Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Weekend with my Mom


I just got back from spending three nights with my mother, and boy I’m happy to be home.  This was the most amount of time I have spent with her in years, probably since I was 18 or so.  She has two homes: one in CO, and one in SC.  She has been trying to sell her house in SC for awhile, but she’s having a hard time.  Her family is in SC, so it was very convenient to meet her in SC and go to the family reunion this weekend.  Alex and I flew there on Friday, and returned on Monday.  The reunion was really fun, and Alex was a champ.  Such a charmer, smiling at everyone.  She really enjoyed the hayride and playing with pumpkins.  I wish I was only there for the reunion…

I have to say, my mom and I got along better this weekend than any other time recently.  I think we both made an effort to be nice to each other, and only had a few rough moments.  But I had some major realizations about her.  First, she is one of the most negative people I know.  My whole life, I have hated how negative she is about me, never having anything nice to say, and questioning every decision I’ve made.  Making snide comments, and just being unpleasant.  But for the first time I realized – it’s not me!  Sure, she made comments about my stuff, but she also spent the entire weekend making negative comments about everything: her husband, her house in CO, her house in SC, my step-brother and his family, my step-brother’s kids (who are age 2-7: not exactly awful people!), her family, the neighbors, the grocery store, EVERYTHING!!!!  I tried to hold my tongue and not say anything, but oh my goodness it was so hard.  Finally on Sunday night, I asked if I could use a bathroom that was different than the one I had been using to give Alex a bath since it had a tub in it, and she started on a 10 minute rant about how she hates all the bathrooms in her house, and she hates the water, and they have to filter it, and still can’t drink it, and she would have never bought this house, but her husband wanted to live here, but then he changed his mind…  Blah, blah, blah.  Well, I could no longer hold back.  I tried to be really nice, but I told her that she didn’t seem happy, and I’m worried about her because she’s so negative.  That she has a really nice life, but it doesn’t seem like she likes her life very much because she complains about it all the time.  Well, that started a rant about me, about how I don’t know much about her life because I’ve chosen to spend time apart from her for the last 20 years, and how dare I say anything about her life, blah, blah, blah.  I told her that yes, I haven’t spent much time with her, but I’m working on our relationship right now, and it doesn’t help to bring up the past, as we just need to focus on right now.  And right now she seems unhappy and I’m worried about me.  Well she told me I didn’t need to worry about her – everything’s great.  So I gave up.

She’s the most miserably unhappy person I’ve seen, and I hate it.  She is doing this to herself, and it was so enlightening to see it this weekend.  As my therapist would tell me time and again, these are her problems, not mine.  For once, I was able to observe it and not take it personally, and it felt so good.  I choose to live my life with positivity, at least most of the time, and I know that I will be happy anywhere.  I’ve watched her move about every three years, and change different things in her life.  I think this is because she’s never happy!  She’s so judgmental about everybody as well – it’s just exhausting being around her!

The other thing that was interesting, and certainly disappointing, is how unhelpful she was with Alex.  I’m used to dealing with my MIL, who flies to Houston once every few months to stay a week so she can have time with Alex.  She realizes that Alex is little, and if she doesn’t spend time with her, then Alex won’t know her.  Plus my MIL really likes spending time with Alex – when she was really tiny, it was all I could do to pry her from my MIL’s arms!  This couldn’t be farther from the truth with my mom.  She hasn’t spent much time with Alex, but really that’s because I haven’t spent much time with my mom in the last year.  I figured that since we were staying at my mom’s house for four days, that they would spend time with each other.  Not once did Mom try to play with her, or try to help me with taking care of her.  Alex would be on the floor crying, and I couldn’t pick her up because I was making a bottle or something, and Mom would just say “why is she crying?”  I would tell her that she could pick her up and it would help, so she would.  But then I asked if she wanted to hold Alex while she drank her bottle, and she said, “No way – she wants to be with you, not me!”  Not once did she offer to help with anything.  I told her that my fertility doc didn’t want me to pick up anything that weighed more than half a gallon of milk, and that I try to limit picking up Alex, but of course I have to pick her up.  She just agreed – yes, I must pick her up – not once did she offer to hold her.  She didn’t help with anything at all the entire weekend.  Once I was playing with Alex on the floor, and I had to go to the bathroom.  I came back to my mom reading a book, and she told me that Alex disappeared.  Um… thanks?  Alex was fine, but could she not get up and at least watch her as she crawled off? 

