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How I Left My Mother - Outside The Box

How I Left My Mother

How I Left My Mother

I remember the day well.  It was six years ago. Our wedding was just a couple of short months behind us.  The wedding was the beginning of the end for my mother and I.  You could see it coming from a mile away.  My ideas were not traditional enough, not tasteful enough, generally not good enough.  It didn’t matter that it was our wedding, not her wedding.  It also didn’t matter that the plans were made by my soon to be husband and myself, together.  In her mind every decision that was made that wasn’t up to her standards must be my decision.

I trudged through. Barely.  I can’t even recall how many times I came close to calling off the wedding because of my mother’s bullying (not a term I use lightly or frequently).  The idea of just flying off to Vegas and getting married without all the hassle held enormous appeal to me. But it wasn’t all about me.  My husband has a large family and sharing this day with them was important to him.  So, I carried on.  For him and for us, despite my mother carrying on like a spoiled child. She continued to push me, manipulate me and even lie to me.  Right up until the very end. The night ended with me discovering the heart felt thank you card I had given my parents  in the trash when we were cleaning up at the end of the night.  I held out hope that it was an accident. In reality I knew better.

There was very little change in the days and weeks that followed the wedding.  I kept contact at a minimum because I felt a break was in order.  I’ve had plenty of breaks from my family (especially my mother) over the years and the distance often helps on some level.  At least for me it helps.  I would always tell myself that she is my mother after all, somewhere in there she loves me.  She has to right?

But this time would prove to be different. So, that day, almost six years ago – the day that finally and completely ended my relationship with my mother arrived. It was the day I called to tell her that I was pregnant.  This was very happy news for us.  We had started trying to conceive shortly before our wedding.  I was pushing 40 and knew we had no time to waste if we wanted to start a family.  I also fully expected it to take a good year – if it happened at all.  So when we discovered we were expecting, after just four months of trying, it was pretty exciting.

My mother and I were still not really talking at this point.  But we’ve been down that road before.  We’ve gone months, even close to a year without really communicating and somehow managed to pick up the pieces and attempt this whole mother daughter thing again.  So, I convinced myself this news would be the icebreaker we needed.  I mean I am her only daughter and I was expecting my first (and only) child.  How could that not touch her on some level? I took a deep breath, picked up the phone and called her.  I expected the initial chit chat to be awkward.  I mean we hadn’t really talked in a couple of months and had not left things in a very positive place.  But we’ve been though tough times before. She had to be excited for me.  Only she was not excited for me.  I swear to you I could have called to tell her that bananas were on sale and received more of a reaction. She could not get off the phone fast enough.

And that was that.  I was in shock.  I was hurt.  I was angry.  So angry.  I remember hurling the phone across the living room.  Despite my famous redheaded temper, throwing things in rage is not something I do.  But I did that day. Broke the phone into pieces. And then I just sat there, stunned, not really understanding what just happened. My mother had disappointing me before.  She had hurt me before.  Many, many times. But this was different. This was something I just couldn’t quite wrap my head around, even coming from her. It turned out to be the final straw for me. And that was probably the best decision I ever made.

Since that day I have only spoken to my parents on those occasions where I really have to – most commonly at weddings and funerals.  Those conversations are brief and lacking in any emotion. If we are in a crowd my mother may put her arms around me in a stiff and awkward hug.  We both know that’s meant for other people.  To keep up appearances. I’m not sure if she understands that I have no interest in keeping up  appearances and put zero effort into doing so. If I run into a family friend I haven’t seen in a while and they ask how my parents are I quite simply tell them I don’t really communicate with my family any more.  I don’t get into the why of it all.  I don’t place blame or bad mouth my parents.  But I don’t lie.  I can’t stand that fake, smile and nod mask my mother puts on.  I never could.  And I won’t do it.

I realize, in writing this, that you are hearing a lot about my failed relationship with my mother and not a lot about my father. I do indeed have a father.  And my parents are still together.  There are a couple of reasons I don’t talk much about dad. The main reason is that my mother is most definitely the boss of that relationship.  I guess that’s ok if it works for them.  They’ve been married for 40 plus years and I don’t think they hate each other.  But everyone knows that my mom rules the roost.  She makes the rules and breaking them means suffering the consequences. By and large my dad just does what he’s suppose to do. For the most part I don’t blame him. I’ve been on the receiving end of her wrath. It’s not pretty. But the other reason I don’t mention my dad, and maybe it’s actually the most important and I don’t want to admit it (or maybe I just did) is that I think that he actually dissapointed me the most.

