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We’ve Said A Word About Toxic Fathers, But Who’s Talking About Toxic Mothers?

Love & Relationships

Growing up, I was made to feel like I was the problem and because I was in the midst of puberty, it was easy enough to use the misbehaved teenager as the scapegoat.


I recall my mother holding me responsible for her marital issues. Even more vivid in my mind, is being called an ungrateful b*tch for wanting my biological father to participate in debutante with me (a long story for a different day). And worst of all, I remember believing these things.

As I grow both in age and in maturity, I have come to see things with my mother for what they are: toxic.

Although I know of some of the struggles and hardships my mother faced growing up with an absentee mother, I can't pretend to know everything that comes with that baggage, nor would I dare to share a story that isn't mine to share.

What I do know is that she has beaten the odds like crazy, and as a result so did I. Statistically speaking, nothing about her childhood circumstances would have predicted a future as bright as hers. Not then, not in the years she worked to escape an abusive marriage, and not even now, after we've already witnessed the unimaginable watching her negate almost every statistic spewed about the future of teen moms.

In so many ways, she's won. But in never truly dealing with the trauma of her past, she's at risk of losing a lot more by isolating the people who love her.

My sister has already begun to feel the despair of our mother's behavior. She told me not too long ago that she feels like dying some days due to our mother's draining and constant negativity. My mother continues to push my brother to perfection, begging him to "man up" when he shows his more shy and reserved qualities unfit for her, tragically unable to see how this only hurts him.

In learning that "broken people break people", I've also learned to dial back my anger and evaluate my own expectations of who my mom should be. I'm understanding the importance of meeting her where she is but in turn that means recognizing where I am.

At the moment, as I work towards improving my own negative qualities, that means choosing the preservation of my own well-being over our relationship.

Toxic parenting is a vicious cycle of learned habits that are consequently passed down from generation to generation, if and when they are not corrected. Nonetheless, working through toxic shit also requires us to rise from our own sunken places, even though we are sometimes unable to recognize that they exist to begin with.

Related: It's OK Not To Talk to Toxic Parents

Because of this inability to recognize what's packed away in our baggage, there are a whole lot of kids taking on the unresolved issues of their parent's past. This baggage carries over into that child's own adult life, relationships, and parenting methods.

In being able to label my mother's behavior, it gave pause to my past, present, and future. I was able to undo some of the hurt from my adolescence by understanding it wasn't all in my head. I was able to pinpoint the ways that I'm like her, as well as work toward changing in hopes of not carrying out this particular part of her legacy.

It seems that we've put so much energy into focusing on the threat posed when a father figure is not up to par, that we've completely neglected to inform and check mothers who pose the same threat.

Children fall through the cracks of toxic motherhood everyday, but there's little to nothing being said about it.

We as a society have normalized behavior that is actually toxic. Toxicity comes in many different forms and levels. These behaviors include jealousy, manipulation, and gaslighting, as well as constant criticism, never allowing you to speak without judging, dismissing, or berating you. Then, of course, there's playing the victim. Whatever pretty packaging that toxicity comes in doesn't negate the fact that it's still just that.

Cutting off parents, especially our mothers, is not always an option, and it's certainly never the easy option. But here's a word as someone who is putting in work now to ensure that this toxicity ends with me: I'm not in a place to tolerate negativity from any source. To be real, I have enough negative energy circulating in my own mind, there's no need for me to take on hers as well. If that means distancing myself from the woman who carried me, I'm prepared to be OK with that.

We're often told to be forgiving because of the circumstances that shaped our mothers, but at what cost?

Forgiveness should never mean sacrificing your sense of self, peace, and happiness.

My mother has dealt with a lot of heartache in her life, including a mother who was far more toxic and unstable than she is. As much as I empathize with all that she endured, it doesn't grant enough mercy for me to lay myself on the cross for her. The more I grow, the less willing I find myself to go back to a place where her psychological abuse is acceptable and tolerated simply because she's a better version of toxicity than her own mother.

We accept the love that we think we deserve, and I've been far too lenient in what I'm willing to accept from all parties involved. And, when I think of the type of behavior I overlook in regards to my mother, I know it's something I'd never consider entertaining if it were my partner, friend, or anyone else. At least not anymore.

With that in mind, I know I deserve more than what my mother can offer me right now and in order to seek it out, I have to respectfully decline her love...and so I do.

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at submissons@xonecole.com

Featured image by Getty Images

This article is in partnership with Xfinity.

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