Releasing the past in order to find myself

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Anxiety of Leaving my Children

People have been pushing me to leave my children with a babysitter almost since they were born.  In fact, before I was even pregnant my MIL (mother-in-law) used to say "I will watch the baby..." all the time.  Before I had kids, I never thought I'd have too much trouble with leaving my kids.  But I've found it far harder than I though, and for a variety of reasons.

As a disclaimer, I have left my kids.  I've left my son with my mother for a couple hours at a time on a few occasions (mainly when I had my second son).  I take Caleb to preschool two days a week.  I've left him with my SIL.  I just don't leave him often.  He is 3.  My baby, I've only left with my mom once for an hour.  Their dad stays with them a lot so I do get some time to myself.

But, you'd think I never left my kids.  Our friends constantly suggest we get a babysitter.  Mainly it is the friends without kids.  They don't understand that it's not that easy to just plop your kids (one of which is breastfeeding) and go out for the night.  Babysitters are expensive and the grandparents are an iffy option.  Our other friends have grandparents who are pretty much nannies.  They also don't get my concerns.  I feel so judged and pushed.

My mother, the narcissist, has watched my kids on occasion.  Never at night, but for a few hours here or there.  I can not trust her much longer.  She is really good for a few hours.  But then it starts to get on her nerves.  The novelty wears off and the kids get annoying.  She gets short with them.  She snaps.  She can be mean.  She orders them around pushing for control of them.   Even when she is here for an extended period of a few days, my older son gets testy and agitated until she leaves.  She makes everyone tense and on edge.   And then there is the price I pay after the fact.  When she takes the baby, she makes a big production of telling me that the baby didn't "need me".  She'll say to my son "See, you don't need your mom.  You did just fine without her.  You don't need her.  Tell her you don't need her."  And for those of you who have a narcissistic mother, I'm sure you can see what she is doing.  Divide and conquer.  Make herself look like she is just as good, if not better, than I am at taking care of my son.   It's good to know my son didn't have an awful time away from me.   But I don't think I need to be pushed away like that.  Then, there is always the martyr part of the babysitting.  As much as she pushes and pushes to babysit, after the fact, she'll complain how tired or exhausted she is.  Or how much we owe her (in appreciation) for babysitting.  Even when she is just here helping me with my kids (and I still do 90% of the work) she'll complain to my stepdad how exhausted she is.  (Which is funny, because if I say that taking care of the kids is a lot of work, she'll dismiss my feelings, telling me "well, you just do it.  When I had kids, I just got used to it.  It's not that much work if you do it everyday.  You should be used to it.").  She pushed my husband to leave one day and get out to do a hobby he loves.  She exclaimed how much she loves spending time with me and my kids.  Well, when he came back she snipped over and over about how, while HE was out having FUN, she took care of HIS kids all day.  Never mind, that I was there all day too.  You'd have thought she'd done it all by herself and he made her watch them.  Her babysitting is never free.  There is always a penalty.

My MIL is not much better.    She doesn't have the closest relationships with my sons.  She doesn't take a lot of time to get on the floor and play.  She doesn't ask them questions and really listen to them.  She spends a lot of time telling them how she feels about this or that.  It's hard to explain.  But her only conversations with them seem to be monologues about how she thinks or feels about them.  It sounds silly, I know, for me to say I get annoyed by her endless declarations of love.  But it's more than that.  It's just that every comment is related to her.  How she feels, what she thinks, what she likes.  It's never just "that's a nice shirt."  It's "GRANDMA likes your shirt."  "GRANDMA thinks your cute."    She just talks AT my kids, not to my kids.  And when she's not doing that, she's wrangling them on her lap, kissing them over and over, despite the fact that they want to get away.  It just seems she is always sucking energy and never giving anything back.  The kids are there to fulfill her needs for attention and gratification.

All of that I could tolerate, however, if I didn't have serious concerns about my kids safety in her care.  She is very scattered and unfocused.  She is very hyper and bounces around a lot.  She rushes through things in order to get them done, and often misses little details.  She has never watched my kids, but she does watch my niece and nephew.  Yes, nothing has ever happened to them.  But not for her lack of trying.  Here are a few of the things that happened that make me nervous:
*She can never figure out child car seats.  She has failed to buckle my niece into her seat correctly on so many occasions, I've lost count.   She has entrusted my FIL to buckle her in (who didn't know how to do it and had never received instruction) and didn't double check it so it remained loose.  She couldn't get her arms in once and had to have my husband do it.  She's just plain forgot to buckle her on a couple of occasions.
*We were at a swimming party when my niece was three.  We were all in the pool, but my SIL had put MIL specifically in charge of my niece.  I was holding my three month old when my niece fell under the water and and couldn't regain her feet.  I ran over and yanked her out of the pool.  My niece had been too far out for her height but had a "floaty" toy, so I guess MIL thought that was sufficient.  Now I understand accidents happen,  but what bothered me, is that it happened AGAIN, about 5 minutes later.  I again reached over and grabbed the sputtering child, trying desperately not to fall in myself with the baby.   I told MIL that she needed to be in the pool with her.  (She was sitting on the side).  She's fine, she argued.  This ticked me off.  She's not fine, she's three and someone needs to be in the pool with her!  Her uncle was right there, she snapped.  (This is a recurring idea with her.  She expects everyone else to be in charge with her.  That is a nice thought, but you can't count on someone else to look out for your kids.  They usually think someone else is watching and will walk away.  Hubby and I have a strict rule that we always have to make a point of saying out loud to each other who is in charge.  Then no one assumes the other is doing it and walks away, turns their back, etc.)  Anyway, she continued to argue with me, but finally stomped over and put a life jacket on her.  The whole incident left me shaken.  It's bad enough to let a toddler struggle underwater for any period of time, but then to argue it was fine, blew me away.
*She wanted to take my three year old on a carousel ride.  Not a kiddie carousel, but a big vintage one that goes very quickly.  He wanted to ride by himself, which is fine, as they have big seat belts, but after she got him buckled, she left him to go ride with my niece on the other side of the carousel.  She is always trying to be everything to all the kids at the same time, and consequently, often only is half focused on any one of them.  At the end of the ride, my son jumped off trying to get down.  There he dangled by the seat belt noosed around his armpits , feet a foot of the ground, as the ride still turned.  He was unhurt, but it was a miracle he hadn't choked himself, or hung off the other side where the gears and mechanisms are.
*She has put my niece to sleep on a half blown up air mattress when she was an infant.  She has fed her choking hazards.  She let my six month old suck on her metallic jewelry, paying no mind to the fact that it could pose a choking hazard and frankly is not a chew toy.  When hubby told her to not let her, she said "oh, he can't hurt my necklace".  The fricking necklace was the least of my concerns.  She was so busy with three kids on her lap, she didn't notice my four month old grabbing food off adults plates and trying to eat it.  She argued with my FIL that my 12 month old didn't need a seatbelt on a wagon ride.  Why would you NOT buckle him in, just to be safe?  She has not buckled my niece into a highchair and then turned her back.  My niece leaned way over to grab something and almost fell out.  One night, we went out to dinner and she could barely keep her eyes open she was so tired.  She decided to order a double beer (very tall glass) when she was driving my niece home.
*Hubby's family has loved filling me in on various crazy stories from their child hood.  She was driving the neighbor to school when he was 5, went around a corner, and the boy flew out the car door.  Her boys climbed the roof and ripped shingles off when they were 6-7 years old.  The boys shot bee bee guns at police cars.  The boys strung string across the rode to choke the neighbor lady as she rode her bike.  They set fires, got lost, etc.  Friends and relatives often remark about how their house was so chaotic when they were kids that it was like being in the monkey cage at the zoo.

Now, I know, accidents happen.  Kids get into things.  But she is SO unfocused.  So scattered, that these things seem to happen all the time.  She has such poor judgement.  She expects others to pick up her slack.  She doesn't take advantage of safety features that could help "just in case".  I don't understand why, if you have a seat belt, or restraint, or whatever, you wouldn't use it, especially with some one else's kid.  She forgets how little the kids are and allows things that they are not capable of.  When she watches my niece and nephew, they are hungry, always over tired, cranky, and crying.  She has a poor ability to anticipate the kids' needs until it's too late and they are screaming.  She is not very close to my son, even though he sees her way more than my parents.  He never asks about her like he does my dad, who he's seen only twice in four years.  She gets overtired quickly.  She doesn't know her own limits and often promises stuff that she is physically unable to do.  She can't say no to the kids and is always more worried that they will like her than keeping them safe.

