Archive | December, 2011

Eat, Pray, Cope: What Kind of Toxic Mom Do You Have?

23 Dec

How many conversations have you had with your family; how many books have you read; how many movies have you watched hoping for a few moments of enlightenment when it comes to dealing with your toxic mom?

As daughters of toxic mothers sometimes it feels like all we do is eat, pray and cope.

My dream of writing a book about surviving toxic moms will include plenty of stories on coping and directions to rich resources, like Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook. If you’re looking for help figuring out why your mom acts the way she does, I want to introduce you to a wonderful book.

Coping with your Difficult Older Parent: a Guide for Stressed-Out Children by social workers Grace Lebow and Barbara Kane (with Irwin Lebow) was published in 1999 by Quill (Harper Collins). This slim volume offers tons of information to help you decode your mother’s behavior. It also provides great information on warding off arguments, stress and guilt.

Not sure what “type” of difficult mom you’ve got?

The book includes a short multiple choice questionnaire. Maybe it’ll warm you up for my “Confessions of an Undutiful Daughter ” questionnaire found in my previous column “Got a Dream? Ask for Help.”

Here’s the link: Got A Dream? Ask For Help

And yes, I’m still collecting them; still want them.

Coping with your Difficult Older Parent ” was written by elder-care experts with the goal of educating the reader on typical problems and workable solutions. They stress kindness and communication but emphasize setting boundaries and taking care of oneself first in order to be there for a parent. They regularly recommend limiting contact, hiring helpers, making unpopular decisions (like taking dad’s car keys or moving mom into a retirement home) with step-by-step scenarios.

Instead of eating ice cream next time your toxic mom drives you to Crazy Town, try gobbling up the wisdom in these chapters.

I can’t say enough nice things about this smart book especially for those of you who would prefer to maintain some kind of relationship with a toxic mother. Here’s your guidebook.

The book commences with descriptions of basic types of difficult parents, which can help the daughters of toxic mothers get a handle on what they are dealing with. (Sometimes we are so close to our mothers we cannot see what kind of people they really are.)

The categories put forth by Lebow & Kane include:

The Dependent, The Black & White, The Negative, The Self-Centered/Vain, The Controller, The Self-Abusive/Depressed, The Fearful, and The Mourning parent.

Do you ever pray for wisdom when dealing with your mother?

How would you deal with The Dependent (or an insanely clinging and guilt inducing) mother?

Whatever you do…

  • “Don’t get angry and give your parent hell. It makes both of you feel worse and solves nothing.”
  • “Recognize that deep down your parent feels miserable. These feelings are what are at the root of difficult behaviors.”
  • “Don’t try to reason with your parent. Her behavior is not rational. Decide ahead of time what you can and cannot do.”

A lot of us with toxic mothers think of them as negative. Lebow and Kane say you can manage a black mood mama.

  • “Keep your visits with a negative parent short.”
  • “Avoid the trap of doing things with and for your parent that are most likely to bring out her negativity. Pick activities that are most pleasurable for her and for you.”
  • “Try to keep from becoming negative yourself. Negativity is contagious.”

This is the type of little self-help book that you can read in an evening or in a few minutes dig out the bits that apply to you. It’s obvious in every page that the authors know their stuff, want good outcomes for all parties and encourage readers to do the work they must to have the best family relationships possible.

Have you read a book that you can recommend to your fellow readers? That’s what the “comments” section is for. See it there? Down at the bottom? We’re all looking for answers so if you have a great book recommendation, please share.

One thing that really stuck with me while reading this book was Lebow and Kane’s theory that so many difficult parents are actually victims of their own limitations; a concept that might help you attain some level of sympathy for a toxic mother.

It could happen!

The authors acknowledge that many people have to face a simple truth:

“Giving up the hope that your parent will one day show you more acceptance and love is an extremely painful experience.”

Amen!

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Toxic Mom Toolkit – Six Holiday Survival Tips for Daughters of Toxic Moms

11 Dec

Daughters of Toxic Moms often find themselves walking on eggshells. During the HoliDAZE we’re walking on eggshells on a tightrope above a pit of lava. We don’t want to be a wet blanket. We want the people who get along with our mother to enjoy themselves. At the same time, this might be the year you feel like you’re just not going to take it anymore.

I have a few suggestions on surviving the holidays despite having a Toxic Mom. You can pick and choose, slice and dice, blend, as needed.

First, have a plan.

If holiday gatherings always end in fights or tears plan only a brief visit to wish everyone well and place presents under the tree and when your little timer goes off, leave. It will feel scary, but you’ll have created a game plan that protects you and allows you to enjoy other more joyful gatherings.

Count your blessings and give thanks.

Daughters of Toxic Moms often feel isolated where others feel part of the group. Take time to sit down with the people you love – who love you back – and count your blessings. Also take time to thank the people in your life who have loved and encouraged you over the years.

Create new Christmas traditions that will make YOU happy.

Make a big pot of cocoa, set up chairs in the driveway and invite friends over to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” projected onto the garage door. Volunteer to wrap presents for your local firehouse toy drive. Ask to adopt a needy family through your church or local homeless shelter. Donate a stack of old towels to the animal shelter.

Whatever it is that might warm your heart this Holiday Season, don’t second guess yourself or talk yourself out of it. You can create new holiday traditions that work for you.

Avoid common traps of the season.

Gift Giving: Give what you want to give, what you can afford, and what you think is appropriate. You can always send a very nice card.

Drinking and Dredging: Avoid drinking with your Toxic Mom. It can only lead to strolls down toxic memory lanes.  Tell her you’re choosing to have a sober season and if she chooses to drink you’ve got better things to do. Wish her well before you leave.

* * *

If this year turns out to be the year you absolutely can’t take it anymore?

Opt out.

You can decline invitations to homes that make you unhappy. Send a sparkling $4 card and take a deep breath. You may be missed, but you wo’t miss having a toxic mom hangover. Why not make this the year that you choose to book a lovely B&B over the holidays – or visit old friends. Heaven forbid you take a trip to a city you’ve always wanted to explore. Would it really be so bad to start the New Year with happy memories and photographs you’ll enjoy sharing?

* * *

You CAN re-define Christmas!

You could decide that December is when you finally discover that it’s Natural to Nurture: No amount of tears, conversations, or pleading will turn a toxic mom into a kind, nurturing mom. If your mother is incapable of relating to you in a welcoming and pleasant way, decide to nurture yourself. This includes allowing others to be kind to you and accepting expressions of affections gratefully. Allow yourself to value yourself. Plan a day of spa pampering, or turn off the phone ringer long enough for a home manicure. Buy flowers. Move furniture around to re-decorate for free. Make positive phone calls you’ve been meaning to make. Catch up with organizational tasks or take a day off from housekeeping to paint or create art.