Great Expectations

I’ve always had a mothering quality to my personality. Maybe I was born that way, or maybe it has something to do with being raised by a textbook narcissist for a mother. Either way, compassion, support, taking care of people – it’s just in my blood. That may have been, in part, why infertility was especially devastating for me. I couldn’t imagine the possibility of not actually being a mother. In some ways, it feels like it’s what I’m meant to do in this life. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

This strong motherhood impulse of mine is perhaps why my own mother’s shortcomings baffle and sadden me so. I’ve said it before and it’s still true, I shouldn’t be surprised after 39 years of the same behavior. But I know there’s a part of me that is rooting for her to change – someday, by some miracle, I keep hoping she will be at least partly the mother I need her to be. Logically, I know this if futile. What I don’t know, is how to stop myself from hoping or worse, expecting that she’ll be different.

I guess I thought some kind of extra “mother” gene would kick in for her now that I’m pregnant. She “oohs” and “ahhs” over every ultrasound photo and every baby-related development of mine. She writes poems to my unborn baby. [This is a whole different deal with my mom, who’s gained a certain amount of fame in her home country for writing poetry. It’s an ego thing for her. In fact, in the poem she wrote for my baby, it’s clear at the beginning that it’s her granddaughter and then she Freudian slips into calling her “my wonder child.” Um, no, Mom. She’s not your wonder child. She’s mine!] But aside from using the baby to boost her ego, she’s not really interested in doing anything or being a part of anything.

Much like my wedding, she’ll be at the baby shower as a guest – not as anyone who helped plan or orchestrate the event. My husband says I should be grateful for that, but I’m not feeling grateful. I feel like she doesn’t care at all. My dad’s wife (of 19 years) is doing nearly all the work, and frankly, treating me much more like a daughter than my own mother! And the worst part is that I can’t list her as the host of the party (opting instead to list my gay best-friend) because – and at my father’s request – my mother would throw an absolute fit. Mom doesn’t want to do any of the work, but she sure loves the glory. My dad went so far as to tell me not to thank his wife in front of the guests (or my mother) so that we wouldn’t have any “incidents.” Yes, we all live in various degrees of fear of my mother’s infamous outbursts.

Several months ago, my mother told me she wanted to furnish the nursery as a gift to me. Knowing she didn’t realize how much that would cost and that she couldn’t really afford it, I told her my dad  had committed to buying the furniture, but she could help out with buying other items, decorations, rugs, etc. She agreed and when I ended up buying a cheap rug at a downtown outlet, she gave me the $65 dollars back so it would be her gift. Since then, she hasn’t offered to buy anything else for the nursery, even when I’ve strongly hinted. She did buy an outfit for the baby and a doll (which I really didn’t like), so I asked her to not buy anything else until she had a chance to take a look at my registry so she could at least buy something I liked or needed.

So… yesterday, we were discussing the baby shower and how I plan to open gifts and she said, “What gift are you going to open from me?” I said, “That depends. What gift are you giving me?” And I laughed. She said, “I bought you the carpet.” (And I paused for a moment, incredulous.) It dawned on me that she considered her part completed. So, we went from furnishing the nursery to buying a cheap rug? Wow. It’s not that I’m interested in only what she can buy me – in fact, I don’t need her to buy me anything. I’m just astonished that she wouldn’t  want to do more for her only child who’s carrying her only grandchild.

The same thing happened when we were in the early stages of planning the baby shower. Since my dad’s wife was doing so much, I thought my mom might be upset that there was no role for her to play in my event, so I told her what had already been planned and asked if she wanted to help in any way. She asked what there was left to do and I told her there were lots of little things, like getting drinks or picking up the cupcakes. Regarding the latter, she said, “I’m not good at those things. Can someone else do it?” “Of course,” I said. So my mother’s grand contribution to our baby shower will be bringing bottles of Sprite and Coke Zero. Thanks, Mom, I don’t know how I could’ve done this without you!

My husband pointed out to me that it’s silly for me to expect her to be any other way than how she is. But her actions (or lack thereof) still hurt my feelings. I cannot imagine being in her place and not wanting to do so much more for my daughter. It feels like she doesn’t love me or doesn’t care. And on top of it, I know she’s going to print & frame that stupid poem and expect us to hang it in the baby’s room. I bet that’ll be her baby-shower gift. I bet she’ll stop the shower festivities – just like she stopped our wedding – to read her poem. And then she’ll be in a foul mood because of any of the following: a) she’ll feel people didn’t “appreciate” her poem; b) she’ll think I didn’t like her poem enough; c) she’ll be upset that I didn’t “publicly praise” her poem or thank her for her amazing contribution… or who knows what else. Every time I think I’ve figured it out, I learn I have underestimated her capacity to be petty and self-centered.