So, these are my choices.  And as I think about either of them watching my kids, I have panic attacks.  I don't know what to do.  People do not understand these things, and think I'm just an overprotective, mean daughter-in-law/daughter.  But I worry about my kids.  If something happened to them, I'd never forgive my self.  I don't want to expose them to someone who would hurt them emotionally, or allow them to get hurt physically.  I know what it is like to be hung out to dry by your parents, and I don't want to not be there if they need me.  I want them to know I am there for them.  But I feel guilty.  I know they need time away from me.  I know my husband wants time with me.  I'd love to take a vacation away for the night.  But the sheer panic that closes off my throat each time I think about it, makes it seem impossible.   And as my kids get older and older, I know the time will come where I have to.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My Mother-in-Law

My relationship with my mother has colored every other relationship in my life.  It seems that she has fitted me with glasses, forcing me to see thing through her lens.  And as I break free, I'm often unsure if I'm seeing someone for who they are, or through the narcissistic lens.

One such relationship is with my mother-in-law, June.  June and I have never been particularly close.  She and I  are very different people.  She is loud and boisterous and hyper.  She often does not see others or  notice the effect she has on others around her.  She lacks self-awareness and is often unable to predict the consequences of her actions.  She is unable to step outside of herself and view things as others do, especially as others might perceive her.  She is blunt and speaks before she thinks.  She is controlling, manipulative, passive-agressive, and critical.  She tends to live in extremes.  Often things are labeled as "the best", and she seems to be very black and white in her thinking.  One thing is the best, and others line up in descending order.

Now, in looking at this description, it seems she has a lot of narcissistic characteristics.  And in fact, she and my mother's behaviors often feel the same to me.  The difference is that I don't believe her to be acting from the same place.  I don't see her as a person who is controlling others to boost herself or in a need to be the most powerful.  She is generous and I truly believe she wants what is best for her children and those around her.  She just spends so much time and energy trying to make everyone happy, that she often ends up making everyone unhappy.  I believe she has ADHD (and I don't throw these terms around, I actually have lots of experience in diagnostics for mental disorders).  I believe this is the root of a lot of her behaviors.  Regardless, though, the effect she has on me is very similar to the effect my mother has on me.

Here are some of the things she has done to drive me crazy:

*She often "teases" people but I find it to be mean.  When my husband graduated from college, the family had a big party.  Probably 45 people were there.  I overhead laughing at the next table.  When I asked what they were laughing at (quite loudly) no one responded.  Finally, when pressed, my MIL said "well, I was saying that I read an article about how laughing can increase your breast size and I said you must not laugh very much!" She cackled, everyone cackled, and I felt so embarrassed.  She will poke fun of people's weights or appearance.
*She struggles with boundries.  She's always standing too close or listening in on a conversation I'm having with someone else.  She's walked in on me changing twice (and she's only had the opportunity to do this about half a dozen times, so proportion wise, it's a lot).  I've purposely moved away from her as she sat too close to me.  She then followed me and actually pursued me around the room.  She asks very personal questions.  Her first question to me when she came to meet her grandson was if my nipples hurt.  Her FIRST question.
*She's pushy.  If she doesn't like my response to something, she'll keep asking.  Lots of times she'll just ignore me and do what she wanted to do anyway.  She harassed me for years about having grandkids.  I told her repeatedly that her son and I weren't ready, we needed to be more secure financially, but she pushed and pushed because all her "friends had grandkids".   She pushed us to get married.  She often pushes us to do things like she did (get married in the same month, live in a neighborhood like hers, relive my husband's childhood through my kids' childhoods.
*She can be rude.  She notices imperfections in my home keeping (I'm actually a very clean, organized person) but she'll point out the smallest thing.  She has told me my son has my "wide forehead".  She also told me that my son "unfortunately, has the Stewart (hubby's paternal side) nose.  None of MY boys has that nose, but I think your son will".  This blew me away.  Not only did she insult my son and her husband's family but then managed to boost herself up at the same time.  Not to mention that my son DOESN'T have that nose and that two of her son's DO.  I always feel like I'm under a microscope when she visits.  She always says "oh, you don't have to clean for us".  But she notices if we don't.  And she is not an overly clean person.  In fact, very cluttered and disorganized.  She has told my Sister-in-law she is getting fat ( while most of her family is overweight).  She often makes fun of people's appearances.
*She is very complimentary.  Often I believe her. But she seems to be complimenting me to try and gain my favor.  And she copies the thing that she complimented me on and then claims it for her own.  Sometimes though she is jealous.  I make a really good lasagna that she had heard about.  I finally made it for her.  She said "You do make a really good lasagna.  But I make really good spaghetti."  What kind of compliment is that?  It is typical for her to compliment herself, especially when it is something she really shouldn't take credit for.
*She likes to have her thumb on her kids.  She used to be worse and has gotten better.  But she tends to think of everyone as one big family unit still.  She expects the more fortunate kids to help out the less fortunate (weather it be with money, time, etc.).  She almost acts like everything is community property.  She often has "family vacations" planned that are manditory.  My husband and I always are required to pay our share.  Rarely do the other family members pay.  What irks me especially about this is that hubby and I are fortunate because we budget and work hard.  Other family members are spenders and don't work.  Why should we have to work hard so that others can benefit?  She tries to control relationships between family members by getting involved in things that don't involve her.  She will sacrifice someone's feelings to keep the peace (or the peace in her mind) with another.   She often likes to sweep things under the table instead of dealing with them and expects everyone else to do the same.  She used to (but less so now with my husband) use one child to convince another one of her children to do something she wanted.  "Why don't you tell them..." so that it would seem her idea came from someone else.  I've often felt bullied by her to do what she wanted.  It used to be that she would tell me that God had sent her special messages for me.  That God had told her I needed something or another to be told to me.  She also prays a lot that people will do what she wants them to do.  She sees nothing wrong with this.  She'll take from one person and give it to another, disrespecting someone's individual needs.  I've seen her take food off one grandkid's plate and give it to another because the second child finished first.  Doesn't matter if the first kid isn't finished yet or how that child feels about it.  This drives me insane.  All my in-laws have helped themselves to food off my plate without asking (after they've snarfed down their food.  I eat slower.  I always go away from family meals hungry)
*She is inconsiderate.  Actually, both of my in-laws are.  They like to drop by unannounced.  At dinner time or nap time.  They expect us to accommodate their schedule (and the schedule of Brother and Sister-in-law).  She shows up late for birthday parties.  When she comes in she makes a big scene about arriving, grabs all the kids and then hogs them the rest of the day.  She has exposed my kids to illness because she wanted to see them.  This is sneaky because she knows we would tell them not to visit if we knew they were sick.  So, she tells us after they have been here for awhile.  They often announce their plans instead of asking to see what works for us.  They never call us ahead of time, even when they know full well they will plan on stopping.  I feel like they bulldoze me.
*She makes me feel like a snob.  I am not.  I just grew up with some rules of decorum.  I try to be respectful of others.  And I am raising my children that way.  She will tell her sons "Don't do that, Jessie doesn't like it" as they put back food from their plate into the main dish if they don't like it.  It makes me feel small and stupid.
*She has first tier and second tier family members.  Her sons, her, and her husband are first tier.  She has ornaments with names on them on her Christmas tree.  First tier people got big ornaments.  Second tier people (me and my sister-in-laws) and the dog got much smaller ornaments.  She gives much more expensive gifts to her sons.  She makes sure that all of her sons favorite meals are at holiday gatherings, but ridiculed my SIL for wanting something special.  She picks out special gifts for her sons, but has a "rote" gift she gives me and my SIL.  She gives us the same thing every year and the same thing to both of us even though we have different taste.  I understand her sons are her actual children and I expect some favoritism.  And it's not about the gifts or money.  It's about the blatant display of separation between us.
*She is gossipy.  She'll tell me things that she thinks my SIL and BIL are doing wrong with their kids but acts like it's out of  her concern for them.  But she doesn't mention it to them because she doesn't want to interfere and be "that MIL".  I don't trust her with anything because she tells everyone everything.  She doesn't respect privacy.  She accidentally sent pictures of my SIL's exposed body after delivery of her baby to her husband's boss.  And thought it was funny.  I can only imagine what "concerns" she expresses to my SIL about me.
*One of the biggest bones of contention is that I'm allergic to her dog.  When BIL and SIL could no longer keep their dog, she took it, knowing full well that I was allergic.  Now, she has every right to have a dog and I would never begrudge her it.  But it makes it difficult to go to her house.  For years, I was made to feel like my life-threatening allergy was a nuisance, like she had to go to all this extra work to accommodate me.   She has never once asked me about my asthma or allergies or how she can make it easier on me, but often comes to me with "cures".  I spent years and money on medications, shots, and every thing I could to stop it.  Nothing worked.  She now lets the family's 6 dogs come to her house on holidays, and then acts hurt that we don't go.  I know there has been rumbling behind my back that I can't attend.  When I would go they would put the dog in a back room.  The dog would shortly be back out because the dog was whining and felt "left out".   The dog always laid at my feet but no one moved it.  There was one wooden chair in the house I could sit in because they others were covered in hair and dander.    Finally, when I got pregnant, I decided enough was enough.  I couldn't go because I refused to put myself or my baby's health at risk to appease someone.  The kicker was when she told me she'd never get a cat because my BIL and SIL are allergic and they "would kill" her.  It makes it hard on hubby because we often can't go to his home town to visit.  Or we have to spend lots of money to visit.  And then we can't go to his parents house for more than a few hours.  He totally supports me, but it sucks for him.
*She pushed me to be friends.  But it came from a "keep your friends close but your enemies closer" stance.  She always told me that she didn't want to be "that MIL" because she didn't want to loose her sons.  But in doing so, she's pushed me away.  She tried to force a relationship and friendship but didn't want to let it develop and blossom over time.  She seemed anxious and panicked about getting me into the fold, so to speak.  She wasn't interested in finding a mutual satisfying relationship.  It was all about meeting her needs and she either ignored or plain bowled over anything I felt.  Most of her behaviors towards me feel phony.

