The Bonds Of Motherhood

I was talking to a friend of mine last night on the phone – we’ll call her T. T has a 6 year-old daughter and is divorced. She was telling me how very depressed she was because her daughter had gone away for the week with her father. T was bemoaning this, saying how she hates it every year, that she dreads her daughter being gone, saying how desperately she misses her. Then she said what, to me, borders on obsessive behaviour – while her daughter is away, T watches (not records, just watches) all her daughter’s favourite shows “in order to feel closer to her.”

Um, what? I didn’t really know what to say to that. I laughed a little bit. T said that I probably thought she was nuts (ya think?) and then we changed subjects.

I’ve always thought that T was a bit unhinged about her daughter, with an unhealthy attachment towards her that only got worse when she got divorced. I remember soon after her daughter was born, T and I were talking and she told me she was afraid to take a shower if she was home alone because she was afraid that someone would come in and steal the baby while she was in there. After the divorce, T would sleep with her daughter, saying that the child wouldn’t go to sleep on her own, but I know most of it was T and her neuroses.

T’s been in and out of therapy for depression, but this seems way beyond depression. I suffer from depression and I’m not like this. I honestly don’t think T sees anything wrong with this behaviour, that she’s not that different from most mothers. I certainly don’t get that way about my kids. I love them to bits and worry about them, probably more than some at times, but I do like to have a break from them now and then. And I would never watch Blue’s Clues or Hannah freakin’ Montana while they were gone. I’m too busy getting caught up on back episodes of Top Chef and House. (Plus? I’m really, really sick of Blue’s Clues and Hannah freakin’ Montana.)

I worry, in a resigned way, about what T is doing to her daughter. I haven’t seen them in a while (it, apparently, being too far a drive from Boston to the Pioneer Valley), but the last time I was out there, when Boo was a baby, the girl suggested that T bash Boo’s head on the floor while T was holding her. Freaked me out.

I know that T is this way with her child because she had such a horrific upbringing herself. She’s overcompensating. But in the meantime, I think she’s causing other, equally damaging problems for her daughter. It’s sad, it’s unhealthy and I don’t think there’s anything I can say that would change her behaviour.


16 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Josie
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 21:47:00

    Not to pass judegement, but the situation does not sound healthy for either of them.I’m a single Mom – have been for the past 15 yrs. Yes I miss my son when he’s gone but I look at it as both of us having the opportunity to “take a break.” We appreciate each other a little more when he comes home.Hopefully you can help her, although you have a lot on your plate as well my dear.


  2. Stomper Girl
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 22:06:00

    I’m with you. I would NEVER voluntarily watch The Wiggles or Thomas the Tank Engine, even though I can recite large chunks of both these shows off by heart.How will your friend cope when her daughter grows up and moves away. She’s got to find some balance in herself.


  3. Alley Cat
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 22:11:00

    Sometimes kids turn out all right in spite of their parents.


  4. SUEB0B
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 23:20:00

    I can’t imagine being sad when kids are gone. This is one of the 2462 reasons I am childless.


  5. JaniceNW
    Aug 15, 2007 @ 01:58:00

    I deal with depression as well and I started with depression after I lost my third son to a fatal disease when he was 10 months old. Now I kept close to my other 2 boys but I never was freaky about it. Your friend sounds obsessive/compulsive with an anxiety rider. I have huge issues with safety and kids, seatbelts, helmets, obeying the laws and still I stayed well away from the edge of the cliff. Is there any way one might suggest an evaluation?My boys are 16 and 18 now and it’s been somewhat difficult to find myself an identity after being theiat home mom since birth…but I’m in school full time. I prayed for a very long time for God to lead me to my next “mission” is life. I’m going into nursing. Kids grow up and become independent………that is why we try to help become intelligent, capable individuals. Your friend is going to crash and burn if she keeps this behavior going.Sorry if I babbled on too long…..


  6. Lara
    Aug 15, 2007 @ 02:05:00

    it’s always sad to have to watch a friend in such unhealthy behavior. it makes sense to miss her daughter, but that level of attachment is just too far.


