My mother ruined my life

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker


I often google such terms as “world’s best mother” and “loving mom.” It has almost become a habit of mine: turn on the laptop, open Internet Explorer, type in the usual queries . . . and have a box of tissues handy.

I think that I do this in vain hope that by reading of a normal or even extraordinary mother, I might displace the reality of my own. Why else would I cry whenever I see a sitcom matron showing the slightest, silliest facsimile of love?

From what I understand, my mother was raised in a fairly crazy household. Her sister (my aunt) attempted suicide, my grandmother was emotionally distant, and her parents divorced when she was in her early teens.

She then proceeded to marry (and divorce) two men, the latter of whom was my father. She physically and emotionally abused the both my sister and me, the whole while maintaining a blatantly favoritistic relationship with my little sister.

My parents divorced when I was in the second grade. The abuse did not stop. She covered my mouth and nose to keep me quiet, sat on me to restrain me, took my possessions away, hit me, slapped me, kicked at me, and even choked me a few times. Once, she left me at a restaurant. Social Services investigated at least three times, but my mother slipped out of trouble on each occasion. This continued until last year.

At that point, my father finally realized the extent of my mother’s abuse. He threatened court action, and she finally relented. I now spend every other weekend with her. At first, it worked – now that my mother and I were out of each-others’ faces, we got along reasonably well, considering what I believe to be her mental illness. Recently, though, she has reverted to her prior behaviors, albeit less physical – she cannot push me (a 14 year old boy) around any longer.

I grew up without a positive female role model in my life until I got to know my stepmother, a wonderful (and NORMAL) woman. This, from what I have read, could affect my ability to form normal relationship[s with women in my life. I worry I could be an abusive husband and father.

How can I relate to those who HAVE had a real mother in their lives? I become upset at the slightest things, as I mentioned above. The emotional wounds she has inflicted unto me are still raw and bleeding. I worry I will not miss her when she is gone.

To summarize, I resent my mother:When has she ever truly encouraged me? Does she, as she suspiciously claims, love me? Actions, not words, say otherwise.She has ruined my life – see above.

How can I best cope with this situation?

A: Your mother has given you a miserable childhood but it’s up to you whether you let that ruin your life. Not everyone gets the mother they deserve. When you were little, the lack of a loving mother felt desperate. But you’re 14 now. You are no longer dependent on your mother. She can no longer push you around physically. Your dad has given you another place to go. Most important, you are lucky to have your stepmother in your life.

Stepmom is the counter-model to your biological mother. If you let her, she can give you the nurturance and guidance that your own mother can’t. Instead of torturing yourself with goggle-searches, why not put your energy into making the best possible relationship with stepmom? It won’t be perfect. It can’t be. It doesn’t have to be. All she needs to be is a “good enough” mom and you have what most people have.

If your bio-mom heals and comes around someday, you can include her in your life as well if you like. Just don’t deprive yourself of an alternative “mother” in the meantime. Working out a relationship with a woman you see as normal is your best insurance that you won’t grow into being an abusive person as you fear. It will also give you the experience you need to relate to others who have a more “normal” mother-son relationship.

You are a smart and sensitive guy who thinks about things that most 14 year olds don’t think about. If you do your part to make a functional family with your dad and stopmom, you’ll be okay.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 4 May 2009

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2009). My mother ruined my life. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 19, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/05/04/my-mother-ruined-my-life/