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Question
Posted by: Leila | 2011/09/26

Mother

Dear CS
I am 45 years old with a loving husband and two young teenage children. I had a difficult life but am successful and happy now. I am giving my children the love and life (not materially) I never had because they deserve to be happy. We have good friends who share our views on family values. All our children are happy and do well academically.
I grew up wiht a single mother who also had a hard life. She got involved with a man who sexually abused me from the age of 7 unitl I was 12. She says she didnt know about me but knew he was doing it to her friends children. She blamed the kids. She left me alone with him for days. She had affairs with other men who were later also interested in me and blamed me. She slept with my boyfriend as well as with my sister''s boyfriend.
We grew up and forgave her and tried to have a normal relationship. She abused us verbally and emotionally and still does. She competes with us and tries to seduca my friends husband''s and gets mad when we dont invite her to parties. Now she says we are too made up with our white friends which is not true. Where we live dictates our friendships and we have black friends too. She badmouths me in fornt of my children but is crazy about my husband and talks only to him and my kids. These are her only grandchildren and I dont want them to think badly of her but it upsets my daughter when she scolds me in front of her. If men look at me twice she blames me. She is convinced that I am cheating and checks me in front of the children. My priest and psychologist have told me to cut her out of my life but each time I forgive her. She will send me messages and make as though all is ok and just repeat the same thing.
My husband just accepts whatever I decide but I''m sure he is also fed-up. She sends my children messgaes when she''s not talking to me. Now with her birthday and Christmas coming up I dont know how to deal with the kids who may want to see their grandmother. I woul d ususally make up but am really sick of it. she says I think I am better thatn her because I am educated. I got bursaries to study and made it out of a slumlife because I worked hard. I let no-one get me down and have achieved through circumstances that others have succumbed to. The problem is that my sister also puts pressure on me to forgive my mother. They are both single and my sister says tha only reaosn I can write my mother off is because I have a family but she has no-one else. My sister thinks I''m cruel to ignore my mother for weeks but I feel I am ready to do so for a lifetime now, I am sick of it all. But what about my kids. My mother also does things with the children, like talking them to parties against my will. I am very protective so now I dont leave them with her.
There is more to this story and I am no angel but not what my mother thinks I am.
How does one write your mother off?

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

You have done admirably well under extremely difficult circumstances, and have constructed a deservedly good life for yourself.
Its not easy to believe your mom's excuses - if she knew this horrible man was abusing other local children, she MUST have suspected you could be amongst his victims, and yet she seems to have chosen to do nothing about either of these. And blaming the kids is also an unacceptable excuse - did she truly believe that the neighbourhood just happened to be full of sexually predator children, all of whom just happened to prey on her innocent man, who was of course unable to resist the temptation and forced to give in ?
Lets face facts : you are describing a feckless, morally and sexually irresponsible woman whose chosen actions in life caused inevitable problems for you and others, and aparently wished to do no better, and refused to take responsibility for her own choices.
The value of "Forgiveness" is grotesquely and obscenely exaggerated these days, maybe especially in South Africa. Only in the sense of freeing yourself from bonds of bitterness that tie you to the perpetrator is there any value in overlooking past harm done to you by others. Forgiveness in the ways it is far too easily pressed on us by irresponsible and ignorant do-gooders, in ways that let perps off the hook and indeed encourage and assist them in continuing their ways, is an evil in its own right.
You cannot and SHOULD not try to have a normal relationship with an abuser - it only harms you and encourages them.
Why shouldn't your children, her grandchildren, think badly of her ? IF she chooses to continue behaving badly and cruelly towards others ? TO encourage them to overlook her offenses teaches them that such behaviour is OK, which is a very bad lesson to learn.
Your priest and your psychologist are absolutely right - cut her out of your life and this can only benefit you and your children. OF COURSE YOU ARE BETTER THAN HER - MUCH, much better. Not because you were educated, but because you are not selfish and abusive, as she is. You EARNED everything you have in life, and she didn't bother to choose to try to do so.
If your sister chooses to "forgive" her mother ( which, as I've been saying, usually actually means choosing to encourage her to continue being a selfish and unpleasant person ) she is free to make that choice. Maybe because she has chosen to live a more solitary life, and has CHOSEN to focus on your mother as a resource of some obscure sort, she feels she has less choices. But that is her choice, not yours. She has no right whatsoever to even suggest that you must do so, let alone to pressure you to do so. That's none of her business. She is cruel to call you cruel for not ignoring the cruelty of your mother.
Work with your psuychologist specifically on developing ways to "write your mother off", to separate your life from hers, for your own sake and that of the children. Stop assuming that you owe her anything. And she has no right whatever to take your children away for any reason, whether to a party or for any other reason - never forget6, this is the woman who chose to expose you to a child abuser, and to ignore what he was doing to you and to other local children. She should never be allowed to have charge of anyone's children. If she EVER tried to do that with my children, I'd call the police and have her arrested for child abduction, and insist on pressing charges. And let her know that this is what will inevitably happen if she dares to try this again.
Do not accept their invitations for you to feel guilty for the things they have chosen to do wrong. This is often the lesson abusers teach and may be more damaging to their victims than anything else they do.
I keep emphasizing the theme of "chosen" because we always have choices in life, and too often prefer to pretend we could not possibly have acted differently. You yourself are a marvellous example of how even in the worst of circumstances one can indeed choose to do the right things and not embrace the wrong.
As ANne says, explain gently to your children that because your mother took part in bad things in the past that hurt you terribly, and because you are worried about them possibly coming to harm when with her, and because you can't continue to allow her to hurt you as she still does, you and they will not be seeing her again, and that they should report to you if she tries to contact them in any way. If necessary, get a restraining order against her.