My dad always had a temper, but it was generally fueled by my mother.  I can recall multiple occasions as a child were I did or said something to my dad that I thought was funny and my dad would see the humour in it. That is until my mother stepped in.  She loved saying things like “Are you going to let her talk to you that way?”  Well, yes actually he was going to let me.  I’m just a kid and he’s my parent not my warden. But when she spoke those words and put her foot down compliance was expected and the discipline was delivered.  It was usually swift and harsh. Mom would always threaten us with  – wait until your dad gets home – but the reality was we (at least I ) were far more scared of her than of him. She manipulated every single situation. So, dad did what he was told for the most part. I know that’s not an excuse. He should have stood up to her.  And he inflicted his own damage on us.  I know he did.  But I know that he hated me less than she did. I think he may have actually even loved me in his own way. And the fact that he was adopted as well gave us at least some kind of bond that I never had with her. So, in the end, when push came to shove and he didn’t have the guts or the desire of whatever was lacking, to stand up and be a parent when I needed my parents, well that was a huge blow to me.

Six years have gone by since I “left” my family. I have not once regretted that decision.  It was a toxic relationship. So toxic. I no longer dread the holidays and family gatherings (for years I use to get very ill at Christmas time and now I never do). I don’t look at the phone and have a minor anxiety attack when I see her number come up. For the most part I don’t think about them at all. And I’m ok with that. I no longer even send Christmas cards.  For the first couple of years after my daughter was born I would send them a picture of her but I never received any acknowledgement of that.  My husband, however, received birthday cards for a while from my mother stating that he was “still special to them”. You see, that’s the sort of poison my mother spews. She wrote me off, she wrote her baby granddaughter off, yet somehow still believed that she had some sort of influence, even alliance with my husband.

Despite the actions of my mother it still took time for others in my life to accept that this severance was not something to mourn.  That I didn’t want or need it to be fixed. That being free of that relationship was a positive thing for me and for my new family.  I know it’s hard to comprehend.  I’m a mother now myself and I can’t imagine, even for a moment, turning my back on my daughter. I know we will go through our fair share of ups and downs.  I remember those teenage years very well.  I have no doubt she will hurt me and infuriate me and I will do the same to her. But I am her mother.

The truth is, leaving my mother has deteriorated the resentment I once had for her. It’s far easier now to actually remember some of the positive parts of my childhood now that I am not bombarded with her negativity. I’m not entirely sure if the distance has brought clarity or has actually put a haze over those days.  Maybe there really were a lot of good times or maybe I just remember them differently because I want to remember them differently. In the end it doesn’t really matter which is true.  When my five year old asks me to tell her stories about when I was a child I can usually come up with something positive to tell her. I’m not concerned with how accurate the details of the story are of how I really felt at the time. She just needs to believe and trust that parents love their children. I also know that someday, when she’s older, she will want to meet her other grandparents. She already asks questions about them. I honestly don’t know how I will deal with that.  But I will deal with it and because I am no longer filled with that resentment and hurt that my mother inflicted on me years ago it will actually be easier than if I had attempted to maintain that poisonous relationship. Letting go of that has made me a better mother. I am far from perfect.  I am certain that I have made some of the same mistakes my own mother made, and will continue to do so. But the difference is I’m ok with that. I’m not trying to be perfect.  I’m just trying to be the best mom I can be.  The mom that my daughter needs and deserves. And I feel confident (most days) that I am achieving that. And I will not give my daughter a reason to sit in front of her computer 40 years from now and write a story about how she left her mother.



This article has 40 comments

  1. What a open and honest post. I left my mother and our toxic relationship 2 years ago. I struggle some days with the thought that I am not a good daughter for staying and making it work. It was helpful to me to read your candid story. Thank You. I am also in a better place with my partner and children, honestly it has been the best choice I ever made. It wasn't an easy one but a necessary one.

    • Thank you for sharing Monica, and for your support. It's never easy is it? But sometimes walking away is just all you have left.

  2. Shayna, your honesty in your writing always touches my heart. It's hard to imagine the hurt you must have felt but from just reading this – it sounds like you made the best decision. Your daughter is so lucky to have you as a mother. You fight for her health and well being and (most importantly) you love her 🙂 Thanks for sharing your story.
    My recent post Healthy Meal Idea: The Glory Bowl

    • Thank you Randa. Being a mother now myself makes it even that much harder for me to understand how my own mother could allow our relationship to get so toxic. I realize that the end came when I was an adult so I have some responsibility but her habit of leeching poison started long before I grew up.

