I was an accidental baby and I was never allowed to forget that when I was growing up. My 2 older sisters got all kinds of attention, caring, toys and clothes that I did not get. I left home within a few months of turning 18 and never went back. Nevertheless, when I was in my '60's and Mom started needing help and my sisters were overwhelmed I started thinking about it. I knew that the deep mother-daughter relationship that some have would not develop. (I think that if you don't have that by the age of about 12, it just isn't going to happen.) Mom has nothing worth inheriting, so financial gain was of no concern.

Ultimately, my husband and I sold our beach-side property in Delaware and moved to the farming community where Mom and my sisters live. We agreed that each of us would do only what we could do and that Mom would be able to stay at her home only as long as she could manage most of her affairs. We all draw different lines, but we have them. Sometimes there is some tension because I do less than the others do, but mostly it has been a good experience.

What did I gain? I have formed a kind of friendship with my Mom that I didn't have before. I have learned a lot about her life that explains--but does not excuse--her neglect of me in childhood. The fact is that I don't do a whole lot of work in the sense of cleaning or cooking, nor do I take her to doctor appointments (I am not on her HIPPA list and have no right to know about her medical conditions). What I did pre-COVID was take her to lunch or take lunch to her once or twice each week, take her to run errands, pick up her prescriptions, take her to the art store so she could buy felt-tip pens for her coloring books and look around at what else was there, and similar things. My only goal was to have a little fun with her. We both really enjoyed those little trips. We did, in fact, have fun together. My sisters took care of the other things at her home, I took care of shopping trips and going for drives to see the spring/summer/fall color or to look at waterfalls or lakes. We do not have the same bond she has with my older sisters, but we have developed a rather comfortable friendship. She has apologized for depriving me of some opportunities in childhood. That did not feel as good as I always thought it would. It turned out to make little difference. That was so long ago and this woman with whom I am now friends is not that woman of my childhood. Now, with COVID, I take her little things when I can, call her on the phone. I do not go into her home because I am not in her bubble but she enjoys getting little treats that I leave at her door. I move back 10 or 15 feet and we both keep our masks on and talk for a few minutes before I leave. We both look forward to getting the vaccine so we can go back to taking rides together and going for lunch.

This would not have worked if I had tried to do more than I felt that I could do for her. Sticking to a role that felt comfortable with has made an important difference. I wouldn't say that my childhood wounds have all healed, but they have been put in the past where they belong.

Another benefit of moving back into my home state has been getting reacquainted with my sisters. We were never really estranged, but I have formed much deeper understanding and friendships with my sisters. We sisters will grow old together and we share more than we used to think we shared. Among other things, we have talked about childhood events and learned how differently we experienced them. I do miss my home on the East coast, but I think that I have gained enough to make it worthwhile.

I wanted to share this and hear from others who are caring for mothers who did not care for them. What have you learned or gained from the experience? I have found that setting strict limits on my participation in her care made some measure of healing possible. Have you found similar things? Has your experience been different?

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Not all dysfunctional stories have the happy endings like yours has. I'm happy for you, that you were able to figure out what would work for you in this situation. You set your boundaries early on, and didn't veer from them. You also didn't have any false expectations as to how this was all going to play out. I'm sure that's what made the difference.

I want to end with this quote from Rick Warren's book, The Purpose Driven Life. In it he says, "You are not an accident. Your birth was no mistake or mishap, and your life is no fluke of nature. Your parents may not have planned you, but God did. He was not at all surprised by your birth. In fact, He expected it. You are alive, because God wanted to create you!"

I hope you will always remember that, and take comfort in knowing that the most High God chose you for such a time as this. May God continue to heal and bless you.
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Reply to funkygrandma59

I find your story very heartwarming. Thanks for sharing it.

I admire your outlook in this situation.

I am curious to know more if you don’t mind sharing.

You say that you moved away at 18 and never looked back. Good for you! I like your independent spirit.

How did you find out about your mom’s needs? Did you maintain contact from afar?

What was your relationship like with your father?

You seem very stable and confident. Did that come from your dad? You don’t mention him.

I can’t imagine that your confidence stems from your mom or sisters. Did you figure it out on your own?

I think it is wonderful that you hold no bitterness in your heart.

