I can’t handle being around my mother for more than an hour at a time. We had a rough go of things when I was a teenager. I was sexually abused by a family member on her side, and instead of protecting me, she wanted me to be quiet about it to keep the peace.
While she says she regrets it now and has explained to me many times how sorry she is and she wished she’d handled it differently … she didn’t.
In fact, her change of attitude didn’t happen until the family member died and she didn’t have to face them any longer.
There were over two decades of my life when she’d talk about this person in front of me as if they had never laid a hand on me and done any damage in my life. To say she ignored it, and ignored my feelings around it, is an understatement.
I lost her trust. There were times when I wondered if I even wanted her in my life. Then, when I had kids I wondered how any decent human being could turn a blind eye to something as harmful as abuse inflicted on their own child.
When I was pregnant with my first child, a little kid threw a ball at my swollen belly and I went off of them — and that was just a ball. If someone hurt my kid, I’d take them down. It would affect me deeply. There’s no way I’d ignore and act like it didn’t happen. I’d have to be dead to not fight for my child.
Because of all these feelings, even though it happened years ago, I have to limit time with my mother. She does not have access to me all the time. I get to say when I see her and for how long. She isn’t just welcome to stop by my house whenever she wants and she knows it. I have to physically prepare to see her.
While some may see this as holding a grudge, I disagree. It’s called setting a boundary. There is a difference, and I believe each and every person has the right to do that.
It could look like cutting someone off completely. It could look like only seeing someone once a year. It could look like saying no to someone, yet keeping them in your life.
As the saying goes, you teach people how to treat you. My mother taught me I can’t trust her with my safety.
I’m not looking to punish her; I’m looking to protect myself.
The truth is, no one can protect our mental health but us. There aren’t many situations out there when a person upsets you over and over and they change on their own. We have to advocate for ourselves. We are the judge in our own lives regardless of what other people may think.
If you aren’t in a situation, it’s easy to look at someone and tell them they should lighten up, or to feel they’re holding a grudge.
But holding a grudge and protecting your well-being and your peace are two entirely different things.
Lots of people out there don’t change. And it’s more than okay to realize someone is harming you, whether it’s physical or mental, and you have a choice to cut them out of your life whenever you want.
I teach my kids they are responsible for their own happiness. I want them to know if they don’t stand up for themselves and protect themselves, no one else will.
I have a hard boundary with my mother. It doesn’t mean anyone else has to have it, nor do I try to get anyone to be on my side.
I’ve had the fight with myself for about a decade before I realized just because time has gone by and she’s apologized, doesn’t mean I have to let her back into my life full time.
My state of mind is too important, and if it looks to others like I’m holding a grudge, so be it. They aren’t living my life. They don’t get the hives, anxiety, and sour gut that comes with being around her. I do.
We need to normalize people setting these boundaries and not shame them for protecting themselves.
Remember, we all need to live by our rules and do what’s best for us when it comes to our relationships. Let people think you are holding the grudge. This is a form of self care, and you don’t have to explain your decision to anyone.