  3. I wish I was as brave as you. Thank you so much for sharing. 

  4. Thank you for this post beautifully and honestly written.  my mom is an alcoholic and even had a drug addiction for a few years, our relationship has always been strained . She is very manipulative and has pitted my siblings an I against each other,so for years my sister and I lacked a relationship , we have one as my sister realized my mom's ways (I am 10  years older) my mom was happy when I told her I was pregnant however the novelty has worn off, no coming to my baby shower, hospital when Harlow was born (was there for 4 days) missed her 1 st birthday and now has not bothered to see her for 7 months. I have reached out for visits but it's always we will be in touch or she needs to clean her house.  I am letting it go slowly and now I I feel as you do, making a decision to do what's best for my family.  Good for you for not repeating the cycle , it's a brace decision that proves your a wonderful momma. I have to say I do have a hard time seeing friends and coworkers having a loving bond with their moms.

    • Thank you for the support and for sharing Jamie. It's never easy turning away from a parent. It's not something that is "natural" in our society but sometimes it's just a necessity to survive. 

      I too am sometimes envious of the relationship some of my friends have with their mothers but I just remember that my daughter will grow up never knowing that hurt.

  5. Thank you for sharing this.  My situation isn’t as drastic but I have had a heavy heart lately trying to figure out what to do with my mom.  I know I need to do something similar but I struggle with the guilt and the judging from others -that people will think less of me.  My mom is remarried and I learned from my step dad this weekend that his son’s wife refuses to be around my mom nor let their son be in her presence.  So my stepdad is going to miss out seeing his grandchild because of my mom.  That breaks my heart.  He like your dad by the sounds of it lets my mom control him and it angers me as well as my husband.  You have given me much to think about!

    • Oh Angela I'm sorry to hear about your family's situation. As much as I know I have made the right decision for both me and my family there are still times that I am saddened by the fact that my parents don't get to know their amazing grand daughter. 

  6. They say that you can't pick your family but you sure can pick if you want to hang out with them or not. I've heard, "they're family, you have to love them" more times than I can count and the truth is, no you don't.

    Good on you for choosing the path that works for you and your family. Life is short. Live.

    Besos Sarah.
    My recent post 29 Things You Can NOT Do When You Lose Power

    • But you can pick your family can't you? You and I both know that. I think we picked each other 🙂 I still think we were separated at birth….

  7. First hugs, for being brave enough to put it out this "out there" . While your daughter may not understand until she is much much older, you are showing her how to lead a path that is best for you, and not have to put yourself through someone else's emotional issues.
    It is not easy saying "enough is enough" and walking away, from the outside many people think it is a failure, when really it shows unbelievable strength and courage.

    • Thank you so much Kate. You're right it's not easy making that decision but in the end it's easier than living on a roller coaster your whole life.

  8. I  really admire your honesty ! I sure can relate the toxic relationship my mother and I (had). Since leaving my mother and siblings I am a healthier me! Thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you for the support. I'm sorry that you went through something similar but glad it sounds like cutting that tie has made for a healthier happier you.

  9. This really spoke to me. My relationship with my parents was very toxic. my anxiety level was so high all the time. Sharing this stuff isn't easy so I really appreciate you sharing your story because it really does help to know I'm not alone. 

    • Thank you for the support Marlene. I remember that anxiety all too well, Every time I saw my mother's number on my phone my blood pressure would rise. I never knew if it would be a civil conversation or end up with me in tears. 

  10. I hear you! I've done the same with my father; he was emotionally, verbally, and mentally abusive to all of his daughters and our mother. He drove her to an early grave, and we've all left him in one way or another. Sadly, he keeps contacting us; sometimes nice letters, but more often rude, demeaning and accusatory letters. Unfortunately, I don't think it will end, until he shuffles off this mortal coil.

    • I'm sorry that you and your sisters have had to go through this Olga. It can be such a tug of war with parents. You always want to give them another chance, and another, and another….but at some point they just run out of chances.