So, I'm stuck with this woman and feel like I'm between a rock and a hard place.  I always feel like something is wrong with me as I've struggled with both the "mothers" in my life so much. Is it just me?   How much of what I feel is tainted by my relationship with MY mom.  How much is she really overbearing, pushy, and just plain socially inept?  And how to I resolve my feelings with her?  For years, I spent trying to do what I could to make it work.  I never rocked the boat.  I never stood up to her.  I never laid down boundries.  And now things are out of control.   There is so many things simmering.  And, now, when I do say something, she becomes huffy and offended.   Often she is so defensive that the point is lost.  I never learned to speak frankly with my own mother (in fact, was discouraged to do so) and now I don't know what to do in this situation.  Where is the line between a boundary and being rude?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Frankenstein's monster

Sometimes I feel, well a lot of the time I feel, so alone in all this.  Wearing this mask that everyone wants me to have is exhausting. People just don't understand.  They can never fully understand as it's such a subversive, misty, blurry experience.  And even when I try to explain, I can see the person start to fold under the weight of it all.  I can see  them avert their eyes, or dismiss the truth.
They can never see how much these experiences colored everything in my life.  Sure, I wouldn't be the person I am without these experiences.  Odds are, I never would've met my husband or had my kids if mother hadn't made some of the choices she made.  Yes, there were positive outcomes.  But the loneliness, the isolation, the difficulty trusting anyone consume me at times.  I have no idea who I really am.  There is no internal compass to help direct me in my life.  I'm a ship lost at sea.  And even if I knew my way, I have no port to call home.
I often feel as an outcast.  A black sheep.  A trouble maker.  Hard, cold, overly sensitive.  People have used these words to describe me.  Am I really that person?  Sometimes I feel like Frankenstein's monster.  A patch worked together creation of others.  A freak in the eyes of most.  Just so, so isolated.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Hilda, my narcissistic mother

My mother had a difficult childhood.  A very difficult childhood as far as I can tell.  She had an alcoholic father and a narcissistic mother.  She took on a lot of responsibility.  She is very responsible.  But she is also childish and immature.  My father thought she had multiple personalities, he once told me.  She seemed to change to him.  She has no friends.  She is lonely.

She holds grudges.  One time in college she pressed me for days about how I had slept when I came home.  How my room was.  I always said it was fine.  I think she wanted me to say how wonderful it was to be home. How relaxed and happy I was to be "home".  But this wasn't my home.  This was her home with my step-father.  Finally, I admitted that the bed was hard.  It was hard and my legs would go to sleep from it.  Years later, she came to stay in my home.  I asked her how she slept.  Guess what?  The bed was hard.  This bed had a feather tick mattress topper.  I had slept in the bed.  It was not hard.  A light bulb went off when I realized that she was trying to get even with me.  I can't even tell you how I knew, but I did.  She is so subtle and sneaky but she makes her point.

She is entitled and condescending.  She believes she should have privileges solely based on the fact that she is "old", or a woman, or a mother/grandmother.  She has expected people to move out of the way because she "was walking here first" even if she wasn't.  She talks down to people she believes are below her in their station in life.  She maintains a hierarchy.  She demands respect simple because she feels it is owed to her.  She does not show respect back or expect to have to earn respect.  She will do things and then condemn others.  She got upset with my 3 year old for calling her a stinker.  She calls him a stinker all the time.  She is VERY offended if someone swears in front of her.  She swears.  She loves to put people in their place.  She is always so proud of herself for "standing up" for herself.  But she's usually not standing up for herself.  The comments come off as rude or bitter or just plain mean.  She thinks that attacking someone else means she is defending herself.

She attempts to correct me all the time.  Usually it's about grammar and usually she is wrong.  But man she LOVES to tell me that I say something wrong.  She used to ask me to correct her words.  She has a hang up about being stupid, not being educated enough.  Well, that was a mistake.  She took it personally when I did correct her and now holds a grudge.  She likes to pick fights about politics but she has no information to back anything she says up.  She can't have an intelligent discussion.  Not because she's unable but because she resorts to below the belt retorts...and she doesn't read up on what she's talking about.  She has no ability to try and see the other side.  These "discussions" usually result in her crying and declaring that I'm calling her stupid.

She wants to be the hero.  The wise mother that everyone asks for advice.  She wants to be held in great esteem and regard.  She wants to be important and come first.  She gives gifts expecting admiration and indebtedness.  You can never thank her enough.  She does more for everyone else.  She is a selfless giver.

You're damned if you, damned if you don't with her.  I wrote one of her favorite sports heroes once.  I wrote a beautiful letter, describing her sacrifice and determination and grit.  I asked if he could send her an autograph so I could thank her for all she'd done for me (I was still young at the time and wanted so badly to please her).  I got the autograph and framed it along with the letter for Christmas (and truth be told,  I thought the letter would please her more).  She was ecstatic.  But she hated my letter.  I'd make her look bad and this sports star probably thought badly of her.  During my wedding she complained endlessly that I wasn't involving her enough.  She was a part of it enough.  What she really  wanted was to be in charge of it all.  She wanted to make all the decisions and then have me do all the work to execute her visions.  She wanted all the glory and none of the work.  Well, when she didn't get her way, she invented jobs for herself. She made all these aisle runners and party favors.  On the day of the wedding she complained that SHE was the only one setting every thing up while we (the bridal party) just sat around getting ready.  She was working so hard and didn't get to do her hair or look nice.

She is a bottomless bit.  She rails against my sister for never acknowledging her on Christmas or Mother's Days with cards or gifts.  I always do.  And although I always remember, always put in a lot of thought, it's more important to her that my sister DIDN'T do anything.  Nobody appreciates her enough.

She plays people against each other.  She often describes how someone is treating her badly to someone else.  She is very convincing when describing the trespasses of others and creates very negative impressions about people.

I would not describe her as friendly.  Often she seems aloof and distant.  She is judgmental and small minded.  She seems phony and  puts on airs.  She doesn't have many friends because she writes people off for the slightest things.  It scares me that my sister and I are all she has.  I hate that she makes me feel she is so dependent on me.  She has no real hobbies, no real activities.  She doesn't have many interests.

She repeats herself, a lot.  I'm not sure if this is due to not listening, not getting the response she wants, or just plain losing her mind.  She does not listen.  She interrupts and cuts me off mid sentence.  I get so many emails that either repeat her "wise advice" or that ask me the same questions over and over.  And god forbid I call her on that.  Again, I would be implying she's stupid.

She gets angry I don't call her more.  But every conversation is usually an hour or more long.  I don't have an hour every other day to devote to her and her ailments (she has MANY).  And the conversations are depressing.  Someone is dying (not really) or sick or treating her badly.  Everyone is out to get her.  She will stall on the phone "Well, lets see...what else is going on...let's see".  She will repeat this to keep me on the phone even though all conversation is exhausted.

Lately she has been lying.  Well, she's always kind of lied.  But lately it's about stupid stuff.  She has a million TV shows she keeps up on.  I know because she sends me texts through them asking what  I think.  (and gets angry if I don't text back immediately).  Then, when I ask her if she watched a particular program she'll say "I don't really watch TV.  I work so much and have to commute two hours a day and by the time I get home and make dinner it's bedtime."  Oh yeah, and she's a martyr.

She is preoccupied with money and status and material things.  She is very, very jealous.  She hates for anyone to have better than her.  She will try to take people down a peg if she thinks they have more than her.

She believes her self to be a generous, selfless, thoughtful person.  She believes she is wise and in tune with people.  She believes she reads people well.  She believes she has it harder than everyone else and has handled her hardships better than everyone else.  No one has every respected her as much as she deserves. Everyone takes from her and no one gives back.

Fear, Legacy, and Smoke and Mirrors

This process has been hard for me.  That sounds so silly.  How does writing anonymous posts that no one I actually know cause harm?  Why is it so hard and scary?  But I've read some other blogs and some of the comments on my posts, and to say I'm floored, is putting it mildly. They have taken the wind out of me and caused things to bubble up in me that have been long repressed.   I'm often surprised at how many people have similar stories.  Things that have hurt my feelings and made me feel badly have happened to others.  And to realize that they are NOT normal things is a bit shocking. To see that yes, these things were very harmful and could screw up your life and you are not overreacting, or too sensitive, or too dramatic.  To see that others actually think my mom is a crazy person too.

