DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: Thank you for the awesome work that you do. So many of us don’t have people in our corner that truly understand family dynamics.
Here is my issue I need feedback on: I grew up in a poor family. Neither my mother or father were there for me growing up. If it weren’t for my grandparents, I don’t know what would have happen to me.
I remember as a child I would ask my mother why she refused to get a job and her response was downright ridiculous. As I grew up and remained in school, I managed to get odd jobs starting at age 15. Every dime I made was saved for college. I put myself through college. Now in my late thirties, my birth mother only calls when she wants money. I never had a relationship with her because I despised her laziness and condescending ways.
In my early twenties and through my thirties, I use to have nightmares about her (in every dream I was bickering with her). These nightmarish dreams caused sadness during my waking hours. Since my teenage years, my birth mother always tried to pen her responsibilities on me, and this infuriated me. After I moved away for college, got married a few years later and had a child, not once has my birth mother offered to visit to help with my baby nor has she been a sounding board just to talk. I realized who she was years ago, which prevented me from seeing her face in over 14 years. And, no I don’t miss her (she is now 70 years old).
However, she still calls and ask for money, as if I owe her for giving me life. The last time she called, I told her to stop calling me and that I owed her nothing. I felt bad after the phone call, but I still feel resentment towards her. However, not talking to her somehow brings me peace.
Unfortunately, I think about her everyday, my thoughts range from ‘how can a mother not support her children…or ’why she thinks its ok to not do anything to enhance her life or her children lives years prior……or ‘why she thinks its ok to think someone owe her something.’ I am 37 years old and honestly, I am tired of thinking about my birth mother. Over the years I have consulted with several psychologists because of the anxiety and resentment I have towards my birth mother. Now, I just want to stop my brain from thinking about her.
I know I need to forgive and let the pain go. Am I wrong for walking away, never to have anything to do with my birth mother? Am I wrong for feeling the way I feel? Your thoughts and opinions are welcome with gratitude.
I (Don’t Wanna) Remember Mama
DEAR I (DON’T WANNA) REMEMBER MAMA: There was a movie that came out a few years ago about a young man coming to terms with his relationship with his biological father. Over the course of the film, he goes from having a fantasy of who his father was, being thrilled to find his real birth father, to realizing that his birth father was a legitimate monster… and that while the two had a contentious relationship, the man who actually raised him was far more of a parent than his biological father ever was.
Like the man said: “He may have been your father, boy, but he weren’t your daddy.”
Your mother may have given you half of your chromosomes and your DNA. Your mother may be the reason you exist in this world. None of that obligates you to break yourself into pieces on her behalf… not when she’s treated you as an afterthought at best and a resource to be exploited at need.
As much as “I didn’t ask to be born” is the war cry of angsty, frustrated teens and tweens the world over… it’s also true. The fact that you were born doesn’t obligate you to allow your birth parents — or anyone else for that matter — to treat you badly. Being biologically related to someone isn’t a binding contract.
Just as importantly, family isn’t just about blood. The fact that someone gave birth to you may make them your mother, but that doesn’t make them family. You can have a family of origin and a family of choice. Sometimes they’re one and the same. Sometimes they’re not. The fact that someone is related to you by blood doesn’t obligate you to keep them in your life, especially not when they only treat you badly. You have every right to decide whether or not someone is a part of your family, just as you have every right to decide whether or not someone has access to your life. Or, for that matter, to cut someone off.
It’s entirely understandable that you feel bad about cutting her out of your life so completely, I(DW)RM. It’s also entirely understandable that you resent her and what she’s done (and hasn’t done). Those feelings are real and valid. But cutting her off was the right idea. One of the most important things you can do in your life is to establish and maintain firm boundaries, especially with people who only try to use you or to force you to take on responsibilities that aren’t yours. Denying toxic people your time, your attention or even just access to you isn’t something to feel bad about. It’s one of the kindest, most caring things you can do for yourself. You are refusing to let someone who abdicated their responsibility to you as a child have a single toehold in your life. The only thing that’s sad about it is the necessity of it.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org