I broke up with my mother nearly two years ago. I haven’t spoken a word to her since that day, and she’s never met my third child.
Sometimes, the person who grew you in their womb, welcomed you into the world, and was meant to love you unconditionally forever can’t deliver on that promise.
That’s my mom.
There were times when she gave it the ol’ college try, but they were short-lived, and I was always left to pick up the pieces, even as a young child. It was brutal, and devastating, and it got to a point where I literally couldn’t hold space for her in my life anymore.
So I broke up with her.
And unlike all the other times, I haven’t let her back in. I’ve drawn the line, and I’ve maintained my boundaries. As an act of self-preservation, and as a favor to my family because these people depend on me and need me to show up each day being the best version of myself I can muster up, and that’s impossible to do when I’m dragging decades of emotional baggage behind me.
As a preteen, I started to vow that I would never be like my mother. Every time she’d hurt, abandon, or betray me, I’d swear to myself that I would be her polar opposite. In every way.
I would show up for my kids every day. I would prioritize my relationship with them. I would meet their needs — mentally, emotionally, financially. They would have everything they needed to succeed, including my unwavering love and support. I would work my ass off to provide them with the best life possible, and I wouldn’t settle for a life partner who didn’t plan on meeting these goals alongside of me.
Pretty deep thoughts for a 10-year-old, but I had to grow up fast.
In many ways, I’ve succeeded at keeping my vow.
I’ve got three amazing kids who make my heart swell every day. Each one of them was meant to be mine and is so unique, and I can’t imagine life without them. My babies. I’m just so damn proud to be their mom.
And their dad? He’s my best friend. Everything I envisioned, and more. A truly outstanding father and partner, and I love him more each day. I picked a winner.
And most days, I do pretty good. I am my own worst critic — I’ve come to know this — so I let guilt over the smallest things consume me because I’m afraid my kids will grow up to hate me. Or break up with me. That they will feel about me the way that I feel about my mother.
The thought of being cut out of my child’s life, of not loving on my grandbabies, of not having them stop by unannounced, of being unable to contact them? Just the thought of it literally makes me feel like someone has a vice grip on my heart. I can feel the pressure in my chest. It’s enough to bring me to my knees.
Like all parents, there are days when I fall short. I yell, have little patience, and walk around with a chip on my shoulder. Some days I just lose my shit.
And in those moments, I see my mother. I think, This is it, Sam. Here you go. You were supposed to be a cycle breaker, but here you are, fucking it all up, just like her. And the guilt swallows me whole.
Instead of just recognizing these as normal shortcomings and vowing to do better tomorrow, I agonize over them. I lose sleep. I envision all the ways my actions will negatively impact my kids, that they will remember that moment forever and resent me as adults.
And sometimes, I wonder if that’s my karma.
My karma for not just accepting the mother I was given, and continuing to deal with whatever she handed me, and just sucking it up for the sake of being the “bigger person.” Like putting up with the emotional abuse and gaslighting and manipulation is my penance for her birthing me.
It’s fucked up, I know. But that’s what happens when you have a mom like mine — it fucks you up.
I’ve learned to cope with my feelings surrounding my childhood as best I can, and I’ve learned to manage my mom guilt as best I can as well. I will always be a work in progress, and I can accept that now.
I can accept that sometimes I will fuck up because there’s literally no way to be a perfect parent. It ain’t happening, and I’ve had to learn to adjust my standards accordingly.
Because I may not be perfect, but I am good. I’m a good mom. I’m good at this raising and loving and supporting kids gig. You know why? Because I’m here every single day. When it’s easy and when it’s hard, I just keep showing up.
And more than that, I want to be here. I want to do this. I want my kids to know that they are the most important thing in my life. I want them to know I love them unconditionally. I want them to know I love their dad, too, that I value our family unit over everything else.
I want them to know that I’ll never hurt them, and that I will always do whatever it takes to keep them safe.
I want them to know that they were wanted, and loved, and cherished.
I want them to know that they can tell me anything, that I’ll always be their soft place to land.
And I’m doing that. I’m giving them what I never had, and I’m living up to my preteen vow of not being like my mother. Sure, there are glimpses of her that pop up here and there. And yes, they make me feel like a panicky, guilty mess. But I’m not my mother.
I’m not my mother because I vow to do better, and to apologize for my mistakes, and to keep showing up. When it’s easy, and when it’s hard, because that’s what moms do. We rally. We show up.
I just asked my oldest child (7 years), my baby girl: “Do you know that mama loves you so much?”
And she said, without skipping a beat: “Of course, I do, Mom.”
I think the kids will be all right.
And if you’ve been in my shoes, and you’ve got a parent (or parents) like mine, and you’re busting your ass every day to do better and show up? Your kids are going to be all right too.