I don't know how I even stumbled on the fact that she was a narcissist.  I just remember reading a list to my husband and asking him if it sounded like Hilda.  Yes, it does he said.  Before, I thought that she and I were mutually responsible for our problems.  I knew she was a nut job, but I didn't realize how far gone she was.

Life seemed to be a house of smoke and mirrors. I never knew (and still often don't) what the truth is, where my feelings have validity.  What is me and what is just a reflection of me that my mother created.  It's hard when I leave the little safety of this blog and look at it all in the harsh light of reality.  I doubt myself.  I wonder if I'm just oversensitive. Should I just let it go; we all have difficult mothers sometimes.   It's been so hard to explain to people.  I don't tell people many things.  My husband sees it, but even he, who is so supportive, sometimes seems to dilute the validity of my feelings.  Yes, that was fucked up, but she meant well.  Yes, she shouldn't have said that, but she just is a sad person.  I'm sure she didn't mean to hurt you.  When I had my son, my mother-daughter conflict was highlighted a bit to some friends.  They would be sympathetic but they never could fully understand the depth of it.  She never beat me, or really verbally assaulted me.  She isn't an alcoholic or a drug addict.  There was never anything I could specifically point to.  And then I stumbled on it today.  She's like Chinese Water torture.  Drop by drop she has driven me crazy.  Not one thing has ever been that bad. Yes, much of it is in the past.  But that's the thing.  It's been the slow drip of incident upon incident that has driven me crazy.  Those past moments were intensified and stacked upon.  Each new hurt amplified the one before because it reminded me that she was never sorry for any of it, and would continue to do it.

I don't trust her.  I never underestimate that she'll throw me under the bus.  She's done it before.  She's sacrificed me for her own selfish needs.  And then she comes back expecting me to be grateful.  To act like she's been the best mom in the world.  To thank her for all that she's done for me.  To need her. Everyone makes mistakes.

  I can't even tell her anything any more.  If I do, it always ends up one of two ways.  She either uses it against me or she uses it to make herself look better.  "Well, what did I do when I was a young mom..."  I never asked for her opinion.  I don't want her advice.  She feels such an overwhelming need to be the "wise" mother.    Or she will imply that I am weak.  She took care of two kids and didn't complain.  You just do it, Jessie.  Everyone does it.  You're being a mother isn't so special and you shouldn't complain so much.  Not that I'm always complaining.  But sometimes being a mom  is hard, or I've had a bad day, or no sleep for weeks.  What do other mothers say to their daughters in these situations I wonder?  Am I just a big baby?

I've often looked at myself and wondered how I got to be who I am.  I have a lot of flaws.  I am overly anxious.  I get stressed easily.  I have an overwhelming desire to be perfect.  I am extremely guarded.  I never like to let people see how I'm feeling, as I am afraid it will make me vulnerable.  I will be open to attack.  I'm good at being composed.   I struggle to set boundaries.  I feel endlessly guilty if I stand up for myself.  I take ownership for other people's feelings.  I worry and stress so much about how what I say or do will be perceived by others.  I'm so afraid of abandonment and being alone that I wall myself off before I can get close.  I don't trust in myself that I'll have the strength to pick myself back up.  I don't really trust anyone.  As a mom, I constantly struggle with the right thing to do.  Am I being too overprotective?  Is this about my feelings or am I just doing what a good mom would to protect her child?  Am I too harsh or insensitive?  Do I make my kids feel important and special?  Am I doing what is best for them?  I have no gauge for what "normal" is.

And the thing that worries me most is fearing that I'll be just like her.  She often implies that now I'll know how she has felt.  Now I'll know what it's like to raise ungrateful brats who throw you to the wind.  She's recently been snipping about how she's been telling people how difficult teenage daughters can be.  I wonder how the hell she would know.  She wasn't there for most of my teenage years.  And by most accounts, I was a good, responsible kid.  But  I hear her voice in my head.  Be careful, Jessie, pay backs a bitch.  If you treat your own mom horrible, some day karma will bite you and you'll get treated horribly by your own kids.  It's a fine line between being honorable and respectful of her (as I don't want to stoop to her level) and protecting myself.

My Baby

My NM (narcissistic mother) told me for many years that she didn't want to become a grandmother yet.  She was too young.  As a side note, she had a similar reaction when I called to tell her I was engaged.  I was so excited to call and tell her I was getting married.  "What?!  I can't deal with this.  I've been so stressed that I will be turning 50 next year.  I can't deal with this.  Talk to your step-dad."  And she got off the phone.  When she finally did get back on to talk to me, she clearly wasn't happy about it.
But back to the point.  One day, she declared she was ready to be a grandmother.  This didn't influence me, as I was already planning on having a baby.  Before my son was born and during the first year, she spent thousands of dollars on stuff.  Junk mainly.  And I was never grateful enough.  My father and she had been young and had less money when I was born.  I'm sure she felt, in fact I know she felt, she was a great savior.  That she was providing for us all that she had to do without.  Never mind that I didn't want, or like, most of what she bought.  Or that my husband and I were perfectly capable of providing for my son.
When Jake was born, she became obsessed.  "Obsessed" was my step-father's word.  And she was.  He consumed all of her thoughts and mind.  She completely ignored me when around him.  In the middle of a sentence, she would interrupt and start talking to the baby.  She would just stare at him as he ate, ignoring her own meal.  In fact, she stared at him all the time.  She was obsessed too with being the "favorite" grandparent.  She told me repeatedly that she would be closest to my son, as I parented so much like her, and we sounded so much alike.  It was weird.

But it got weirder.  She would often refer to herself as "mom".  A typical slip up.  But she would refer to me as "grandma".  Not a slip up.  She started to try and isolate my son from his father.  If she was holding him, she'd say "Tell daddy no!  No daddy" when Paul tried to take the baby.  She'd do this when my husband would give an instruction about my baby.  I would always stop her, but she acted as if it was a game.  Like she was being funny.  She bought my son TONS of toys.  She never went anywhere without buying him tons of crap.  She waltzed in one time with my (then two) son's first big boy bike.  He couldn't even ride a tricycle at the time.  I was saddened.  I had wanted to get my son his first bike.  I had wanted my SON to pick it out.  I had wanted to make it a special event for my son, when he was ready.  She stole many such moments.  She had to pick out the first Christmas outfit.  She bought him a Christmas stocking.  None of these things  would have been such a big deal on their own.  And in fact, in trying to explain why it bothered me so badly, I just sounded superficial and controlling.  But if felt like she was trying to have him be HER son.  Like she was purposely imposing on every big moment.

She told me a story once about a man she met on the plane.  He had told her that if she fed the baby when he was very little, it would bond them forever.  She brought this up many times.  Unfortunately for her, I breastfed exclusively.  And my son refused bottles.  This annoyed her so much.  She would take every opportunity to rush in a head of me and meet his needs.  She never noticed these needs, but noticed me about to meet them, and she would snatch whatever it was from me.  The only thing she wouldn't do (or at least often) is change diapers.  She hated this.

When my son began to grow up and get ideas of his own, things started to change.  It got worse when my second son was born.  These are the incidents that really stick out in my mind about this time:

*My husband, son, NM, and I were having dinner.  Jake was just under 3.  He wanted so desperately to be a big boy and join in the "conversation" at the dinner table.  He was telling a somewhat involved story and he was laboring a bit over the sentence structures.  Paul and I found it endearing and adorable.  He'd been going on for about five minutes when, apparently, she became bored.  She interrupted him and started telling her own story.  Hubby and I were used to her doing this to us, but it shocked me she would do it to him.
*My husband and step-father would spend a lot of time together.  When they would come home, before they even hung up their coats she would be at them.  "Jake, show them what grandma taught you".  And then she'd make him perform like a circus seal all the tricks she'd taught him.  She didn't encourage him, she out and out told him what to say and do.  I told her to knock it off once. "What?  I'm just proud of him.  I want them to see what he can do".  I felt so helpless.
*When Caleb was born, Jake was understandably shaken up.  I was gone for 5 days in the hospital and life was chaotic.  He was also under NM's care alot.  By the end, he was tired, cranky, and just off.  I felt so badly for him and said as such to my mom.  "He needs some attention," I said.  "He's gotten enough attention!  I've given him plenty of attention."  Well, he needed his MOM's attention.  She was not a substitute for me and it annoyed me she thought she was.  He was scared and jealous.  All understandably so.  And she had absolutely no empathy.
*While she was here during my son's birth, I made some plans for special outings for fun, as I knew I wouldn't be able to do a lot with Jake once she left (surgery and all).  NM made it clear she thought this was a bit ridiculous of me (catering to my child), but went along.  Most of the time she was "exhausted" and grouchy by the time we came home, even though she did little of the actual work.  It was clear going to the playground and such were not want SHE wanted to do.  When we got home one day, I was unpacking the car and Jake wanted to ride his tricycle.  I asked her to take him around the block and let him play for a few minutes.  Within about five minutes, Jake was running through the door crying.  What happened? I asked.  She said simple "He didn't want to get off his bike." and she smirked.  This incident haunts me.  I still have no idea what happened.  And even the fact that she could only spare five minutes bothers me.  Five minutes was it because she was "old" and "tired".  For her precious grandson who had been her obsession for so long.
*We were talking about my son starting preschool.  He was SO excited and we were talking it up.  "Oh, Jake, I can't believe you're going to preschool" she said.  "That makes grandma SOOO sad!".  "MOM!" I chastised.  "Why would you say that?  You'll confuse him.  This is a good thing.  He won't understand why it would make YOU sad".  Again with the smirk.  And nothing else.  But at least she shut up.
*She bought a train table for my son's 2nd birthday.  One that I had to put together, I might add, because she "wouldn't have time" when she arrived.  We had just moved and I had a million other things to do, but I dutifully put it together.  More for him than her, but still.  A year later, she was at our house and he hadn't been playing with it all that much.  "Why don't you play with that table I bought you?"  She pestered him about it over and over.  Because he's 3.  Because he has other things to play.  Because he has a mind of his frickin' own lady!  Leave him be.
*I asked her to help my son with a puzzle.  My son became distracted by a cartoon for a moment.  She literally ripped the puzzle piece from his hand because she knew where it went.  She then finished the puzzle by herself.  A CHILD'S 60 piece jigsaw puzzle by herself.  And she was so smug and proud when she did.  She seemed so childish and immature.

