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The Baggage & Motherhood Guest Writer’s Series gives a space for moms around the world to share their story of what life has thrown their way and how it has impacted them in their role as a Mom. In this post, Kristie McCauley shares about having grown up with a toxic mom and how that has affected her as a mom to her children.
All of the posts in this series touch on the real life struggles of bringing your “stuff” with you to your most important job: Motherhood.
I Have a Toxic Mom
When you have a Mom who is a toxic narcissist, you can talk yourself out of cutting her, the negativity, the toxicity, and the verbal abuse out of your life in a million different ways.
“Oh, that’s just the way she is.”
“She’s my mom so I have to deal with it.”
“She’s my kids’ grandmother so I have to deal with it for them.”
For 43 years, these are the things that I said to myself, while she continued to verbally and emotionally abuse me. I promise you I am not a slow learner but I kept telling myself these three statements. On the 43rd year, I took action.
Cut Her Off
After 43 years of word vomit, the final straw for me was a nasty text message she sent to me after my kids and I returned from a visit with her. Combine this with the underhanded comments she was making to my kids during the visit and I was done.
Mind you, it wasn’t the first nasty text message she sent or the first time she made underhanded remarks to my kids. I wish it was. I decided it would be the last, though.
I was so angry as I read the text message that I was shaking. That was it for me. I was done enduring her verbal and emotional abuse. Her last line in that particular text message was, “You deserve what you get.”
This, and only this, is she right about. I deserve better and I’m taking a better route for me, but especially for my girls.
I DO NOT want to be anything like my mother. I do not want my girls (I have 3) to feel about me the way that I feel about her. I knew that this meant that I had to make a conscious effort EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. to work on myself as a person, as a mom, as a wife, as a friend, and as every other role that I have in life.
Most important to me is my three girls, though. While I knew it would be scarring for the older two (5 and 3 at the time) to cut their grandparents from their life, I knew it was the best thing for them and for me.
Having her gone (I blocked their phones, emails, etc.) meant that I didn’t have to worry about waking up to a nasty text or voice mail or a crazy email from her. It removed a huge amount of stress and anxiety from my life.
Started Therapy (but Not Just Any Therapy)
I knew in order to stop the cycle of snapping, stop the verbal abuse, to stop the emotional abuse from going to me to my girls that I had to seek some professional help. I knew I couldn’t change 43 (now 44 years) of what I dealt with on my own.
I started seeing an art therapist. I also take the girls with me to some of my appointments.
I told the art therapist why I was there. That my #1 goal is to be a calmer mom. I told her about my toxic mom and how sometimes I see those tendencies creeping into my life as a mother and how it’s the LAST thing in the world I want.
So, through various mediums of art (who knew there were so many art mediums), I am able to channel my anger, my hurt, my stress in a productive way. At the end of the day, the main point of the art therapy sessions is to help me self-regulate so that I don’t go from 0 to 60 in 2.7 seconds like my mom – that I appropriately react to situations.
Instead of snapping, yelling, and making abusive comments, like my mother does, I can pause, collect myself, and react appropriately to the situation.
Show Myself Some Compassion
I am too hard on myself sometimes. I tell myself that what I just said or did is something that my mom would say or do. I tell myself that I have to be better and that I have to do better. I tell myself that I am not being the best mother that I can be. I tell myself all sorts of negative things.
The reality though is that because I have a bad moment with one or all three of my girls does mean that I am just like my mom. Besides pausing and self-regulating, I also have to give myself a break. I have to show myself some compassion and some love.
The relationships we have in life have a lot to do with the way we feel about ourselves. We can’t truly love someone else – be it a significant other or a child – until we love ourselves. It’s not cliché. It’s true.
I am not perfect and I never will be but I can show myself some compassion for those imperfect times and use those moments to figure out how to react to the situation better next time. It’s a journey to have more good days with myself and my kids and less of the rough days.
When I became a mom for the first time, I got so wrapped up in being a mom and a wife that I lost myself. I gave up all of the things that I love to do like reading, getting my nails done, going out with friends, and working out.
After I had my second daughter, I slowly started to take my life back. I started to take care of myself. I realize more now than ever how important self-care for moms is.
When I come back from book club, playing bunco or getting a mani-pedi, I come back a better wife, mother, and person. These are not selfish actions but necessary ones.
When I was growing up, I thought a mom that snapped at me for eating crunchy food in front of her, or having a problem with, well, everyone she encounters, or suing the last two of her employers or yelling and screaming at me and my dad and everyone else for that matter for every little thing or…I could go on and on and on here, was normal.
It’s not normal. It’s not normal at all, and it’s why I have to break the cycle.
Kristie McCauley is the mom to three girls, a professional copy + content writer, the resident chaos coordinator, laundry doer + boo-boo kisser. She talks about raising strong girls and helps other mom bloggers with writing their content at girlmomchaos.com.
You can find Kristie’s open letter to moms with a toxic mom here!
I want to thank Kristie for writing this post. The connection between a parent and a child is one that is thought of as the most pure and strong. Unfortunately when a mother is incapable of being the loving, uplifting, supportive person she is supposed to be for her children, they suffer.
Breaking free from a toxic mom or parent may be the hardest thing you ever do. Kristie is so incredibly courageous to not only choose to put herself and her children first in her life, but to share it with us here.
The holidays can make old wounds feel fresh again when we are faced with visits to family who are toxic. Take a page out of Kristie’s book and take a hard look at those negative relationships. Maybe it’s finally time to stand up for yourself and your happiness.
Sending so much love to everyone this holiday season.
To see other posts in this series, click here!
Christina is the writer behind the blog Real Life Mama. She is a mom two littles, a 4-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old son. Christina and her family live in San Diego, where she is a full-time mama, part-time mental health therapist (LPCC), and round-the-clock blogger, writer, and author. If she ever gets a moment to herself, she can be found singing at the top of her lungs, cooking, and crafting. Thanks for reading!