Are You a ‘Bad Mom’ or a Toxic Mom?

1 Aug

7de9027451431f2f45269a6605b75693   This week it’s all about the new movie Bad Moms, in which suburban mothers gleefully go off the rails – giving their kids sugar, throwing wild parties and guzzling rot-gut booze.

My Mister reports that at restaurants and bars near the theater in our little town, groups of dressed-up girlfriends are gathering to have Bad Moms movie parties. They may even be smuggling in flasks to spike their root beers when the lights go down.

As the author of Toxic Mom Toolkit, a book that helps adult children of super toxic mothers rise above their own horrible childhoods, it got me thinking: Most women do strive to be good mothers. They do cook healthy meals, pack non-sugary snacks, and shop for ethical toys and clothes for their children. And yet, when a teen slams the bedroom door or another mother looks askance at your contribution to the bake sale, they wonder: What if I’m not a good mom?

So many people ask me if their mothers were toxic. My answer? If you say she is, I believe you. And later, if they have their own children, they’ll ask how not to repeat the pathological patterns from their own childhoods. My answer? If you’re worried about that, you’re not a toxic mother.

So what is a “toxic” mom? By toxic, I mean a mother, who for a variety of reasons (mental illness, immaturity, strange family patterns, or even jealousy) make it a life mission to be unkind to children in her care. Many times toxic mothers appear to be wonderful mothers to others, but behind closed doors they can terrorize siblings or single out one child for a lifetime of bullying.

With Bad Moms we’re introduced to the idea of great moms rejecting the obsessive restrictions that come with modern motherhood. Does that make them bad moms? Actually, I view it as super human to thumb your nose at the constant one-upping and ever growing rules of mothering. In Bad Moms it’s not only good to delete the PTA emails, it’s also fun to dance, drive a bitchin’ vintage car and soar with Whip-Its without a trip to the dentist.

Are bad moms toxic? As an expert on toxic mothering I say absolutely not. In fact, these movie bad moms will probably help a lot of wonderful mothers to focus on what really matters: to stop worrying about what others will make of your mothering and just love your kids.

 

 

 

 

Toxic Mom Toolkit on Mother’s Day Aftermath

11 May

I plan for Mother’s Day about six weeks out, give or take, and this year was no different.

And then I saw an email from a big newspaper columnist, Aisha Sultan at the St. Louis Dispatch — a REAL newspaper, as my late stepmother Robbie would say.

So I prepared for an interview, not expecting too much and not reading too much into our very nice conversation. (I try not to get ramped up, or wonder if someone thinks I’m crazy, or angry, or…you know.)

And then it seemed that the conversation was so interesting to Sultan that her column became focused solely on Toxic Mom Toolkit, the book, the Facebook community, and the blog and that was a very, very good thing. (And scary.)

At the same time, Mother’s Day led a lot of newbies to our sites and I started receiving Questionnaires from Guys, from far-flung places and full of juicy stuff, and that was a really good thing.

So I started thanking Guy Friends of Ours and printing their stories out on paper and highlighting lines while I watched Game of Thrones. With a yellow highlighter and a six color pen I drew comparisons and found common threads and that got me very excited about the book I’m doing for men about surviving and thriving after growing up with a toxic mom.

All along I was putting up pre-Mother’s Day warnings on Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook to get enough sleep and said eat your vegetables like I always do. I know the drill. I’ve helped our community brace for Mother’s day since 2013 when Toxic Mom Toolkit hit Amazon a few days before Christmas.

Did I take my own advice on sleep and vegetables? Not much.

Did I have other big things going on in my family at the very same time? Oh yeah.

But isn’t that the way life always is? Everything at once. And then someone from a big metropolitan city in Canada, messaged me, saying, hey, did you see this American newspaper column all about you? Oh, you mean the one I thought was running on Mother’s Day, but was actually a Thursday column?

So that was exciting – to think – I have this big surprise for Mother’s Day Sunday. Oh wait. No, Thursday, three days early. It’s like a plot change and it’s all good and happy and wonderful for me – not to mention possibly reaching people who really need Toxic Mom Toolkit – so I just got up early and stayed up late and responded to every single comment and watched my Facebook data swell and crest at about triple the normal activity.

And then the personal emails started. Like this one from a blogger I featured:

“Thank you so much for what you do at Toxic Mom Toolkit. It’s so nice not to be alone. Especially as Mother’s Day is approaching! So much of what you say speaks to my situation.”

