I swore at the age of sixteen that I would never be a mother, never put a child through the things I had suffered. Now, just over ten years later, I am a mother to three children. The road I traveled has been long and hard, and I’m not finished covering all of the distance I would like to, but I am proud to say that I am on the road to change, and that it is possible.
Most people know that children who grow up in a physically abusive household wind up living in a similar place as adults. Less talked about is the trauma of emotional and verbal abuse. Although my situation was not as bad as it could have been, thankfully, it was worse than it could have been. My mother never seriously injured my sister or myself when she was angry, but nor were her spankings simple disciplinary action. Amazingly, worse than the hitting were the words.
For years, I struggled with the concept that I could never do anything right. I was told that I was stupid, slow, useless, and, well, couldn’t do anything right. No matter how hard I tried, I could never seem to please my mother. Years later, I can recognize many influencing factors in our relationship – she was a single mom who grew up feeling unloved in her family, and had a terrible temper – and can also recognize the steps she is taking to do better with my significantly younger brother. At the time, however, the problem never seemed to be with her – it was always with me. It was always my fault.
My teen years were difficult, to say the least, and I wound up suicidal, acting out in ways to damage myself physically and emotionally. It was only after I moved away from home and – don’t roll your eyes – ‘got religious’ that I came to realize my true worth as a person.
I wish I could say that after I realized my Heavenly Father loved me, everything was okay, but it wasn’t. It took several years after that to stop trying to hurt myself emotionally. But one thing I realized is that motherhood is – or can be – a blessing. And though I don’t advise motherhood as a cure, my greatest changes started the day my daughter was born, when I realized that I really did need to shape up.
My daughter is five, and I am far from perfect. I am ashamed to admit that there are times when I feel the words “stupid" on my tongue – but I know the damage and don’t say that. I struggle to remember that she is only three…four…five, that she is not intentionally antagonizing me but behaving with the thoughtlessness that comes from being so young.
I’m not perfect, but I have hope.
And, unlike my own mother, I love being a mommy.
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