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Judge, Jury and Toxic Grandparents

23 Jan

Growing up with a super toxic mother is hard enough. But what many people who manage to disengage from the toxicity struggle with, down the adult road, is the relentless desire of toxic moms to be in their grandkids lives.

Of course, we want our children to know all of their relatives and to be part of a loving and nurturing extended family. But what if you know your own mother is toxic? What if you are sure she will emotionally or physically damage your child? What do you do?

On the Toxic Mom Toolkit Facebook page many posters write about severing contact all together and just enduring the never-ending pleas and threats from toxic moms hell-bent on playing granny. Many people have gone through the courts to acquire restraining orders to protect their children and peaceful family life. In some cases, it can be a terrible and extended emotional battle.

What would you do if your toxic mother decided to use the courts to gain access to your children? What can you do now to protect yourself against that possible future event? I asked my friend, The Lawyer, and here’s what she said:

“This is an issue that has long bothered me as there is an inherent bias in the system. If you are MARRIED, and choose no contact with the grandparents, then the court accepts the parental decision. If you are a SINGLE parent, then grandparents can petition for visitation and/or custodial time. BS, right?”

She went on to explain that the object of the law is to allow the child access to both sides of the family, which makes sense.

“Even if the (other parent)  is a loser, doesn’t mean the child shouldn’t know the whole family. If BOTH single bio/adoptive parents agree that grandparents should NOT have access, the court will listen. If they disagree is when it gets tricky…”

My friend says, even if you are single and not a mother today, it’s never to early to start documenting what your toxic mother does when she thinks nobody can see or hear her.

“As with any court action, documentation is almost EVERYTHING. The other thing that is crucial is PRESENTATION. If a client goes in insisting that their MIL is a crazy *itch who has a crazy kid and the client her(him) self is perfect, then the court will likely ignore the client. Alternatively, if the client goes in with documentation, acts calmly and reasonable, and laments that they wish their children could have two grandmas, realizes what the children miss out on, but can document ways in which that particular grandma is toxic, then the court is likely to listen and follow the client’s wishes.”

The grandparent rights movement is gaining strength and is popping up in several countries. Think about the energy your toxic mom has and think what she’d do with it if there was an actual court process that might help her WIN access to your child. That’s why today is a good day to start documenting her behavior.

Toxic Mom Toolkit: The Top Five Things You Should Track

1. Keep a small notebook in your purse or car and document each unwanted contact from your TM. Keep records like a scientist. A typical notation could be:   Sun. May 5, 4: 15 p.m. telephone call. Insists we come for dinner. Declined. Swearing. Threatens to call CPS.

2. If your mother is ranting on the phone have your spouse, or friend, or someone you trust listen in on speaker mode. They can testify for you in court later. Record her rants if you can and save them.

3. If your mother comes to your home uninvited, ask her to leave. Document the visit in your notebook. If she won’t leave, call the cops. That will generate a police report, which you could present in court at a later date.

4. Maintain an electronic folder for your mother and keep all of her emails, IM’s, texts in one place.

5. If your mother goes to court to gain access to your children, hire a lawyer. Also immediately request a Domestic Violence worker to help you navigate the court process. Once your toxic mother starts using the courts, you will need to prepare a strong defense and hire people to push back.

Of course, you need to conduct yourself in a kind and calm manner. No matter what she says or does you cannot respond in kind. Don’t call back, don’t yell back, don’t talk back.

My final thought on this topic is that if you have a toxic mother or mother-in-law it is crucial for you and your spouse or former spouse to be on the same page on this topic. If you’ve struggled with maintaining a cordial relationship with your ex, consider building a bridge on the basis of protecting your child/children from a toxic grandparent. It could be the one thing you still agree on and it could be a beginning point for a happier co-parenting arrangement.

The Power of a Stranger’s Prayers

23 Dec

fc9362b98632056c567d6f85b5348d5dIn the weeks that followed my leaving my newspaper reporter job in 2009, I spent a lot of time at the movies.

