Breaking the cycle of abuse – it can be done
I’m happy to be joining up with 21 other blogging mamas for a Mother’s Day blog hop. The goal of this mama blog hop is to celebrate the diversity found within motherhood. It’s also meant to focus on how we can support each other as moms, even if we do things differently. If you’re a blogger and want to link up, check out the bottom of this post. If you’re a non-blogging mama . . . come on in and check out all of the posts celebrating mamas from May 1 until May 12 (Mother’s Day)!
While I’m obviously a blogging mama, I tend to focus more on activities for the kiddos here at Fun-A-Day! However, I jumped at the chance to join in this hop for two reasons — to share my experiences with my mother and to brag about a group of kick-ass women who have helped me navigate motherhood. It all boils down to breaking the cycle of abuse and knowing it can be done.
Now, I’m going to delve into some new territory here and share a bit of my past. It’s not new territory for me, obviously, but it’s not something I’ve mentioned here before. It’s difficult writing this post because it’s incredibly personal. However, I feel compelled to share my story because I’m no longer ashamed of it. I want to knock down some stereotypes and hopefully encourage others who have been in my situation to embrace their pasts and move forward. Phew. Well, here goes nothing . . .
I’m the product of an abusive mother. She lied to me, demeaned me, tore apart my self-esteem, manipulated me, threatened me, beat me with hangers and belt buckles and books and knife handles and anything else she could get her hands on, and she even tried to kill me. I know this sounds dramatic, but it’s not meant to be. It’s just me stating some of the facts involved in how I grew up. I know there are many, many people who had (and still have) it worse off than I did. But this is my story, so I’m telling it as straight-forward as possible.
Some of you might be shaking your heads saying, “Oh, but my parents took a belt/switch to my hide, and I’m all the better for it.” To you I would like to point out that what I dealt with goes way beyond the occasional spanking or corporal punishment. It involved welts and bruises all over my body, but mostly where no one else could see. It involved manipulation of me and everyone around me so that others would never know what was being done to me. Hell, I didn’t even know until my teens that what my mother was doing wasn’t right. I honestly thought I was a horrible person who deserved what I got.
Others of you may be asking where my dad was while I was growing up. Well, he was never the abusive parent. I got the occasional swat on the backside, but he never once made me feel less-than-human. He didn’t abuse me in any way, but he also didn’t know what was going on with my mother. He was in the Marines while I was growing up, which meant long deployments and crazy working hours. Plus, my mother was incredibly manipulative and was able to control what he saw and knew when it came to us kids. Please don’t judge my father. I don’t. I’ve never once blamed him, and I never will. As soon as he realized what was going on, he stepped in and dealt with it. I know he still blames himself, but it’s not on him. It’s on my mother.
Still others of you may be thinking about the fact that most abusers have been abused themselves. While this may be true, it doesn’t mean that all children who are abused will grow up to be abusers. I think many people confuse those two sentiments. Those who abuse have likely dealt with abuse in their pasts. But for every abused child who grows up to be an abusive adult, there are so very many who don’t follow that path. Please don’t make a judgement about me based on what I dealt with as a child. Please remember that breaking the cycle of abuse can be done – at is done every day.
With all of this “back story”, I doubt it’s a surprise when I say I was scared shit-less about becoming a mom. Theoretically, I knew that I wanted kids. I’ve always had a passion for teaching, for working with children, and I’ve always had a longing to be a mom. In reality, though, the thought of being a mom made me weak in the knees. I knew that I wasn’t like my mother, but that didn’t stop those nagging doubts from creeping in.
Six years ago, after being married for six months, I found out I was pregnant. I was excited, of course, but still very scared. During my pregnancy, I really focused on how I wasn’t like my mother. I was very intentional in thinking about how to raise my child — what I wanted and what I didn’t want. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I was definitely going to break the cycle of abuse that my mother had been caught in.
Does my son drive me crazy sometimes? Yes! Do I get frustrated and raise my voice with him sometimes? Of course I do! It has never occurred to me, though, to call him hateful names, to demean him, or to beat him. That’s just not me, and I now know it never will be. Those nagging doubts are always going to be there . . . “Am I a good enough mother?” “Am I totally screwing this whole child-rearing thing up?” Talking to other moms has shown me that almost all mothers have those doubts about themselves. It’s just part of being a parent — we worry about our kids all the time. We wonder if we’re doing a good enough job. We strive to be better parents. While I know that I’ll always question myself as a mama, I stand firm in the knowledge that I am breaking the cycle my mother could have brought me into. I may end up embarrassing my son when he’s a teenager, but he will always know I love him (more than books, more than chocolate, to the moon and back)! He will always know that I have taken care of him as a mama should.
Now onto the kick-ass mamas I mentioned at the beginning. So, as a new mom I was constantly second-guessing myself and was always scared I was “doing it wrong”. Add to that a horrid bought of postpartum depression, a separation that led to divorce, a house foreclosure, and having to come to grips with being a single mom. I needed all the help I could get! I found it by joining a local moms’ group (a local affiliate of Mothers & More). Talk about diversity in motherhood — we had breast-only mamas, moms who could only formula feed, organic-only moms, super-budget-conscious moms, moms with 4 kids, moms with only children, etc. So many differences that I cannot even list them here. No matter our differences, though, they were an amazing support group. They were there to listen to me, support me, hold my baby when I needed a break (or a shower!). Moms from that group helped me change the locks when my ex was acting sketchy and helped me move into my apartment when the house was foreclosed on. All of this without judgement. And I made sure to return the favor! That’s not to say it was all rainbows and sunshine . . . there were disagreements and some who judged me, but they were such a minority in this group.
