It has been well documented on this blog that the relationship between my mother and her children is rocky, to say the least. Well, brace yourselves, because I need to have another crack at externalising the impotent rage this constant war of attrition engenders in me.
As I may have mentioned before, mine and Fifi’s (and our brother Bobs’) parents did a swap with my Australian Stepsister’s (AS’s) parents when we were all sort of small. AS and I ended up with my mother and AS’s father, whilst Fifi, Bobs and impending smallest sister won our father and AS’s mother. Just your typical seventies wife swap. Nothing to see here. Around five or six years ago, AS had a heart to heart with her mother (my stepmother – are you keeping up at the back?) regarding my mother’s treatment of AS when we were small. As a result of this, both AS and my stepmother severed all ties with my mother. Despite the fact that my loyalties might seem to obviously lie with my mother, I am firmly on the side of AS. Imagine it, if you can. AS was four years old. An only child, she was abruptly separated from her mother and sent to live with her father, a new stepsister (me) and a stepmother. This sort of thing happens all the time, and I’m sure that occasionally it has a happy ending. Except that my mother isn’t really predisposed towards kindness, and has no clue when it comes to empathy. Instead of doing all she could to ease AS into her new family, and reassuring all the children concerned that this could be a success, she instead treated AS worse than you or I would treat an animal. Please bear in mind that at this stage three children were without their natural mother. Fifi and Bobs were lucky enough to be living with my stepmother who I am closer to these days than I am to my own mother. Impending smallest sister also came up trumps. Which left AS and I adrift in the heavy seas of our parents’ marriage.
From the outset, battle lines were firmly drawn. I was three when all this happened, and my mother made it clear to me from the outset that it was me and her against my stepdad and AS. I’m not clear on exactly what went on at the beginning as I was very young, but I remember AS being fed bread and water (for refusing to eat - it still staggers me that at no point did anyone consider that two small children were traumatized and maybe needed some nurturing), being ignored for no reason that she or I could fathom, and being generally treated with contempt. This continued in one form or another (ours was a tempestuous household, ruled by fear, alcoholism and violent arguments) until AS and I left home (somewhat involuntarily) as soon as we could. We struggled on uneasily in our fractured family unit until, as I’ve said, things were brought sharply into focus with my stepmother learning exactly how my mother had treated AS as a child. The outcome was inevitable – my mother was effectively disowned by AS, and told in no uncertain terms by my stepmother that she was no longer welcome in their house, or around them at all. Any decent person might at this point have tried to understand and acknowledge what had led to this ultimatum. Not my mother though.
My mother’s immediate reaction was to trot out the “poor me”. As time has gone on and as her mind has grown more fixated on the past, so she has become obsessed with old, dead relationships. AS and her husband have just become the proud parents of a baby boy. My mother is relentless in her enquiries over his health, AS’s situation, her husband’s family. It’s impossible to spend more than five minutes in her company without deflecting questions, whether about this, or my father (who she has been divorced from for thirty years), or my stepfather (AS’s dad, who my mother divorced ten years ago and hasn’t spoken to since). The fact of the matter is that my mother is losing her marbles, and sadly none of her children care enough to be upset by it. She consistently puts Fifi and I in impossible situations regarding her incessant interest in people who have cut her off. Our brother Bobs lives in America and will spend the next few years desperately fending off suggestions of a visit from her, as he can’t stand spending time with her. Things are going to come to a head in the next few days, as she has asked Fifi to give her a picture of AS’s new baby. Fifi can’t do that, and has had to explain gently to our mother why this is. My mother will ring me and cry.
The bottom line is that I can’t stand this. I am an adult. I have a daughter of my own. My mother has consistently let me and her other children down. She relies on us to shore her up emotionally, with no thought that we might be the ones needing some support. Over the years, I have learned to hate her. It saddens me beyond belief to say this. I have friends who have lost their mothers and wish every day for the chance to spend more time with them. Frankly, and this is going to sound terrible, I can’t wait for mine to drop dead and stop making my life a fucking misery.
I would give anything to not feel this way.