Having practically grown up in neighborhood single screens in San Francisco, I always gravitated to red velvet chairs and dark theaters when life was a little overwhelming. I had left my job of a decade and I was toying with the idea of writing a book. As I often do, I tucked a notebook in my purse.

As a few other daytime movie fans chatted while waiting for the previews to commence, I grabbed my pen and pad and started to map out a book about surviving toxic moms. I had an idea of what stories from my life could serve as a foundation and I made a list of women I knew that I could interview on the topic.

At the other end of my row two grandmotherly women were chatting and laughing. One turned to me and asked if I was trying to get homework done before the show.

“Oh, no, I’m a writer and I’m thinking about a book I could write. I’m outlining it.”

“What would you write about?” a lady named Doris asked me.

“I know a lot about surviving toxic, terrible mothers. I think I’ll write a half memoir, half interviews with other resources, self-help kind of book,” I said.

Then they BOTH leaned towards me, and burst out laughing. One said she had the meanest mother ever – that SHE should write that book. The other said she would buy my book and would buy copies for some friends. I could see that they totally “got it.” They were the very first Toxic Mom Toolkit fans – before I even had a title, a blog or a Facebook page.

The lights dimmed and I tucked my notepad into my purse and enjoyed the movie. The theater filled up and I lost a line of sight to the encouraging senior ladies.

But as I was walking out after the movie, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Doris handing me a card with her name, address and phone number scribbled on the back.

“When you publish your book, please let me know so I can buy it. Good Luck!”

*  *  *

Two days ago, I received a huge box containing 50 copies of Toxic Mom Toolkit meant for family and friends. All of a sudden, I wanted to find Doris’ card from years ago. I kept it tucked into my computer case and often thought of her early encouragement. It was like her immediate buy-in opened a floodgate of encouragement at every step of the book writing effort.

I checked the address and realized that her home is about 10 minutes from my home, so I grabbed a warm scarf and my car keys and drove over.

Encouraging one encourages all.

Encouraging one encourages all.

When I rang the bell, the house erupted in small dog barkiness and I heard Doris shushing a pack of tiny terriers. I held the card up to the locked screen door with one hand and held my book and business card in the other hand.

“You gave me this card four years ago — in the movies. Do you remember?”

Did she remember?

“Oh, HONEY, you did it. Do you know that I’ve told that story about our meeting in the movies so many times and I’ve always prayed that you would get your book done. Look at that! Isn’t that amazing?” she said as she hugged me.

As I often do when overwhelmed by emotions, I fled at the first opportunity.

I drove away and no sooner had I turned the corner, she called me on my cell and asked me to come back and sign her book. While I was re-parking she went back in her house to get something for me.

“I volunteer at the school, so they include us in school pictures,” she explained as she handed me one of her photos as  a momento.

I thanked her again for encouraging me and told her that her prayer must be powerful. I suggested she keep praying for as many people as she can. We both got a little choked up.

* * *

“Wow, that felt good,” I said to myself as I drove back home.

Wow. That felt good.

From Zero to Book Published: 8 Women Dream Style

13 Dec
How many times...

How many times…

In 2009, I was a reporter working for a New York Times regional newspaper in Northern California’s Wine Country. With ten years of daily newsgathering under my belt, I had survived multiple rounds of brutal lay-offs and the stress was getting to me.  

I thought it might be time to take a break before I broke.

With my husband’s support, I left my job to write my memoir about growing up with three mothers: two very toxic, and one wonderful stepmother. I had a notion that I knew a lot about resilience and I could help others. I had also been collecting women’s stories for years, focusing on how they survived their own very toxic mothers.

I was aware that I should build a platform to support my book writing and research led me to 8 Women Dream and Lord-have-mercy they were coincidentally looking for a new blogger to join their slate of online dreamers. I slaved over my presentation; agonized over my story and plans — and dreams!

And after a considered vetting process I was turned down with apologies and encouragement to try again.

The Universe Gives You What You Need When You Need It

It was the most important turn down of my life. I believed what they said: That they loved my project. That they wished me well. That they wanted me to apply again.