  7. Kim
    Aug 15, 2007 @ 06:56:00

    This is exactly what my SIL does with her son. And now, she has just left for the States for three weeks to meet this guy she was introduced to over the phone by a friend of hers. And her son is all “but she said she didn’t have any money to buy me a computer” (subtext: but she has $1400 to take overseas) Basically the boy is completely screwed and its because of my SIL and how she made the boy her everything, until something better came along. And if anyone ever finds me voluntarily watching Thomas the fucking Tank Engine they have my complete permission to whack me on the head with a blunt object. Hard.


  8. LauraJ
    Aug 15, 2007 @ 07:09:00

    oh my…what a pickle…i agree with others that it is hard to watch people we care about make mistakes with thier children. i live through the same thing with relatives of mine. these people don’t get that as adults we are forming the people our children will become! i often sit and wonder what kind of adults my little relatives will be considering the amount of dysfunction they go through. big hugs for you for having such a big heart.


  9. Beck
    Aug 15, 2007 @ 07:45:00

    Okay, most of what you’re describing sounds a bit… spun, yeah. Although I must admit that when The Boy started school last year and I was feeling a bit of a pang, I’d put on the theme song to his favorite show and choke up a bit. It sounds like she needs a) some professional help managing her anxiety levels and b) some other things in her life, like a hobby or something.


  10. motherbumper
    Aug 15, 2007 @ 10:29:00

    oh wow – it sounds like control issues because she has lost control in other aspects of her life (that’s just off the top of my head). You are a good friend to be concerned and just being there is more than most people would tolerate.


  11. Chaos Control
    Aug 15, 2007 @ 11:44:00

    Definitely sad – especially for the daughter. I chose to end a friendship with my college roommate over her stifling mothering habits. I just couldn’t stand to hear about it, witness it, anything – made me so sad.


  12. Joke
    Aug 15, 2007 @ 15:48:00

    If I were you — and statistics prove I’m not — I’d start edging away from T.There is a toxicity there that may, just may, be harmful to you.-J.


  13. Stepping Over the Junk
    Aug 15, 2007 @ 18:01:00

    I agree with it seemingly being unhealthy. There is “enmeshment” going on here that isnt good. When my children go with their dad for a weekend or a week’s vacation, I always have a little time in the beginning where I feel a little funked out because I am suddenly thrown into a separate life from them and the transition is kind of strange, mentally. Emotionally, I am fine . Then I think of all I can do while they are not in my care and clean out their toys and throw stuff away, go to MY movies, get projects done, work, work out, see friends, go on dates, etc. It is a balance that I think alot of moms need and for me, I see it as a plus to being a single mother. Something else I feel when they go with their dad is a sense of guilt for feeling like I need and want that time without them. When in truth, it is exactly how it is and as single mothers, we need that. Our children are our priority, but if we cant take care of ourselves and have SOME sort of life separate from them when they are in school or whatever, what will we become as women?


  14. Alex Elliot
    Aug 15, 2007 @ 23:33:00

    That sounds like a tough situation for everyone. If she’s going in and out of therapy for help and it isn’t working, it seems like she needs a new therapist. I’m a huge House fan. I wonder what the House character would say about this situation…


  15. bec
    Aug 16, 2007 @ 02:42:00

    Oh heavens! I wouldn’t hesitate to pass judgment!! She’s a six-pack short of a carton, as we would say here, and I agree with you it’s sad and unhealthy. Probably very little you can do other than not let her bash your baby’s head on the floor!!!


  16. Fairly Odd Mother
    Aug 19, 2007 @ 13:48:00

    OMG, I don’t even watch my kids’ shows when they are home WITH me! If they were away, I would NEVER, EVER want to watch that drivel. It seems kind of sad that she sits by herself and watches the shows. Does she laugh and talk out loud to an ‘imaginary daughter’ too? That said, I also have slept with all my kids (my son is almost 3 and doesn’t even have his own room yet!), plus I homeschool, so I guess some would say I’m weird too! Maybe you could try to nuture in her a desire to do something for herself when her daughter is away? She may have just *forgotten* how to ‘turn off’ her mommyhood for a few days.


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