It hurts that I don’t have the mother I need/want… and to know that I never have. I don’t know what I can do about feeling this way. I certainly don’t want to keep setting myself up by expecting her to be different. And I can see there’ll be ample opportunity for that in the future.

I kind of wish that she didn’t exist. It feels so bad to write the truth. I don’t want any harm to come to her… I just wish she didn’t actually exist. She brings a special brand of misery with her and I’m tired of it. I don’t want her around my child. I don’t want her in our lives. My husband always reminds me that she’s old and that she does – in her own way – love me very much. I try to have sympathy for her. I tolerate her whims and cater to her much more than I think is healthy. But is it so wrong of me to want a break? She drains so much of my mental and emotional energy and I just can’t afford that anymore. I’m about to give birth to someone who really needs me. And I plan on being 100% there for my baby. Anyone who takes away from that is going to have to be relegated to the sidelines of my life.

I may not have had the mother of my dreams, but I can promise my baby girl that I’m going to be the mother I always wanted… the mother she actually needs.

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Daryl
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 19:16:12

    You’re going to be a fantastic mother.

    As for your own mother, I think I have to agree that, at this point, there’s little chance she’ll change her ways. All you can try to do is change how you react to her. I know it hurts, but I hope you can find a way to temper your expectations so you don’t continue to get hurt by her actions. Sending you hugs.

    Reply

  2. EAJ
    Jun 28, 2012 @ 19:11:19

    Please don’t feel guilty about any of the feelings you’re having. They are all legitimate. It takes a lot of courage to admit these things when many people are probably feeling the same way but can’t or don’t want to say so. Your honesty is appreciated. Remember, we can’t pick our families! Best of luck to you. xoxo

    Reply

    • msfertility
      Jun 30, 2012 @ 19:19:28

      Oh, that is so true! Thank you for acknowledging that it’s okay to feel how I do. This is one safe place to express those thoughts – thank goodness!

      Reply

  3. Laura
    Jun 29, 2012 @ 07:14:19

    No matter how old we get we have expectations of our mothers, and when they don’t do what we think a mother should do, it hurts. I am so sorry you are going through this right now. It sounds like you have an amazing step-mother who is very excited about the arrival of the new grandchild. Try to focus on the positive and what an amazing mother you will be. Your little girl is going to be so lucky to have a mom like you.

    Reply

  4. Lorraine Thomson
    Sep 22, 2012 @ 04:02:10

    Oh my goodness – it sounds like you are talking about MY mother!! I hate totell you, but it is doubtful she will change. My son is now 22 years old, but I remember being so hurt that she took NO interest in him – but told everyone else how wonderful he was. She certainly never wanted to babysit ‘I’ve done my bit, I’ve brought up my 3 No, no.’). Like yours, she wasn’t interested in helping with my wedding, my husband’s mother (and we) did everything. She wasn’t even interested in coming shopping with me for a dress. Now she is 84 and says she loves me (and my 2 sisters) all the time, but it’s too late. It has NO affect on us. We longed to hear it years ago, longed to have a relationship with her. But now, it’s too late. We just say ‘yes, love you too mum’, but there is no true feeling there. It’s a shame. Thank God I have always shown affection, helped and told my son I love him. I will never understand how she just couldn’t take the time to say she loved us, hug us or listen to our ups and downs. She just never wanted to know. You enjoy your family now, she will not change. You maybe need to read the book ‘Will I ever by Good Enough’ – all about Narcissistic mothers (look it up on Amazon), it helped me quite a bit. I am at last over all the hurt and expectations that she will change, but it’s taken me till I was 50….. Luckily I have a wonderful supportive husband of 33 years who knows her very well. Love your wee girl which you will, and you will have a great relationship I’m sure.

    Reply

  5. msfertility
    Sep 22, 2012 @ 17:09:24

    Sorry to hear we have similar mothers! I haven’t read the book you mentioned, but have read a couple of others that work really well to put things into perspective. I think having mothers like ours teaches us precisely how NOT to raise our own children and how not to behave in the world! It’s funny, but now that I’m so close to having our little girl, I am feeling fiercely protective of her and not nearly as concerned about her feelings as I use do be. 🙂

    Reply

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