She makes me nervous.  I don't trust her.  Everyone says she's the doting grandma.  She says all the right things.  I always wonder how much I'm seeing through the lens of my own feelings about my childhood.  She sure as hell never treated me like she does him.  But everyone says she's just excited or just loves him so much.  They all act like it's normal.  Just another thing that makes me feel off balance.  Another way I don't trust myself to perceive reality.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

NM's Boundary Violations

My mother has problems with boundries.  When I was a kid, I thought this was normal.  She never respected my privacy.  She never granted me dignity.  She picked out all of the clothes we bought.  Every special occasion, she picked out the outfit.  She would pick my hairstyles (usually what was "easiest") for her.  She had to know everything.  When I got my first kiss, she demanded to know about it immediately.  Didn't ask.  Demanded.  The irony is that she hates snopey people.   She always thinks people are spying on her.  She won't befriend any of my step-siblings on face book because she thinks they'll be nosy.  And what if they are?  It's not like her life is that interesting.  She's snooped through check books and bank accounts.  She is a signer on my checking account (has been since I was a kid) and I'm sure she "checks up".  She's gone through my sisters things.  She's gone through my son's closet, just to "see what clothes he needed".  Sure.  She was snooping to see if I'd kept all the preppy crap she bought him.  All the uncomfortable "cute" clothes she bought.    When I had some complications after my first c-section (very personal, bodily function complications) she announced them to all my relatives.  I was mortified.  When I told her that my MIL informed me about some very private experiences at my SIL's delivery, she said "So?  She has a right to tell her experiences.  She has a right to tell her experience of the situation".  Um, no, she didn't.   I felt my MIL was privileged to be included, and as such should respect my SIL's privacy.
My husband is certain Hilda snoops through our things.  She stalks me on facebook.  I resisted this for so long. I wanted a space that was mine.  But she guilted me into being her friend.  She watches (and comments on) all my posts.  When my son was born, she would wander into our bedroom in the morning.  We are not that kind of family.  I would have been chastised if I'd walked into her bedroom while my step dad was still in bed.  She follows me around my house when I try to step away for moments of privacy with my husband or sons.  I've actually had to shut the door in her face.  My mother demands to know exactly where on the road we are when we travel to her home.  She expects hourly updates.  But she never will let me know even an approximation of when she will arrive at mine.  She delights in "surprising" me.  She presses me for information on my sister and my dad.  And my paternal grandmother, whom she claims she loves even though my grandmother can't stand her for what she did to my dad. She "overhears" my conversations with my husband.  And if we are ever talking at some distance from her, even if it has nothing to do with her, she barks "what? what's going on?".  She never knows when to excuse herself or just plain butt out.

When we built our new home, I purposely designed no windows near the entrance.  I hated that she would knock on the door and then peer through our living room window to see if we were coming.  (My MIL does this too, but it's more like this excited, yappy puppy who bounces from the door to the window.  This also annoyed me).  Well, the last two times, my mother has gone through our fence, walked around back and pressed her face up against our living room window.  The last time this happened I was nursing my son, and thinking I had privacy, was doing this uncovered.  Any other time, I would have been admonished by mom  for the impropriety of nursing in front of my step-dad (and in fact, I know she's complained to my sister how I just 'whip my boob out' in front of her).  My mother found it humorous this time.  I jumped up and ran from the room with my son.  Half embarrassed, half angry and I needed time to calm down.  My mother followed me into my bedroom.  Opened the door and walked right in.  And then acted so hurt when I shooed her from the room.

She feels the need to give her approval on everything.  As another blogger I read said, she can't just walk into a room, notice something new and say "oh, that's nice!"  She has to pause, screw up her face, and then deem it acceptable. I often find her staring around my house, taking notes.   When I got married, I asked her if my makeup looked OK.  She instantly busied herself  fixing, or adding to, or really I don't know what the hell she did.  She just made it look like she was doing something.  And for the record, I do my own makeup perfectly well.  I have a picture of this moment.  I've always hated the scrunched up look on her face as she "fixes" me. I've seen this look a lot.  She's looking down her scrunched up nose as if she smells something foul.   She constantly acts as if she is my sons' parent more than my husband.  She is jealous of him and says so.  She says it isn't fair that my sons' get so excited to see him.  She makes attempts to jump in and discipline over the top of me.  She tries to finish my sentences.  She always makes a big point of saying "we" to my husband when describing how she and I and my kids spent the day.  As if she and I were a team, when in reality I did most of the work, and she just made herself feel important.  She takes credit for my ideas.  When my oldest son was little and he would cry, she would refuse to give him to me.  She would actually walk away from me and turn her back.  He'd be crying and reaching for me and I'd have to wrestle him away.

My absolute favorite though is that she refers to me as "Little Hilda".  Oh, your just a little me.  Hank says your just like me.  You do everything how I do.  Like hell I am.  And I'll fight until my dying day to be myself.  I'm nobody's mini-me.

Gifts and Parties: How NM uses special occasions to wield power

I have so many stories to share from my past.  Stories that may be boring or redundant for others to hear, but I need to tell.  I have to share some of the current episodes too.  So, forgive my seesawing back and forth.

After Christmas is usually a recharging period for me.  It's easy for me to hide and not face the many family obligations of the holiday season.  To decompress.  I haven't talked to my sister since Christmas, except once on Easter.  She has another (her third in a year) new job and a boyfriend.  And life is complicated for her.  I guess.  I have emailed, texted, facebooked.  She stated she misses me.  But I haven't heard from her.  My Dad just informed me that he has been depressed and antisocial (not unusual for him).  So, I've barely talked to him either.  My kids have been sick.  Really sick.  I was in the doctor's office or ER with one or the other for five weeks straight.  Not a horrible situation, but stressful and exhausting.  My mom has been baiting me.  She sends texts or emails that require responses.  And then when I respond,  I'm swallowed by texts, emails, messages.  I used the kids being sick to hide out a bit.  She always tells me that she is so "worried" about the kids.  She demands that I text her in the morning to let her know how the kids are.  I hate this, because it informs her that I am near my phone.  Usually, she calls immediately.  But lately, the replies I've gotten are three paragraphs about her ailments.  She has skin cancer, a bad rash, back problems.  And then one line asking how the kids are.  There are no lines asking how I am.  One email had the title "biopsy".  I almost deleted it on the spot.  I also receive emails detailing how my aunt is so sick, and my grandfather was almost admitted to the hospital.  I never know how true these emails are as everyone is always dying.  And how much is for dramatic effect.  There is also the endless complaints about my step-family.  Yeah, that same step-family she dumped us for.  They now annoy her to no end.   If I agree with her though she turns it on me, acting as if I'm being judgemental or harsh.  "Well, you know Jessie, being a new parent is tough" she counters when I agreed with her assessment of my step-brother.  No shit.  I'm also a new parent.  I've never heard you say that to me.

