I have been triggered today. While I don’t normally write blog posts from this place (unless they are written by parts), I feel I have an obligation to sound a wake up call when it comes to generational trauma. I feel a strong desire to write this despite knowing it is likely to offend some people.
Leading up to Mother’s Day, I focused many of my Facebook posts on how to cope with having an unloving mother. It can be a hard day for those of us who struggle in our relationship with our mothers or those of us who no longer have a relationship with our mothers. Without fail, I would wake up each morning to at least one comment or message from a mother who had been cut off by her daughter. The messages went something like this:
“I am in so much pain because I am no longer able to see my grandchildren. I don’t know why my daughter has chosen to cause me so much agony.”
To be fair, I don’t expect every Facebook commenter to know my story. They think of their experience as traumatic, and it certainly is. But if they read my story, they would know that they are barking up the wrong tree. I left my mother many years ago because I knew the safety of my children was at stake. She did not prioritize the safety of children over the needs of her husbands when I was a child, and I knew that had not changed. And I received that email from my mother too, written much the same way as the statements above. I caused her agony. I ruined her life. I took her grandchildren away from her.
So when I get comments like that, I automatically think of two questions. Why are you only in agony about your grandchildren and not your daughter? What happened to her as a child that made her choose to be alone over having a mother?
And I have asked the second question many times (privately). Unfortunately, the response is predictable.
“She had a great childhood.”
“I did everything for her.”
“My husband was the problem.”
“I am being victimized by my own daughter.”
And that is when my inner parts start to lose it. That is when I call bullshit. That is when every one of my internal red flags start to wave because I know better. It just doesn’t work that way.
To completely oversimplify, there are two scenarios for adult children with attachment difficulties.
1) There were no significant boundaries set with the child. She was completely free to live life as she chose and run her parents’ lives. This put so much pressure on her, she resorted to dysfunctional defense mechanisms to cope with life.
2) She lived under so much control, manipulation and abuse, she had no choice but to run as fast as possible in the other direction or remain in a proverbial jail cell forever.
Both create attachment issues. Both can be reasons to cut ties.
I believe it is extremely rare that a daughter would choose to leave her mother. Society tells us that mothers are ALWAYS good. Society tells us that we should love our mothers no matter what. We endure statements like:
“Parents are human too. They are going to make mistakes. Just forgive them.”
“Won’t you feel guilty when they die?”
“Maybe you can just focus on the good times.”
In addition to that messaging is the fact that we desperately want a mother, a real mother. And our inner child still holds out hope that our mother can change. For all of these reasons, we are more likely to hold on when we should let go than the other way around.
So when a daughter walks away from you, it isn’t time to play the victim. It isn’t time to lay on the guilt. It isn’t time to tell others what a horrible person that daughter is. It is finally time to get real. It is time to see it as a wake-up call. It is time to examine how you played out your own trauma in your parenting. And it is time to come clean to your daughter about your part in the dysfunction.
I can tell you right now that despite the horrific things my mother did (and they were some horrific things), if she had indicated for one second that she created a traumatizing childhood for me, I would have thought twice about leaving. Even a mother who trafficked me would have still had a chance to save the relationship if she could have found her way back to reality. For those who have done much less, there is a road back in to that relationship.
But that road is lined with truth, vulnerability, contrition and understanding.
If you want to play the victim, you will inevitably be a victim for the rest of your life.