Tag Archives: bad moms

My Amazing Invisible Foster Mother

14 Dec

f38c7b29352a2b24fefd6c00cda3da23I woke up from a deep dead sleep, a crazy dream tumbling around my head.

I’m not sure why I never thought about her before. After all, I had preserved the crumbled paperwork from my adopted mothers underwear drawer, with scribbled notes on feeding and weight; likes and dislikes. I knew that from birth until I was three-weeks-old, I was in someone’s care. But it wasn’t until this dream about my foster mother, who I couldn’t possibly have any memory of, that I considered the input of a caring stranger and how that might have contributed to how I am emotionally wired today.

Growing up, I never knew what exactly was wrong with my home life, yet I always felt deeply that something was very wrong. How can that be? How can a child with no perspective or life experience, living a very cloistered life, know that their mother is not quite what a mother should be?

Is it possible that a kind woman, willing to take unwanted children into her home for the few weeks it took for legal paperwork to be drawn up, home visits to be scheduled, cribs to be bought and assembled, could imprint an infant with selfless, pure love?  So much so, that the child would be able to feel it in her bones when someone else was unloving?

My foster mother’s inked notes included instructions on every single like and dislike, gathered by close observations. In those days, in addition to daily baths, a common thought and practice was that infants benefitted from daily sun “baths.” She wrote: “Sally is happiest when her skin is warm. She relaxes completely if you smooth her eyebrows.”

Goxwa paintingsI’ll always wonder if the woman who took me for those three weeks had a spirit that was so kind and loving that she gave me a standard to know – deep in my bones – when my adopted mother was cruel, neglectful. Was it her loving spirit, like a dove cooing in the distance, that kept me calm and centered during most of my childhood?

People are often fascinated that I have three mothers: my birth, adoptive and step-mother and are curious about what I learned from each woman. But maybe those facts need to be edited to include my foster mother.

The dream I had about her reminds me that in my life, I have had many mothers including numerous spiritual mothers. It is an interesting thought that an anonymous woman, willing to take in a baby for a short time, possibly imprinted that child with a gold standard for loving treatment.

I suspect her contribution was indeed great.

When Mr. Right Comes With A Toxic Mom

19 Feb

Today’s post is from a Friend of ours, who just learned a hard lesson. Do you have a story you’d like to share on Toxic Mom Toolkit? We accept short essays (500 words max.) and will help you edit. Do you have a story about a toxic mom issue? Let’s hear it!

0785ca7c51fcb7585ee6e3e503d06043WHEN MR. RIGHT COMES WITH A TOXIC MOM

I can’t believe I didn’t see it sooner! I have a Toxic Mom so I’m usually on the lookout.

There were moments where I wondered, “Is she for real?” But I swept the concerns away so it wouldn’t threaten my relationship. Looking back, I think his mom fell in love with me long before he developed feelings for me. But it seemed the closer she and I got the further away he went.

At first her keen interest in me was flattering. She wanted to know everything about how we met. Peppered in between were questions about how her son felt and acted. I took it to mean she felt I was a worthy partner for her son. Then the interest turned into seeking information and violating his privacy. And though it felt wrong, I played right into it.

I desperately wanted his family to like me. Nothing was private. Thoughts, feelings, phone calls, messages. She had to know everything that was going on.

She started making important decisions for me.

If I agreed with her we were happy and close. If I pushed back at all or disagreed she would withdraw from my life. Never an explanation. I was constantly told that I was a part of their pack yet I often felt left out. Direct questions about her hurtful behavior were met with rebuttals criticizing my sensitivity. I was told that I was imagining things. Since I’d grown up with a toxic mom I often thought, “Well. You ARE sensitive.” and I’d back down.

I started to catch on. I was in so much pain about it that I knew I had to change how much I shared with her. I’m pretty awful at doing boundaries or shutting my mouth. So it took some serious willpower! But the more I censored myself around her the less she interacted with me. The less she approved. I was less valuable to her when I didn’t divulge everything or do her bidding.

I suppose it was fitting that she was as involved in the breakup as she was in the relationship. I suppose I could thank her now.

After things were over, I realized that he wasn’t capable of loving me. That I had imagined so much based on how she described the many ways I changed his life for the better. HE never actually said those things to me.

I often addressed concerns with her. She would rationalize his behavior and what would have been red flags were pushed away.

Once it was over I could see if for what it was. And not only was my own toxic mom easier to handle, but I realized how much of my “love” was in my head. He’s got enough to deal with, he doesn’t need a relationship on top of the relationship with his mom. And I don’t need ANOTHER TM to disapprove of my life!

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 Amazon.com, 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.

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 Amazon.com 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 newsyrayne@gmail.com 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.

Grand Theft Narrative: Why We Should Question what we’ve been told Our Whole Lives

6 Feb

10be255eb16b79de5274f67dd3f4e1edI was a baby left in a garbage can.  It happens every day, you know.

