under mothered

i launched blogger to write this post, and one of their announcements caught my eye. apparently, now you can post to your blog using your cell phone. while i see how that could be handy - i sometimes have an idea for a post that will slip my mind later - it really hits home just how enmeshed society is with its technology! i am not pointing fingers, believe me. i am just as bad as the next internet addict. just read my posts from san francisco! i am glad i took my laptop, but it was a giant pain in the...shoulder. i am not sure if i will take it on my travels again, yet the thought of leaving it at home almost seems unacceptable.

the real subject of this post was supposed to be my experiences while reading mothering without a map. the book is about how women who were "under mothered" as children struggle to reconcile their childhoods with motherhood as they have children themselves. "under mothered" could mean that your mother passed away, wasn't able or willing to be there emotionally, and also encompasses abuse and neglect.

having bipolar disorder, my mom "checked out" of actively being a mom when i about 12 years old. we had moved out to the country, 20 - 30 minutes away from anything civilized. so, i started thinking about my childhood and the "mothers" that i have had. we lived in a suburb of houston from the time when i was an infant to age 8. those were good times. i have a lot of memories, and many of them are positive. our neighbors across the street had a big family, and they "adopted" my mother and me. i could go over there almost any time i wanted, and i would usually find a big meal on the table and plenty of interested company. there were 3 daughters and 1 son in the family, and the girls thought of me as their own personal, living doll. they fawned over me and wanted to do my hair and play in my little kiddie pool with me. in the darker times of my childhood, i would go stay with one of them and their new families for a few days. i think the occasional separation relieved both myself and my mother.

when i was 8, we moved out to "the sticks," which encompassed 8 acres of heavily wooded land, a house that my dad designed and built (with help from my mom and some friends), a barn and a mobile home that we lived in while the house was being built. after we moved into the house, my father's parents came from florida to live in the trailer. i loved having my grandma so close. i spent a lot of time over there. my grandma was a great cook, and they had a real honest-to-goodness electric organ that i could play! in 1984, my grandma started feeling sick, but my grandfather wouldn't take her to the doctor, telling her that it was probably nothing and they needed to save the money. the pain finally got so bad that he relented, and she was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas. within 3 months, she was dead. i was 11 years old, and my last mother figure had died.

my mom didn't care for her father-in-law much after my grandma passed away. and i admit, my mom could act completely insane at times, shouting and making up things that just weren't true. my grandfather remarried within a year, but my "new grandma" was cold and didn't pay much attention to me at all. she had 3 or 4 kids of her own, and a few grandkids. when my grandpa passed away from a heart attack in 1994, she took the money and ran. we haven't seen or heard from her since. i think my grandpa was her 4th or 5th husband.

this is the point where my memories get garbled. my mom finally got diagosed with bipolar disorder when she was 40 years old. i was 13. this label gobbled my mother up. she finally had something to hold on to and something to prove that she was not well and deserved special treatment! up until that point, she had just been your run-of-the-mill martyr who had killer mood swings. with the appearance of the label, any shred of real mother that i had disappeared. she started drinking, and when the alcohol mixed with her medications, she would pass out after 2 or 3 beers. i would come home from school to find pots of dinner bubbling on the stove and my mother passed out on the couch. so, i stepped in and took over for her. i cooked, cleaned, did laundry and basically kept the house running as smoothly as i could. when something was wrong at school or with friends, i didn't bother my parents with my burdens. they had enough to deal with. my mother's drinking became the "elephant in the room" that we never talked about.

in fact, we never talked about anything. my dad started working longer hours. as i reached high school, i stayed away from home as much as i could, sleeping over at friends' houses. i made bad decisions in the relationship department, losing my virginity at age 15. i wanted to be loved so badly! i thought that sex was a way to get that love. ha ha.

so, how did my lack of being mothered affect me when i became a mother myself? if you've read this far, then check in tomorrow to find out.

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