That “rejection” fueled my early work. Not in an I’ll-show-them sort of way, but more in a Wait-till-they-see-this! way. I created a Toxic Mom Toolkit Facebook page, which I grew from 35 friends to currently over 250,000 visitors per month.

By the time it was possible to apply to be on 8 Women Dream again, I had much more to talk about and was deep into the creative process. Finally accepted as a member of 8 Women Dream, I wrote about my dream of publishing my first book.

From the platform of 8 Women Dream I found and interviewed hundreds of women from all over the world. I curated extensive Toxic Mom Toolkit questionnaires developing them into a wide range of mini-memoirs. Every person I spoke to increased and informed my work and made it richer. I realized that writing my own memoir was nice, but what would be epic would be to marry my story with a rainbow of stories, each illustrating a different type of toxic mom. And, after my year at 8 Women Dream was up, I was fueled to tackle the hard work of editing, polishing and publishing my manuscript.

Women had trusted me with their stories and told me amazing things; things they had never told another living soul. They laughed and cried with me. They also encouraged me.  I remember one lady in particular saying that each morning while she was driving she prayed for my book. For three years of writing, which included many challenges, the idea of a lady on the freeway praying for my book, kept me focused.

Starting from a broken place, with lots of help, I am now healed and an author. Along the way I’ve learned that it is in sharing our stories that we heal others.

001a4bc0827030842a71f9f2c6ec3568In a few weeks, Toxic Mom Toolkit will be published on, thanks in large part to the energy and encouragement I received from everyone at 8 Women Dream and all the people I met during my online tenure.

What I find very poignant is that my book owes so much to 8 Women Dream – literally. It seemed that as each obstacle arose – one of my friends from 8 Women Dream popped up with offers of help and encouragement. I have blogging colleagues Iman Woods to thank for creating a killer book cover and Remi Gervais to thank for taking my “sane and approachable” head shot.

It would have been great to write my memoir. But I’m so glad I opened myself up to the energy and creativity of the 8 Women Dream community. When readers hold a copy of Toxic Mom Toolkit in their hands, they may not know the story behind it. But we will. We will.

Mercy Girl: 40 Years Later

14 Oct

photoI survived my 40th high school reunion yesterday without embarrassing myself too much or giving in to the group surge of “Let’s only talk about funny-fun stuff we did!”  It was the very first invitation I had received from the school where I spent three anxious years during pretty much the worst years of my life.

I arrived as a sophomore, which was rare for a class that had bonded as little girls at Catholic grammar schools spread out all over San Francisco.

While I was away at summer camp, My Toxic Mom had thrown out all my clothes hanging in my closet, replacing them with two red-white-and-blue plaid skirts, four white Peter Pan collar style shirts, a few pairs of knee socks and one scratchy wool sweater. That’s how I knew she had enrolled me at Mercy.

Immediately exempted from attending chapel or other religious events, I was told to read in the library. And because no one ever said I couldn’t, I started reading whatever I wanted. I would lay on the carpet several hours a day and read biographies mostly, searching for lives that mirrored mine in some way.

My home life was so chaotic and unbearable that I had trouble focusing on any organized study effort. I had no understanding of cycles of a school year, that study led to quizzes and semesters meant finals. Every day was a distinct event, unconnected to the previous day or creating a path to other days. Quite frankly, because I was living in a terror-driven home, each morning I arrived at school I took a deep breath of relief that I had survived the night.

I was that kid that sat in the back, looking out the window. My low grades reflecting my state of mind. I can see how some teachers could write me off.

I had very few friends then, none of which I had kept up with. So, imagine my surprise when a woman sidled up to me like a former con I had served time with. She spoke out of the side of her mouth, telling me quickly who else might show and that she had saved some seats for us — in the back.

We were all wearing name tags with our enlarged senior photos. While we bought drinks to get through the lunch I stared at hers. I knew who she was, but didn’t really remember her very well. But she remembered me. At one point she said that she always thought that I had a hard time in school.