Anyway, my son's 1st birthday is approaching.  She used this to start a new onslaught of emails.  She loves to give gifts.  Love to be admired for it.  Loves to complain that no one appreciates all  that she does for us.  She once admonished my three year old for not playing with the train table she bought him enough.  She had bought it a year prior.  And he plays with it all the time but not enough for her.  Each time a gift giving occasion comes, she works herself into a tizzy to get the perfect (read: most expensive, most admirable) gift.  Now a little background.  My sons have three sets of grandparents who all ask me for ideas, as do the aunts and uncles.  I also have to reserve some ideas for his dad and I.   I've suggested college fund money, but no one likes that idea.  So, I'm forced to come up with a list, divvy it out so no one duplicates (because that would piss everyone off), and hope that I'm not offending with what I ask for.  Plus, I really try to suggest things that my son actually wants, instead of random crap that I pack away into boxes.  He doesn't ask for much, so I want him to get the things he does ask for.  This year my mom asked for ideas.  I told her I'd work on it, but it'd help to give me a price range.  She replied "oh, just give me lots of ideas then I'll pick what I want and can spend (she's always "broke" but actually far from it)".  I explained that I have lots of people to suggest ideas for and that she can really help me out if she gives me some guidelines.  She retorts back that "Well, I was just trying to get something you don't already have.  But I'll just come up with my own stuff."  Why does this have to be so difficult?  Why does this piss her off?  So, I write up a wish list and give her some additional ideas.  She hems and haws between them.  I tell her to let me know what she chooses and I'll let MIL have the other ideas.  I haven't heard from her since (a week ago).

And I feel horrible enough as I just dread the event.  I want so desperately to make it a special day for my son.  I want to celebrate him.  But my family makes it so difficult.  My mother will be smug and smirk in the corner and observe everyone.  She will be stand offish and try and put people in their place.  The last two birthday parties she felt the need to suggest I rearrange the table.  "Why?" I asked.  "Oh, I don't know, I just thought it would look better this way."  She has no reasoning.  She just has to put her stamp on things.  Suggest she knows better.  I will hand out responsibilities to my mom and MIL.  Neither will like her assigned job and will be jealous of the other.  They will fight over my son.  My in-laws are not much better.  They always show up late.  And then they make a huge production of themselves.  Gathering the grandkids and sequestering them for themselves.  They are loud and overbearing and showy.  The hog the kids and don't let anyone else see them.  When Jake, my oldest turned one, they showed up a half hour late.  They then spent an hour putting together the wagon they bought in the living room away from the party (because god forbid my one year old see it first).  They missed most of the party and then trotted out the wagon gloating about what a wonderful gift it was.  Look how much he likes it! they crowed.  Never mind that I had picked out the gift.  They had nothing to do with it except paying for it.  But I didn't care, I just wanted my son to have it.  It just annoyed me so much that they made such a big deal out of it (partly because I could feel my mother seething in the corner and partly because I just felt it was rude).  I feel SOOO guilty.  I need to suck it up for my son, but I just dread it all so much.  And they all wonder why I get so "stressed out".  Poor neurotic, anxious Jessie they'll think.  

Divorce Part II : How NM blamed it all on me

My mother went on like nothing happened after the divorce.  Blissfully happy in her new family and new life.  I was hurt that she could cast my sister and me aside so easily, but I still loved her so much, wanted to support her, wanted to be a part of her life.  I desperately did all I could to be the good daughter.
When I went away to college, my relationship with my mom (Hilda) changed.  I thought at the time that it was for the better.  She called me all the time.  Not to check on me really.  Oh, she asked about me and "worried" and "stressed" about her poor, silly daughter, so far from home.  So far from her.  (And as a side note, I had somewhat intentionally chosen to go to college as far from her as possible.  My releasing had began even if I didn't fully realize it.)  But she never really seemed to listen or care about the things I was struggling with.  Mainly because it didn't compare to the things she was going through with my sister.  Those were REAL problems.  This would be, and still is a theme, in my relationship with my sister and mom.  Their self-induced drama and problems and chaos were always so much more important than what was going on in my life.  How can you complain, Jessie?  What do you have to be sad about, Jessie?  If you want to know about a real problem, Jessie let me tell you about....  And, yes, the things going on with my sister were bad.  She had always been a "spirited" child.  But after the divorce, she went crazy.  Drugs, running away, rapes, sex with boys, not coming home.  On and on.  And my mother would call, detailing every bit.  She would complain to me and cry.  I felt horrible.  I felt helpless.  There was nothing I could do, especially 400 miles away.  My sister and I didn't even talk at this time.  We would be estranged and loathe each other for a long time (mainly created by my mother, but that is another post).  Hilda would tell me I was like "her personal psychologist".  This made me feel important at the time.  My mother needed me!  After years of ignoring me, she needed me.  I can see now, that it was killing me.  I was so helpless and these problems were beyond my ability to fix.  Not that my mother did anything either to help.  She just enabled and enabled.  Lamented about why she was so unfortunate to have a daughter like my sister.  Years later I would suggest that maybe the divorce or her behavior had something to do with it.  My mother cried and became upset, yelled that she was a horrible mother.  But what did I want her to do about it.  "I can't take back the past!  I had to do what was best for me!"  She said she was sorry, but I never believed her.  I lived with knots in my stomach for years.  What should've been a wonderful period of growth and discovery for me, became about her and her problems and her stress.  Trips home were awful.  And on occasion, she would drop my sister off with me.  So she could get away and relax.  These occasions terrified me.  To be responsible for someone so out of control.  To have someone around me who was so volatile and could wreck havoc in the little support system I had created at school.  I was terrified my sister would reveal the craziness that was home to my friends.
I met my husband around my junior year.  The relationship with my mom started to dissolve. When I wasn't there for her solely, she became upset.  We became combative.  As I found myself, and with support from my husband (then boyfriend) I began to move out of her control.  I  was not at her beck and call.  I tried to create my own life.  She became desperate.  She would call and cry and overwhelm me with  her constant need for attention.  And when she would visit, things would get bad.  They always ended in arguments.  The fights always started with her being condescending, or rude, or putting me or Paul (hubby) down.  She would accuse me of not being there for her in her problems with  Erica.  I would tell her that it was killing me and she needed to learn on her husband or call my father.  My father sent her into rages because she no longer controlled him.  She wanted him to parent as she was parenting.  To obsess and enable my sister.  And then when he didn't, her anger turned to me and she would say "It's not fair that I'm the only one dealing with Erica.  I shouldn't have to do this alone.  If I have to deal with it, you all should deal with it too.  If I have to have this stress in my life, so should you."  Why should I? I wanted to scream.  I didn't create her messes.  I was helpless to fix them.  I had my own life.  She never tried to shelter me, or protect me.  She wanted to drag me down into her hole.  Anyway, these arguments would happen and when I would confront her, she would play her trump card.  "You're not over the divorce" she would smirk.  As if this was my fatal flaw.  And I never knew how to respond.  Because, yeah, I really wasn't over it.  I had never grieved, never mourned, never had any moment to express MY feelings.  I was always so busy taking care of everyone else.  But that was beside the point.  This wasn't about that anger.  This was about her being rude and spiteful and selfish.  She would spit "you need therapy".  Again, this was true.  But she acted as if I got "fixed" then all the problems would disappear.  We would no longer have conflict.  She refused to see that she had ownership in anything.  And as these fights layered on each other, my frustration grew.  And she would amp things up with each fight.  And then one time, she told me she had gotten the divorce for Erica and me.  My dad was poor and angry and depressed.  And she felt that Hank would be a better father.  She blamed ME for it all.  I couldn't even fathom how she concluded this.  How she spun things to make herself seem the hero, making the selfless sacrifice for her daughters.  Never mind that my Dad wasn't as horrible as she made out (he was hard and angry but definitely not some loser father) but I never could have "replaced" him.  I loved my Dad.  Never mind that SHE benefited the most from this event. Never mind that she repeatedly told me she had done this for her "freedom".  When cornered, she turned around and blamed me.  I began to harden towards her.  And finally, after one argument, where she berated me that I needed to get over things, I needed to let go,  I needed to fix myself, I lost it.  Hell yeah, I was angry.  Hell yeah, I was hurt.  "You abandoned me and Erica when we needed you so that you could go and  fuck Hank."  Silence.  I was small and sad and tired in the back of the car. I'd felt like a beaten, caged animal.  She had pushed me too far.  I instantly felt horrible, guilty.  But I also felt a little better.  And that made me feel guilty.  She had been pushing me to say this for so long.  I had resisted because I knew she'd only use it against me.  Hold a grudge until the day she died.  But there it was.  She burst into tears.  Demanded Paul take her to her hotel.  Paul suggested we go sit down, talk this out.  No, she screamed.  We took her to her hotel.    The next day she showed up at my door to drop off my blow dryer she had borrowed.  She stood expectantly on my doorstep, waiting for an apology.  I gave her none.  And she gave me none.  Just gave me a hug, stated that she loved me, and moved on.  And we've never talked about the divorce since.

My Parents Divorce: Narcissism rears it's ugly head

My parents never had a very lovey, romantic marriage.  They never seemed to be "that couple".  I can remember thinking when I entered my teen years, however, that I had escaped divorce.  Whew, I thought, parents don't get divorced when you are a teenager, so we've escaped that.  What a weird thought, I think now.  On some level, I must've known that things were not good.