I love that you aren’t trying to fulfill a childhood dream. You are a realist in every way.

I also love that you listened to your mom’s story of her life, as an adult.

Very often as adults we are able to comprehend things that were far beyond our reach as children.

I love that you are open to having a relationship with them without depending on them for your self worth.

You seem to have a strong sense of who you are.

You are the exact type of person that I would enjoy sharing a cup of coffee with or perhaps a glass of wine.

If you wrote a book I would be first in line to buy it. Do you write or journal?

Outlooks such as yours are rare these days, very rare.

I sense a calmness in your words, a person with peace in your heart and I would love to know how you achieved this after experiencing deep pain in your childhood.

You are an inspiration and I feel that you could teach many of us quite a few lessons.

You have truly expressed to us that in some situations lemonade can be made out of lemons.

I see genuine caring in your words.

You chose this reconnection with your family.

You didn’t have to be involved in their lives and no one would judge you for checking out completely.

You are loving and forgiving and don’t waste time dwelling on the past.

It is impossible to excuse everything and hand out free passes to everyone, clearly you don’t hold grudges, nor do I. Nor are you looking for perfection. There is no utopia.

Anyway, I really enjoyed reading your posting.

Take care and may you always live with the peace in your heart that you seem to have.
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Reply to NeedHelpWithMom
LittleOrchid Jan 22, 2021
Thank you for your response. My relationship to my father was quite distant. He, too, saw my existence as a threat to the family he was struggling to support. He was a good man, but I was not within his vision of what he expected. I was a bright, curious child who never wanted to do anything wrong, but ended up doing things that turned out to be wrong. I was a trial to them.

The biggest change in my life came in my early teen years when I finally accepted the fact that my parents were not the people who could help me in my life. Recently the school district had made arrangements for special tutoring for me to accommodate my interests in math, but my mother refused to allow it. If my older sisters did not get it, I couldn't either. I quit trying to please and engage them and started looking out for myself and my own best interests. I found out what I needed to get scholarships and started working toward them in the 8th grade. I took part in the sports that interested me without asking for any input from my parents. The family doctor gave me the sports "physical" gratis and I forged the necessary papers for the school. In truth my parents didn't care if I stayed at school until 5pm every day and didn't care if I was doing track or debate club.

We did not have open hostilities. It was more a matter of all of us ignoring each other much of the time. In a way that was very good because the relationships could morph into different things.

At 17 an entirely unsuitable man asked me to marry him. I said yes. We married when I was 18, then divorced a decade later. I made my way through college and grad school with scholarships, grants, loans, work study. I was always self-supporting. I did maintain contact with my family. In fact, I always took my 2 kids to their Grandma's house for Christmas. I thought there was no reason why my distance from my mother should deprive either my sons of their grandparents nor my parents of their grandchildren. Having spent a lifetime with no closeness, no nurturing, no love, I wanted my children to know that they were surrounded by love and wanted by all their family. They never knew how distant the relationship was between my parents and me. In fact, once I was no longer part of their household, I think they thought more of me than they ever had when I was living with them.

A year after my divorce I moved East to pursue a Ph.D. program. My children went with me. I sent them to my mother's every year for Christmas and for a month during summer break. We exchanged letters and I called my sisters several times each year. I had a close budget, so I had to severely limit phone calls. During the 30+ years in which we saw little of each other, old tensions eased. Each of my sisters came to visit me at least once in the time I lived in the East. Gradually old tensions eased, though we weren't really close.

It wasn't until we were older and my 2nd husband I I were semi-retired in our beach house that Mom started to have a few difficulties. At first I just ignored the conversational bits from my older sister who was the only care-giver. My husband and I talked about the advantages of moving to the small town in Oregon where we now live--climate, lower cost of living, etc. When we decided to make the move my sisters went out of their way to ease the transition and helped in many ways.

I was always clear on the limited ways I would help in taking care of Mom. My sisters were ok with my limits, because it still took some of the load off their hands.

I wrote this post in the hopes that others might see that even a small effort, given without grudges about the past, and in hope, might give some nice rewards. I think it is key that caregivers give only what they feel capable of giving. Only in that way can both the aging parent and the adult child enjoy a relationship that is based on the present, not on the failures in the past. There is hope for peace.
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This was a lovely story to hear! I am so happy you have been able to find some balance and make some connections. Thank you for this!