“Well, yah. But I had a terrible home life. I really wish I had embraced school more, but I just wasn’t able to. All the girls seemed so connected and I wasn’t part of that,” I said with a smile.

“I think you alluded to your home life once, but I had no idea it was really that rough,” she said.

“Well, kids get through it because they have no perspective. They have nothing to compare it to. It’s a blessing really,” I replied.

We kept talking about our lives now and the things that we’re passionate about and we ran into a couple of other girls who used to be part of the little group of misfits that sat on the lawn to smoke and trade stories about boys and bands and stealing our parents cars. Two of our group had babies early. I realized while we were talking that most of the girls I knew then were outsiders, one way or the other.  They had a common history of showing up randomly, looking lost, being brought into the circle, and then either leaving school suddenly, or drifting off like I did. I had forgotten that we’d flirted with guys in motorcycle gangs, that we used to hitchhike in our uniforms, that we rolled our skirts up so high the hems sat rigidly atop the seats of chairs.

All around us at the reunion, gaggles of women in groups of five or six or seven, linked their arms and bodies together and jumped up and down squealing with delight at simply being in each other’s company.  We sure didn’t. The noise and energy got to be too much for me so I walked down to the girls bathroom, the scene of so much former teen drama. The expression of reunion happiness was nauseating me.

I managed to get through a very nice chicken salad lunch with warm (cat-piss) chardonnay and a PowerPoint “in memoria” presentation of about a dozen girls in our class of 223 that have died. Then there was another show of snapshots of all the fun our class had at school plays, dances, and ski trips that I never attended. I wondered if I had been capable of signing up and showing up could I have changed my high school experience?  Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a certain sister (not a sister anymore, I heard) who once told me that I should set my sights on a career in retail. She was sure I could get a job at The Emporium Dept. store.

I went to the bathroom again.

photoAs I stood there combing my hair I was composing the hallway speech I would give to the sister informing her of everything I had accomplished in my life despite never being helped or supported or even seen  in any way. It took me awhile, but I found my life path and had built a grand life — she needed to know.

The group photo was scheduled for a few minutes hence and several women were fixing their faces. One said she couldn’t take the NOISE in that room and I agreed. As she opened the door, she turned to ask me “Are you going back in?”

“I’m not really sure I can.” I said with a smile.

But I did head back to the assembly room just as everyone was heading out double doors to the front of the school to have a professional photograph taken on risers under the school banner.

I took a few steps to join the group but stopped short. I realized that nobody needed to hear my speech, least of all the person who had never really seen me in the first place.

“I can’t do this.” I said to myself. “And I don’t have to.”

It wasn’t until I was outside near my car that it suddenly hit me that, because of the way I had parked,  I literally had to drive past the entire class of 1973 posing in the blustery cold. Everybody – or nobody – would see me leaving and I didn’t much care.

I was meeting my husband in North Beach to listen to live jazz at the Savoy Tivoli. It was our anniversary and after dinner we’d go to see Sam Shepherd’s “Buried Child” at the Magic Theater. I had faced the past and that was enough. It was time to get back to the best years of my life.

Toxic Mom Toolkit goes to Petaluma Palooza

24 Sep

d253894499584171e7a4c825fd53a904I’m two weeks into the 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.

photoSome 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.”

Toxic Mom Toolkit’s Take on Mom Money

21 Sep
Should you take money from your Toxic Mom?

Should you take money from your Toxic Mom?

I was reading Toxic Mom Toolkit emails one Sunday morning before church. I was in a little bit of a rush, but I like to check the Facebook page several times each day – just in case someone is in crisis or asking for urgent advice. Not that I love giving advice, I actually don’t think I should MUCH, but I do, because people trust me and I try to be so very, very careful.

A Friend of Ours wanted to know what she should do about an envelope she had just received from her super Toxic Mom. She said that her mother had ignored her for most of the summer, but on her daughters birthday she mailed a card. Our friend knew that there was a check inside. Should she open it? Should she send it back unopened? Should she take the money? Or should she send the money back? Money is deep stuff in terms of setting boundaries with Toxic Moms. I was sort of glad to have the time to think about it.