This woman does not have a maternal bone in her body.  I hate saying this, but since I was an early teenager, I’ve often thought that my mom should have never been a mother.  She adopted me when I was four years old, and this was after she was turned down by the adoption agencies when she asked to adopt a baby.  I often thought while growing up that she was a terrible mother, and that God, and then later the adoption agencies, knew what they were doing when they denied her wishes to be a mother.  This is an awful statement – I feel guilty even saying it, and I had a hard time reconciling this statement in my head with my own infertility struggles.  I talked about this at long length with my therapist, and I’ve realized that perhaps it has nothing to do with infertility or God’s wishes, but I still believe that my mom should never have been a mother.  She was a bad mother to me (even she will admit that sometimes), but I had hoped that she would try to be a good grandmother.  In front of other people, like at the family reunion, she says wonderful things like “Look at my sweet angel.”  But if she doesn’t have an audience, she doesn’t act with affection at all!  She instead seems annoyed most of the time – annoyed that Alex is so needy and loud!  She even got mad when I was showing Alex the piano: I would play a few notes, and Alex would play (or rather bang on the keys a bit, but never that hard).  Sure, it didn’t sound great, but it didn’t warrant the statement, “That sounds awful!”  What do you expect?  She’s a baby!

The worst was I finally psyched myself up to ask my mom for some help, but I had a feeling I would know the answer.  I told her about my upcoming work situation when I move to Denver.  I will have daycare either three half-days or two full-days per week, and between that and naps, I should be able to get most of my work done from home in my new part-time schedule.  But every three months for about a week, I will be very busy, and I will need additional help.  I asked her if she could commit to spending one day, every three months, at my house where I will be, and I could even change diapers.  All I need her to do is come over and play with and feed Alex for one day each three months.  She said no, she couldn’t commit to that.  I asked why, and she said that she travels, and takes care of her husband, and she just couldn’t commit to something so confining.  I said okay, but if she wants to spend time with Alex and get to know her as she grows up, please let me know.

The other worst thing is how she reacted when I told her I was having twins: “That sounds awful.” “I can’t believe you did that to yourself.” “So-and-so said one kid was easy, two kids were really hard, and three kids were impossible.” Not once did she say she was happy for me, or that she knew we would figure it out, or anything positive. 

The amazing thing is I’m really okay with all this.  I’ve struggled for years with her, trying to figure out how to have a relationship with her.  She always brings up the past, angry at me for things I did starting at around age 11 (yep – I’m still in trouble for stuff I did then), and I’ve never understood why it’s so difficult with her.  My therapist would tell me these are her problems, not mine.  I mostly got this, but it really sunk in this weekend.  She is just a miserable person.  For the first time in my life, I feel bad for her.  How awful it must be to feel all this negativity, all this bad stuff going on that she blames other people for.  But really it’s her own twisted perception.  She has a great life – they have money for retirement, they get to travel some, she has a very nice husband who adores her, she works out every day, is in excellent health and has a great body (complaining about how her size 4 and 6 clothes no longer fit – she has to buy 2’s!), she has good friends that pay attention to her, she has a great family (not even including me!), and fabulous pets.  She has a daughter that really wants to be in her life, but is not willing to spend much time in all that negativity.  Most of all, she has the most beautiful little granddaughter with whom she could choose to start over and create a good and solid relationship, but she is choosing to not do so.  This makes me sad for my daughter, but it’s probably a good thing for Alex to spend time away from that negativity as well.  For the first time in my life, I feel okay with all this.  This weekend has helped me accept that my mother is who she is, and probably nothing will change this.  It’s okay that she’s like this, but I don’t have to spend my life trying to make her into something she is not.

18 comments:

  1. While I'm so sorry that your mom is such a negative person, it's great that you were able to realize that it's not you - it's just her personality. I'm glad your MIL balances out the Grandma scale for Alex!

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  2. I'm very proud of you for accepting who she is and being ok with it. I'm sure that was hard to do, and I can't believe how unhelpful she was with Alex. Who wouldn't want to spend time with her sweet grandchild? You are right, you can't change who she is so you just have to move on if you are ok with that. She couldn't even commit to one day every three months?? Wow...

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  3. Wow- my jaw dropped when I read about her reaction to the twins. How awful. I am so sorry you don't really have a mother. At least your MIL sounds delightful. Good for you for realizing it's NOT you, it's her. And not being able to commit to 4 days a year. COME ON.

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  4. wow, she really is a piece of work. I'm so sorry you had to deal with all of that growing up, but it's great that you are free of it now and able to see that it's all her, it's not you.

