Updated: Sep 12
“Sometimes people don't want to hear the truth because they don't want their illusions destroyed.” - Friedrich Nietzsche
My Used-To-Be Mom is lying.
She doesn’t miss me.
I’ve never been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.
She hasn’t “tried everything” to repair our relationship.
I don’t want, much less need, a dime of her money.
She’s the one who refuses to go to therapy together (I still have all my unanswered emails and texts to her).
I have forgiven her (forgiveness and reconciliation are two different things).
Not only does she not love me, she doesn’t baseline even like me.
The kernel of truth
Even the most inventive liars tell the truth sometimes. When Used-To-Be Mom said I was angry, that part wasn’t a lie. I was angry. I don’t think many people would be thrilled about being slapped across the face over a difference of opinion or kicked out of a vehicle with their baby in the middle of winter more than an hour away from home. But hey, if you’re into that type of stuff, by all means. Used-To-Be Mom blocked my phone a long time ago, but maybe she hasn’t blocked yours?
The best sort of liar
There’s two kinds of liars: the ones who know they’re lying and the ones who believe their own lies so much they think they’re actually telling the truth. Used-To-Be Mom is the latter. And sorry to say, but she’s really not all that unusual.
We’ve all at one time or another known someone who professed to love us, but the way they treat us paints a very different picture. For awhile—sometimes decades—we can’t see it. We don’t want to see it. But sooner or later we realize that all this person ever loved was the idea of us at best or the control they had over us at worst.
In my case this person happened to be my mother.
More than anything I didn’t want to believe that what I had with my mother wasn’t the real deal, that it wasn’t really love, that our relationship was just an empty shell. If I told myself that Mom was my best friend, my biggest advocate, my greatest supporter wouldn’t that make it true? Or so I tried to convince myself.
But of course Mom loves me.
Why would Mom say she loves me if she doesn’t mean it?
Don’t all mothers love their children?
You know those scenes in the movies where the hospital machines are buzzing and beeping and it looks like someone’s about to die? But then the next thing you know the screen snaps to the person resting peacefully in their bed, clearly on the mend?
[insert one of those scenes here]
Did I have a dark night of the soul when I could no longer deny the truth about my Used-To-Be Mom? Yes. Am I okay now? Also yes. I’m skipping over the parts where I felt like I was dying (emotionally) for the sake of time. Just know that when you want to believe your mom loves you as much as I did, it takes serious effort and time to recover from that. And all those voices shouting “Of course your mom loves you!” and “All moms love their kids!” certainly didn’t help. What finally did help? Acceptance.
Acceptance is the best medicine
When I’m talking about acceptance I don’t mean the sort of acceptance that looks for the pretty silver lining in the wreckage. Or the sort of acceptance that gets lost in resignation and despair. The acceptance I’m talking about is the plain and simple recognition that what is just is. No more denying. No more resisting. No more fantasizing. Just being with the truth and resting in it.
To the very best of my knowledge, Used-To-Be mom doesn’t want anything to do with me despite whatever she’s currently saying to fend off reality. I wouldn’t in a million years want to be in her shoes. Imagine expecting your child to make you happy and fulfilled only to find you literally can't stand them. If this should somehow change in the future—say she has a change of heart and doesn’t hate me, unblocks my number, reaches out to me, apologizes and wants to make amends for her actions—I’m open to exploring that. But if things should stay the same, I’m equally open to that too. It is well with my soul.
Besides the whole disliking the kid she herself raised part (rather an odd thing don’t you think?), here’s eight other reasons I’m estranged from the woman who doesn’t want to be my mother but still can’t admit this to herself, much less to you.
1. I don’t need a mother who refuses to apologize for her mistakes.
Maybe your mom is the type of mom who apologizes when she’s in the wrong. I know these moms exist because I sit with them everyday in my counseling practice and it’s a really beautiful thing to witness. But when it comes to Used-To-Be Mom, apologies and the accountability that comes with them just aren’t her thing. In fact, if she so much as *thinks* you’d appreciate an apology from her for anything more than something ridiculous like forgetting to return the Tupperware, watch out. Now you’re the baddie who’s hurt her feelings, and her make-believe victimhood is taking up all the oxygen in the room.
Me: It hurt me when you said that to me.
Mom: Oh yeah?! Well it hurt ME when you said I hurt you! How could you hurt me so much by telling me I hurt you?! I’m the real victim here!
2. I don’t need a mother who continues to armchair diagnose me with a personality disorder I don’t have.
Is Used-To-Be Mom allowed to think I have borderline personality disorder (BPD) even though I don’t in fact have it? Yes, she is. Am I allowed to choose to not be around her if she chooses to continue proclaiming this about me to anyone bored enough to listen? Also yes. I’ve told her on numerous occasions that her armchair diagnostics don’t feel respectful to me, and her response each time has been to double down. Maybe she wishes she’d gone to school to be a psychiatrist instead of a second grade teacher? I don’t know. But at the end of the day, what can you do?
Mom: You have BPD!
Me: Mom, I don’t have BPD.
Mom: Yes you do!
Me: Mom, over the years I’ve seen several different therapists, and I’ve never once been diagnosed with a personality disorder.
Mom: You have BPD!
Me: Mom, please stop saying I have BPD when I’ve told you I don’t have it. It’s offensive.
Mom: You have BPD! You have BPD! You have BPD!
If you know of some magical way to get through to her that I’ve missed, I’m all ears.
3. I don’t need a mother who plays favorites.
My Used-To-Be Mom has given each of my two siblings tens of thousands of dollars worth of cash and big ticket gifts (e.g. cars, ATVs, housing, musical instruments, etc.) more than she’s given me. It’s 100% her money, and she of course gets to decide what to do with it. As for me, favoritism is just not something I’m into. Now I suppose some parents would be okay with signing their young children up for a grandmother who plays favorites at the pro level, but my husband Jake and I are not those parents.