Things had been hard for my parents for several years.  Job layoffs.  Death in the family.  But I had not expected they would divorce.  My mother and I had gone to pick up my sister from a school event.  It was a dark and very rainy night.  And she just stated it matter-of-fact.  There was no family meeting.  No time to discuss it.  No time to even process it as my little sister jumped into the car.  I was in shock, to say the least.  And then we went home, and that was that.  Parts of my life at this time are blurry.  I do not remember how she told my sister.  I vaguely remember talking to my dad about it.  I remember spending an entire month in my bedroom.  I came out only to shower and eat.  My dad checked on me once.  My mother never popped in to see how I was doing.  They were both so wrapped into themselves that I was an after thought.  Details emerged.  My mom had disliked my dad for a long time.  Felt controlled.  And now that he wasn't contributing as much financially, the straw had finally broke the camels back.  Money and security were of utmost importance to her.  And Dad couldn't provide that (well, at least not in the way she wanted).  But Hank did.  Hank was a man my mother worked with.  Somewhere, along the line she had started an affair.  And now she was kicking my dad out.  That was that.  My Dad moved out.  It was chaotic and stressful at our house.  My mother acted like everything was normal.  She was actually happy.  She felt that she had done the best thing ever.  She told me repeatedly that she needed to be happy.  She deserved to be happy.  She was sorry it effected me, but it was her turn to be happy.  I needed to be happy for her. I need to realize that this is what she needed, and I'd move on.  It wasn't that big of a her.  As I stated, things were blurry, but here are some of the highlights of this time (my high school years) that I do remember:

*My father tried to commit suicide one night.  I was in bed trying to sleep and I could hear the arguing in my parent's room below mine.  I was terrified.  I stayed tucked under the covers in my bed.  Too paralized to move.  The next thing I remember is the police officer.  He came into my room after a quick knock.  He told me he was searching for my father.  Did I know where he was?  No, I shook my head.  I was so confused.  And terrified. I had no idea what was going on.  My mother never came into my room.  Never checked on me that night.  The next day she informed me that Dad had tried to shoot himself.  My sister had come down to check and my mom made her call 911.  Dad left.  The cops came and searched for him.  She didn't know what had happened to him.  And that was that.  She made a big production of my sister.  Worried over her, got her counseling (rightly so), but did nothing for me.  Never talked about it again.

*The first time I met Hank, my mom paraded him into the house without warning.  She was giddy, almost teenager like.  She was very concerned that he meet her daughters.  She had been out with him and his children.  We had been left at home.  She never once thought about how we would feel about this meeting.  She wanted it to go well to make an impression on him.  She actually became angry with my sister and I for not being more welcoming (we were shocked).  She impressed upon us that it was important we assimilate into this new family.  She spent most of her time with them.  She often left us alone.  For entire weekends I would be in charge of my sister.  On holidays, she would drag us down and demand that we be happy.  Demand that we get along.  She never thought that she had destroyed everything we had.  She expected us to let loose of all of our holiday traditions and just follow along with the new family.  She called me selfish and a brat when I tried to preserve some things for my sister.  When I asked to not open gifts until Christmas morning, although we would happily watch everyone else open gifts the night before, she became infuriated.  I just wanted to have something left for Christmas.  Something for my sister and me.  Hank's family would be spending Christmas Day with their mother.  We would be lonely and doing nothing.  I was just trying to keep something. And never mind that this new family wanted little to do with us.   She was so happy and excited by this new life.  And we were an afterthought.

*I became very depressed.  My mother moved us away from our home, an hour away.  Stripping me of everything I knew before.  And she wanted me to be happy about it.  Happy for her that she had finally found her "soul mate".  I went to school every day in sweats and a pony tail.  I never dressed nicely.  The signs were all there.  But she never asked me about them.  Never offered counseling.  Never asked if I was OK.  I felt abandoned and alone.  And overwhelmed.  My sister leaned on me completely.  And if I went and did any normal teenage stuff (hang out with friends) I felt I abandoned her.  I could hardly handle my own emotions, but felt I was responsible for her too.  My sister would later say that, during this time, I was her mother.

*I got a job.  I stayed over often at my boyfriend's house so I could work.  I rarely went home.  I lived out of my car and a duffle bag.  I drove an hour to my high school when I did go home, as my education was so important to me and I knew I would never get the same opportunites in my mother's new small town.  My mother thought I was being a snob, but let it go.  I imagine it was easier to not deal with me.  She checked on me by phone.  In fact, would get angry when I didn't respond right away.  But in reality, she knew nothing of what I did most days.  I was 17 years old.  I fed myself.  I got myself to school. I participated in after school activities.  But she felt that SHE was doing everything for me.  She felt I owed her things.  That I should think she was the best mother ever.

*My sister was out of control.  She was drinking and sexually active and 14.  And my mom left me in charge of her.  One night she was raped.  Because I had left her alone to go out with friends.  Another friend had come over and taken advantage of her.  I never forgave myself.  I know now, that it wasn't my job to look after her.  That it was OK for me to go do something for myself.  But I felt sickened.  I didn't know what to do.  When she told me when I got home, I had no idea what to do.  But we didn't tell my mom.  We just moved on.  It's all so sad, and sick, and devastating to me now.
I was often left in charge of my sister.  One night she had a party with friends at our house.  There was nothing I could do about it.  If I called my mother, she would've been angry at me.  She would've been mad that she had to drive home from her boyfriend's house.  So, I just tried to contain the party.  Eventually, the cops came.  It was the same cop who had been in our house when Dad tried to shoot himself.  He remembered us, he said.  I lied and told him nothing was going on (everyone had left by this point.  He'd been tipped off by a girl who was gone).  He let us go.  But I know he didn't believe me.  He felt so sorry for us.  I could see it in his face.  That look awakened me to the fact that all of this was not alright.  One night my sister took off with friends.  I spent the entire night looking for her, literally looking all over the city for her.  I knew that I dared not come home without her.  When we got home, my mom was there.  We had missed our check-in phone call.  She was furious.  She grounded ME for being out late.  Despite the fact that I told her I was hunting down Erica.  She refused to listen to me.  So angry that I had ruined her weekend and made her worry.  I moved out to my dad's the next day.  As punishment, she sold our family home that following week.  There was no going back.  I eventually had to move back in with her when my Dad moved.  But I never really lived there.  I never had a home again.

*She married Hank, very shortly after words.  It seemed like a whirlwind.  At the ceremony, she was ecstatic.  She wanted my sister and I to sing her and Hank's song.  It never occurred to her this was a slap in the face to us.  That this man, who she left my father for, that this marriage, might hurt us.  Might be hard for us.  Might crush any ideas that she and my father would get back together.  It was all about her.   On the cake and in cards there was a number.  I knew this was the hotel room number they used to meet up at when she was still married to my dad.  She never told us that, but she loved that number and it was important to her.  It made me sick.  It felt so...disrespectful.  That number had been the reason for the death of my family.  And she loved it, idealized it.  She never thought about Erica and me.  How we felt.  Be happy for me Jessie.  I found my soul mate Jessie.  I'm finally happy and this is all I've ever wanted Jessie. Put a smile on your face.  Celebrate me and my adultery.  Celebrate the event that caused so much pain, and heartache, and hurt.  Celebrate the destruction of all you knew, of your innocence, of your childhood, of your abandonment.  She told me around this time that it is in the Bible that you should put your husband above your children.  And this is what she intended to do.  Hank would be first in her life.  No matter that she had made a commitment to her children first.  That this man was a relative stranger to our lives.  No matter what her children felt.  Her husband, her new life, her feelings came first.  It was HER turn she said.  When was it ever my turn, I wondered.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Battling Christmas Plans: NM's use of guilt and intimidation

My mother announced last year, half way into November, that she wanted to visit in the three weekends before Christmas.  She stated the first week was out, as she was going on vacation.  She then stated that she would decide last minute between the next two weekends, depending on the weather conditions. It annoyed me that she wanted to hold us hostage to her whims. Why couldn't she just pick a weekend.  This is an extremely busy time of year for us. But I said none of that. I did tell her that we did have a lot of things going on in those two weeks.  My niece was having her second birthday party, my nephew was set to be born around the same time, in addition to the usually press of holiday parties, work functions, shopping, and our own little family traditions I squeeze in.  In the following weeks, the drama was overwhelming. I received phone calls and emails and texts, lamenting the weather and updating me on every storm that might come.  I repeatedly tried to pin her down on a weekend, as we had other family and friends asking to make plans with us.  No, she couldn't make plans.  No, she didn't know when she was coming.  Stressed, I finally informed her that although she was welcome to come, we did have things we had to commit to.  She became increasingly dramatic.  As it turned out, my nephew was born the first weekend in December.  My husband's family was all in town.  This pushed my niece's birthday to the second weekend in December.  I called mom to let her know.  "Well, I guess that will be alright.  It's only for the evening".  She stated, implying it wouldn't impose on her too much.  I told her no, it would be in the afternoon on Saturday, so most of Saturday we would be busy.  I wasn't trying to push her off, but these events were out of my control, and I really couldn't drop them all to accommodate my mother who STILL wouldn't commit.  As the second weekend in December approached, and she still was drawing out the dramatics of when to come, and the snow, and the horrible roads (and let it be said, I've traveled these roads most Christmas' to her house). I suggested that maybe it would be best to wait until New Year's weekend.  This infuriated her.  She became cold and unresponsive.  I talked to her several more times over the next few weeks, and although she didn't come on New Year's, I assumed it was over.  I actually felt good about setting some boundries.  Then in a phone call in January, it all came out.  While discussing my sister, she stated "I've done a lot of soul searching and I've decided that I need to make myself happy, even if my kids don't care about me".  I was FLOORED.  I lost it.  First off, we weren't even discussing me.  And I never told her she couldn't come.  I simple suggested she come after the dreaded "bad roads" were over, when we could give her more time.  She pouted and whined and said how important it was for her to see my son at Christmas time now that her mother had died and the holidays were so hard.  (For the record, she never really liked my grandmother.  They had a distant relationship at best.  Grandma had died two years before and her death only came up when mom was needing attention).  She couldn't believe I'd be so cruel, but she accepted she wouldn't make it up to see us until my second child was born (this was January; the baby was due in June).  I told her that would be just fine with me.  And hung up the phone.

