My parents had three daughters. One was wanted, and has always been cherished:
Their Macy’s girl.
We other two are their dime-store daughters.
I am now close friends with my fellow dime-store outcast. Surprisingly, her own daughter has been accepted as a good friend of Macy-Girl’s daughter. The nonexistent sins of the mothers are not visited upon the daughters.
Not too long ago, the two cousins, who live on their own in different states, met up at Macy Girl’s house. She served dinner to the young women, as well as to her husband and his mom, and our own mother and father. Dinner for seven.
The next day, my mother and I are on the phone.
“And your sister did an amazing job. She managed to put on dinner for ALL of us!”
My mother has never praised either of her dime-store daughters for a single one of our accomplishments as adults. Many are significantly more impressive than cooking a meal. I couldn’t stop myself:
“Wait just a minute, Mom. What is so ‘amazing’ about her making dinner?
“Well, she works, too!”
True. Macy Girl does work. Two grueling part-time days a week.
“Well, Mom, I worked, too—only I worked full time. And I had lupus. And I chaired the PTA. And I prepared Sunday school lessons. And I STILL managed to cook.”
Here’s how the woman who wombed me and birthed me responds to my own amazing accomplishments:
“Oh, yeah? Who’d YOU ever cook for?”
I open my mouth but no sound emerges. Unsurprisingly, I left home at 17. I relocated on the far side of the fifty States. I’ve had therapy. Despite this, there are times this woman still manages to shock me into silence.
She decides to fill this by adding, sneeringly: “…besides your family!”
And as if I, also, find my family insignificant and my achievements worthless, I (yet again) find myself spitting into that glacial unmotherly wind, trying fruitlessly to convince the unconvince-able:
“I also prepared meals for more than my family, Mom. We DID throw parties in the early years of our marriage. Until my abusive spouse succeeded in socially isolating me.”
Ever-nurturing Mom responds.
“I don’t need to hear this!”
“Don’t tell me any more lies about your marvelous ex-husband.”
She ends the call.
Only later do I remember that, although my two-faced spouse always jumped to impress most visitors,
Hurriedly lifting up a sponge or broom just as folks drove up,
Striving to do all the cooking whenever my parents or in-laws visited,
My parents did still savor a couple of outstanding meals prepared by my own terribly-inadequate dime-store hands.
But I understand why Mom was still not impressed by my skills in comparison to Macy Girl’s.
Around my dining table would have been seated my parents, my spouse, my two children, and I. Dinner for six, not seven.
All this time, I’ve been only one dinner guest shy of gaining Mommy’s love.
Next post in this Mommy Hyde series: Care For Some Crumbs?
Addendum Re: Emotional Abuse and Neglect
“That emotional abuse is more damaging than sexual and physical abuse may seem surprising, although they tend to go together.” [Yeah, our mommy and daddy whacked us, too. Meggie got her jaw cracked. You needed to be quick in our house!]
“A definitive analysis of the 41 best studies into the impact of childhood adversity on the risk of psychosis…broke down the role of different kinds of maltreatment. Emotional abuse meant exposure to behaviour such as harshness and name-calling from parents. Emotional neglect meant lack of love and responsiveness…emotional abuse increased the risk of psychosis the most (by 3.4 times), physical abuse and emotional neglect did so by 2.9, sexual abuse and bullying by peers by 2.4.”
“Similar findings come from studies of less extreme emotional distress. In the definitive one…90% of those who suffered early maltreatment qualified for a mental illness. Emotional neglect under the age of two was a critical predictor.”