I’m two weeks into the Amazon.com publishing process with an anticipated six weeks to go before my first book, “Toxic Mom Toolkit” will drop, so I figured, why not? Why not go to my local expo, Petaluma Palooza, which invites everyone and anyone to set up a space and talk about what they are passionate about.
I started writing my book in 2010, after leaving my newspaper reporter job of nearly a decade. I wrote my book because I always said if there was a topic that I knew better than anyone else, I would have to write a book. Guess what? This is my topic. After surviving a toxic birth mother and toxic adoptive mother, I know a little bit about all sorts of Crazy Mom behaviors. I somehow managed to turn out (as Scout would say in To Kill a Mockingbird”) “PRETTY” normal. I was a mature, happy woman, with some free time and it was time to do it.
I had been told that you should also start a Facebook page when you start writing a book, to build your audience and let them watch how you do it. Which, in my case, included a lot of procrastinating, worrying and second-guessing. We started with 33 of my friends “Liking” Toxic Mom Toolkit, and, last time I checked, attract 250,000+ to the page EACH MONTH.
I was sick with nerves the night before and day of. How did I explain it to people? Real people from my town who might also see me in the market or the movies? How did I explain this mission without scaring them?
“Hi, I’m Rayne Wolfe,” I said. “I’m a Petaluma journalist and for the past three years I’ve been writing a book that will be published in six weeks. It’s called Toxic Mom Toolkit. It’s for adult children of SUPER toxic moms. It’s sort of a survival guide and part of a movement that’s moving out of the shadows.”
And then I smiled and held my breath. And here’s what people told me:
“That must have been very healing for you. Good for you. And good for helping other people.”
“GOOD LUCK with that. I know people that need that.”
“My mother… She was a WONDERFUL mother. But HER mother? Oh, what a piece of WORK,” an older man told me pointing to his wife a few feet away. “To be a young newlywed and have a mother-in-law like that? Oh, man!”
“Congratulations on giving birth to YOUR book.”
“My friend runs the Petaluma Mother’s Club. They have a book club. I’m going to tell her about your book.”
“Good luck. I really mean it. Good luck with that.”
“I grew up with a toxic mother – she was mentally ill. She was very cruel to my older sister her whole life. It was very damaging.”
“Sometimes I think my mother. She was toxic. She was very old-fashioned and stern. I try to be less so. I’ll need two copies. Do you have a card?”
“I will talk to my friend at Barnes & Noble. She runs the whole thing in the Bay Area.”
“You’re going to be HUGE! You’ll do SO well,” I was told by a local and very successful romance writer. She swore by self-publishing.
Some conversations were long, so people sat with me. Like the nurse, originally from another country, who has seen toxic mothers in the hospital controlling every aspect of either their daughter’s care or their own. She told me she is writing a Ph.D. thesis on how mothers in certain cultures are partly to blame for drug-cultures…. meaning that some mothers approve of whatever their sons do as long as they make money.
Then there was the young middle eastern photographer who walked away with two bracelets and my card. His girlfriend has a very toxic mom, he said. We had a long talk about how setting boundaries doesn’t have to be mean or stern and can include parental respect no matter how toxic the individual. That was important in his culture.
And then there was the conversation I’ll never forget with the lady whose mother was very toxic, but especially to an older sister. The mother controlled everything up to the end, even asking this woman to get suicide drugs for her. The daughter refused. The mother ended her life with assistance/information from The Hemlock Society. But before she died she recorded a two-hour tape full of anger and curses for the older daughter.
“Our mother died and a few days later my sister received this really mean tape. We both knew what it was. We had received them all our lives. She asked me, did she have to listen to it? I told her no, destroy it. Rip it up, burn it. You don’t have to listen to her any more.”