question I thought I would answer it in a post all its own.
Lynda says: Darlene,
“I’m so sorry your mother treated you the way she did. What I DON’T understand… if your mother’s mother treated her that way, why did she do the same to you? I was just the opposite, always trying to give my children the love and encouragement and affirmation that I never got from my mother.”
This is the realization that I finally came to when it came to my own kids; that I had a choice and I actively decided to pursue something different for my children. But the truth is that my mother made the same choice, she actually did do better by me then what was done to her in her own dysfunctional relationship she had with her mother and I think she thought that it was enough. We were fed and clothed better than her and her siblings were. We were clean and had clean clothing, bedding and nutritious food. But the love was missing. I was emotionally neglected. I was not heard. I was not acceptable. I was not encouraged to be an individual or regarded with equal value. Her own issues were way too much in the way and we ended up having a very dysfunctional mother daughter relationship very similar to the same dysfunctional mother daughter relationship that my mother had with her mother. Continued….
My mother didn’t do her own emotional healing work. And I let the traumatic childhood that she had be the excuse for never being able to stand up to her or to draw boundaries and therefore as an adult, I ended up sacrificing my own value. (which was really easy because I had learned to do that all my life anyway, and I had come to believe that I didn’t HAVE equal value to anyone else) As a child, I had no choice, and as an adult I didn’t KNOW that I had a choice. I sacrificed my own recovery in order to make excuses for her issues. And in doing that, my children grew up (until about 5 years ago) seeing my mother treat me as though I was “less than” and they saw my mother and also my in-laws and lots of other people walk all over me and they saw me accept that treatment, accept the blame for it and continually try harder.
It was the psychological abuse stuff that didn’t change in my adult relationship with my mother. Our mother daughter relationship was dysfunctional mostly because It was all about her. The power and control dynamics were still in place; that belief that if you place children as equally valuable to yourself, that you risk them walking all over you. My mother had equal value mixed up with equal authority. And I never did receive equal value OR equal authority because she had her definition of respect mixed up. Today I realize that it is wrong to take that attitude with children, but my mother took that attitude all throughout our relationship. My mother didn’t do the emotional healing work that I did which made the biggest difference to the way that my life is now, and to the functional parent child relationships that I have with my children today.
I vowed when I was 15 years old that I would NEVER be like my mother. That vow consumed my life and eventually I had to look at what that vow meant. It meant different things to me at different times of my life. I asked myself what specifically did I not want to do in the ways that my mother did them when it came to being a parent. I had a list of things such as that I would never treat them like they were born to serve me or validate me. I would never take my daughters to bars to attract men. I would never flirt with their boyfriends. I would never humiliate them in front of other people. I would protect them. I had to realize that those things were wrong things to do.
But there were other things that were not as easy to define as “wrong”. How would I make sure that I didn’t devalue my children? How would I raise them differently then I had been raised. Where would I get the knowledge to raise them differently so that I would I NOT have dysfunctional parent child relationships? I had to start searching for answers, searching for better ways, loving ways, nurturing ways. But the point is that when I started searching. I was nowhere close to whole when I had my kids. I was lost and feeling my way around in the dark. I was broken and struggling with depressions. So for some of the changes to my parenting style, it took the process of emotional healing that I write about here in “emerging from broken” to really change things because I didn’t know how to validate myself in the first place, how would I validate them? I was in the fog about so many things.
A comforting thing for me has been to realize that was was not through understanding my Mother, or even understanding our dysfunctional mother daughter relationship, that emotional healing came about. It was through sorting through the things that happened to me. It was through examining what I came to believe about myself because of emotional and physical trauma. It was through realizing how I came to believe that I was not worthy and that I was less valuable than others. I recovered as I took my life back. I took my life back when I realized that I did not cause my own problems. Not for the purpose of assigning blame, but for the purpose of stating the truth. I love the idea that everyone has issues, and that my parents were not perfect, but knowing that and accepting that is NOT what helped me to heal. I was TOLD who I was and I believed it. But that is not who I was and it is not who I am. I had to take my life back and restore the truth about me~ that is what set me free.
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Exposing Truth ~ one snapshot at a time
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