The Trouble with Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is a tricky one for me

It reminds me of the obvious lack of mother in my own life. It’s now been so long since I saw her face, I can’t even properly remember what it looks like. It poses a mixed bag of emotions every time a so-called special day presents itself.

Mother’s Day. Birthdays. Anniversaries. The last time I saw her. The last time we communicated.

I estranged myself from my mother several years before I started having children. I coped with a full on mental breakdown, and hit rock bottom with no family support whatsoever. I have been through so much without her by my side. I’ve essentially become a different person to the one she raised. A better person. I have taught myself how to function in the world, and how to be nice. To not immediately assume the worst in everyone, and think they’re all out to get me.

 

I grew up in a world where Jimmy Saville would fix all your problems, and Gary Glitter wanted you to be part of his gang. Where primary school kids had access to porn films and 8yo girls had their innocence stolen on a daily basis. 😔 I grew up in a world where comparison wasn’t always the thief of joy, and in fact sometimes knowing that others had it so much harder was a good thing for me. 😔 I grew up in a world where the WORST happened, and I got to the point where I could no longer forgive and forget. I made the hardest decision I’ve ever made (to date) when I was 26 years old (I’m now 38). 😔 Motherhood without a mum is more heartbreaking than I could ever articulate. On any given day I’ll flit between knowing I’ve made the right decision to desperately hoping I was wrong and wanting her to beat my door down. To say “I’m here now, and everything will be ok!” The words I know without doubt my dear grandma would have said, given half the chance. 😔 So if you’re struggling with similar issues please email me and I’ll send you a copy of Become the Best You. Had I read the book I wrote when I was on the edge, maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t have fallen down a deep, dark hole.

A post shared by Reneé Davis (@mummytries) on

I know her hands were tied a lot of the time. She was young and inexperienced when she brought me in the world at eighteen. She was still reeling from her own tragic childhood of loss and abuse. No-one helped her conquer her demons. She got webbed up with men who treated her terribly, and the rest is history.

There was my biological father – who had an affair with my mother while he was engaged to the woman who he calls his wife to this day. A woman who does not know I even exist (but that is a different story for another day). Then there was my step-father who was beyond messed up from his own horrific childhood. Who prided himself on never beating his woman, but failed to see the emotional torment he put her through. She was absolutely terrified of him.

The day he punched me in the face and almost broke my nose freed me from that world

It was my chance to get out, and even though I was only fifteen, I knew I had to grab it with both my bloody hands. I was literally covered in blood, looked like I had been shot.

She was in pieces. Didn’t want me to leave but knew that I had to. You see that punch in the face was the mere icing on the top of a huge, multi layered cake made exclusively of shit. The constant moving which had screwed up my education. The boys who abused me as a small child. The boy from my school who molested me at a sleepover and bragged about it to his mates (the shame of which led to an overdose). The chronically stressful life that had been put upon me by the grown ups who acted like anything but.

She knew I had to leave, but can you imagine the pain of allowing your teenage daughter to walk out the door? With no schooling behind her. With hardly any money in her pocket. Just the hope that she would be safe at your sisters house, even though her husband at the time was a predator you did not trust?

Trouble is, even after I left home I was perpetually called upon to be her saviour. When the electricity had been cut off for the umpteenth time, I would send money. When she was at her wits’ end with my half brother, I would rush back. When my half-sister was suicidal because she was bullied at school, I would be there for them all. And in the end those relationships became beyond toxic. They saw me as good old Reneé. I’d always be there for them, no matter how badly they treated me.

mother's dayI don’t hold grudges these days. I used to, but writing Become the Best You helped me let go of the last of those feelings

I don’t look back upon those days in anger, I just feel sad about them (and mostly for her). There is no doubt in my mind that the decision to not have them in my life was (and is) a good one. Now that I have challenging children of my own I have more empathy for her and those days than ever before. 

And that’s the trouble with Mother’s Day. It brings it all to the surface, like the disgusting pus filled, hormone driven spot on my chin that just won’t be popped and do one. It keeps coming back, redder, with more pus than before.

