Jealousy is a vicious thing. It not only robs you of good, healthy relationships but satisfaction and enjoyment of all the wonderful things around you. I was raised with a jealous mother. She despised my dad for having female friendships. I was raised to believe he was the one who completely ruined their marriage; my dad had “girlfriends” their entire 23 years of marriage (according to my mom), Janet and then Martha were his accomplices in finally destroying their marriage. I was only 10 years old when they split, I only know the stories my parents tell me. My mom spoon fed me a daily dose of poisoned dad hate. My dad told me once his side of the story. The events of the stories basically matched–my dad was not completely in the wrong, but he has moved on. My mom has filled much of her life with underlying levels of jealous rage.
I hate my mom because of it. She’s in her early 70’s now, showing signs of dementia, and there are beginning to be moments of redemption. I feel guilt for not calling her frequently, she always mentions how lonely she is. When I look past the guilt I mostly feel apathy. In her intense effort to destroy my dad and his happiness with his children, she has destroyed herself. She spent years of her life pining away at her misery rather than seeking the good. Her heart was buried in hate and pity and she wallowed in it constantly.
But, there are glimmers of redemption in our story! Sometimes when I call her she will listen and engage in our conversation, more than just ramble on and on about her challenges. For Christmas a new sewing machine showed up on my doorstep. From my mom!!! It was a huge surprise; completely unexpected. Somehow she shook off her self-pity, listened to something I said, spent some money on me, and just did it. I was so touched. She put me before herself. She gave a good gift! That is progress!
I haven’t always hated my mom and I won’t always hate her. This is only a small blip in the emotional healing of my relationship with her. I’ve been exploring and allowing all the pain of my childhood to come up from deep inside me. It’s extremely painful, but I’m ready to let it go. I’m tired of the anger I frequently feel. My hope is if I let myself acknowledge all the anger and hurt that I felt as a child because of her than maybe I will find the peace deep inside. I don’t want the negativity I was so familiar with to become my normal.
My heart does go out to her on a number of levels. I can’t imagine feeling like I couldn’t trust my husband. I can’t imagine trying to raise seven children in a home where love between my spouse and I fluctuated so profusely. I can’t imagine thinking I needed a second Master’s degree or to work 3 jobs when I had little kids at home who needed me emotionally. I can’t imagine requiring my little children to care for themselves and each other constantly. She was desperate at so many points along the way. She was so successful at working hard. She knew how to work hard and she did it well.
We were very poor many times. By poor I mean no heat in our mouse infested house. There was only one period of time where she accepted financial help (as far as I know). And it was not the time we lived in the cold, mouse house. We ate nasty canned food from the Bishop’s Storehouse and my aunts and uncles helped pay the bills. She is a prideful woman who repeatedly confuses self-pity for humility. Friends, family, strangers would frequently tell her what an amazing mom she was or praised her on her hard work. Every time her response would be, “No I’m not amazing, I guess I’m just lucky.” “I just don’t know how my kids turned well.” “I haven’t done anything to deserve this.” If someone told her she was beautiful she’d correct them. She is in a constant state of belittling herself. But she thinks she’s being humble.
And the worst part: she ran away. That’s why I hate her so. She ran away. Yes, she slept in her own bed every night, so we weren’t abandoned completely. But I never saw her. Now that I’m a mom I realize she didn’t have to get that second Master’s degree when she had 7 kids, her marriage was falling apart, and she was working full-time. She didn’t have to work 3 jobs when she had teenagers at home trying to keep the house together for her. She ran away from the hard stuff. She ran away from being a mother, but yet, kept having children. She may work hard, but wise she was not.
I too have struggled with being jealous. I see my own daughter struggle with jealousy. I’m pretty certain it is in our genetic code. But I know I don’t have to give into it–I can leave it and move beyond it. Just as my mom was intensely jealous of my dad’s friends or others financial successes, I have a tendency to feel intensely jealous of my friends’ mothers. Ironic, isn’t it?The friends whose moms come visit them frequently, or help them, or simply mother them (even as adults–I didn’t even know that was possible). I envy them, their relationships, and how that has prepared them to be more amazing mothers than I am. It’s hard for me to see that and not feel cheated. My friends have something I want but can’t have; it feels so wrong and unfair.
But there is redemption. You see, I am a mother. Yes, I have some pretty fierce issues to overcome. But I AM A MOTHER!!! I have this unique opportunity to rise above my challenging past and become the most amazing mom to my children. I want to be that mom other kids envy. I make so many mistakes and it is so stinking hard to be a good mom. But I won’t leave my children to raise themselves. I won’t ask my 8 year old daughter to babysit her 2 year old little brothers at night with no one to call for help. I won’t abandon them for Master’s degrees. I will hold them tight. I will hold my tongue. I will overfill their buckets with love and tenderness. I am becoming the mother I always wanted. And that is the healing redemption of motherhood.