Promise me, Mama!

Last night something really dark settled in my body and mind.

My mother is a child abuser.

I’ve realized over the years that her behavior was abusive and incredibly damaging. I know that makes her an abuser, but my programming was still protecting her. I still wanted to believe it wasn’t that bad–that she didn’t realize what she was doing, or that she was struggling to love us in her own sick and twisted way.

It’s finally sinking in that she knew what she was doing was wrong, very, very wrong, because she taught me to hide it from a very young age. It was incredibly confusing. If you love me, why do we have to hide? I remember that being such a difficult thing to navigate. I was always in trouble. I didn’t perceive my neglect as bad yet, as I was a child and had no frame of reference. I do recall negative feelings–loneliness, sadness, feelings of being violated. I didn’t know which parts I wasn’t supposed to tell about.

“I can’t believe you said that!” or, “I can’t believe you told her that!”

I was constantly in trouble for saying the wrong thing, and I didn’t know how to not say the wrong thing. I didn’t know what the wrong things were.

The few “friends” my mom had over the course of my childhood weren’t usually around for very long. The only way my mom knows how to connect with people is through pity. My dad had lots of friends, and those friends had girlfriends. Usually what would happen is she would reel a kind woman in by telling stories of oppression and abuse. When I was a young child, my father was the perpetrator. She would have cigarettes on the porch with them, telling all the horrible things she had to endure, forcing her into depressive dysfunction. Well its no wonder you struggle raising your children under such conditions! How can I help?

These women had beautiful intentions, hoping to help my mother, who seemingly had no one, through a hard time. They would clean the house, smile and give me compliments. Tell me that Mama was just having a rough go, and she’d be okay. And then they’d just stop coming around. This was always supposedly because Dad had turned them against her.

She still says this. Recently she said she had to stop using Facebook because no one would talk to her because Dad had slandered her name. In reality it’s because she’s creepy. She would comment on every single thing a person posted, and then reply to every single person’s comment. It’s unnerving.

You can’t tell my mom anything. She immediately becomes offended. I let my mom act this way on my Facebook for a long time as part of my never-ending quest to be a good and supportive daughter, even though it made me feel yucky. It wasn’t just that her actions were embarrassing, it felt like she was hijacking my Facebook posts. It looked like she was showering me with affection that knew no bounds, so why did it feel like she didn’t care about me? If I posted a selfie and there were 20 comments from my friends, there were 20 comments from her saying variations of, “That’s my gorgeous daughter!”

She’s lonely, I would tell myself. She doesn’t mean any harm.

When it finally became too much, I got the courage to ask her politely to just reign it in a bit. She was offended, deeply hurt. I don’t remember exactly what it said, but I’m sure it was something like, “I’m so sorry for loving you too much. I’ll just disappear into the shadows, never to be heard from again!”

She stopped for a few weeks, but then we was right back at it! I eventually just stopped using Facebook.

Actually, I’m going to see if I can find the conversation real quick.


Me: Hey Mom we have to set some Facebook boundaries. You can’t comment on every single thing multiple times. I’m sorry but I don’t want to unfriend you. I love you, but… boundaries, okay? You’re coming on a little strong.

Mom: Okey dokey.


Me: Mom you gotta give me some space on the ol’ Facebook, okay? It’s not a good look for a 31 to have her mom commenting on everything. I’m happy for your support 🙂 Just calm down a little bit, okay? I love you. We need to work on setting healthy boundaries.

Mom: You will not hear from me again. Promise. Sorry for embarrassing you.