So this is for all the mums out there coping with their silent battles.

Who look at the social media version of Mother’s Day and want to cry a river, even if they manage not to.

Especially the ones who are mothering without a mama, and although they have made peace with their situation, have days when it hurts like hell. 

Let’s Not Beat Around the Bush. Relationships are Damn Hard work!

Let's Not Beat Around the Bush. Relationships are Damn Hard work!To mark our seventh wedding anniversary in February, I wrote my husband this letter, where I jokingly asked if we would survive the so-called seven year itch.

We got married after being in a relationship for five years, and I was twenty weeks pregnant with our eldest daughter Polly.

We had led huge fulfilling lives before settling down. We’d travelled both independently and as a couple, and had made plenty of memories from our amazing experiences. We used to laugh until our bellies ached, eat in top restaurants, and partied many a night away. We had both sorted out our ‘shit’ (well my shit mostly). By the time we got married I had worked out who I was and what I wanted out of life. I’d been through mental breakdown, rock bottom and back, and was well on track to becoming the sort of person I once could only dream of being. I was, for the first time in my thirty years, stable, secure and happy.

By the time we tied the knot we had weathered many storms, and thought we had it all sussed out

Ultimately we were both ready for marriage and babies. Neither of us felt that we had a bucket list not being worked on, or that we’d be missing out on life by having kids. We thought that every aspect of our lives would be enriched and enhanced by them. We envisaged a healthy, unimpenetrable union, that got stronger as time went by.

Call it naivety, or wishful thinking, but never did I once consider that we would go seven years without having a full night’s sleep, and sometimes be so exhausted that I wouldn’t be able to muster the energy to even smile. Or that we’d at points go months without having sex, because when you’re averaging four broken hours per night, the only thing you want to do when you get the chance is go to sleep. Or that rather than come together as a team, we’d allow the stress from the children to get the better of us and drive a wedge between us.

I turned thirty seven in July, so perhaps it’s an inevitable age thing, but in the last few years I’ve watched as friends’ relationships have broken down and some have ended. I’ve seen couples grow apart, and a few end because of affairs. Or worse. Deception that goes far deeper than drunk indiscretions.

It feels like the once laughable, cliched midlife crisis is playing out before my very eyes

People change, we know that. When you’re in a long term relationship there will be a lot ‘sucking it up’ that has to be done, and sacrifices that have to be made for the greater good of the future. There will be times when your needs are understandably at the bottom of the pile, because other members of the family have bigger and more urgent needs that have to be met first.

BUT

Consistently putting our own needs at the bottom of the pile will do no-one any good, because that will more than likely lead to breaking point. Where you feel like screaming and want to walk out of the house and never return.

I’ve come to the conclusion that relationships are bloody hard work!

We are constantly told that the way to survive, and not end up a statistic, is by communicating with each other, so as to not allow ourselves to drift apart. We must also not allow ourselves to be tempted by other delights that might be lurking around the corner. The grass not being greener is a well documented fact after all.

The thing is, I don’t have the same naivety on my side that I once had. I know how tough things get. I learnt long ago that the answers are never found at the bottom of a bottle, yet I’ve still drunk a monumental amount of gin this summer. I know all the things I should be doing, but sometimes I can’t help myself. When sleep is in such short supply, good sense has a habit of going out the window.

Our twelve and a half year relationship is small fry in comparison to my husband’s grandparents, who celebrated their diamond anniversary a few months before his granddad passed away. It’s still a long time by today’s standards though, and is certainly worth celebrating.

Pipe dreams come and go. When the chips are down it’s worth remembering why you decided to build a life with that other person in the first place.

On that note, I’d like to leave you with this video. Seems pretty apt!  

Motherhood without a Mum

Motherhood without a mum

Motherhood is a complex subject for people like me. Mother’s Day is always a mixed bag of emotions. 

In the early days of my estrangement from my mother many people told me that I’d change my mind once I had children of my own.