In allowing myself to just sit with this question, I found a solution I would be happy with and I shared it with our Friend.

417f6882171986c0d0d8dde5c4d756beThe thing about money is, it is a currency. Money has power. Money is fuel. Money defines if you are rich or you are poor. Sometimes, people use money to show you how they value you. Parents write checks for college bills. They might send money when you are ill. And when these monetary deliveries are given freely, with love and best wishes, it can be such a Godsend. But what if you have a Toxic Mother or parent and know that money is given or taken with malice? What if your parent uses money as a control tool?

For me, the challenge was to strip the power from the money without doing it in such a way that it would give a Toxic Mom “currency” for stories about the “ungrateful” or “hateful” daughter.

And here’s what I wrote:

Money is a form of control, if you take it you have to thank her. It’s hard to simply or genuinely thank a TM for money when you can feel that there’s some sort of control issue behind the money. So, what to do? Whatever you do don’t sent it back. That’s just giving her ammunition to focus her negative energy more on you. On the face of it a daughter returning a gift of money could be described as ungrateful or mean or rude, or whatever. In a sense you allow your TM to turn that money into story currency about how bad YOU are.

Here’s what I’d do:  Do you love a local charity? Do you give money to a church or a homeless shelter or any group that helps others? If it’s a check, sign it over and put it in the donate box. If it’s cash, walk into the senior center or boys & Girls club or WHATEVER and say, please use this money for something you need. And pat yourself on the back for taking something negative and turning it into something positive for your community.

THEN, pick out a pretty thank you card and thank your mother for the gift and tell her what you did with it. I would put something like: I’ve been meaning to support (this entity) for a long time and your generous gift made it possible. Thank you so much Mother.

I’d like to see her turn THAT into something negative or tell people how mean and selfish you are with that material. Plus you are creating good karma from bad and the universe always rewards that. Also, it instantly takes all the control and power out of her gift. Once she realizes that you really don’t value her money, maybe she’ll stop using it as a tool to control you.

What do you think?

Toxic Mom Toolkit Road Map

22 Jun

Did you ever manage to avoid doing something so needed, so logical, so obvious for a long, long, looooooooong time and then one day you realize, hey I need to do that?  Well, that just happened to me.

73c2c5c188380db1718b1cf3745cc640In June 2010 I launched my Toxic Mom Toolkit book writing effort and along the way I posted little videos on YouTube, created this blog and started a long learning period in my life, where the Toxic Mom Toolkit community educated me. I’ve been very attentive to visitors telling them where they can find resources individually and then it hit me like a V-8 commercial that I should put up a post that puts everything a newbie should check out all in one place.

I know. I crack myself up too.

Toxic Mom Toolkit was founded by me and I’m a real person: Rayne Wolfe. I’m a journalist who quit my job to write my first book Toxic Mom Toolkit, which is entering the publishing maze. I wrote it at my kitchen table and thats where I’m sitting when I communicate with you. And yes, we should have a book soon.

The Toxic Mom Toolkit Community resides at Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook, where we currently reach over 190,000 each month. (May I brad a little? We started with 30 people!) It is a place to get support and share experiences. It’s where our cumulative wisdom resides. The ground rules are few: Be kind, be positive, be supportive. You can vent, but try not to swear. You can post too, but please make it a positive or illustrative post.

Toxic Mom Toolkit on YouTube includes about half a dozen short videos including the Welcome Message and another popular message on Embracing Change.

579320_388462684522492_1860430887_nToxic Mom Toolkit red jelly bracelets are free to anyone who emails me at and gives me a street mailing address. I’ll send them anywhere in the world, promise. They have two messages imprinted on opposite sides: “It’s not you. It’s her” and  “Toxic Mom Toolkit. Did I mention they are FREE and that I’ve already mailed out over 600 to five continents?

When you have a toxic mother or toxic parent, it can be a lonely road. This community is here to let you know that you are far from alone.

