Saturday, December 1, 2012
How one feels about his or her mother, and the acrimony by the general public if it falls short of outright adoration
So- today I was putzing around on Facebook, and saw a meme of 2 women, presumptively mother and daughter, working side by side making a pie and laughing. It was one of those annoying 'like fishing' attempts, and it asked you to 'like' if you loved your mother and to 'comment' if you did not. It had nearly 150K likes, and about half that number of comments. Most of the comments were further affirmations of love and respect about their mothers, a small handful followed the directions of the meme, and stated they did not love their mother. Those folks sometimes shared a snippet of their story, and some were simply heart breaking. Was there a few responses that were self serving and acting out? I am sure there was. But I have to say, for the majority of posts I saw, there was almost universal condemnation of someone NOT loving their mother, no matter what. There were lots of shaming comments, and one poster said that anyone that did not love his or her mother should go straight to hell.
Being raised in Appalachia, and also hearing my urban friends who were raised in large families, raised in a certain ethnic culture, etc. - I have heard the same message over and over. No matter what your mother does, she gave you life, and you should take what she dishes out. And in many if not all cases, bounce back for subsequent helpings of said pain and butt hurt.
I had an illuminating conversation once with my ex-husband. He loves his mother, and they have a close relationship. Does that relationship have issues? Yes. Does he always agree with what she says or does? No. But he knows that her intention is always to put her children and grand children's wants and needs ahead of her own. Based on that kind of relationship, I could see where someone could really have no frame of reference for someone who has a narcissistic or exclusively self serving parent. One who is cruel, controlling, and only sees her child as an extension of herself, something to be used and controlled.
Let me say, the world is full of ungrateful and ugly people, some of them children who are malevolent or cruel to their parents. But when someone acknowledges that their relationship with a parent is lacking love, that should be someone's cue to listen, and to suspend judgement rather than condemn.
Many COH's struggle with this. At what point to you disengage to protect yourself? Don't most healthy parents want to see you grow, find your happiness, and live independent, successful lives? What role do you have as a COH to protect your children from the legacy of the hoard- in which the stuff is such a small part- but the manipulation and mental illness is the larger issues?
Often when a hoarding situation turns unsustainable or deadly- the first thing neighbors and emergency professionals do is condemn the children. Where were the selfish, uncaring children that left this elderly person to live in filth and a fire hazard? They have not seen the efforts to clean it up, that fail. They have not seen the years of manipulation and cruelty, the physical abuse and neglect (and sometimes, sexual abuse), the narcissistic parenting, and the hoarders choosing the stuff above their family, and their own well being. What the family needs is support, as they are going through their own hell. Not a upbraiding from the community.
In my own situation, I maintain phone contact with my hoarding parent. She is elderly, frail, and sadly... batshit crazy. She has attempted to hire people (unsuccessfully thank goodness!) to vandalize property/harm people she does not like. She has violent ideology, and a concealed carry permit. She will not change anything, and has chosen to live in a level 4 hoard rather than have friendships, relationships with relatives, and to get along with her, you must agree with her 100% in her selfish worldview. She refuses help, her idea of help is to merely churn the hoard. The dust, the animal dander, the urine smell, etc. has made her house toxic, and has landed me in the ER the past 3 times I have been there. Once with endocarditis brought on by the sinus/lung infection I got from being exposed to the house for less than 15 minutes.
I do not hate her. I realize she came from a violent and hellish upbringing. With that being said, she has betrayed me countless times. Betrayed me with her cruel parenting, betrayed me with her ability to take advantage of me when I was younger, and continues to betray me with her lies, her anger, and her unwillingness to try anything differently. I wish we had a reciprocal mother/daughter relationship. That will never be. I wish she did not sit alone on holidays, her birthday, mother's day. That is not to be either. I wish I grew up with a mother. I have had to put all those wishes aside, many years ago. She has to want those things, and clearly, she does not. So here we are. Her mental illness and her patent refusal do try to acknowledge it or to address is has worn me down to the point I am absolutely numb. Do we tell children of addicts and alcoholics to keep coming back for more? What about those who are victim of physical and sexual abuse? I would submit, many COHs are children of abuse and addiction.
But enough about me... The point of this is... Unless you grew up in the home, walked the same path as the children- do not condemn and judge. As my mother says many times herself... the act does not make the parent. None of us asked to be born, and although glad I am here, it was a simple matter of biology. Not one of maternal directive.