4. I don’t need a mother who thinks she’s entitled to my child.
A lot of moms use Pinterest for fun holiday decor ideas or cute outfit inspo. But my Used-To-Be Mom is not like the other moms. Several years back I hopped on Pinterest for a knitting pattern only to find my entire Pinterest feed filled with what I soon realized was her ginormous collection of “Grandparents Rights” pins (we followed each other back then). Maybe she forgot to set that particular Pinterest board to private? Or maybe she wanted to scare me into compliance?
Pin after pin after pin said things like “How to get Custody of Your Grandchild” and “Know Your Rights as a Grandparent” and “What You Can Do as a Grandparent When Your Child’s an Unfit Parent.” Even scarier still, when you clicked on the pins they took you to the websites of lawyers who claimed to specialize in “Grandparent's Rights.” Needless to say, no sweater knitting took place that day. If you’d be cool with your mom trying to take your kid away from you, you do you. It’s a no for me.
5. I don’t need a mother who doesn’t believe me.
Does your mom make a habit of not believing a word you say? If she does and you’re still all excited to get together with her for Christmas and Easter and Mother’s Day and Yellow Sock Day and next Tuesday, that’s great. For me, I have this thing where I’m not into spending my time with people who think I’m making everything up. It just gets too hard to have a conversation, much less attend to basic necessities.
Me: I need to use the bathroom.
Mom: No you don’t!
Me: Um, no I really do need to use the bathroom.
Mom: NO YOU DON’T!!!!
Was I “too direct” about my need for the potty? Should I have asked my Used-To-Be Mom for her permission? Perhaps I should have curtsied? Again, open to suggestions.
6. I don’t need a mother who thinks it’s okay to hit kids.
I know there are folks out there who will tell you they’re totally cool with people three to five times the size of them up and hitting them, but in my neck of the woods (and in every state in the US where I live) we call hitting without consent assault. I know. I know. I’m SUCH a snowflake for not being into the fact that Used-To-Be Mom hit me as a kid instead of using her words.
Now don’t get me wrong. Used-To-Be Mom isn’t in favor of ALL violence when it comes to kids. She definitely has her doublethink—er, I mean limits.
Her: Cartoons hitting each other in a children’s video game? Despicable!
Also her: Adults hitting non-consenting little children? A+ parenting!
7. I don’t need a mother who won’t advocate for me.
This one’s more serious in tone for two reasons. 1) I haven’t written about it publicly until now and 2) quite frankly, I'm still not over it. We were on a family camping trip with our cousins in the mountains of Pennsylvania. I’d gone into a gas station with my baby blanket—the one I’d slept with every night since I was a baby and took absolutely everywhere with me. But when I got back in the car my teal blanket with the soft pink binding was nowhere to be found. Distracted by all the brightly colored candy like any kid would be, I’d left it by mistake in the gas station.
“My blankie! My blankie!” I cried. I remember it just like it was yesterday. Used-To-Be Dad was in the driver’s seat and Used-To-Be Mom was sitting next to him in the passenger seat. “I left my blankie! Go back! Daddy go back!” I begged frantically, tears running down my face. But Used-To-Be Dad, in stereotypical fashion, couldn’t be bothered. “Nope. If it was so important then you should have done a better job of keeping track of it,” he said to me cooly. That’s when I turned to her for help. “Mommy will help me,” I remember thinking to myself.
Instead of telling Used-To-Be Dad to go back to the gas station or to get out of the driver’s seat so she could drive back for my blanket herself, Used-To-Be Mom just sat there as if she were frozen to the seat. Now, completely and totally alone, I sobbed myself to sleep while our red Bonneville sedan rolled further and further away.
This event of course was the first of many just like it. And so as I got older I eventually stopped going to Used-To-Be Mom for help with anything involving Used-To-Be Dad. His word, his choices, his actions—these were as good as gospel as far as she was concerned. And like any good girl, that’s when I decided I’d devote myself to revering him too. If Mommy didn’t love me, maybe she’d love me if I loved who she did love, or so my thinking went at the time.
8. I don’t need a mother who tells me she’d happily cause my trauma all over again.
The last time I spoke to her on the phone I got the idea to ask Used-To-Be Mom a hypothetical. If I couldn’t inspire her to apologize to me or treat me equally or believe me or stop hitting kids or advocate for me, maybe—just maybe—I could get through to her this way. “Mom, if you had it all to do over, would you do what hurt me again? Or would you maybe decide to do things differently?” I asked. Now you might want to be sitting down for this one. Without missing a beat she said, “I’d change one or two things, like making it more clear to you that I wasn’t going to keep my promises if you did things differently than I thought you should. But yes, I’d make almost all the same decisions again.”
If you’d stick around for a mom who thinks it’s okay to treat you like this, all I can say is that I know this lady whose Used-To-Be Mom thought it was okay to treat her like this so she went and started the Mother Wound Project. She’s got a mother wound blog. And a community of 55,000+ on Instagram. And a Facebook group. And her work’s on Pinterest too. Check it out. Seven years without her used-to-be mom and she’s the happiest she’s ever been.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. There’s more reasons for the estrangement that I haven’t included here. When I’m able, I’ll try to hop on here and add to the list, so be sure to check back from time to time for updates.
Are you someone who wants to take your mother wound healing journey to the next level? Come join the conversation, learn more about the mother wound, and receive compassionate support in our now 100% free private mother wound healing community over in The Porch. Interested in keeping up with the latest Mother Wound Project news? Follow us on Instagram.