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Still Strangers

When people hear that I have twins one of the first questions I’m usually asked is, “Is your mother around to help you?” The answer to that question is like one of the options for relationship status on Facebook: It’s complicated. I haven’t spoken to my mother since Elby turned two. She bought her a tricycle but yet she’s never seen her ride it. Of course since Elby turned four last November she has a big girl bike she rides everywhere anyway. Elby doesn’t know my mother as her grandmother. I think she has a vague idea that I have a mommy too since there are pictures of me as a little girl with my mom on display but when “grandma” calls that means Jon’s mother. When a package comes from Gram and Gramps that only means Jon’s parents have remembered her birthday or sent her something “just because.”

My mother’s never seen my baby girls. I don’t know if she even knows how small Sadie was when she came out or how scared we were in those first months. I do know that she knew I was pregnant with twins because after hearing it through the grapevine, I did get a card wishing me luck. I can’t help but to wonder if she cared how my pregnancy turned out.

When the babies were colicky and Jon couldn’t come home from work to help me, it was my brother and sister-in-law who came over, held babies, refilled my wine, read Elby stories when I couldn’t and listened to me cry. Jon and I couldn’t have done it without them -which only makes me realize even more how important family is in these types of situations.

It’s funny and trite and complex how your view of parental relationships change when you have children. When I was pregnant, I was bursting with ideas of how I would parent differently than I was parented. I knew the good – and fully intended to pass that on and I knew the bad and planned to avoid it at all costs. But sometimes the good and bad coexist in ways you can’t know until you’re in the thick of it. A love of reading comes from introducing your child to books early and reading to them relentlessly. But when you love books, it means you also read them and tell your child “just a minute, let me finish this page” way too many times because your head is in a book and you can’t be bothered to pay attention to their story.

The bottom line though is now that I have my kids, I can’t imagine what it would take for me to not speak to them (and my mom’s currently not speaking to my brother either). I’m pretty sure they’d have to kill me first. And even then, I’d come and haunt them. “Sadie, I know you killed me but are they feeding you enough in prison?” “Elby, I may be dead but I still think that jumpsuit looks fantastic on you! Not everyone can do vertical stripes.” “Mattie, no biting!”

I guess my mother and I will never see eye to eye on this. Some people say, “Well, it’s her loss.” And I used to think it wasn’t. Because if it felt like a loss to her she’d make attempt to regain it. But I look at my three gorgeous girls and I have to agree; it’s a huge loss. And it’s hers.

Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on February 9, 2009 11:25 pmUncategorized47 comments  

47 Comments

  1. Mommy Melee said,

    I can’t imagine. I honestly can’t.

    | February 11, 2009 @ 12:25 am

  2. Wicked Step Mom said,

    My mother and I get along a lot better now that I am a mother.. or wicked stepmother as the case may be. I know what it is like to not talk to her for a long time though too. We are still recovering from the falling out. And it surprises me how much I missed her even when I was furious. I hope that you always talk to your girls.

    | February 11, 2009 @ 12:48 am

  3. Kendra said,

    I’m so sorry to hear that you and your mom don’t have the kind of relationship you deserve. And I had to giggle at your description of the conversations you would have with them from beyond the grave; I can completely identify! Just tonight my 3-year-old and I were discussing the fact that even if one of us turned into a monster, we would still be one another’s sweeties, because we are family.

    It is completely her loss–that she’s missing out on her grandchildren and that she’s missing out on you too. But sometimes pride or other emotions stop us from seeing what we’re missing. I’m glad that your in-laws are such good family to you and hope you have lots of good support from people who do appreciate you.

    | February 11, 2009 @ 1:15 am

  4. WA said,

    I’m sorry to hear that you have to deal with this. Good for you to be able to write about it so poignantly.

    | February 11, 2009 @ 1:28 am

  5. Kim said,

    I have the same non-relationship with my ‘parents’. I haven’t seen or spoken to them in about 10 years. Suffice it to say, they are not good people.

    R’s mother is insane. If we didn’t move, we would be divorced by now. It was that bad. It kind of still is, except that I don’t have to deal with her for the most part anymore. We lived an hour away for years and she couldn’t be bothered to come visit if it wasn’t on her terms, which meant taking B to her house or out alone (because she didn’t want me around) so that she could take photographs of her and parade them around to all of her friends at church like she’s grandmother of the years. Sorry, not going to happen. My children are not for sale. I’m the mother – kind of not going anywhere. She has never met M, either. Really, this is the woman who asked me, her son’s wife, when I was pregnant with B, ‘well, are you sure it’s even his?’. That’s the kind of lunatic I’m talking about.

