Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Wonder as I Wander...

THERE IS SOMETHING I don't understand. Actually there are a lot of things I don't understand, obviously but here is my specific quandary (for today). 

In my last installment I wrote about Linda Joy Myers' engaging memoir, Don't Call Me Mother. I prefaced it to my own lack of a mother in my life. Here is what I don't understand: 

Why am I the antithesis of my mother? 
What caused me to embrace my children 
when I wasn't embraced by my mother? 
How did the cycle of neglect stop with me when I didn't
set out to stop it, I just lived by my gut
and my gut told me to embrace my kids? 

And not just me, but many of you, including Linda, have mothers who were otherwise occupied, yet you are deeply involved in your children's lives. And some of you have a mother who is incredibly loving, even though she grew up feeling unloved, neglected and/or abused by her mother. 

So what do you think causes some women to break the cycle of mother abandonment/neglect/abuse?

How is it that only some women possess what seems to be a mothering instinct or a nurturing gene?

I suppose the answers are as broad and unique as the human race itself--but I'm wondering if you all have a theory. And even if you don't, please feel free to comment.


  1. Today I look back at my life growing up and think it was OK not as bad as some. But in reality when I was growing up it was anything but normal. I was the victim in my family of sex abuse and my father was carted off in the middle of the night when I was 8. I lived with the 'it's my fault' attitude and suffered for it. No one told me it wasn't my fault. There was some physical abuse and my 4 siblings and I experienced it differently. When I married at 14 (yes 14 and my mom signed for me to marry-imagine that) I only wanted to get away from home. My mom was pregnant with the fifth child. I have been through a lot and am stronger today for it. After being raped in 03 having just gotten a divorce from a 30 year marriage I ended up trying on 3 occasions to take my own life. Spent 2 days in a coma. I began to realize what was happening and my family had me committed and am alive today because of it. Today I look back on all my therapy and history and think I'm finally happy with myself. I want to live and never want to find myself that low again and will do everything in my power to keep it from happening again. I take meds everyday and never miss and take them at the same time everyday just to be ritualistic with it. I take it very serious where I was in those dark time. I am very happy with myself and where I am in life. My mom and I have the best relationship I could ever ask for now. Well I didn't intend to write all this but I did.

  2. What a wonderful, but difficult, question!

    My mother's mother was not a particularly loving mother, and my own mother told me that she intended to be a different kind of mother. But she wasn't. She treated us with the same carelessness, the same anger, that she got from her mother. In fact, the older she gets, the more like her mother she becomes.

    My life is totally different from my mother's. I didn't marry young, I went to college and grad school, I never had children. I also was willing to do more than my mother did to change. I got therapy, I studied and read a lot on my own, I take medication--I got help. I would like to think I would be a different mother than my mother was if I had children. I believe I would be.

  3. I am looking forward to some interesting comments from your post, Grace. I have no idea why some women can break the cycle and some can't. My mother had an absolutely miserable life so I can understand how things went awry in her mothering skills. My sister is like her in many ways, which is painful to observe.
    I have not always responded to my children's needs as well as I would wish. Mainly because there was an empty hole where maternal wisdom should have been deposited. My daughter is a wonderful mother.

  4. Wow, those are really long responses. I was just going to suggest a birth defect. Which sounds cold, but it happens in nature as well, doesn't it?

  5. This is a difficult question, Grace, and I feel sadness for those of you who didn't have nurturing mothers...or fathers.

    I was more fortunate as all my grandparents and both parents were warm, loving, and caring. I grew up wanting nothing more than to be a mother like mine,and I was blessed with five children. I have nine grandchildren and five have graduated with impressive college degrees. One will graduate next August and go back into the Army an officer. One is a sophomore, one will graduate from high school in May. The other is in sixth grade with straight A's also. All their parents have remained very involved and loving in their lives and I am very proud of them.

    My oldest daughter is the only one who didn't have children for a number of reasons and I think she deeply regrets it now. The four who did are even more responsible parents than my husband and I were...we divorced after 18 years and do not get along at all, which has not been easy on the children.

    I have no idea why some women have natural maternal instincts and others do not. That also goes for fathers...some are good...some are bad. I do know lots of examples though of children who had bad parents growing up to be excellent ones. Hooray for all of you who managed to! I applaud you!

  6. Grace, tough question you pose here. I was not the cycle breaker in the family. Oh, how I wish I was but I wasn't. What I remember of my mother's mother doesn't leave me with warm and loving memories. A stern woman, widowed very young with five children, her life had been tough. My mother at 11 was taken from school to raise the two youngest of the five. No chance to be a child herself, she ruled the younger ones with fear and threat, and then parented us the same way. Unfortunately, we learn from our environment, and when I became a mom, I used some of the same tactics. I have God to thank for changing me through the gift of my present husband so that the temperament I had has moderated and I have had the opportunity to talk with my adult son and ask his forgiveness for what I put him through. There were other women in my generation in my family but I know so little of them I cannot speak to their nurturing.

    However, I'm a strong believer in that some people are born with the natural gift of caregiving and nurturing. For others it is a learned skill. I don't know that we can easily answer this question, Grace, but we can certainly spread the word about our own experiences through writing our stories and sharing our hurts and lessons learned.

  7. I think I was a good mom but I have some regrets and wish I'd done some things differently. Always communicated with the kids and I have apologized for when I was less than what a mother should be ..even though it was an illness that really took me from them. that is something that would have helped me with my mother, but she will never say she's sorry because she does not have the awareness that she is controlling and sometimes really mean spirited. Personally I think there are people who lack the ability to nurture others, not just children, but are not interested in anyone but themselves and lack an empathy chip. I am grateful to be able to recognize when I am wrong and to be able to say so plus work on doing better.

  8. For me, it was watching my idiot sister (who is considerably older than me) follow in Mom's footsteps. Seeing those two nut bugs (oh, and I mean that in the kindest possible way :))) behave so abominably inspired me to take the polar opposite approach.

  9. I really don't know. My mom was incredible yet my sisters and I were not inclined to have children...and my younger sister had one and done and really has struggled to be a good mom (her words)...I tend to think it is just something in you...maybe a gene...I do know from working as a teacher that if the mom is not able to handle her life before she is a mom, she will not be able to handle her life as a mom and the kids suffer...just some thoughts.


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