“The way we treat our children directly impacts what they believe about themselves.” ~Ariadne Brill
Growing up I was always strange. It was often that I wondered about my inner being. I often compared my life to that of my friends, and thought they lived a much better lifestyle than mine. Both of their parents were still married and they went on vacations with the family. It was not that I was jealous or bitter, it was just that they seemed to be ‘normal’ and happy. No matter what that might mean.
Never did I ever remember my parents living together. At the age of two, my parents separated. My mother was my older sister and I lived with her for eight years.
My mother was a nurse, and we grew up in various nurses’ residences, as she did not have money to buy a house.
My mother was diagnosed with depression and it is clear that she felt completely disconnected from me on weekends and nights. You could often see her as a statue sitting in a lounge chair, or on her bed looking at TV.
Her obesity was severe and she ate only to manage her emotions. Her only reason for going out was to get to work or back home. Even when she did venture out on her own, she became anxious and was constantly concerned about the safety of everyone.
She was the kindest person I have ever known—she would give her last cent to help a needy person or animal. She was the smartest person I’ve ever met. She was an expert on everything. Her knowledge of everything was extraordinary. However, she did not believe that she was enough. She also didn’t have any self-confidence. She was insecure, self-conscious.
My father was an alcoholic womanizer. My father was a man who needed to get out there and be seen, not like my mother. He was confident and had numerous women at his feet. He was my love. I adored him and couldn’t wait for him to fetch me on a weekend to get away from my mother and sister. I felt like I was on a vacation.
My mom would always put me and my sister down. She would say we were too fat and could not go out “Imagine looking this way.” Or we were too thin—both my sister and I had anorexia nervosa at a stage in our lives.
It was essential that our clothes matched perfectly. She used to say that no woman is a decent woman if she doesn’t have matching shoes or bags. Her response was to say only prostitutes were able to wear makeup, and then she would ask us why we should degrade ourselves that way.
When we did well at school, she told us we needed to work harder and that we would never get anywhere in life if we didn’t. She told us that men were Satan’s children who only ever wanted sex from a woman and that they never loved anyone but themselves. A woman’s place was to just make a man happy while he went off to have affairs.
Starting when I was a young age, she would say, “Samantha: You cannot trust men. They’re all one.” When we got injured, she would be angry with us for showing emotion. She said that only weak people cry. She never hugged us, or told us that she loved us.
On the other side, my father treated me as a princess. My sister was a scourge and he excluded her from all things. I did not understand this behaviour until several years later. He had written her off as she had bipolar disorder, and he couldn’t deal with that.
He saw perfection in everything that I did. When he picked me up, he took me with him everywhere. This would include going to his numerous girlfriends’ houses, bars, clubs. However, I loved each moment spent with him. He never made me feel unsafe. To avoid my mother, I recall asking him for permission to stay with me.
I am not like many other people who blame their parents for what they do.
My mom did the best she could under these circumstances. Because she was raised in toxic environments, her mother did not grow up with positive role models.
My father had alcoholic parents and was beaten almost every day. He didn’t have positive role models.
In 2007, my sister took her own life because she couldn’t bear the pain anymore.
I hadn’t thought of how my childhood had impacted my adult life. I only realized this when I ended a bad relationship in March. My upbringing has influenced my choices.
This is what I know about myself at the age of forty-eight
Trust is not something I can trust, and I’m insecure. I also have no self-image or self-confidence. I wear clothes that are too big to cover up my bodies. Only once did I wear makeup was when I got married.
My work is a constant challenge that pushes me beyond my boundaries.
I have a terrible record of managing my money.
My relationships have all been disastrous—I have just had toxic people all around me all my life.
Two of my most precious children are the best thing about my life.
My first child was my son. I made a promise to myself not to be his mother. He felt loved by me and I loved to hug him. He was smart enough and good enough. I assured him that he would do his best. My second son was the same.
With this new insight and mindfulness I’m trying to shift daily my thinking. Myself That I am worthy of love and kindness, and I can be good enough.
It is impossible to do everything right, but we can try. It doesn’t matter what age we may be.
We have a choice to recognize how our upbringing affected us, heal the wounds they gave us, and break the cycle so we can raise children who believe they’re worthy of love—and Treat yourselfSending love.
Samantha Stewart is a nurse. She has a passion for animals and children, and she feels most fulfilled when being surrounded by nature. She enjoys reading, and time spent with her kids. She is very interested in the mental health of her children. Writing is something she has recently taken up and it’s been very therapeutic.
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