    B knows about ‘grandmothers’ also, but has no connection with this woman, nor does she refer to HER as grandma. In a way, I hate that she has no grandparents. On the other hand, I look at family a little differently than most people. I don’t have anyone in my life out of ‘obligation’. If you’re not a good person and/or you don’t treat me/my family well, you’re out. I don’t care if you’re grandma so and so or aunt so and so or the family dog. My girls are surrounded by good people who love them dearly, their titles matter less.

    That was a huge ramble. I apologize, you said it better than I ever could.

    | February 11, 2009 @ 1:33 am

  6. cck said,

    I know how that feels and I’m really glad to see that kids adjust. One of my fears, and oh – there are many, is that my kids (when I have my kids) will resent that they don’t have two sets of grandparents. I tend to think they’d prefer having a sane and healthy mother than a crazy-ass gram.

    Thank you for sharing this…

    | February 11, 2009 @ 1:44 am

  7. Cheryl Lage said,

    Amen, Stef. Think I mentioned before the scenario with my dad…similar in many ways…and sad in ways innumerable…for the kids, for our parent, for us (although to tell the truth, at this stage, I’m a bit numb/personally unaffected by it. You?)

    You will NEVER parent that way. Never.

    | February 11, 2009 @ 1:54 am

  8. Amanda said,

    Well, one thing’s for sure – your three kiddos are lucky to have you as their mom.

    | February 11, 2009 @ 1:59 am

  9. CaraBee said,

    I have sort of the same thing with my dad, although there was never a fight or anything. He just doesn’t call or visit. He didn’t come to my wedding, or when I had my daughter. I used to call him regularly and visit whenever I could, but I finally got tired of always trying SO hard to get his love. So I don’t anymore. It breaks my heart. It really does. But giving up on him feels better than always hurting for him. But, like you, I have always thought “How could a parent so completely neglect their child?”

    Lucky for me and my daughter, my mom and stepdad are amazing. And my husband’s parents, who live nearby, are wonderful. I’m sad that my daughter won’t know my dad, but her other grandparents totally make up for it.

    The fact is, the loss is theirs. Your mom. My dad. I hope someday they realize it.

    | February 11, 2009 @ 2:37 am

  10. Jen said,

    It a huge loss on her part. Not just because she’s missing out on your three darling girls but because she’s missing out on you too. You are one hell of a womanand it’s too bad for her that she’s not around to see that. I’m sorry that she’s not able/willing to be there for you.

    | February 11, 2009 @ 2:54 am

  11. Sunshine said,

    Wow. You’re in the same boat.
    I haven’t spoken to my mother in 4 years. And like you said, becoming a mother myself I had an extensive list of what NOT to do.
    Then she did something mean-spirited and spiteful to one of my kids to teach ME a lesson.
    Done. See ya. Buh bye.
    I look at my four gorgeous kids, and my youngest who’s 5th birthday is today that my mother hasn’t seen since her 1st birthday.
    It is definitely HER loss.

    When people ask me (and they do, especially the ones that have loving, healthy relationships with their parents and don’t “get it”) if my kids miss her or if I miss her, honestly, it’s hard to miss someone so toxic. I’d feel bad for my kids if my inlaws weren’t so fabulous, they make up for ten sets of grandparents.

    So, your entire post, I get it, I’m living it too.

    Sometimes the people who are supposed to be the most important people in our lives – well, sometimes they don’t deserve the title.

    | February 11, 2009 @ 3:24 am

  12. anita ovolina said,

    I’m sorry about your mother’s absence in your life. I can’t imagine what it must be like to not be able to rely on your mom at all. Glad you have family around to support and help you :)
    Maybe things will be different in the future – hoping you continue to have peace about this situation.

    | February 11, 2009 @ 3:44 am

  13. iheartchocolate said,

    I hate to hear this. I can relate, it could have easily gone this way for me and my own mother. BUT, something in her clicked when I had more kids and she clearly would do anything to maintain a relationship with me so she can see them. I am thrilled because I never had my grandparents around. I want that so much for my kids. However, it’s tough sometimes to roll over as much as I do. It could have easily turned out this way though. When I moved out of state, she had lived 5 miles from me and would not come to say good bye. We’ve gone up to 6 months without speaking. It is always me who comes back somehow, but we’ve been okay since the last two were born. I wish for you, the very best.

    | February 11, 2009 @ 4:30 am

  14. How to Party with an Infant said,

    I’m sorry–that’s sad.