Mother’s Day came and we all survived by posting supportive messages and images and sticking together. I only had to ban one toxic mom all day.

And just as I was about to turn off the laptop late Sunday night, this came in from a Friend of Ours in London, sent to me privately, to be posted on Facebook:

I finally walked into a police station yesterday and reported historical physical and emotional child abuse at the hands of my TM (toxic mom) yesterday. The investigation is going to be quite long but I’m interested to know if anyone here has ever done the same?”

Which reminded me that this isn’t a hobby blog for me. It’s not about pushing book sales (although, please do buy one or ask your branch Librarian to order it for you.) This is about real people’s real lives and family relationships and it’s important.

As I said, I plan for Mother’s Day about six weeks out, give or take, and this year was no different.

Until just this evening, while checking my email when I saw a note from a very cute guy I dated for five minutes decades ago. (I wish it had been longer.) He’s known me from 35 to 60 and my stomach still flutters when I see his name.

His mother had just died. Did he ever tell me she was really toxic, just terrible? Could I send him the Guys Questionnaire?

And then I thought I better mail him a book. In a plain brown wrapper. First thing, tomorrow. Right after the I finish the bi-monthly bracelet mailing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Toxic Mom Toolkit Pen Pal: Dear UncleAuntCousinJudy MomsBestFriendSinceThirdGrade:

18 Apr

0df2a3e3c3e819f3b804a305cf75c4a2DearUncle,Aunt,CousinJudy,Moms’

BestFriendSinceThirdGrade:

 

Thank you for your recent letter inviting me to reconnect with Mother.

 

I appreciate that you are writing out of concern for reuniting the family and spurred by concerns about time running out as mother ages.

 

I read your letter carefully. It reminded me that you have a very kind heart and I appreciate that about you.

 

But here’s the thing. I’m a grown up now and I have choices that I didn’t have when I was a child. Since you knew me as a child, I’ve educated myself, created a peaceful and loving family home, and I’m active in my community. I’ve also developed the perspective to understand my relationship with my mother. That you adore her and worry for her is sweet and kind. That you would extend yourself on her behalf shows what a good friend you are – and that’s a good thing. Mother needs her friends.

 

But I’m her adult child who suffered many forms of abuse while in her care. She has never explained or apologized for the trauma she inflicted upon me, despite the sun rising each morning. Although you’ve known her since before I was born, you are not informed on how she treated me in private.

 

I have built a life that I am proud of and happy with. It must seem sad that it does not include my mother. I can only assume that her past behavior is the best predictor of her future behavior towards my family and myself. My first priority is to protect myself (and my family) from her.

 

I have chosen peace over chaos, love over hate, and contentment over deep emotional pain.

 

As I would wish for anyone, I do hope she finds her peace one day. I cannot deliver that to her and I don’t choose to be near her. I ask that if you choose to stay in contact with me that you not “plead her case” or give me updates on her health or wellbeing.

 

Best,

 

Toxic Mom Toolkit is Looking For a Few Brave Men

13 Feb recite-16792--1806477120-fcgf7w

Big News! We have a new questionnaire for the guys!

Are you ready to be part of a ground-breaking anthology focusing on men and their toxic moms? Do you know a guy who has struggled with a toxic mom? Here’s the starting point. Here’s the official questionnaire!

 

TOXIC MOM TOOLKIT: THE GUY’S QUESTIONNAIRE

Instructions: Please copy the entire questionnaire and type your answers underneath each question. When you’ve completed the questionnaire, please copy and email to newsyrayne@gmail.com with a note on how to contact you, if I have follow-up questions. These questionnaires are for my eyes only. They will not be reproduced in any way or posted anywhere. If your story is included in the Anthology, we will decide together how to describe you. In Toxic Mom Toolkit, we used initials and birth year. As editor, I need to know that you are a real person and I need a way to contact you. Thank you!

 

  • Tell me about you. What year where you born and where does your birth fit in among siblings? Please provide a basic description of your parents/family. What did your parents do for a living? What activities were important to them? Did your family grow through adoption or foster placement? *Where do you live now?

 

 

  • Describe the arc of your academic and professional life to present. What is your current occupation? If you volunteer in your community, how often? Doing what?

 

 

  • Describe the relationship with your mother in three segments: as a child, a teen and young adult.

 

 

  • How old were you when you first realized your mother was different than other mothers?

 

 

  • What is your biggest criticism of your mother?

 

 

  • What would she criticize about you?

