I want to preface this blog post by saying that I love my parents (all 3 of them) dearly. This is not meant to be a bashing post. I have prayed about how I would write this. I have had major anxiety about it. Writing has always been a way for me to cope with anxiety and trauma. So with that being said I feel that if just one person can read this and relate and realize that they can break the cycle then something good came from my experiences.
I have always had a fear of speaking out about my childhood because I don’t want to hurt my parents but I feel like in order to grow as a mom and a wife I need to be honest with myself. Also I hope this post helps others see that you can overcome your struggles through childhood and still be a better mom.
As I mentioned in my last post, my childhood was not easy and I was very lonely and sad most of the time. I was bounced from my mom & dad’s (my ‘stepdad’ but I refer to him as my dad) to my grandmother’s (my biodad’s mom) throughout my entire childhood. I never felt settled. As a child that was very confusing. The worthless feeling of having 3 parents yet none truly wanted me 100% of the time. My choices as a mom are because I never want my kids to feel the way that I felt.
My biological father is an alcoholic. He was MIA for my entire childhood and now into my adult years. My grandmother took over his visitation schedule and I am forever grateful for her and the love she showed me. She has always been the one constant in my life. He always had a different girlfriend and she (and even her kids at times) were a priority over me. He does not know my kids, I can count on 2 hands how many times they have seen him. My youngest has only seen him once and she was a baby, so she doesn’t remember him. The one memory that I have of him that stands out the most from when I was growing up, was when he got into a horrible car accident caused by him drinking and driving. His best friend at the time bailed him out of jail and brought him home to my grandmother’s. I just happened to be there for the weekend. When he arrived he had a brace on his neck and his face & body was badly bruised. I still remember the way he looked to this day! He made a promise to me that night that he would stop drinking. That, was just the first of many broken promises.
As I said, my grandmother took over his visitation schedule. I would go to her house on the weekends and in the summer. He was never around. My grandmother made sure that when I was there I didn’t feel like I was less than. I feel she tried to overcompensate for him and give me all the things and love that he should have given me.
My mom and dad have been together since I was almost 2 so I don’t remember a time where my (bio)parents were ever together. I have always been closer to my dad though. Out of all 3 parents, I have always been more comfortable going to him if I have a problem. I wanted that kind of relationship with my mom but unfortunately due to her upbringing she just didn’t know how to be that mom. I understand that now as an adult, but it doesn’t take the pain away that I felt as a child.
I have 2 brothers. My mom and dad have a son who is 2 years younger than me. My biodad and (former) stepmom also have a son that is much younger than me. I don’t have a relationship with either. I have not seen my youngest brother since my early teens. It used to make me sad, but now it just makes me hurt for my kids. They have 2 uncles that they don’t really know. I have tried in the past to reach out, but I don’t want my kids to feel that they have to beg for a relationship with their uncles.
Throughout my entire childhood when I lived with my mom and dad I never felt like I was good enough. When I was younger my biggest longing was to feel loved by my parents. I would act out, but not anything above normal acting out. I just wanted them to notice me. My brother was more athletic, smarter, more popular, just all around a better person. I constantly felt compared to him. If I got good grades, his were better. If I tried out for a team and made it there was always a ‘reason’ my parents wouldn’t allow me to do it. When I lived with my grandmother I ran track and I was really good. I won races, I enjoyed it, I made friends. But when I moved back to my parents I wasn’t allowed to run anymore. I started working at 15 because I had to, it wasn’t an option for me not to. My entire paycheck would go to my parents, I didn’t see any of it.
I have tried so hard to use my experiences as learning tools in how I choose to parent and raise my kids. I check in with them to make sure they are not feeling the things I felt. Especially Emma. She reminds me a lot of me growing up. The route I have chosen to go with her is when I hear her cry out for attention I listen. I reassure her that I will always be here for her. This has not always been the case. I did not truly see her anxiety until this last year (See How Did I Not Know). I refuse to have her feel like she cannot come to me. I never want any of my kids to look back on their childhood and feel sad or unloved.
There was a point in time that I voiced my feelings from my childhood to my mom, dad, & brother. I was met with blame, no understanding and guilt. My brother has told me that if I just would have done everything “right” and the way my parents told me to, then I would have had the same treatments he did. As I said before I did 90% of the chores/housework. I cleaned up after the dogs. When I vacuumed the floors there had to be lines in the carpet that all went the same way. I did the dishes and when I was old enough I cooked dinner. It doesn’t seem like a lot right? However, I was required to do all of that, work, and go to school. This is where my obsessive cleaning comes from. I have to constantly remind myself that a dirty dish in the sink, the carpet not being vacuumed a certain way, etc is not going to make my kids and husband love me any less. I know that back when I was growing up the times were totally different, both parents worked, we were latchkey kids, etc. However that doesn’t take away the favoritism that was shown. If my kids are feeling that there is any sort of favoritism going on in my house that I make sure they know they are all loved equally.
I had a great group of friends in high school. My parents didn’t like any of them. I have caught myself judging my kid’s friends unfairly. Only one or two of my friends saw firsthand how my childhood was. It was not pretty at times. There were major fights, screaming (from both sides), etc. Most fights led to me being asked to leave the house. Because of this I spent a lot of my ‘free’ time alone in my room. There were many nights that I cried myself to sleep just wishing that tomorrow would be different. I know my parents loved me. But that didn’t change the hurt thatI felt. I promised myself I would do better than my parents. Just because my kid’s friends haven’t always necessarily been who I’d pick for them doesn’t mean they are bad kids. I noticed a problem and vowed that I would be the end of that problem. I let my kids choose their friends and (within reason) let them find out who is good for them. I am proud to say that they are pretty good judges of character.
I was in elementary school the first time I was molested by a relative, this relative (years later) actually went to jail for doing this to another member of our extended family. I have a lot of guilt that if I just would have spoken up it wouldn’t have happened to anyone else. I never told my parents, at least not until this person passed away. I was already married and had my son when he passed. I was asked if I was going to attend his funeral and I said no. When asked why, I flooded my parents with years of trauma all at once. I was looking for reassurance, for understanding… I was met with anger and guilt. I did not attend the funeral and to this day that phone conversation with my mom rings in my ears. We have never spoken about it since that day! When my daughter told me that she was molested by a classmate when she was in elementary school… I took a totally different approach! All of those feelings came rushing back for me and I vowed she would not feel an ounce of what I felt. We did everything we could to help her cope. She talks about it openly and not once do we make her feel like it was her fault.
Most of what I did when I was a teen was a cry for attention. I drank, I smoked cigarettes, etc. I got attention but it was always negative attention. This negative attention ranged from yelling & screaming to physical altercations. There were times that my mom would just look at my dad and say ‘You need to deal with her, I just can’t’. Sometimes I just wanted her to look at me and say ‘What is going on? What can we do to fix this together?’ When I see my kids making choices that aren’t wise I go to them and talk to them and try to find out why they are making these choices.
As I said in the beginning, I love my parents but sometimes it is best to love from a distance. Some parents have a hard time acknowledging when they messed up, this is why if I handle a situation unfairly or not in the best way with my children I make sure to apologize right away.
I know that my mom had a very hard and tumultuous childhood. I know that has impacted the way she raised me and our relationship now that I am an adult. I see that and I want to make sure that cycle ends with her. I want to learn from the mistakes of all 3 of my parents. I want my kids to be comfortable coming to me with anything. I want to be a stern parent that gets respect, but I also want my kids to feel respected. I want to be the disciplinarian parent, but not physical discipline.
If you are a parent and can relate to my childhood, know that the cycle can end with you.