I come from a long line of women raised without mothers…
That’s not to say that we didn’t have mothers, because of course we all did, but for various reasons our mothers were unavailable to us, emotionally or physically (or both) and we effectively had to raise ourselves. And in some cases, raise them too, at the same time.
I discovered this while reflecting on my observations of a mother interacting with her son. She gave off an oddly insecure vibe, despite being apparently successful and confident externally, and used her phone, Snapchat, Facebook to tune out from the world and escape her intense parenting responsibilities. I found myself really triggered by watching it, so my EMDR therapist Kelly and I explored it.
Kelly asked me where I felt it in my body, and I replied that it was in my heart, my chest, my throat and around my chin, jaw, and mouth area, like I was spitting nails. As I felt into those bodily sensations, she asked me if it was reminiscent of the time in my life when my parents gave away my puppy at age 3, or if it was earlier than that. I felt into it, and had some sensations of remembering being a baby and feeling abandoned, quite possibly at the time when Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King we’re both assassinated, but as I felt into it more, it felt even earlier than that. I wondered if it was actually my own mother’s pain, from when she was young and her father left the family?
We explored into my mother’s feelings, aged two, three, four, around the time when her own parents were separating and divorcing again. Her father had left the family, and my sensations of her experience were of being very lost, alone, and floating in the dark. She was feeling frantic, and confused, having a sense of wanting to fix it, but not having any life skills of her own to maneuver with. Her mother, my grandmother, was distraught, despondent, and checked out, leaving my mother to parent herself, in all but the most basic ways, from that very young age.
Kelly invited me to feel into my grandmother’s energy, to see what she needed at that time. I quickly remembered that she didn’t have a mother either; her own mother died when she was quite young, and her older sisters raised her. So she never really learned how to be a mother either, because she was raised by people (her hard-working, farmer father, and her sisters) who weren’t her mother, and quite possibly never learned parenting skills themselves?
As such, Kelly asked me to feel into what her mother (my great-grandmother) might’ve been experiencing at that time, and what she needed. I had the sensation of her being so afraid when she knew that she was dying. She needed help, she needed support, and she needed to stop having children. That was hard for me to recognize, because my own grandmother was the youngest child in the family of eight or nine kids, I think, and had my great-grandmother stopped having children sooner, in service to her own health and life, my own grandmother may not have been born?
I had the sense that my great-grandmother may have come from a very small family, and had the mistaken belief that having a large family, many children, would provide a support network automatically, in and of itself. But she was wrong. Having all those children was just hard, and tiring, and took a toll on her health and life. She was trying to do what society, her husband, and her own ideas expected of her, and to the degree that I am here now to tell the tale, she succeeded. But it cost her in a shortened life.
So it’s absolutely no surprise that this pattern repeated in the way it did, with me feeling like I had no real parenting, no real mother energy from my own mother, starting as young as I can remember, and distinctly at around age 4. That’s the way it has gone in my maternal line for generations. And I, if I had had children of my own, would likely have been the same kind of parent myself, as devoted to my own career, and my own life, as I have always been. Maybe it’s no wonder I never had children?
I’m not sure what the lesson is here yet, except perhaps that learning to parent oneself, and mother oneself emotionally, at least in a way, is something that we all need to learn, even if we do have very engaged mothers?