  11. Brava! Kudos! Hugs and everything else! You almost wrote my own life story. The fact is, us daughters of narcissist mothers are all telling a similar story. You are part of a bizarre sisterhood no one wants to be a member of, but by sharing your story, you tell others we are not alone. Thank you. 
    My recent post Through Our Eyes – Living With Asperger's Out on DVD

  12. Good for you!  I divorced my abusive, controlling parents almost four years ago.  I wish I had done it sooner.  The icing on the cake was when my mother hit me at my son's 13th birthday party, in front of my husband and children.  (I was 43 at the time.)  I realized in that moment that nothing was ever, ever going to change.  I have so much less stress now.  Blood means nothing.  "Family" are people who care about you, who love you unconditionally.  The only thing my parents taught me was how not to parent.  

    • Thank you for sharing Lisa. How awful that your mother hit you – and in front of your children too? Sounds like that was your moment of clarity. And you are right – your family are the people that love you without question.

  13. Thank you so much for writing this I thought I was alone my mother and I have had a toxic relationship my whole life I tried repeatedly to just go through the motions so no one knew there was issues but it got worse and worse over the years then there was  an issue involving my children where I was sure even with our issues she would have stepped up and supported us but chose that the abuser of my daughter was more important haven’t spoke to her since 

    • Roxane I am sorry that this happened to you and your daughter. It's amazing what becoming a mother does isn't it? Not only do you pull out all the stops to protect your own children but you can't imagine how a mother can let her relationship with her child get so toxic.

  14. Wow, it's like you were writing my story, minus the wedding part.  6 years  ago I too got pregnant at 39 and also did not get any excitement from my mom, instead she told me I needed serious help.  I was forced to stop all contact with her to keep the stress out of my high risk pregnancy.   It amazingly did remove so much negative energy that was in my life.

    Like you my dad and mom are still together – though they hate each other (but that is entirely another story) and he also makes no attempt to see me or any of my children.

    I have seen them at family events that my grandma attended, or my cousins wedding, when we were all put at the same table.    At my grandmothers funeral this spring, I was clearly an outcast, only a few of my cousins would even talk to me and my 4 children.  Funny thing is I left feeling relieved.  My grandmother being gone, I no longer had ties to any of them anymore.

    My children are my world and yes I think about some day would this be me??  Then I realize that my children are loved, our family is tight.   Above all, I would take the time to fix an issue, I wouldn't walk away from their lives.  Unlike my mom who even though she officially apologized (without meaning it – but I wasn't going to spiteful and accepted it), and we were supposively talking,  she still isn't in my life.  My son has no idea who she is.  He did know who my grandmother was despite only meeting her a handful of times.  T

    • Saundra, thank you for sharing your story. I am lucky I suppose in that the rest of my extended family know what my mother is like and that she pushed me for years and years before I severed ties. So I am not an outcast because of it. Even my little brother, who is close to my parents, has not turned his back on me (for which I am grateful for).

  15. You didn’t go into what your mother did except basically be negative & bratty at and about your wedding and disregard for your daughter. Maybe you could go into what she did- even if it was patterns of things -to you as a child & while growing up. I realize this post was about you leaving her which is fine, completely commendable and raises issues that I struggle with all the time….but I would have liked to hear more about what brought you to that point and it must’ve been more than a bratty mother at your wedding and her total antipathy towards your daughter……what was she like to you as a child/teenager? Does she even know she’s been cut off? Am curious of course because I have a difficult if not impossible mother I am forced to contend with all the time…..

    • Hi Sharlene. You're right I didn't go into a lot of detail about the toxic relationship I've had with my mother for most of my life. Instead I focused on the end of the story. I could write an entire book I'm sure about all of that but what I really wanted to share was that sometimes you have to pull the plug, even if other people around you don't "get it".  And yes she absolutely knows she has been cut off. I told her straight out that I didn't want her in my life. 

  16. Im sorry you’ve had such a negative experience.

    Is it possible your mother is mentally ill? I would say yes. Possibly w a personality disorder? 

    Do you know much about Attachment? The Circle of Security program ? 

    Have you read the book – Toxic Parents? 

    And please buy and read the book by Klosko & Young called Reinventing Your Life. All about Schemas and Lifetraps. Will shed a heck of a lot of light on likely yourself and your parents. Highly highly reccomend 

    • Thank you for the recommendations. To answer your question, yes it is quite possible, and probable that my mother has mental health issues. Both of my brothers do. 

      • I am fairly certain that my Mother has mental health issues as well, as there are others in her family that do. It all started when my parents divorced and she was a single Mom for some time. She even created me a new baby book that was just from her and not her and my dad. She threw out the birth announcement, pictures, thank you cards, edited videos, anything to erase my Dad from our lives. Looking back I realize now that something snapped in her at that time that of course at the age of 9 I couldn't see.