    | February 11, 2009 @ 5:25 am

  15. Bec said,

    I can’t imagine it either. It’s sad that some people don’t get how important relationships are.

    | February 11, 2009 @ 8:46 am

  16. Trish said,

    I’m also a motherless mother. Mine took off when I was 2. Called once when I was 25 – brought the crazy and that was that.
    And I thought I was over it until I had Robbie. For the first time in at least 15 years I really wished for a mom and also seemed suddenly more aware of just how jipped I got.
    And I just can’t imagine leaving. Ever. when they told me I had a brain tumor (I don’t. They were wrong.) the thing I was most worried about wasn’t dying- it was leaving Robbie alone.
    And she did it on purpose.
    It just blows my mind.

    I’m sorry your mom is a shithead. It truly is her loss… I’m sorry that it makes it yours, too.

    | February 11, 2009 @ 10:16 am

  17. LuLu and Moxley's Mom said,

    One of your many talents as a writer is being able to mix hilarity into an otherwise very somber topic. I think that’s very rare. I can’t imagine her not wanting to be a part of the family you’ve built.

    | February 11, 2009 @ 12:57 pm

  18. vertigobcooks said,

    My family is extremely close. My husband’s family, on the other hand, is pretty much just a gathering of people. They would only get together out of obligation, not any kind of sentiment or affection for each other.

    Until my mother-in-law sued my husband 18 months ago. Since then, the only other family member we have contact with is his father. Even so, our daughter (born during all this law suit fun) was 8 months old before he ever laid eyes on her (he lives less than 100 miles away!).

    I struggle daily with the fact that his family has splintered in this fashion. I worry about how this will impact my children. I wonder how I will answer their questions when the time comes.

    However, my main purpose on this earth is protecting them. Sometimes that includes protecting them from blood relatives who are more dangerous to them than a perfect stranger. That is just how it shakes out sometimes.

    I can’t imagine a situation that would prompt me to take legal action, or stop speaking to my children. They are part of me, will always be a part of me. I don’t understand a mother than can just amputate their relationship with their child. I am starting to realize that I never ever will. All I can do, is do better than my MIL and let my children know that her unwillingness to be a grandmother has absolutely nothing to do with them.

    | February 11, 2009 @ 2:26 pm

  19. Anonymous said,

    I won’t go into my mommy issues but she died 2 years ago and I was surprised at how detached I was from it. But, maybe this is similar for you….I had already mourned her and that relationship for many years. I’m not saying I wasn’t sad or totally unaffected, but the death (metaphorically) had already occurred for me. I have to believe that people can change but sometimes you are so tired of the situation you care a little less, each day. For me, I was sad for my kids but also didn’t want to subject them to that kind of dysfunction.

    I have to agree. We set lofty parenting goals and all fall short (I used to feel so guilty about this). I guess like anything you live and learn and do the best you can do!

    Glad you have others to depend on. It’s so important especially w/ twins. I don’t think people understand it’s a whole other dimension of difficulty w/ twins.
    valerie

    | February 11, 2009 @ 2:34 pm

  20. Loukia said,

    Hey there, first time visiting your blog, great, great, great! I have also seen your books, congrats on that accomplishment. And of course on being a mom to 3 children. Hardest job on earth, but also most rewarding, wouldn’t you say?
    My son has also had surgery – for pneumonia, which he had in the fall of 2008. He had a chest tube in him for 4 days draining fluid from his lung, and an IV for 14 days. He was also hospitalized for 2 kidney infections (UTI’s) when he was 3 and 6 months old – Iv’s again, ultrasounds, etc… so just wanted to say, I’ve been there… the worry is insane, and overwhelming.

    | February 11, 2009 @ 2:53 pm

  21. Minnie said,

    I’m heartbroken that you don’t have her and amazed by your courage and healthy attitude about it.

    | February 11, 2009 @ 3:10 pm

  22. geminigirl64 said,

    My mother and I dont really get along. She is actually my twins girls caretaker when I’m at work and my husband is at school. I think she is a better grandmother than mother- some pple just do it better the second time around. I get the whole taking the good from your mother and leaving the bad behind- something I strive to do every day with my kids.

    | February 11, 2009 @ 3:10 pm

  23. Anonymous said,

    Long time reader, first time poster. Just wanted to let you know that there are other folks out there in the same boat. Don’t talk to Birth Mom and can’t imagine a scenario in which I would stand to be estranged from my own Daughter. In fact, I think that’s why I got a first born daughter, to break this lunatic cycle. Know that you are a great mom, even if you have a less than stellar example. Thanks for all the giggles! You rock!

