The Emotionally Absent Mother Pt. 1

I’m currently reading a book called The Emotionally Absent mother. I’m really grateful that a book like this even exists. I can’t even express how much help it is. Not only is it a tremendous tool for helping me sort out my past, but I’m very confident it will help me to be a better mother to my own son.

This has been such a hard thing to face, especially alone. I pine for my sisters, to be able to call them and reflect on what happened to us, together in camaraderie. It’s heartbreaking and hard to understand how a mother would pit her children against each other to compete for her love and tenderness, attention and affection, to be cared for. When Mama loves you, when you’re The Golden Child, it can be a remarkable feeling, as evil as it is. This is by design so when you’re cast out of that light, you’ll do anything to get it back.

I’m going to write about something that’s very uncomfortable for me. I’ve been sitting here for 10 minutes thinking about it, so I’m going to allow myself to just write it out. It’s a moment that I’m not proud of, but hopefully shines some light on this dynamic.

I don’t even know where to begin with this but it’s something that weighs heavily on my mind and has ever since it happened 10 years ago.

My middle sister has this dog, Pearl. A French Bulldog. During the time of this memory, I had so much disdain for this dog because my sister was so warm and cuddly and tender with it. She showed it 100x more love than she had ever shown me, and it made me deeply sad, and angry. It made me angry because I had rationalized her coldness towards me by just telling myself she wasn’t a warm, loving person in general. So to see her be tremendously affectionate to Pearl made me confused and really, really jealous, as ridiculous as it is to say.

When I had wants or needs, I was met with eye rolls from her. She made me feel like an annoyance. Like this thing that, unfortunately, must be tolerated. It’s been like this our entire life. I wanted to love her so badly and tried so hard to show her in all the possible ways I knew how, but she just pushed me away, brushed me off all the time. I never understood why. I still don’t. And I still want to love her just as badly.

But when it came to Pearl, she always got the red carpet treatment. If Pearl needed special arrangements, the whole world had to stop. I’d never seen or felt her be accommodating in almost any way before, so her behavior with the dog really felt like a knife in my heart. In addition, Pearl has all these special needs. Like, she needs special food, and a special crate, and she can’t be alone for too long, and she can’t go up the stairs without someone carrying her, etc., etc.

So, yeah, now that I really sit with this, I was honestly just kind of baffled about her and the dog. I mean, like I mentioned, Sadie does not like to acquiesce. She does like to compromise. She would never help me help Mom with the bills when we were younger. Of course, that wasn’t her job, as it certainly wasn’t mine either, but it still always made me feel so weird. Like, why do you let me carry this burden alone? You use the heat, too. You use the electric, too. Why is it only me that contributes? So it caused a lot of feelings to see her essentially put Pearl on this pedestal up so high.

And here’s the other thing. Okay, keep in mind, this was just my shitty personal opinion and I’m going to just speak candidly here… so not only was Pearl a tremendous amount of work, she made this loud snoring/grunting sound literally 24/7 and she wasn’t the most intelligent dog I’ve ever met, which of course caused a whole other set of issues, and she had the personality of a cardboard box. So here I am, feeling so rejected by Sadie, stunned and baffled at how my sister is treating this dog like God’s gift, and like… I’m looking at the dog thinking to myself, this dog? You treat this dog better than your own sister?

One day the dog did something like ate a bunch of paper towels, and I remember thinking, Oh shit, this dog is gonna get it. Because Sadie was always huffing at me. For example, if we were say out eating somewhere, about to leave, and I stood up and said, “Give me 5 minutes. I need to use the bathroom real quick,” Sadie would be visibly perturbed, usually let out some kind of sigh, and say, “Ugh. Katyyy…” I can hear it clear as day in my head.

But what happened instead is Sadie sees all the ripped up paper and just laughs, picks Pearl up and says, “Oh Pearl! You silly little girl! You’re so funny.” And I mean, when I say I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone… Like, honestly, I can’t even describe how stunned I was.

So, to the point of this story. One day Mom and I are coming down the stairs, and I see the dog, and to my Mom I say, “God, that dog is so fucking stupid.”

Yeah. I said that.

And guess who was at the bottom of the stairs. You guessed it. Sadie.

We all froze. She just looked at us for a few seconds dead pan and then turned and walked away.

Later on, my Mom was like, “I think that dog is stupid too,” and validated me, even though I was 100% in the wrong for saying something so ugly. Sadie and I never, ever talked about it. So I was walking around thinking, well, I said what I said and it’s the truth, and Mom agrees so that’s that! I had no understanding of the fact that I was lashing out from this deep hurt, and if I’m truly honest, at the time, a part of me, the hurt, confused, angry little girl inside, did not feel bad about it, only felt bad that she “caught” me saying it. But the real me inside felt horrible. I remember the pang in my stomach when I saw her there. My Mom had perpetuated this culture where it was okay to dish about each other like we were friends and work talking about another co-worker or something. In this sick way, it felt like bonding with her. And it validated all these deep scars of self sacrifice that I’d created over the years. Like, See, Mom has my back because I helped her pay the heating bills or something fucking ridiculous like that. Like, maybe if you’d given Mom some money for the bills, she’d love you more.

Ugh it’s so sick to think about. It’s really horrific.

I had no idea what real love was or how it worked. I had no idea what was healthy and what wasn’t. I had no idea the games that were being played. I had no idea what the fuck was going on. I had no idea about enmeshment and all this psychological madness. I knew Mom drank, and that caused her to be unavailable, but I also genuinely believed it wasn’t her fault. She had me that brainwashed and so sold on her perpetual victimhood. I had no idea that we were living in a system where love was finite and she had us scraping to earn it, fighting for our moment as The Golden Child.


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