As if the decision to cut ties with her and the rest of my family was made so lightly it would all just get swept under the carpet and forgotten about the second I was pregnant.

As if it had been nothing more than a minor spat that could be rectified by having a group hug and doing a bit of forgiving and forgetting.

Believe me, walking away from my family wasn’t something I did without agonising over it for years first

I don’t speak about them often, online or in real life. I grieved for them long, hard and self-destructively directly afterwards. Nowadays I don’t harbour animosity towards any of them, and I see no benefit in dredging up the past and justifying why I don’t have them around.

Not that I need to do that of course, but I’m sure it comes across that way.

It’s a strange one to get your head around isn’t it? A person claiming not to have ill feelings towards their mother, yet actively choosing to exclude them from their life. Depriving their children of an extra grandmother in the process.

“Don’t you miss your mum?”

motherhood without a mum Concerned friends have asked me this countless times over the years. I’d be lying if I said no, not at all. The fact is, I do miss not having a mum around. One who could help see me through the daily grind known as motherhood.

One who would demand to take the kids off my hands regularly so I got a break. One who could be a brightly shining positive influence for my children.

If I thought for a second that my mother was capable of these things, I wouldn’t have cut ties with her in the first place

When I put my damaged self through therapy after breakdown number one in 2002, my counsellor opened my eyes to how toxic my relationship had become with my mother. Before that I genuinely had no idea. I knew my family was far from ‘normal’, but whose is, and what is ‘normal’ anyway?

The biggest irony is that my mother had a very volatile relationship with my grandma, and she was extremely vocal throughout my childhood about that never happening with her own kids.

In lots of ways I feel sad for her, because her life wasn’t easy or fun, then to top it off she lost her eldest daughter. Not through some tragic accident or awful unfair disease, but because that daughter decided she couldn’t be around her anymore.

For the sake of her sanity, and self-preservation, she was done

Done with the lies.

Done with the dramas.

Done with her good intentions being thrown back in her face.

Done with the guilt.

Done with feeling that she was responsible for fixing everyone else’s problems and should always be doing more. Giving more. Being more.

motherhood without a mumShe was done. I was done

In April 2005 I made the toughest decision I have made to date. In my darkest, most horrendously depressed moments, where I’d feel alone in a room full of friends, I miss the idea of a mum so much it physically hurts. A superhero mum that would put her cape on and make my challenging life easier.

Then I remember the reasons I walked away in the first place

So, do I miss a mum? Yes of course. Do I miss my mum? No, sadly I don’t. Do I wish things were different? Hell yes, but they aren’t.

I’m the mum now, so rather than pine after something that doesn’t exist, I’m going to plough all my energies into being the best mum I can for my own children.

I will let my actions, not my words, do the talking.

That way, they should never feel the need to cut me out of their lives when they grow up.

 

On Mental Health and Dealing with Our Demons for the Sake of Our Kids

mental health pre kids

 

I’ve wanted to write this so many times, but have always been afraid to, just in case it was taken the wrong way and there was a backlash. This fear of others misconstruing my words has led to censorship, which is ridiculous. I can’t call myself a pro-blogger and allow myself to be censored at the same time, so I’ll be taking a big deep breath as I press the publish button.

I’d like to credit Alice who writes at The Filling Glass. After reading her brilliant piece The Chicken and Egg of Positive Parenting, these words started swirling around in my head. So here they are, come what may. 

A story about mental health

There is no beating around the bush here, when I left home and emerged into adulthood at 15, I was seriously fucked up. How could it have been any other way? Although I had a mother who loved me, she was very much reeling from her own miserable upbringing throughout mine, and made a whole load of terrible decisions that negatively impacted (damaged, destroyed, stole…) my childhood.

Lying to me about who my father was; moving so much I went to eight schools where I was often bullied; inviting randy teenage boys into our home who would take advantage of me… The list could go on and on, but this blog would end up being the length of a book.   