    | February 11, 2009 @ 4:03 pm

  24. Lisa said,

    I’m with you on not leaving my kids, no matter what. I’m already trying to brainwash, I mean ENCOURAGE, them to believe that they must never move far away. Katie, the kindergartner, has already agreed that it just makes sense for me to move into her house. After she completes her residency training that is.

    | February 11, 2009 @ 4:13 pm

  25. margalit said,

    My mother is bipolar and untreated. I finally gave up on a relationship with her in April, 1980. I haven’t spoken to her since. She has never met my twins, who are 16.5 years old. She really never knew me as an adult. She never wanted to.

    It isn’t just me, my sister who is 6 years older than I am has not spoken to her in almost 50 years. You read that correctly.

    It’s too hard to have a toxic relationship, especially when you’re a parent. I wanted to protect my kids from my mother and father (now deceased). As parents they sucked, and as grandparents I knew that they would always put my kids up against my brother’s kids, and mine would always fail. My mother would be the person that did everything for both of my brother’s kids, but nothing for mine. I couldn’t do that to my kids. They did it to me as a kid, and I know how it felt. No way would I allow my precious children to feel that unwanted and unloved.

    It’s very hard at first to disown your parents. But it’s the best thing for your girls and you’re absolutely right, it is TOTALLY her loss. She’ll never see those firsts, she’ll never know their sweet faces, and after so much time your kids will pick up on your anxiety and mistrust of your mother if she ever did want to return to your life.

    It’s not worth it. Find someone else that can represent your mother. A surrogate grandma goes a long way towards healing those wounds.

    | February 11, 2009 @ 5:02 pm

  26. newlyweds said,

    I am so sorry, that is a horrible situation. And it is a complete loss for her not to know her wonderful daughter (as a mother) and grandchildren.

    | February 11, 2009 @ 6:22 pm

  27. Susan said,

    You’re right that it’s her loss. I don’t like her but she somehow managed to produce a wonderful mother and writer. Point to Stefanie.

    | February 11, 2009 @ 9:15 pm

  28. Kim said,

    Sounds very much like my mother. Lucky us.

    | February 11, 2009 @ 11:27 pm

  29. Rachel said,

    I don’t think I have ever commented here before, but I’ve been reading a long time.

    I think my broken relationship with my mom felt worse after I had my son, because I then understood what she had given up.

    | February 12, 2009 @ 1:37 am

  30. Coachdad said,

    Great post…followed you over here after reading your funny comment on Dad Gone Made. Awesome blog!

    | February 12, 2009 @ 2:56 am

  31. Workouts Anywhere said,

    I’m right there with you. I honestly don’t even miss my parents. My father has never called me, although I see and talk to him when I’m home to visit my grandmother because he lives with her. My mother, I moved out when I was 14, don’t think she ever forgave me. I see her, my kids see her, but she never calls, and my kids rarely remember who my mother is until I remind them of her dogs, sad! She visits us usually once a year for the kids birthday party, but other than that, there is no relationship. Sadly she is now getting foster kids, after not raising 7 of her own children, lovely. I pity them already.

    | February 12, 2009 @ 4:34 am

  32. MereCat said,

    That really makes me sad. I am so sorry. But I’m glad you have other good family that can help you out in a pinch. I know it’s no where close to the same, though.

    | February 12, 2009 @ 6:46 pm

  33. Kat said,

    girl…I so feel your pain. i have just begun deep therapy/more heavy drinking of wine for this exact situation with my mother. I am terrified that my kids will end up hating me like I hate her. What an awful feeling. You’re right-it’s her loss.

    | February 13, 2009 @ 1:04 am

  34. CP said,

    This brought tears to my eyes. My mom and I don’t have the easiest relationship but I can’t imagine ever not having her in my life.

    | February 13, 2009 @ 4:49 am

  35. courtney said,

    I can’t even imagine being that estranged from my parents. My mom passed away when I was younger and my stepmom and I have had our battles – epic ones even – but to have her not even know about my child? I can’t even fathom. It really is her loss.

    | February 13, 2009 @ 5:17 am

  36. Nicholl said,

    I just said that about a month ago — “her loss!” My grandmother and mother make excuses about coming out here to beautiful Cali to see their grandchildren…I mean it’s cold on the east coast right now! I even offered to pay half the ticket and they make excuses! I have four sons and two of them only got to see them because my ex husband was nice enough to let them visit. The other two (one is 2 and the other is 1 – they don’t understand what is a nana (her preference!) whenmotherscry.blogspot.com

    | February 14, 2009 @ 6:12 am

  37. heather... said,

    I grew up in a house where one of my parents was always not talking to someone. It’s weird. I think it’s why I am pathological about making up with people when there are disagreements.