I am "The Mom": NM's views on entitlement

This is one of my mom's favorite phrases.  As if it justifies all her feelings of entitlement.  And she says it in the same way someone would say "The Queen", as in "The Queen has arrived."  She's often berated me with this phrase.  I am "The Mom", you should respect me.  You should follow my advice, directive, whims, as I am "The Mom".  If my husband should dare not concede to her every command, she gets angry, stating she is "The Mom" and, I assume, should be in control.  When I had my second son, we asked her to watch my oldest son.  I thought she would be proud of this.  I don't let people watch my son often, and I thought she'd take pride that I wanted her with my son as this special time.  Nope.  She decided she wanted to be in the operating room.  "Tell MIL she can come babysit.  I want to be at the hospital."  She would NEVER have suggested someone else watch her beloved grandson at any other time.  I explained that you are only allowed on extra person in the  room.  "OH, they will let ME in.  I am The Mom!!"  She professed.  Wow, I thought at the birth of my son, I would be known as "the mom".  It never occurred to her that having her watch my son would make me the most comfortable at a stressful time.  She never even asked if I wanted her there.  That's what she wanted, so that's what she demanded.  Luckily, it didn't happen.

Becoming a mother

When my parents divorced, I was a teenager.  It was a horrible, devastating experience that felt like a death.  It is the marker in my life for when things changed.  Or I changed.  Or my perceptions changed.  I played the dutiful daughter through  high school and college.  Occasionally, I attempted to stretch out on my own, but I was always guilted and manipulated back into the role that had been chosen for me.  I met my (now) husband in my early twenties.  And I began to brake away.  And my relationship with my mother began to brake apart.  It was volatile and dramatic and stressful.  I was suicidal at times.  But I slowly kept swimming away from the tide.  And I gained strength and insight.
And then I had my son.  Things crashed into focus and I began to see my relationship with my mother for what it was.  Up until then, I had hope things would change.  Blamed myself.  Thought if I just tried a little harder things would be better.  If we could just talk about it, we could work it out.  Nothing worked.  But when I had my son, he became the most important thing in the world to me and I knew I needed to heal myself.  Needed to live in the truth.
When I became pregnant, my mother became obsessed.  For years, she had told me she wasn't ready to be a grandmother.  And then one day she was ready.  Not that her readiness effected my decision.  But I'm sure she thought it did.  She kept track of every appointment I had and wanted details.  But she offered no support.  She never had an sympathy for my months-long morning sickness.  She never asked how I felt about becoming a mother.  She DID buy endless amounts of crap.  She would parade it in, acting as if she didn't buy all the stuff, my child would be naked, sleeping on the floor.  She was the hero.  She was the doting grandmother that provided for her grandchild, which her poor, pathetic daughter should be grateful for.  Not that I didn't appreciate it.  But the fact is, my husband and I were more than capable of providing for my son.  We were not dependent on her.  And most of the stuff she bought was junk.  Random things that were obviously more her taste than ours.  This was a deliberate act.  She clearly was taking ownership of my son.  (In fact, for a year, she repeatedly 'slipped up' and called herself "mom" and me "grandma".)  As the delivery date approached, she ramped things up.
I had asked her if she wanted to be in the room. No, she said, it would be too difficult.  She couldn't stand to see me in all that pain.  It would be too hard on her.  No matter, I didn't really want her there anyway.  But she insisted she be at the hospital.  Insisted she be there.  She just didn't want to see me.  So, I was given orders to call immediately.  So, I sent her directions to the hospital (she lives across the state).  She made a point to say that she and stepdad had a good laugh over that.  Implying that I was neurotic and overly anxious.  My purpose in giving her the directions was so that, as I labored, my poor husband wasn't besieged by a 1000 phone calls asking how to get to the hospital (lord knows, she wouldn't have just tried to find it on her own).  She poo-pooed me and belittled me and made me feel as if I was overdramatic.
My due date arrived.  I will spare the details, but I had an emergency c-section and was minutes away from death, as was my son.  It was all very scary and quick and happened in minutes in the middle of the night.  There had been no time for phone calls.  The next morning, we sent out a photo to everyone's cell phones and prepared to call our families.  My mother called first.  "Did you have your baby?"  "Yes."  Long dramatic pause.  "Why didn't you call me?"   I explained it was an emergency, that I'd almost died, that she turns her phones off at night anyway (my sister had the bad habit of calling hysterically).  "You should've called me." She replied coolly.
No, she didn't ask if I was OK.  She didn't express concern for my safety.  She didn't sound upset about me at all.  But she did later that day.  She breezed into the hospital room.  She had taken her sweet time driving up.  And she called a million times asking for directions.  Even with me on the phone, she missed the street three times.  Those directions I had written for her? She "misplaced" them.   And then the diluge began.  How horrible it had been for her.  How worried she had been.  How I better not have another child, because she can't take it.  It's too stressful for her.  She could hardly take it.  She was even critical of my MIL, saying "she has it easy.  She just gets to come in and have a grandchild.  She doesn't have to worry about her daughter dying.  She doesn't have to deal with the stress of a pregnant daughter".  Um, OK.   I'm lying in a hospital bed, drained, exhausted, recuperating from major surgery after almost dying, and all she can talk about is how hard it was for her.
This scene would be repeated when I had my second son.  How hard  MY pregnancy was for her.  How hard the birth had been on HER.  How stressed she had been.  A nurse pointed out to her that it was probably a lot harder on me.  She didn't agree.

Purpose of Blog

I am new to this.  I was inspired by another blogger to finally tell my story.  But I struggle.  I have been anxious and tense for days.  My heart has palpitated uncontrollable.  My hands shake and I have generalized anxiety even signing up for the blog.  All because I'm afraid to write about my mother.  I'm afraid she'll find this.  I'm afraid she'll be angry.  She will turn it on me and make me feel horrible about it.  But I have to purge these things.  I have to tell my stories.  I have to get rid of them banging around in my head, so I can move on.  I need to let them go so that I can be a better wife, mother, and person.
My parents divorced when I was a teenager.  I have one sister and two step-parents.  My relationship with most of them is...difficult.  But it is my mother who causes the most chaos in my life.  Over the past years, I have become aware of the reality that is my mother.  And as I have started my own family, once blurry ideas have come into sharper focus.  I seen things through a new lens, a new perspective.  And it has left me on shaky ground.  I feel stronger now, but also terrified.  Seeing the reality of my childhood, my mother, and myself has sent me into a tailspin wondering just who the hell I am.  
I hope that by telling my story, even if it's to myself, I can remove myself and move on.  Send it to God with a prayer for healing.  I don't wish to cut my mother out of my life.  There are moments I enjoy with my mom.  In reading on narcissism, I don't believe my mom to be on the far end of the spectrum.  I do believe she loves me and wants what is best for me.  But I think she loves herself and wants what's best for herself more.  I think she is so all consumed in herself that she can't see me.  I think she truly believes she is a wonderful, caring, giving mother who does all for her children and gets nothing in return.  I think she is sick and wounded.  She has reason to have issues.  But she takes it out on me (and other's around her).  In her obsessive desire to be the center of the universe, no one is immune to being sacrificed.  She is an addict, who will do anything to fill her self up with admiration, love and attention.
So, I need to write these stories to let go.  To mourn and release the idea that my mom will ever be that nurturing, supportive mom I so needed.  To see it all in black and white, so that when she is around she no longer controls, and manipulates me and makes me feel so small.
This blog will most likely be rambling.  No rhyme or reason.  I often am too analytical, to thoughtful, to guarded.  I want to give myself permission to just let it go.  To purge the stories as they bubble up.  To find myself, and find my strength, so I will no longer be a player in someone else's script.