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3
Our users say:
Posted by: L | 2011/09/26

Sometimes the people closest to us can hurt us the most. Your mother sounds like a terrible disease, and she will keep eating away at you until there is nothing left. It sounds like she might be jealous of you and your family, since she has been unable to have a functional stable life and did not provide this for you as a kid, yet you rose above it all and made a success. I speak from experience, my mother was very judgemental about my life, yet I was married to the same man (still am) have three kids, stable home, give my kids the best of everything and am a good wife and mother. yet she always found things to bad mouth me with and it eroded my self esteem up to the day she died. When she did die, I was devastated yet somewhat relieved, as a rock had been removed from my shoulders. Forgiving and forgiving, could be to you and your family''s detriment. Its hard to stand up to one''s mother, but if you dont, your kids will be exposed to lots of negative energy and will be unfair to you.

Reply to L
Posted by: Anne | 2011/09/26

My goodness gracious !!! You are indeed a wonderful person to have forgiven so much. I would definitely have cut her off a very long time ago. This is your life you are living, not your sisters, and not your mothers. You must stop feeling guilty and you must do what is right for you. I would not expose ( I am really sorry, I dont mean to hurt feelings here) this woman to my children. If she could sleep with your boyfriends, imagine the harm she can do to your children.

I am not saying forgivenes is wrong, but, in a way I cant help feeling you are letting her get away with allowing it to happen to you. A good mother will do whatever it takes to protect her children. She dares judge you for " not being an angel"  but what about all the wrong she did. She has no right what so ever to judge you.

Why allow her to take your children to parties against your will? That would be enough for me to just cut her off whack. She should respect your wishes which she clearly does not.

No no no, if this were me, I would tell my sister that she is free to live her life whatever way she chooses, and explain to your children that there were things from the past that prevents you getting along with their grandmother ( you can tell them when they are old enough to understand what really happened) , ask your mother to not contact you, your husband or your kids, and
move on with your life, putting your husband and children first.

Stand up for yourself. Stop trying to please everybody. It''s time to start pleasing yourself.

Reply to Anne
Posted by: cybershrink | 2011/09/26

You have done admirably well under extremely difficult circumstances, and have constructed a deservedly good life for yourself.
Its not easy to believe your mom's excuses - if she knew this horrible man was abusing other local children, she MUST have suspected you could be amongst his victims, and yet she seems to have chosen to do nothing about either of these. And blaming the kids is also an unacceptable excuse - did she truly believe that the neighbourhood just happened to be full of sexually predator children, all of whom just happened to prey on her innocent man, who was of course unable to resist the temptation and forced to give in ?
Lets face facts : you are describing a feckless, morally and sexually irresponsible woman whose chosen actions in life caused inevitable problems for you and others, and aparently wished to do no better, and refused to take responsibility for her own choices.
The value of "Forgiveness" is grotesquely and obscenely exaggerated these days, maybe especially in South Africa. Only in the sense of freeing yourself from bonds of bitterness that tie you to the perpetrator is there any value in overlooking past harm done to you by others. Forgiveness in the ways it is far too easily pressed on us by irresponsible and ignorant do-gooders, in ways that let perps off the hook and indeed encourage and assist them in continuing their ways, is an evil in its own right.
You cannot and SHOULD not try to have a normal relationship with an abuser - it only harms you and encourages them.
Why shouldn't your children, her grandchildren, think badly of her ? IF she chooses to continue behaving badly and cruelly towards others ? TO encourage them to overlook her offenses teaches them that such behaviour is OK, which is a very bad lesson to learn.
Your priest and your psychologist are absolutely right - cut her out of your life and this can only benefit you and your children. OF COURSE YOU ARE BETTER THAN HER - MUCH, much better. Not because you were educated, but because you are not selfish and abusive, as she is. You EARNED everything you have in life, and she didn't bother to choose to try to do so.
If your sister chooses to "forgive" her mother ( which, as I've been saying, usually actually means choosing to encourage her to continue being a selfish and unpleasant person ) she is free to make that choice. Maybe because she has chosen to live a more solitary life, and has CHOSEN to focus on your mother as a resource of some obscure sort, she feels she has less choices. But that is her choice, not yours. She has no right whatsoever to even suggest that you must do so, let alone to pressure you to do so. That's none of her business. She is cruel to call you cruel for not ignoring the cruelty of your mother.
Work with your psuychologist specifically on developing ways to "write your mother off", to separate your life from hers, for your own sake and that of the children. Stop assuming that you owe her anything. And she has no right whatever to take your children away for any reason, whether to a party or for any other reason - never forget6, this is the woman who chose to expose you to a child abuser, and to ignore what he was doing to you and to other local children. She should never be allowed to have charge of anyone's children. If she EVER tried to do that with my children, I'd call the police and have her arrested for child abduction, and insist on pressing charges. And let her know that this is what will inevitably happen if she dares to try this again.
Do not accept their invitations for you to feel guilty for the things they have chosen to do wrong. This is often the lesson abusers teach and may be more damaging to their victims than anything else they do.
I keep emphasizing the theme of "chosen" because we always have choices in life, and too often prefer to pretend we could not possibly have acted differently. You yourself are a marvellous example of how even in the worst of circumstances one can indeed choose to do the right things and not embrace the wrong.
As ANne says, explain gently to your children that because your mother took part in bad things in the past that hurt you terribly, and because you are worried about them possibly coming to harm when with her, and because you can't continue to allow her to hurt you as she still does, you and they will not be seeing her again, and that they should report to you if she tries to contact them in any way. If necessary, get a restraining order against her.

Reply to cybershrink

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