    I’m so glad you have a support system. It doesn’t have to be a mom. The one you have suits you perfectly.

    | February 14, 2009 @ 7:31 pm

  38. Sarah said,

    I never know what to say about things like this. Sorry? Bummer? Er, congratulations?

    In the end, I think I have to agree with you: it is her loss. Not only is she missing out on her children, but she’s also missing out on her grandchildren. You never get that time back.

    | February 15, 2009 @ 11:06 pm

  39. LiteralDan said,

    I really hope this isn’t how my wife and her mother end up– my wife’s “given up trying” so many times, I have to wonder if she’ll get to a last time before things change.

    Moving far, far away seems to have helped things more than hurt, surprisingly enough.

    I hope you two find your way to some kind of better relationship somehow, someday, after the skies open up and heavenly light shines down and all that, if that’s what it takes, if only for the kids’ sake.

    | February 17, 2009 @ 9:20 am

  40. mother of a crappy sleeper said,

    My father and I are the same way. He was never there in my life unless it was on his time frame. Since having my son. He has mad a half hearted attempt (due to my stepmother) but I finally see the light now. My relationship with my father is done. If he chooses to be a part of my son’s life great. But the moment my son gets hurt the way I did its over. I guess it comes down to, my family is my son and my husband…. those that choose to be a part (and I mean active) of our lives then welcome aboard party starts at 6. (We have a 8pm bed time so cant be to late). But for those who do not then bye enjoy your life.

    | February 17, 2009 @ 12:56 pm

  41. RhoRho said,

    As a parent, when kids are little you can’t imagine that ever happening. I have a sister who hates me, but if it was my mom, I couldn’t deal. And maybe the only reason she does still tolerate me is the presh grandchildren I gave her. Your mom – sad, but it is HER loss.

    | February 17, 2009 @ 5:07 pm

  42. Am I doing okay? said,

    *Sigh* I don’t have answers. Only pain. And the urge to have my children near me for the rest of my life. Provided they don’t watch the Disney channel after age 18.

    | February 19, 2009 @ 2:30 am

  43. supermom said,

    I agree with you. I too cannot imagine NOT speaking to my children. I’m SO thankful that I have such a close relationship with my mom

    | February 21, 2009 @ 2:35 pm

  44. ConverseMomma said,

    I have seen dsyfunction in my own family and in my husbands. In fact, his family did not speak to us for over a year, all because of my blog. I would love to say that was a relief for me, but all I kept thinking was, what a loss for my babies.

    | February 22, 2009 @ 1:16 pm

  45. Kristine said,

    If you’ve had a chance to check in on my blog the last month or so you’ll see that I SO get what you are going through. It is her loss, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t still suck for us. I hate my mother, yet at the same time I miss her. Well, I miss what I wish she could be. It just sucks!

    | February 26, 2009 @ 6:44 pm

  46. Missy @ It's Almost Naptime said,

    Stefanie,

    I just finished Naptime and I had to google to find out about your twins so now I am cyber stalking you.

    I have the same relationship with my dad. Have not seen him since he no-showed to meet his first granddaughter, who is now four, or the two babies I’ve had since then. Yup. His loss. His huge, huge loss.

    But regarding more pressing issues.

    During my stalking I saw on your Myspace that you were into prison shows (Bill Kurtis has filled the father void for me) so I have to make sure you know about Locked Up Abroad, on the National Geographic Channel. Because the only thing better than a show about prison is a show about a THIRD WORLD prison.

    If not, you must search your DVR immediately. It will complete you.

    | March 10, 2009 @ 6:30 am

  47. GTR said,

    ????,??,080?????,??????,?????,????,080???,080??????,6k???,?????,?????,??????,????,????,????,????,???,????,????,??,????,????,hi5,hilive,hi5 tv,a383,????,??,??,?????,????,sogo??,????,plus??,plus,????,?????,????,??,????,?????,??,AV,AV??,SEX,??,a?,a????,A?,h?,????,??A?,????,????,????,?????,??,????,?????,???,???,??,????,kk???,?????,????,85cc????,85cc????,????,?????,????,???,??,????,?????,A?,????,???,???????,???,????,????,????,????

    | August 26, 2009 @ 8:15 am

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