 

 

  • Describe any significant periods of estrangement. How easy (or difficult) was it to limit (or cut off) contact?

 

 

  • How has your relationship with your mother affected your relationships with others?

 

 

  • Describe your relationship with your father. Describe your mother’s relationship with your father.

 

 

 

  • Is your mother demanding of your time? How does that make you feel?

 

 

  • Do you feel disloyal if you speak negatively about your mother?

 

 

  • Does your mother treat you as if you are expected to assume your father’s role at some point?

 

 

  • How many friends can you really talk to about your mother?

 

 

  • Describe your current family status. Do you have children? If not, why not?

 

 

  • Have you served in the military? If so, please describe your roles and postings.

 

 

  • If you have children does your mother have access to your children? Are you comfortable with that or would you like to limit contact between your mother and children? Why?

 

 

  • Describe your current relationship with your mother. Given your current levels of contact how are you viewed within your family?

 

 

  • Have you ever talked to a therapist about your mother? Was it helpful?

 

 

  • Moving forward, do you anticipate any changes in your view of your mother?

 

 

  • Do you experience personal guilt, social guilt or remorse about decisions you’ve made regarding your mother?

 

 

  • Have you felt disloyal regarding your mother?

 

 

  • As your mother ages, do you see yourself having more or less contact? Why?

 

Toxic Mom Toolkit – Call for Authors!

8 Jan

Just a quick post to let our Guy Friends that I have decided to start collecting stories of how they rose above growing up with a super toxic mom. I will have more information in the following days, (there will be a questionnaire to get you started…) but I wanted our community to know first before I put out a blast to the world. This will be an anthology that I edit and publish as a companion to my book, Toxic Mom Toolkit.

 

Did you grow up with a super toxic mother? Did you survive your childhood? Did you face challenges as you went out in the world? Did you eventually build a happy and peaceful life? A life of which you are proud? Then I need YOUR story.

 

We can publish with your name, with a pen name, with an initial, or whatever works for you. The main thing is to find inspirational stories that will help others heal. Can I deal you in?

#blogging101#rayne-wolfe#sons-and-toxic-moms#toxic-mom-toolkit-on-facebook#toxic-mom-toolkit-the-guys-anthology#toxic-mothers#writing-opportunities

 

Blogging 101: Who is Rayne Wolfe And Why Is She Blogging About Toxic Mothers?

6 Jan

cropped-4-up-on-2011-04-15-at-17-47-4.jpgToxicMomToolkit.com, the blog, was started in 2009 as I began to write my memoir, Toxic Mom Toolkit. I started the blog as a place to be found by others who also struggle with having super toxic mothers. I needed a place to ask questions, create community, and a platform to conduct Totally Unscientific Surveys, like how many others survived the wooden spoon. (No way! You too?)

 

With a lot of author friends, I knew that writing a book can be isolating. What started as a one- or two-year project grew into a three-year slog that taught me why so many writers drink. I put on weight. I chopped off my hair. I took four months to write two pages on sexual abuse. It was a laugh riot at my kitchen table in Petaluma, California, let me tell you.

 

By 2013, after a year of editing and listening to Test Readers, I decided to self-publish on Amazon. A very famous New York City agent, (who hadn’t spoken to her own mother for over 30 years) told me I’d be crazy not to. She pointed out that I had grown my own readers by letting people peek at the process through Facebook, Pinterest and this blog.

 

Along the way, I haven’t always been on track with blogging. Not that it’s hard for me; it’s just one extra thing. I was looking for a way to improve my attitude about blogging when WordPress.com offered an online course called Blogging 101. Lesson Number One? Introduce yourself.

 

Dec Jan 2011 roof bathroom dogs 317And since I’ve been blogging for a long time, that seemed sort silly until I remembered something I learned in the newsroom.

 

When assignments are being handed out, there is sometimes a real “groaner” story on an annual bake sale or the fire station blood drive, or deer hunting season. I forget the specific story, but I remember letting out a long groan once over a story like that. An editor took me aside.

 

“Write it for the person who moved here yesterday,” he said with a pat on my shoulder.

 

Newspapers cover small town parades, hunting season and blood drives every year and if you see it as a reporting opportunity instead of a drag, your story will be richer.  When I blog, I should always remember the new person who just Googled: “terrible mother” or ” toxic parent” while crying over the keyboard, who landed here.

 

So, if Blogging 101 said introduce yourself, I’m going to do that – and more. I’m also going to tell you what I’m working on (in addition to blogging) – next.