I will never have a nice lunch or drive with my mother. And I’m at peace with that. I “case manage” her affairs but have no contact. The past and ongoing negativity and abuse is too much.

I guess that even with my own strict minimal participation in my mother’s affairs, I have had a lot of healing because I learned that the past will never change, and I haven’t let it impact my present. I used to wonder “why” all the time, wanting some profound answer, but I have learned that doesn’t exist! I am doing the right thing in insuring she is safe and has proper care despite everything. I have also learned that what other people think of my choices doesn’t matter. And I have learned that saying no is the best medicine.

Once again thank you for sharing your story!
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Reply to Mepowers
LittleOrchid Jan 23, 2021
I am so glad that you found a solution that works for you. So many of the details of the childhood pain are so important in figuring out what relationship can happen 50 or 60 years later. I think that the deeper the pain was, the less likely it is that it can be set aside.

I think that you were wise to move on from "why" to what is. The why is seldom profound. I found that some of the reasons that Mom was the way she was were disappointingly simple. It was much easier to meet her on basis of the present and put the past where it belonged.

I think that you made the right choice for you and that is the most important thing. Enjoy your peace, you deserve it.
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Many can take some good pointers from OP's post. The past is the past, we can't change what was. We can only deal with what IS.

Re-engaging with mother and sister's seems to have had a positive impact on the OP. No expectations of a grand welcome and forgiveness for what was. Just take what IS day to day. Being able to bring a little joy into the mother's life can bring joy to one's own life. Relish the "little" things and let the other things go.

You are a wonderful inspiration to others. Hopefully there are many who can take your lessons to heart and forge forward with their own "journeys."
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Reply to disgustedtoo
Screennamed Jan 22, 2021
Many abusive dynamics continue throughout adulthood, in ways undetectable to the victim, which keeps, the past in the present perpetually.
As an example, many manipulative abusive parents will interfere with their adult-children's lives, deliberately causing divorces, job losses, evictions, etc.

Which means that the PAST isn't always in the PAST. Hopefully assumptions that a person is stuck in the past, can be more cognizant of unknowns.

The OP, has presented a brilliant approach that has involved a serious level of detachment and research, which is a great inspiration, that is a great recipe for situations that are 100% disengaged.
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Thank you for sharing your story. That was very inspirational and I hope it will encourage people to look at their own lives and perhaps take a step out and be able to place good boundaries that will enable them to help care for elderly parents who have not been kind or been there for them. My experience was not with my own parents but my in-laws. I have been married for 33 years and for the first 20+ I tried different things to be accepted answer approved of and valued by them. Even though I became the family planner and organizer for every get together and every gift, I realized I could never do enough or do it well enough to win their approval. They were also openly critical and would make unkind remarks to me and to my children. I got to the point that I dreaded being around them, sure that they would say/do hurtful things. When I had been married about 10 years and had young children a wonderful woman who was mentoring me gave me wonderful and timely advice. She said to lay down all my past hurts at the feet of Jesus-just to consciously put them down, and choose to forgive them because dredging them back up would never satisfy. When people are hurtful, thoughtless etc, they don’t remember the incident the way you do, because it didn’t bring them pain-but it did to you and it made an imprint on your soul. When it happens repeatedly it is like it picks the scab off the wound. She encouraged me just to lay them down, cover those wounds so they could heal but to GO FORWARD with good boundaries and with courage to deal with them in the moment when they happened again. She said right when they made a thoughtless or hurtful comment to look them in the eye and say “why would you say that? that is very unkind/hurtful” and let them own it. So I did. It rewired how we interacted with each other-they were a lot more careful with their words. Unfortunately it did nothing to help with a close relationship or wanting appreciation or validation. The last straw for me was in 2011 after I planned a 50th wedding anniversary party for them at their church 3 hrs away. It was a LOT of work and coordination. They made a bog deal to “thank their church” for all the effort to do that for them. 🤦🏼‍♀️🙇🏼‍♀️🤷🏼‍♀️ I was like “OK, I’m done. From now on they are YOUR PARENTS. You do all the gifting, even ting and etc and I’ll just show up, nod and smile. The following year after a health crisis they moved back to the area where we live. because it is NOT my husband or BIL’s gifting/ability to do the organizing, etc. I did all the behind the scenes work for their care. I found them senior living apartments in their budget, and then IL apartments, and finally AL and MC. I organized all their moves, all their care. BUT they never knew it. My husband and BIL told them it was all them, and that way it wasn’t fought against/pushed back. And I was OK with that. I wasn’t doing it FOR THEM, I was doing it for my husband and BIL. There was so much freedom in letting go of the need to please my inlaws and to get any sort of appreciation from them. I was able to use my strengths to benefit my husband and make his load lighter and care for them as a by-product.
BOTH of my inlaws passed away in the past 6 weeks-my FIL first on 12/16 and my MIL a week ago today. My husband and I talked about it and neither of us have any regrets in their care or that we could/should have done differently. If I had not had boundaries for the past 10 years and changed my focus I could have come to resent HIM and all the time/effort caring for them took. Instead I looked at it as honoring and caring for HIM.
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Reply to DILKimba
NobodyGetsIt Jan 23, 2021
Dear "DILKimba,"