Toxic Mom Toolkit: New and Improved Healing Affirmations

3 Jun

287526757430934790_tSMRwp6b_bMy friend Jen says affirmations are kind of dorky.  I know what she means, but I’ve compiled a long list of my most often repeated thoughts that protect me from toxic mom fall-out. They could you last a month, although I really hope nobody ever actually needs one for every single day. A rougher version of this list was posted previously, but this is the new, improved, reorganized and edited list that will go in my book, Toxic Mom Toolkit, which is nearing completion.

I do hope this version of healing affirmations, sane thoughts, and defense tactics for daughters – and sons – of toxic mothers is helpful to you.

The 5 “NO” Mantras

  • No, I won’t be doing that. No, don’t count on my being there. No, I’m done subjecting myself to your drama. No, I choose not to accept the stress. No, I have more positive things to do.

The 5 “I Cans”:

  • I can take everything negative about my mother’s life and flip it in my life. I can create a welcoming and warm home life. I can express love and encourage others daily. I can extend myself to those in need without expecting anything in return. I can prove that a life well lived is the best revenge.

34480753366585731_PbtGR1Ps_b-1When Every Day is a Toxic Day: Thoughts to Get You Through

  • My toxic mother can’t kill me. If she could, she would have already.
  • Any guilt I feel regarding my toxic mother was planted, watered and tended by my mother.
  • If my toxic mother was a co-worker or neighbor and I moved away, I’d never visit or call her again.
  • Family secrets instill guilt and shame. Am I being paid to keep family secrets? Then it’s not my job to keep them.
  • Next time I hear my mother’s voice in my head belittling me I’ll tell her out loud she’s wrong. (It’s okay. Other drivers will think you’ve got hands-free.)
  • Any mother who could be cruel to a child is not going to apologize to that child when they’ve grown up. Stop waiting for an apology that will never come.
  • As I’ve matured I’ve developed a better understanding of the choices my toxic mother made as a woman and mother.
  • My toxic mother can only intimidate me if I let her. While she’s busy trying to bully the child me, the adult me can reject her, ignore her, correct her, or report her to authorities.
  • I can’t fight crazy with crazy. Crazy is my toxic mother’s ‘hood.
  • Repeat: My toxic mother does not live in my head. She lives in her head.
  • When my relatives and friends say they can’t understand how I can treat my toxic mother the way I do, I’ll tell them the truth.
  • My toxic mother is an unnatural disaster.
  • I can laugh or I can cry. I choose to laugh.
  • I will never again hand my toxic “mom bomb” the match again.
  • On Mother’s Day, and other family holidays, I’ll focus on the positive women (and men) in my life. I’ll thank them for their caring, kindness and encouragement.
  • The cruel rule of RSVP is that the one person I hope will decline always comes. I won’t extend an invitation to my toxic mother to any event where I’d hate to actually see her.
  • Mother-daughter time is precious only if it’s positive.
  • My toxic mother deserves the one gift she never gave me: the truth.
  • My toxic mother won’t rob me of rich friendships with women who on the surface remind me of her. What are the odds my mother had an even more evil twin?
  • I will calmly stare down my toxic mom until she fears me more.
  • That which is most personal is most universal. People will understand if you simply say, “My mother is not a nice person, but I sure try to be.”
  • Whose little girl am I? I can be my own little girl. I can care for and nurture myself.

a2c4eeb15a56d43030ddd050cc04d9865 Soothing Thoughts:

  • Remember what my dad said, “Nobody can resist a joyous woman.”  Then allow yourself to feel and express joy.
  • Consider that your toxic mother may have been treated even more badly as a child than you were. (It could keep you from throwing something.)
  • There is no dishonor in retreat. Refusing to enjoin battle is a small victory when it comes to toxic mothers.
  • Amuse yourself to avoid getting sucked in. Keep an egg timer, a paper pad and pencil near the phone. Tally the lies, the guilt trips and the demands she can make in three minutes. Then hang up.
  • Keeping your children away from your toxic mother is a no-brainer. Introduce them to kind, responsible elders instead. Don’t know any? Consider visiting or volunteering with your child at a senior center or veterans home for an hour a week.
  • Honor thy mother and father? You can honor them by respecting yourself first.

