Forgiving my mother was something I never thought I’d do after so many years of resentment and blame toward her. Then I saw her .
Our Early Years
When I was a little girl, I watched my father make fun of my mother, criticize her weight and make her cry. He’d run around the dining room table waving her favorite chocolate bar in the air, laughing, as she would chase after him wearing a tight fitted girdle, desperately trying to grab back her stash. She never won.
After these frequent episodes, my mother would swallow a little pill and lie down. She had that luxury. Her mother lived with us and was a primary caretaker. When she awoke, she’d gather my twin sister, Judy and I, and we’d head to the supermarket to begin the preparation for that night’s dinner, one of my father’s favorites. Even back then, I couldn’t understand why she allowed my father to treat her so badly, and I didn’t respect her for being nice to him afterwards. It was at best, confusing.
After my grandmother’s death, when I was 13 years old, my father moved us to another neighborhood where the schools were better, since night after night he noticed we had no homework. Things completely changed after that and life got busy. I made lots of friends and became popular. My relationship with my mother became more distant and it was easy to hide things from her. She was afraid of my father and his unpredictable moods, and never missed an opportunity to sweep things under the rug. If I was grounded, it never stuck, so I wasn’t held accountable for anything.
Fast forward to my adult years.
I realized that my parent’s dysfunctional relationship wasn’t all my father’s fault and noticed how unsupportive, negative and cold my mother was. I felt sorry for my father, who worked so hard to provide a nice life for us and how my mother was so unappreciative and oblivious to her life and her family. She was never affectionate and usually found ways to bring you down from whatever high you were on, with a snide comment or excuse for how things wouldn’t work out.
There wasn’t a day that went by, that she didn’t retell her story of how she wanted to leave her marriage and how my father begged her to stay and have children. I knew early on, that my sister and I were “save our marriage” babies, and that burden and responsibility hovered over our heads like a black cloud waiting to purge. That’s when I started blaming my mother for everything. I made a commitment to never be like her and as my journey would have it, I never became a mother myself.
From that point on, I held a lot of anger towards my mother for everything that didn’t work out in my life, particularly my dissatisfying relationships with men and my low self-esteem. “If I only had a different mother,” I’d say, fantasizing about how successful I would be and how my life would have turned out differently.
I call it a quiet neglect, because nothing happened that would warrant child protective services to intervene. We were fed, clothed and sheltered. It was the emotional detachment and disconnection coupled with my father’s emotional abuse that was a spirit crusher. There was no guidance or protection. Not even misguidance. My mother just wasn’t present, ever.
I wasn’t happy and I could never pinpoint what it was exactly, that made me so sad. But I never stopped searching and seeking to feel better. I read lots of self-help books, went to motivating seminars and was blessed to find and train with Transformational Leader and author, Debbie Ford – who I consider the woman who gave me my life back. But I had to admit that my mother, was the woman who gave me my life and until I made peace with her I would always be conflicted.
By the time my third marriage was in crisis, I felt compelled to be close to my mother. I was scared though, that I was leaving one nightmare for another. I had this picture in my head of how things would look and the picture wasn’t pretty. Yet I yearned to make peace with this 87 year old woman before she left this earth. And since my father died suddenly before I had that opportunity with him, I didn’t want to lose my mother the same way.
Forgiving My Mother
One day over lunch in a cozy restaurant I found it hard to warm up to her and made it clear that I was busy and couldn’t be there for her. I was harsh and said some mean things. I spotted a couple sitting nearby looking at me, and not favorably, as tears welled up in my mother’s eyes. I don’t care, I thought, I am a bad daughter and I know it. It was a moment of truth and justice. I held my head up high.
When I returned home, I broke down. Blaming my mother didn’t feel good anymore. It never really did the trick in the past either, and my self-esteem plummeted with every attempt to take a jab at her. And yet in that same moment, I felt free and released in owning that I was a mean, bitchy, ungrateful daughter. The inventory I was taking on her as a bad mother allowed me to acknowledge what I was angry about and enabled me to stop holding onto the resistance in feeling it. And then it all surfaced in one grand realization. It wasn’t my mother I was getting back at, it was me. I was depriving myself of a relationship with the most important woman in my life and of resolving my wounded past.
That’s when the cloud lifted and I found compassion for my mother as a holocaust survivor, a rape victim, a woman who resigned herself to an unhappy marriage and sacrificed her own dreams to stay with her children. I was able to forgive my mother and to forgive myself too.
I understand why she shut down and how strong she was to survive in circumstances that I can’t even begin to imagine. Today I see her divinity. And I see mine too. I am falling in love with her and I enjoy mothering her. And I lovingly mother myself now too.
Eve Rosenberg Blaustein is an Emotional Wellness Coach who supports women in shifting their relationship drama into relationship bliss. In providing her clients with a new lens in which to view their relationship stories and their life, Eve supports her clients to become empowered women, open to allowing an extraordinary life to unfold. She is the founder of her company, Lessons Learned In Love Coaching and author of the forthcoming book, Breaking Up To Waking Up – Why Women Sabotage Relationships and How To Stop.