I could never have been described as fresh faced and innocent, but I definitely was naive, which led to me making more than a few bad decisions of my own. Especially after drinking, which I did regularly and heavily in those days. All the partying inevitably led to me having very little in the way of respect for myself, and this more than anything else perpetuated the cycle of bad decision making.

In the first decade of me living independently, I attempted suicide, suffered countless bouts of depression and anxiety, and had two full on mental breakdowns.

After the first breakdown I started seeing a counsellor who opened my eyes to how damaged I was. She also made me realise that it wasn’t my fault. This is the thing that us survivors of abuse usually carry with us you see, the guilt. I didn’t even realise until that point that I was as damaged as I was, or that I even felt guilty about my childhood, but believe me I was and I did.

She made me see that I needed to bury those demons of mine once and for all, if I were to move on and lead a happy life. 

In order to heal, we must face up to the past

My healing process was long and painful. It involved cutting ties with my entire family, and going through a second mental breakdown, which was triggered by hitting rock bottom and coming exceptionally close to losing everything I cared about.

Counselling was the very start for me, and although it highlighted a lot of my issues and why they existed, it still took me over four years to realise that my own self-destructive behaviour was at the centre of a lot of my current-day problems. Irrespective of why I was fucked up, the point is I was fucked up.

The only way I wasn’t going to be fucked up any more was by digging deep, and changing every aspect of my life that was causing me dramas. Nothing is as important as our mental health well being, but it can be difficult for us to appreciate this.

Taking responsibility for our lives not panning out the way we want them to can be a tough truth to accept, but it’s not about blame. It is about not allowing those demons to destroy our chances of happiness for a minute longer.

Everyone’s demons are different of course, and the changes they will have to make will depend on what is driving those demons. As for me, I quit partying, had a three month booze break, started eating well and doing more exercise. I disassociated myself from negative influences, and created lifelong good habits. During the course of six months, I worked relentlessly to turn my life around. It was the hardest yet most rewarding thing I had ever done at that point. 

You’ll never know how messed up someone is, until you try to love them

Exactly halfway between my two breakdowns, I met my husband. He has always been stable, confident in his own abilities and an all round rock solid guy. I still did my best to push him away though, and sabotage the chances of our relationship surviving. We broke up a few times in our earliest years, but ultimately he stuck by me and refused to accept that I was ‘too fucked up to be loved’.

The turning around of my life came after we had been together for almost three years. He proposed on our fourth anniversary, and six months later I fell pregnant with our eldest. To say we’ve faced lots of challenges since becoming a family, would be a huge understatement. From a horribly traumatic first birth (thankfully much nicer experiences second and third time!); to kids that don’t sleep; to having autism to contend with; and most recently, deciding to home educate. Once again the list could go on… 

How do you cope? 

In the six and a half years that we’ve been parents, we have certainly had our fair share of ups and downs, which is what inspired me to create this blog almost three years ago. I get asked on a regular basis how I cope, considering I have very little in the way of help day to day.

I truly believe the reason I’m able to cope as well as I do, on the small amount of sleep I get most nights, is because I went through the process of dealing with my demons when I did.

I faced up to the past, I changed the necessary and I buried those monsters good and proper. I put coping mechanisms in place that would see me through the toughest of times, and it means I am able to focus on present-day challenges. I have essentially compartmentalised the painful elements of my past, so they can’t hurt me any more. 

When I made the decision to turn my life around back in November 2006, I didn’t have a clue that I’d be implementing changes that would directly impact my mothering abilities.

That is exactly what I was doing though. 

Untitled designSo what next?

If you’re reading this and know in your heart of hearts that you have demons stemming back to your childhood, then you must acknowledge them.

The next step is to forgive yourself and anyone else you need to for them.

Then you need to let those fuckers go. You hear me?

Work out a plan to rid yourself of them once and for all.

Believe me you will have never felt lighter in your entire life.

Do it for the sake of your kids. Whether they are already here, or they’re a mere thought at the back of your mind. 

It’s going to be hard work, make no mistake about that, but it has to be done.  

I’ll be cheering from the sidelines, and wishing you all the luck in the world on your journey!  

 

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