Well, if you’ve made it this far — thank you! Thank you for muddling through my past. Thank you for listening to me brag about some awesome ladies. I hope reading this makes you feel like you’re not alone. Whatever you’re dealing with as a mama, there are those who have been there. There are many who are there if you need them, even if their mama-hood choices are different than yours.
If you are concerned a child is being abused, please check out the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline’s site.
If you want to find a kick-ass group of mamas to hang out with, look up your area at the Mothers & More site.
Celebrating the differences of Motherhood is brought to you by our host, Inspired by Family, and by the following contributing blogs: Kids Activities Blog, Rainbows within Reach, Powerful Mothering, Fun-a-Day, The Pleasantest Thing, Royal Baloo, Laly Mom, True Aim Education, Kids Stuff World, Milk and Cuddles, The Imagination Laboratory, Smiling like Sunshine, Teach Beside Me, JDaniel 4’s Mom, Kitchen Counter Chronicle, My Nearest and Dearest, Nate and Rachel, Two-Daloo, Mamas Like Me, Mama Miss, One Mommy. Martys Musings, Mothering From Scratch and Creative World of Vayra.
If you are a blogger and you have a story or something to share on how you celebrated motherhood, feel free to add a link to your post so we can read your story as well. Note: by sharing you give us permission to feature you (attributing of course).
Shared at Mommy-Brain Mixer
Christine M. (Cool Mom) says
What a brave, brave post, Mary.
Kudos to you for having the courage to share your story with others. Your bravery will bless many and I am thrilled you found the support you needed.
Thank you so much, Christine. I was really, really nervous to post this story. I hope my experiences can help others come to terms with what they’ve dealt with. I really appreciate your comment.
Amy mayen says
I’m so glad you decided to write about your childhood. How courageous of you! I know it must’ve been very scary to hit the publish button. It’s hard to show the personal parts of our lives without fear of being judged, or labeled…it’s very vulnerable. But after reading your post, I feel like I know you on a deeper level, and I totally get your blog. I always enjoy your posts, even though my kid is 8-I apply what i learn here to my baby niece. But Im going to admit that I thought you were a “perfect mom” (who I admire) but now I feel like you are a person I would hang out with if we were neighbors. Thanks so much for writing about it, and for saying ass. Now I know you are still a wonderful mother, but not the kind who would judge me for giving my kid a piece of cake for breakfast.
Thanks so much, Amy! Your comment means a lot, let me tell you. It was very scary to press the “publish” button and realize my words were out there! I appreciate your comments about this making me more real, as I can see how readers get a very one-sided view of bloggers. I laughed so hard when I read “perfect mom” in relation to me . . . that definitely doesn’t apply to me! 🙂 My favorite part of your comment was “…and saying ass”! I would never judge you, and I have had those same kind of mornings. Your comment made my day, Amy.
Rachael :: Nothing if Not Intentional says
Wow, Mary. I had no idea! What an incredible post! Thank you for your willingness to share with such vulnerability and openness!
Thanks for the supportive comments, Rachael! I’ve been encouraged reading other moms’ stories, so I just hope I can help someone else along the way.
Ann @ My Nearest and Dearest says
I so admire you for writing and publishing this…and for being such an obviously loving and wonderful mother.
I’m sure this post will be a godsend to women who’ve had similar experiences.
Also love the shout-out to your mom group. That kind of support is so crucial to new mothers.
Thanks, Ann! I really appreciate that you took the time to read it and leave me such kind words! I really do hope it can help others who’ve had to deal with the same issues. Yes, along with my dad and my sister, that mothers group was so very helpful!
You are not exaggerating. My friend’s mom is bipolar and has tried choking her, said many demeaning things to her, ect. She is grown now and not married and truly struggles to define herself. I really hope she thoroughly breaks the cycle. She is so broken and depressed my heart bleeds for her.
Thanks so much for leaving me a comment, Sadie! It really has a huge affect on the rest of your life. I will pray and think good thoughts that your friend comes through all of this. I know talking to a counselor is really helpful, in addition to surrounding yourself with supportive people. I’m glad she has a friend like you who obviously cares about her.
Mary Catherine says
I also meant to add that not all those who are diagnosed as bipolar are abusive. I know many awesome mamas out there who have bipolar disorder! 🙂
What an honest and inspiring post! I applaud you for hitting the “publish” button- I understand how naked you feel after you have published something that personal, but I also understand how it feels to be “scared shit-less” of becoming a mother because of your own issues, so hearing that someone else feels that way is really helpful! This is a very serious topic and you are living proof that the cycle can be broken. Keep on writing so you can show us all how a “Kick-ass Mama” does it!
Thank you Stephanie! I still feel a little “bare” for publishing this, but I really hope it can help out others in similar situations (to know they’re not alone). YES, I think we ALL have those “scared shit-less” moments prior to parenthood — they may not always be the same situations, but we definitely remember those feelings don’t we?! And thanks so much for including me with the kick-ass mamas!! 🙂