When I was a little girl, my brother told me that story as we lay under a rusty pick up truck at my dad’s lot. We used to go to the lot every weekend while my dad poured the foundations of his dream house by hand. In the summer, it was scorching hot on the half-acre cleared of shade trees. We were so little that we could lay under the running board with our chins resting on our stacked fists.

“They found you, you know, in a garbage can. And they asked me if we could keep you and I said yes, even though you were dirty,” he calmly told me.

I must have been four and my brother around nine. I remember my heart sinking, and then roaring back up to my throat. I scrambled up out from under the truck and ran to my busy father, elbow deep in quick dry cement.

“Was I borned in a garbage can?” I demanded to know as tears fell and my nose began to run.

My poor father. Can you imagine?

Like Bill Cosby navigating fatherhood he asked the dumbest question possible.

Who told you that?”

In short order he assembled my brother and I side by side and went over the story my brother had hatched. Keep in mind, my brother was in the car with my parents when they drove to Social Services to pick up their adoptive baby – me. Because they had promised my brother a dog, they made a big deal about asking if getting a baby instead of a dog – just for now – was okay with him. They convinced him it was his decision.  My brother knew I was adopted. He saw my parents sign the paperwork.

“Why would you tell your sister something so mean?” My father yelled. “You dumbbell, don’t you know you’re adopted too? Maybe you’re the one who was in a garbage can?”

That’s when my brother started bawling at the shock. Apparently he had never given a moment’s thought to his own origins. Our high-pitched wails and sniffles intermingled as we wiped our faces on our shirt hems. It must have been a long day for a dad in charge of two kids under ten.

Even though my dad nixed the garbage can story it stuck with me.

There have been years when it was part of my narrative. After I found my birth mother I realized it wasn’t factually true, but morally true. My birth mother literally cast me off and if she hadn’t had other options I could have very well been one of those babies left on a bus.

6a28470ea2baaec4e9ae3f1c2df6a767The thing about family narratives, the stories we hear, the stories we repeat, the stories we whisper, is that they can tie us up, control us, lower our standards or goals and keep us from exploring the world around us. As daughters of Toxic Moms at some point we need to use our adult brains and look back at stories we’ve accepted at face value our entire lives.

We have to ask ourselves:

Is this true?

If it wasn’t true, why would someone say it?

Why was this particular thing promoted?

In the questionnaires I receive from Toxic Mom Toolkit visitors, there are usually stories about being told we aren’t smart, or pretty, or capable. We won’t amount to anything. Nobody will ever love us. Our only job is to prop up or take care of our toxic moms.

When we don’t go back and review the things we were told about ourselves as children with our adult brains we are risking accepting false information that can limit our whole lives.

A challenging exercise is to make lists of what your mother, father, grandparents, siblings, aunts/uncles, cousins and close family friends told us about our skills, talents and potential. Cross out the things that are not true or that you don’t want to be true. Then go out there and prove them wrong.

These stories are not life sentences. You can rewrite your narrative.

I have a dear friend who was told by his mother from the time he was a little boy that he was lousy at sports. So lousy, that he risked hurting himself or others if he even attempted any sort of organized sport. If he pushed to participate in things like a class ski trip, he got less than no support. He was the kid in wet jeans with chattering teeth because his mother wouldn’t buy him equipment “for just one trip.”

His father also told him that he couldn’t do anything that required using mechanics tools.

Turns out as an adult he realized that his mother’s storyline about his inability to even catch a ball started around the time that the child asked if he could join Little League. He remembers one practice where all the other kids parents came to cheer their children on. At the end of the game, families drove off together for pizza. He was the last kid there waiting for hours until his mother finally arrived. The truth of the matter was that she didn’t want to be on the hook for ball games and snacks and schedules and driving and dropping off and picking up. And so my friend was told he was bad at sports. To this day she still claims he didn’t want to play sports.

Why was he bad at anything requiring tools? I think it’s because his dad was a luxury car mechanic and wanted to be the only one capable of repairing cars. He wasn’t willing to teach, so he ridiculed.

Luckily for my friend, as an adult he started trying things he thought he might enjoy. At his gym he’s a great racquetball player and enjoys being part of a league. He loved Bruce Lee and started studying martial arts. He’s so accomplished now that he teaches kids on Saturday mornings. His students love him.

What do his parents think of all his successes at work, sports, with friends and clubs, and his endless creativity? They’re sort of amazed. They didn’t know he had it in him.

But he does. And that’s what matters.

Misery Defined: Toxic Mom Toolkit’s Top Five Tips for Surviving Seeing Your Mother after 20 Years of No Contact

19 Sep

If you are planning an oft-delayed trip to see your mother after a long no contact period, remember – it’s never what you worry about.

If you have had little or no contact with your Toxic Mother for five, ten, fifteen or twenty years, keep it simple. Just expect to be surprised.