You handled your in-laws with maturity and from that you made wise decisions as well as heeding the advice from the woman who mentored you by laying your hurt and pain at the foot of the cross. Also, it was mature of you to let them think your husband and BIL were doing everything even though it was you working behind the scenes!

Because of that, the past 10 years you were able to see it as honoring and caring for your husband. It was a win-win for his parents, your marriage (and your BIL) and now that they are both gone, you've been able to look at it with no regrets. That will go a long way when it comes to processing your grief.

Well done and good advice to those who haven't come to that point yet.
As long as the abuse has stopped then, your situation will meet your goal of having pleasant time with her. Typically the abusive parent(s) continue their abuse often through deliberately ignoring the scapegoat, selective silent treatments, whispered insults and slandering you behind your back, which continually re-traumatizes original abuse victims/targets. Usually healing is difficult, since abusive parents only continue to target their scapegoat and the scapegoats children through out their lifetime. With that in mind, it sounds like you have psychologically grounded yourself by "giving only what you feel capable of giving," which means you won't be too surprised if the situation into a passive agressive abusive dynamic.

Cautiously, enjoy this kinder perspective and keep enjoying those little trips. Having fun together will show you that your mother has always been capable of being civil towards you, but instead she deliberately decided to abuse you and not your siblings during your lifetime. Your present-day "having fun together," likely matches the kinder childhood experiences of your siblings.

Be cautious, with understanding that, she still has that directed selective abuse within her. From a clinical perspective don't be surprised if she's complaining to your siblings about you, behind your back, since that's the modus operandi of that type of (neglecting/ignoring) passively abusive personality.

Props to you, because your approach and perspective is brilliantly insightful b/c, (as you wrote), "it has enforced needed boundaries, in a situation where limiting your participation in her care is needed for some measure of healing." Boundaries, as you understand are incredibly important again, Good on you for giving only what you feel capable of giving, on your terms.
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Reply to Screennamed
AT1234 Jan 23, 2021
That is exactly what my mom does. She spins a poor pitiful me story to others. Most of the time it blind sides me, but I’m getting better at protecting myself.
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If we had more people with your outlook, the world would be a better place.

You certainly had bumps in the road, as we all have, but you were able to find your way over those bumps without resentment or hatred. I find that so refreshing!

You do seem to have a strong support system, which definitely helps.

I am very happy to see an outcome such as yours. No doubt, you bring hope and joy to those near you. You are gracious and kind. I sense that you have found peace in your heart and soul.

Keep inspiring others.

I will never have what you have in your family due to my own individual circumstances and I have accepted it.

I so enjoy reading about those who can successfully achieve a healthy balance in their lives. It brings a smile to my face.
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Reply to NeedHelpWithMom

What a testimony of who you are! Thank you for sharing! This was inspirational! May God bless you and your family.
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Reply to Msvegan

My mother did not care for me. She was emotionally abusive. When you grow up with the knowledge that you are ugly so you will just have to try to develop a good personality. When you are close to drowning and your mother just laughs and walks away. When you go hungry because there is only enough food for the men and boys in your family, or you are told over and over that no one loves you except her. Then she does something extremely hurtful, it leaves scars. After I grew up I couldn't stand for her to touch me and I could not touch her. I promised my dad before he died in 1974 that I would take care of her, I meant it. I tried having her live with me which helped break up my marriage. I finally ran away from home.