  17. Thanks for such an honest post. Your situation really resonates with me, although the toxicity is with my father and my mother is the major disappointment. Like your father, she has to live with him and bows to his whims, but the lack of effort to assert herself is incredibly frustrating for me. My soon to be 6 year old recently commented to one of his cousins that he only has one grandma, my husband's mom who we see all the time. The biggest challenge is extended family wanting to help "solve the problems" and encouraging my sister and I to just "forget it"and the duplicity of my parents, pretending everything is fine and talking about us and our children as if they see or talk to us all the time. People are always so surprised that we are estranged. It's been almost 10 years since a fall out that initiated this separation and it's never been easy, but the distance and lack of drama has been such a healthy and much needed change for me and my relationships with others.

    • Thank you for sharing your story Kim. It certainly sounds similar to mine. It's been six years and I guarantee my mother talks about me and my family to others like everything is perfectly fine and she's part of our life. I am grateful that my daughter has two sets of grandparents – my husband's parents divorced many years ago and have spouses. 

  18. Your situation is VERY similar to mine.  The wedding was a breaking point and my husband and I decided to get married in Mexico.  That day was about us, and everyone was happy.. except one person.  That was the end of a relationship, but it was just one of many really negative ways our lives had been impacted by such a toxic person.  You do what is good for you.. I know we do not miss the toxicity.

  19. Vodka Infused Lemonade
    Thursday 30 July 2015, 7:20 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this. I also left my mother 4 years ago. It was the best thing I ever  did. She was and still is extremely manipulative. My experience is that she tells everyone how much she loves me and how much I've wronged her, but never the truth. Never how she manipulated me, hurt me, physical assaulted me, was verbally abusive to me. I was never good enough for her and she made that abundantly clear. My hair was never good enough, the way I dressed was never good enough. I was never good enough. She manipulated every situation she could and she still does with my brother. Leaving this toxic relationship was the best thing that I could have ever done. I tried telling her so many times how I felt and she never apologized. She kept saying how she's my mother and she's entitled to treat me any way she wants to. She even went as far as to bring my son into this and I told her point blank, if I treated him the way she treated me, I would deserve for him not to speak to me. That shut her up. She had nothing to say. I'm so sorry for what you've been through but know that you are not alone. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Agi 🙂

  20. I resonated with so much of your post. Thank you for sharing. It can be such a taboo topic to discuss that some mothers are terrible and not in the outright physical/verbal abuse that people quickly sympathize with but the intrusive, sense-of-self shattering, manipulative, hurtful, deceitful, soul wrenching, emotional warfare way that is invisible to most often only the initiated.

    I cut out my mom about 4 1/2 years ago now and it has been a journey of ups and downs but a mostly positive one. I now have 3 daughters and although this terrifies me in many ways, it also affirms daily that I’m nothing like her and never will be for the simple fact  that I even worry about it. I have only one regret: that I didn’t end the toxic relationship sooner.

    I don’t know if anyone’s mentioned it but you may want to look up Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers or DONM. This was eye opening, life changing for me when I first cut off my mom.

  21. I too have left my Mother, when I walked out the door at the age of 17 no longer able to live with her and my abusive stepdad it started but took me years to finally cut it off. We kept up talking for a while but it was always strained and not frequent. Then, my daughter was born on my Mom's Birthday and I phoned to tell her I was sorry that didn't call her on her birthday as I was giving birth to her granddaughter (we already had a son who she had only seen once and he was 6.5). Her response was that she had heard about it. I hung up right away and cried, have only called her once since then to make sure she was okay and have realized that for my sake I can't keep up the one sided effort as she never tries to get in touch with us. In the back of my mind I thought just maybe having a grandchild born on her birthday might bring back my Mom, the doting one I remember from my childhood. That is the hardest part is knowing who she once was. I also recommend checking out info about daughters of Narcissistic Mothers it was great to explain things when I was going through all this.

    • Tara I actually left home when I was 17 as well. I was in grade 12 and things had gotten so between my mother and I that I knew I had to get out of there. I was fortunate that I was able to move in with my grandmother while I finished school. It really was the best thing for all of us. My grandfather had recently passed away so my grandmother was really glad to have me move in with her and her love and support meant the world to me.

      Several people have mentioned the Narcissistic Mothers so I think it may be time to check that out.

      Thank you so much for sharing your story.

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