Are you the same person you were last time you saw your mother? Probably not. So, expect your mom to be changed in some ways too. She may still be an irrational hater, an under-miner, a conspirator focused on annoying or hurting you, but her skills will have become rusty without you around to practice on.  In fact, she may no longer be able to upset you as she has in the past.

What would happen if you arrived at this dreaded meeting a whole, calm, optimistic and ready-to-laugh adult? What if this time she didn’t see the child-based fear in your eyes? What if at the first hint of old hurtful patterns you said to her, “You know what? I’ve got other things I’d rather do than go over ancient history” and you left her there with her mouth open to enjoy a matinée movie instead? So what if you flew two thousand miles to see your mother one last time and when she turned impossible you switched gears and turned the vacation into an antiquing trip instead?

Would anyone really blame you?

Here are my Top Five Tips for surviving a long-delayed Toxic Mom visit:

  1. Bring or enlist an old friend to be at your side. Toxic Mother’s hate outsiders, also known as “witnesses.”
  2. Plan to do something your mother loves even if you loathe it. Then pat yourself on the back and reward yourself with a massage, or some other treat, when you get home.
  3. Have a short list of other people or places nearby to visit.
  4. Have a short list of pleasant activities to transition to should you need to cut your visit short.
  5. Plan all mother/daughter meetings and activities in public spaces. Cops swear by it.

I hope this is helpful to you. If you have a specific challenge feel free to post questions at Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook. But please post carefully on this “open” forum. If you don’t want everyone knowing your TM business feel free to create an alter persona or e-mail me directly at newsyrayne@gmail.com. I answer every email.

TOXIC MOM TOOLKIT SYNONYM FOR LOVE: BACON

22 Jul

I was sitting on a café patio with a good friend. We were enjoying iced teas on a hot day. This friend has been super supportive of my Toxic Mom Toolkit work and has had periods in her life when she felt her own mom was toxic.

The good news for my friend is that lately she has been able to enjoy time with her mother. That has happened because my friend set up some boundaries and has learned to say “No” to her mother. She’s been amazed at how quickly her mother has adjusted to her wishes. She’s very grateful that there are nice telephone conversations and pleasant outings now with her mom.

As I was listening to my friend the best analogy for this lack of true love feeling so many daughters of toxic moms experience, which can include feelings of confusion, yearning, and pain – suddenly, hit me.

It’s like this:

You are invited to a famous fancy country club. They have all these signature dishes and drinks. Let’s say, this club invented the Bloody Mary cocktail. So, you’re thinking everything I order here is going to be fantastic: over the top.  Sort of like mother’s love, which is unconditional and all encompassing.

You take your seat at a table overlooking a sweeping bright green lawn. The birds are chirping softly. Silverware being used at other tables creates a soft sonata of happy clinks. You decide to order the famous club sandwich and the Bloody Mary. You envision perfectly toasted thin sliced bread with lettuce, turkey, bacon and just the right slather of freshly made lemon mayonnaise. Your order arrives on a gleaming gold-rimmed plate and a chilled glass placed beside it. As you adjust your napkin under your chin you notice there’s not really a lot of bacon.

Wait a minute. There’s NO bacon.

You look up and check other diner’s dishes and you see other people with the club sandwich have so much perfectly crispy bacon on their sandwiches that they are breaking off long pieces and using the stiff slices to stir their Bloody Mary’s! What is in your Bloody Mary glass? A used popsicle stick.

You politely call the waiter over and point out that the kitchen forgot your bacon. And you need a proper Bloody Mary, please. He smiles and informs you that there was no mistake. YOU don’t get bacon on your sandwich.YOU don’t get a bacon swizzle stick for your Bloody Mary.

“Get it? A Toxic Mom that withholds love or is cruel or whatever is like a club sandwich without bacon. It’s a total gyp,” I said to my friend. “And it doesn’t happen to everyone once in his or her life. But it happens to you every time you order it. Especially if you’re dying for it. Every time you seek love, approval, support, understanding, kindness from your Toxic Mom…”

“You get a club sandwich with no bacon!” my friend chimed in as we both slapped our hands down on the table top.

We laughed about bacon as a synonym for love and throughout the rest of our conversation when talking about hurtful things that her mother had done, we would pause and both say, “No bacon” and we understood each other exactly.

If you want and deserve yummy, savory, bacon/love and know you’ll never get bacon/love from your Toxic Mom why do you keep ordering it? Why do you keep paying for it? Why do you keep walking away feeling totally gypped?

How many times would you go back to that country club and order the club sandwich with the hope  you’ll get bacon before you try another restaurant and actually get bacon?

Yes, it won’t be the FANCY restaurant bacon, but there is wonderful, lovely, bacon elsewhere. There is bacon everywhere else. You can go out into the world and get all the bacon you deserve.