You asked what did I do.... I spent about 6 years in therapy. The best thing I did for myself. Towards the end before she died in 2004, I was finally able to touch her. I still wasn't able to let her touch me. Because of the therapy I was able to find out why she did a lot of things she did and also let her know how I felt. These conversations coupled with my therapy helped me understand that she just did not have it in her to care about me. Like someone born blind. My brother was the golden child and he was loved, even by me.

I felt nothing for her when she died. Her last words to me were scolding ones. That figures.
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Reply to MaryKathleen
LittleOrchid Jan 24, 2021
Thank you for sharing. Therapy can be such a godsend. I, too, spent years in therapy. Several times. Each therapist helped me through some aspect of my past. I would be fine for a while, then something new would crop up. My guess is that you only thought that you were ugly because she said so, not because you actually were.

It is sad that she was so incapable of loving, she lost a lot in refusing her daughter's love. I hope you have found a good life for yourself and have found many things that you can love. I find that it is easier for me to be passionate about my home, my gardens, and similar things that to trust too much in the people around me. I do find great solace when I can find friends like my 2nd husband, my children, and a few others. Nevertheless, deep friendships are difficult for me. There is simply too much trust involved.

It is sad that your mother was so nasty, but at least you saved yourself from her poisonous tongue. I hope your own old age will be much happier and filled with loving thoughts. I hope you will find people you can love and trust.
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I’m happy for you. My mother left when I was little. Which left a deep scar that will probably never be healed. Even though she was abusive, it still left me with separation issues. (Abusive in the sense of putting my dog down for no other reason than she didn’t want it anymore. Hiding food and not feeding my sister and I, sleeping all day so that we had to get ourselves up and ready and walked to school ourselves).

I haven’t seen much of her since, although she did fight for joint custody because she said it made herself feel better (& yes I had to wait till I was 18 to get my license because she needed to co-sign and I couldn’t find her, also had difficulty leaving the country to go with extended family on vacation when I was young because I needed her permission). I’ve known for years she clearly has mental issues but she also told us she never wanted us. She never wanted children, yet she had 3... No mother Instincts what so ever. I’m completely different than her, thank God. My sister checks in on her now that she’s older and is her POA. My sister was out of house when my mother left, so technically she doesn’t have abandonment issues which makes it a little easier. She did ask me to send her toilet paper last year when stores were running out. I managed to do so, but I sent it through the mail so I wouldn’t have to see her. 😊

My mother-n-law was given away when she was little. Yet she managed to go back to her parents many years later and take care of them in their home till they passed. I admire her for doing so but I don’t think I could ever do it. Not sure how she did
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Reply to Martz06
LittleOrchid Jan 25, 2021
What a difficult time you had. It can hardly be called a childhood. I am glad to hear that you give yourself the right to not see your mother. At some point you may be able to face that, but it is perfectly alright if you choose to keep yourself to yourself. You must do whatever you can to keep yourself whole and improving. I wrote this post because I was interested in what others have faced and how they are finding their recovery in adulthood.

I think you handled the issue with the toilet paper very well. It is in small compromises like this where we can inch forward in our relationships. You took care of her needs, but put your own needs first in solving the problem. I salute you.

One of my tricks in dealing with Mom has been to take her out. This gives her a break from home (she was always a bit of a gad-about) which also relieved my sisters of running errands. On the other hand, I spent very little time in her house. Too many years of "as long as you are in my house..." has made me twitchy about being in her house for more than a few minutes. By taking Mom out in MY car, that somehow makes me the adult, the caretaker. We need to use all the tricks we can come up with to preserve our hard-earned dignity and self-respect.

I don't understand your mother-in-law either. I wish I could hear from her. It would be nice to know if she managed to become the adult in the home of her parents or if she submitted to self-sacrifice. I hope the former. It would be nice to know, perhaps she had some insight that would help us.

Take care of yourself and be proud of becoming your own person in spite of all you had to overcome. You didn't give up. That is a big thing.
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