The Happiness Plan for Adult Children of Toxic Parents

19 May

649b484de9e3863bdeb5ed543f6b7120I receive a lot of nice mail. But, I can’t remember a more interesting or thought-provoking message in a long time.

A Friend of Ours wrote:

Hi Rayne,

We spoke about 1.5 yrs. ago by telephone. I was a complete disaster on the phone so angered and teared up barely being able to focus whilst speaking with you. Since that time I had allowed the toxic and abusive relationship to continue until recently when my Mother created another ‘fairy-tale’ to which she fabricated stories to a family court that I absconded my child from her Father in Australia over five years ago.

Of course this story she told was simply nothing more than a story to which I, as with my ex-husband, was able to quickly clarify and provide evidence that no such thing had occurred. So without further ado my heart and mind quickly went into estrangement mode and stronger than ever before.

The only way I can describe to you in a metaphor about how this time it is for sure, is it is kind’a like getting really mad at yourself that you have made a huge mess in the kitchen and all of a sudden you start tearing through your kitchen doing what I call ‘Gorilla Cleaning’ to get through it all quickly and if anyone there is to witness this ‘Gorilla Cleaning’ they sure do know that you mean business and they wouldn’t dare stand in the way of your mission… of your Pinesol!

So now that you know I mean business I need your insight on how I might be able to structure a successful estrangement. Maybe it is my intense need to always have a plan or a map but I feel like I need a game plan of sorts. I can’t find a book or site on the web to help me and this is why I suggested that perhaps you could write a book on it?

For me, I simply cannot see myself sitting in a therapists office reciting my last 39 years of crap delivered by my Mother – I don’t want to talk about it anymore – I would like an actual Toolkit of Complete Estrangement.

I want to learn how to be REALLY happy and create more moments and loving opportunities with the abundance of friends I have because I know I don’t know how to do this all that great because I have never been taught. I do not have any other Family other than my Mother and a few distant cousins, aunts, and uncles so my estrangements make it pretty easy. I really need to find a supportive and humorous way to walk towards the future I see now that sadly I never saw before.

My only fear is that I will not know how to just be happy, Rayne, and that is such a crazy thought to get your head around unless you lived it yourself. 

0df2a3e3c3e819f3b804a305cf75c4a2Anyway, I have posted an ad on Kijiji today seeking a psychotherapist to assist me in creating a network of women that share in Mother estrangement; members will want to define their ‘happiness map’ after estrangement. I have a vision that the psychotherapist could guide and facilitate a positive approach for a group of women to create their own ‘Toxic Mom Toolkit’ so that each and every woman in the group can define boundaries, goals, and finally create what they deem to be their successful happiness destination. This is all I feel I can do until you’ve published your book Rayne 😉 lol Here is the ad link…. maybe you could share it on the FB page?

I love following your page but admittedly I have done so in privacy not wanting to broadcast it to my friends and associates… this has started change for me though 🙂

Thanks Rayne!

*     *     *

 Wow! That’s quite a communication! My first reaction is that I’m flattered that Toxic Mom Toolkit has been a part of this person’s personal journey and that since cutting contact with her toxic mom she is glad of it and doing well.

My second reaction? WOW! Does she really need such an elaborate system and network to feel confident in that decision to cut off contact with a truly toxic mother? Well, apparently, Our Friend does, and so I support her 100% in seeking what she needs to stick to her plan. I also applaud her for putting herself out there and welcoming others to create a safe environment for mutual support.

I kind of chalk this up to how sometimes we need a lot of structure to follow our bliss and other times we just GO. It’s sort of like leaving home, embarking on your life journey. Sometimes, you are so done that you buy the ticket, call the taxi and get on the boat and you never look back. Other times, you have to take a bus ride around the block, but come back home. You might have to practice longer and longer trips until you get your emotional feet under you.