    I'm sure you can find someone more willing and capable of caring for Alex when you need someone! So glad your MIL is great with Alex :-)

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  5. WOW I am so sorry your mom acts this way!! But at least Alex has one fabulous grandmother who wants to be there all the time!!

    hang in there!! xoxoxo

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  6. I had to put on a sad smile at the thought of Alex playing the piano and her having that response (the smile because of a little one making glorious music, the sad because she doesn't quite seem able to "get" it) And her response to you having twins just makes me really sad/mad. I'm sorry that your relationship with her is in the place it is in... you're a brave woman to try to make it better, and a smart one for being able to keep the perspective and not internalize all this *stuff*...

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  7. Negativity can suck the life out of you. That must have been one LOOOOOOOONNNGGG weekend! I hate what she said about the twin thing, you'd think she would be over the moon for you. It's one thing for random strangers to make negative comments about it (which they will, trust me) but not your mom.
    Anyways, you survived and you have the right perspective on things.

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  8. Wow, I'm so sorry you have had to endure a relationship like that. You deserve better. I'm so sad for you and Alex. I guess once you realize you can't change how other people think it makes things easier. At least it did for me when dealing with my MIL. It is kind of freeing to accept things and move forward instead of getting stuck in the past.

    Good luck at your u/s tomorrow!

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  9. Wow, your mom in seriously unbelievable. Seriously!! I'm glad you have such a good outlook on it, though.

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  10. Man, that all sounds so hard to deal with :( Maybe because I have a good relationship with my mom. I'm really reliant on her and I don't know how people who don't have that support can do it.

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  11. I'm sorry that your mom is like that. I can't imagine having a grandchild and just being "eh" about them. And 2 more on the way and she can't even say congrats knowing how hard this is for ya'll?!? Unfortunately, it is probably best for you all to leave the decision to be in your lives up to your mom. You can't have her negativity shadowing all ya'll, so is she wants to know them and you, she has to change or it's her loss.

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  12. Wow, this sounds terrible. So sorry she isn't more present and helpful.

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  13. Oh, Alex... I cannot believe how similar our mothers are. I mean - clones of one another. Unreal.

    As you know from a comment on someone else's blog - you and I apparently have the same therapist as well ;) It is good for us to remember his/her advice - that these are our mothers' problems and not ours. But I do feel that they become our problem when they do nothing to bond with our children.

    Sigh.

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  14. I just re-read this because I cannot believe how similar our mothers are. Down to the doting only when they have an audience. My mom, who sees Matthew once every 3 months even though they only live 1.8 hours away, said to him (the last time we saw her), "well, you sure aren't the smiley baby you used to be." WHAT? I about died - I almost came unglued. But I didn't - because it's her loss. It's her problem. It's her sickness. The only reason he wasn't smiling at HER was because he can read her - he knows what's up. He knows that she has no interest in knowing him, or holding him, or playing with him. He knows that she is only a grandmother in name and not in heart. He knows that she is a stranger to him. Babies can tell these things. Of course he wouldn't smile at her hateful self.

    The only thing we can do is decide whether or not we're going to expose our children to that. I have vowed not to.

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  15. Wow - I love that you had such a great weekend full of revelations about your mother (and how her negativity is NOT about you!!). I cannot imagine how hard that was to truly accept and realize. YAY for surrounding yourself with happy people!!

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  16. OMFG. Alex - I don't even know where to begin. Her reaction to your new is... not okay. I know you know this, but man ALIVE. I am very sorry that she is like, but I am over-joyed that you realize that it is not about you in any way. Which is not to say that it does not impact you, because the gravitational pull of a black hole is strong... but man ALIVE. Reading this now makes me feel so proud, and so much stronger for *myself*, and I thank you so much for that. Your advice to me in the last few weeks takes on new meaning, and makes me draw from your strength of character and the limitations you set for yourself, but more importantly for Alex and your TWO new little ones. Good for you. xoxo

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  17. Wow, it was exhausting just reading that, I can't imagine spending 4 days with her.

    At least you realized it isn't all you, it is her. That must be some level of relief.

    And twins will be hard, but you are a great mom and you will figure it out! And all three of those children are soooooo lucky to have YOU as a mom!!!

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  18. It says a lot about you that you became such a well-adjusted, loving person despite your mother. I'm glad you have a good relationship with your MIL, but I know how disappointing it is when your mother doesn't step up to the plate even when you expect she won't (and my mother isn't half as bad as yours!), so I'm sorry for that.

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