I had to take a break and come back, because there’s so much here.
Up until recently, I thought that saying I promise meant I’ll try my best. It wasn’t until my current partner pointed out that he was discouraged and hurt because sometimes I would promise to do something and then not do it. I didn’t understand what the big deal was, because as I mentioned already, I truly thought that promising something just meant to try really hard, but it might not happen. When I explained that to him, he was confused and had to literally explain to me–a thirty-something year old grown woman–that’s not what promise means.
Mom has a long history of promising me she’ll do things and then just never doing them, or only doing/not doing the thing for a short time before it just goes back. If I had a dollar for every time she promised me she hadn’t been drinking, or promised me she would never drink again, or promised me she’d call the school and tell them my absence was excused and I hadn’t just skipped that day. One of my earliest memories is of Mom tickling me so hard and for so long that I would start to cry. Afterwards, through tears, I would say, “Please, Mama, please don’t do that anymore.”
“I won’t, I won’t,” she would say, laughing.
“No. Please, Mama. You said that yesterday. Promise me, Mama. Promise me!”
“I promise, I promise…”
But she did it every single day for months.
On the surface, this one small Facebook exchange doesn’t seem ill intended or vile. That’s what’s so dangerous about covert narcissistic abuse. It’s incredibly subtle. So subtle, that it makes everyone think the abuser is actually the victim in most cases, which even further psychologically damages the person receiving the abuse.
A healthy mother would have acknowledged my feelings and apologized in a meaningful way, then kept good on her initial agreement of “Okey dokey.”
Her empty apology for embarrassing me translates into, “I’m sorry you find your mother to be such an embarrassment,” and was designed to make me feel small and wicked.
The drama in the statement “you will not hear from me again” is so ludicrous and unnecessary. I did everything I could to be as gentle and kind with my request as possible, and hearing something like that felt like a gut punch. It made me feel like a failure. Despite my best efforts, I still had offended her. I failed to be a good daughter. I had hurt my mother. I had rejected her love. As usual, I had said the wrong thing.
I did hear from her again, the very next day in fact.
Her NPD makes her incapable of any type of self reflection. That’s why it had to be Dad’s fault that no one liked her on Facebook. It couldn’t possibly be because she was harassing them or making them feel uncomfortable, no. It couldn’t possibly be because she said inappropriate things, or things that flat out don’t make any sense, as she often did.
The sad part is that I believed her. I always believed her. She was my mother. She knew best. She was always trying her best and everyone in the world was always just trying to ruin her in one way or another. I truly believed that.
So when she said Patsy and Leslie stopped coming around the house because of Dad, I believed her. But now, looking back, knowing what I know now, I understand what really happened. They eventually realized that Mom was full of shit. She’d fabricated and exaggerated stories to gain their pity and their trust, but after a while they wised up. They realized that Mom didn’t want a real friend, what she wanted was someone to do her chores and listen to her. She didn’t want to actually be better, or make a better situation for herself. Her “hard time” wasn’t actually a hard time–it was just her.
When her friends would eventually leave, she would use that as a new excuse for her drinking and her neglect.
Going back to that place in my mind, I can feel all the feelings I had. I was angry. I was so angry at Dad for ruining Mom’s friendships, something that might make her happy so she would stop crying and stop sleeping for days and days. I was frustrated because I knew I was the one that had to pick up the pieces, fend for myself and fend for my sisters, hours and hours of listening to her complain. I felt sad for her. Stop hurting Mommy! 
But Mommy was the one hurting herself the entire time, on purpose. She’s nothing if she doesn’t have something to cry about. She’s nothing without her excuses. She’s nothing without her victimhood.
I’m only really just now coming to terms with the fact that she hurt me on purpose, and at times actually enjoyed it.
My mother is a child abuser.
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February 6, 2023

Whew! Your mother and my mother had the same playbook…at least some of the same pages. My breaking point with her was last year. I’d kind of just ignored her jabs. Kept her at a distance.  Managed her at arms length when at family functions,  but when she went off on me for going to my husband’s family’s Easter celebration instead of my sister’s, something kind of snapped in me.

She screamed “I see who is really important to you. We must be scum of the earth. Guess we don’t have enough money to suit you.” So I hung up and ignored her for a bit. Waited a week and then decided to confront her. At this point I knew she was nuts but I didn’t know about NPD yet.

So little did I know the confrontation was futile. As gently as I tried to discuss with her that when she yells at me it makes me feel disrespected, she didn’t even skip a beat before wailing out a tongue lashing between sobs.

Game over. I can forgive a lot, but ongoing, blatant disregard for my feelings and boundaries is a no go for me.

I definitely relate to how you didn’t know common things like what a promise was. I had a terrible time keeping friends because I would talk shit on them behind d their backs. That’s what I saw my mom do and that’s what I thought was normal.

My sister and I were recently talking about how we protected our mother out of pity. With excuses regarding her own terrible childhood we always waved it off as not that bad or tried to look at the comical side of things. Coping mechanisms.

The best thing I ever did was go no contact. It’s tough, but mentally I’ve never felt more free. <3

February 7, 2023

@celestialflutter Yes! We must be the scum of the earth sounds exactly like something my mom would say. I relate so much to that statement you made that you knew your mother was nuts but didn’t know about NPD yet. Once I figured it out it was like the whole world opened up and finally made sense.

I actually cried today because I missed her and wanted to call her for a minute, but I had to keep reminding myself that I always pay a huge price. Since I’ve gone no contact, I don’t have huge bouts of depression. I realized every time I spoke with her, I’d have to recover for several days. I realized I didn’t really miss her, per se, it was just that I wish I had a real mom, someone I could call and share my day, talk about my son, laugh about old times. I can’t do that with my mom. Maybe for a few minutes, but it always devolves into her complaining or going on some rant. I never escaped a conversation without several passive aggressions from her that would stick in my head for days and days.

February 7, 2023

@ohmylanta I know exactly what you mean regarding knowing no contact is best but still wanting a mother. It’s been a theme in my therapy sessions. I don’t miss her. I don’t want to try to have a relationship with her but when we’re having a shitty day it would be nice to have a mother that is empathetic and caring.

February 13, 2023

@celestialflutter Exaaactly. 👏 I’m thankful for my friends, but it’s not the same as having a mother to truly comfort you in hard times. What’s worse too is when I would go to my mother for comfort, it was always so confusing because she would comfort me to a degree but not without her passive aggressions so I always left those experiences wondering why I didn’t feel better. I always kind of felt like a flat tire.