My goal in founding Toxic Mom Toolkit and writing my book was to tell my story and gather others and present them with an open heart and let readers sort out what they can use. I tend to be an either/or type of personality. I CAN walk out and never look back. But I understand that every person’s situation is unique and each person must navigate the waters only they truly know.

317181e6155a7322320318d9c334c88cOur Friend wonders if she can be happy and have friends and a normal life?

My feeling is that you get out of life what you put into it. I also know the cringing self-defeating impulses that can limit adult children of toxic moms, who may have suffered abuse or neglect and have a hard time trusting others.

I love her idea of calling this journey a Happiness Map. All I can say is do what makes you happy and while you’re doing it, look up and see who else is happy doing what you like. Smile at them. Offer to help them or ask them for help. Suggest coffee or just a five-minute break and discuss your mutual passions. Friendships are built one smile, one conversation, at a time.

I was always taught by my father that love is reflected in love and took that to mean that kind relations will grow, but you have to be kind first. You have to get the ball rolling. Little by little, your social circle will expand and you will be leading a life that is lighter and happier. And for the people you know who are struggling with Toxic Mom issues, you will be a shining light.

While a group led by a therapist may be helpful I think that should only be a small part of your efforts to live life to the fullest.

1efd518489872782aa82ced329ce0a99So, what do I think is the perfect formula for No Contact? I think the formula’s solution is simply personal peace and how you get there is your job to figure out.

I hope that people find strength in knowing that they are not alone and that there is respect and mutual support available 24/7 at Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook and that our YouTube videos and the blog might also be helpful.

And always know – It’s not you. It’s her.

Attack of the Toxic Mom Clones

6 May

1624a25b88cc825db4f642e6456b0562     I don’t know about you, but more often than I care to admit, I react to women of a certain age, who look a certain way, as if they were, in fact, my deceased mother.

I was in church today and half-way through the sermon I became focused on the sweater clad back of a lady I’d never seen before. From behind, from the shoulders up, she was a physical ringer for my mother. This woman was very thin with curly short red hair (gray at the temples) and she sat straight-backed throughout the hour. I couldn’t see anything else about her appearance, yet my brain dressed her in my mother’s polyester slacks and suntan L’Egg’s knee-highs with ballroom dance style open toe shoes. My mind raced. Certainly, she wore an elaborate jade and gold ring on one hand and a white gold and diamond Elgin watch on the other, even though that piece of heirloom jewelry my father had engraved “All my love on our 10th anniversary” in 1955, was actually on my own wrist.

If looks could kill that poor lady would have been found under a pew. This, while the sermon focused on not judging others, droned on.

I smiled.

Try as I might, I still have such fear in my bones that comes out irrationally.  These episodes remind me there is still work to do.

In my past, I’ve avoided friendships with older women who reminded me of my mother. I’ve avoided women who had red hair, or who played tennis, or who loved opera, because the associations with my own toxic mother just wore me down. I found it extremely difficult to trust older women most of my life. As I’ve matured, I’ve taught myself to tamp down those thoughts of imagined connectivity. I have to tell myself, no mad scientist cloned my toxic mother. Nobody dug her up and pulled out the stake. Nobody saved her DNA in order to replicate her particular case of Mad at the World. The truth is, the only person capable of cloning my mother is me. She may have been bad, but if she continues to bring the bad out in me, aren’t I sort of doing her job for her?

There are days when my brain clones my toxic mother to ride in the car with me and criticize my driving, parallel parking, clothes, weight and massive failures in life. A tiny version of her often hides in my purse, the wrong purse for my outfit – that makes me look cheap – to strike me with pangs of inadequacy as I walk into a nice restaurant.

Although my mother has been dead for five years, she planted and tended and watered so many fears and faith in my own shortcomings that her voice still hisses in my ear; her finger still pokes me in the back with the admonition to “show whatcha’ got.”  Those are the bad days.

The good days, like today, are when I see how her early negative imprinting still loops through my mind. I smile. I recognize that my mother only lives in my head and nowhere else and I choose not to listen. I turn the channel and pat myself on the back for rising above yet another attack of the Toxic Mom Clones.