 

photoI am currently at work on a second book about going no contact. The working title is Toxic Mom Toolkit: The Final Plan. I’m guessing it will take about six months, which probably means at least a year and certainly another bad haircut just when it’s grown out long enough for a French twist. In the New Year I would also like to do some work to produce something for the sons of toxic mothers. Hint-hint: I’m looking for guys ready to tell their stories to me.

 

Through my blog I know that there are so many people out there just waiting for an opportunity to contribute to the collective knowledge on this topic. The first brave story contributors (all women) led the way, and I hope that the 7% of our male community feels ready to tell their stories this year.

 

And I’ll be blogging about it – more often that usual – so please sign up to get email notices when new blog posts go up.

 

 

 

 

 

Toxic Mom Toolkit: The Key to Unlocking Family Secrets

30 Oct

de0abd008850fb6bb344a2d280c7997aIf you’re like me you probably have a manila file folder where you keep that one ultra-complete and detail-filled work resume. Maybe you applied for a government job and it required not only your jobs and titles, but your many home addresses, too.

Complete records of our comings and goings in life are hard to come by and if something happened to that record, piecing it back together would be a real chore. It has value as a personal document and that’s why I keep it in a safe place, where I can retrieve or refer to it when I need to. You probably have something like that too.

So, why wouldn’t you want to have a similar record of your mother’s life?

As a retired newspaper reporter, I value timelines. They turn confusing stories into understandable narratives. They illuminate twists and turns. And I feel strongly that any topic in which you are interested can be illuminated with a simple timeline.

Creating Family Timelines 

When I began working on Toxic Mom Toolkit, the first thing I did was create individual timelines for each of my mothers: my awful birth mother, my horrible adopted mother and my wonderful stepmother. Then I merged them to create my mother history.

The adult children of toxic mothers can learn a lot from family timelines. They help us fill in the holes of our family history and pathologies. If your maternal line has a distinct pattern of crazy women giving birth to sane women, wouldn’t you want to know into which generation you fall? Also, very often, toxic maternal behaviors are handed down like good silverware, starting with the great-grandmother who abandoned a daughter with her mother, who abandoned her daughter, and so on, and so on, right up to you.

Themes may emerge. It is not uncommon for maternal lines to have a history of calling their daughters liars, especially on the topic of sexual abuse. With the paternal line, a habit of skipping out after the baby comes can often be tracked back for multiple generations.

Understanding why your mother behaves the way she does starts with an understanding of what happened to her in a step-by-step chronological order – in other words, with a timeline.

How to start?

First, pull your own legal documents and look at them like you’ve never seen them before. Review your own birth certificate and look at everything like Sherlock Holmes would. Who was the doctor? What city and county sealed the document? Look for the tiny boxes, where the mother indicates the order of her children. Where there children before you of which you were unaware, growing up? What are your mother’s parent’s legal names? Where did they live? What was the address that they took you home to? If you don’t have your own birth certificate, get it.

Public documents, which include birth certificates and marriage and divorce records, are a good place to continue your research. If you live near your mother, or where she grew up, you can go down to the Office of the Registrar in the city or county government center and request these documents for a low fee. They will include and confirm the name of her parents, if she had been married or had children previously and may refer you to divorce decrees, lawsuits, or family obituaries. You have a right to this material. If anyone asks, the simplest answer to why you need it is: family history.

Once you have confirmed your mother’s birthdate and birth city, you can move forward at your own pace, collecting information that may reveal unknown siblings (or siblings put up for adoption before you were born), and the identities of extended family.

Most people are born; go to grammar school, high school, a trade school or college. Follow that line. You can go to the high school and look at the yearbook for your mother’s class year. I don’t care how old she is, the school keeps them in the library.

A pregnancy lasts 39 weeks. Look at the marriage license and compare it to your own birth certificate. There is no shame in a quick marriage based on the blessing of a baby, but was this a pattern with your mother? Did she marry only to divorce quickly thereafter? Without judgment, you deserve to know the facts.

In general, most young women marry before 30; generally, they have jobs, careers, and may change marital partners along the way. By their 50’s, they are losing elder relatives and may benefit from wills or trusts (all public documents).

If your mother was born or lives in another country, you may be able to request documents, or you may need to talk to old friends of hers or elder relatives. You may never want to miss a family funeral again!

Creating a timeline overrides all the secrets your toxic mother had assumed she could enforce. And it’s an important part of taking ownership of your life story. It’s an important part of your own healing.

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