Tag Archives: bad mothers

Toxic Mom Toolkit – Mending Hearts – Community Volunteering

11 Apr

May I share with you my syllabus for volunteering in the community?

I’m planning to visit my local childrens’ home with Toxic Mom Toolkit friends to teach sewing & mending to children the week before Mother’s Day. It’s one way to put a positive spin on how we are feeling around Mother’s Day; by hosting a fun learning activity for kids who may be missing their own mothers very much.

 

Mending Hearts Syllabus 

Today’s Project:

Learning to mend by sewing small hearts as keepsakes, decorations or presents. This tiny tokens can become gifts for their mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters or other loving women in their lives on Mother’s Day.

 Definition of mending:

 To restore something

to a satisfactory state.

Mending is never perfect, but it is what we do when we care about something and don’t want to throw it away.

We can mend torn clothes and we can mend friendships and relationships.

The only thing required is a willingness to do so and patience.

* * *

Materials: Pre-cut red felt hearts, material hearts, embroidery thread, stuffing, buttons, red pipe cleaners for hooks, and large embroidery needles.

Examples: Can include several finished hearts in different sizes and materials, vintage linens and books on embroidery for inspiration.

* * *

Forgiveness is the needle that knows how to mend.

 – Jewell

Toxic Mom Toolkit Journal Project – Are you really my mother?

31 Mar

Toxic Mom Toolkit Journal Project – Are you my mother?

Remember that children’s book that had the little bird that fell from its nest walking around asking every animal “Are you my mother?”

Sometimes, being the daughter of a toxic mom can make us feel a little bit like that fledgling bird. Some of us even wonder if we are our mother’s real daughters and begin searching for family secrets like adoption or cross-generational parenting.

When I was a private investigator researcher specializing in identifying the birth parents of adult adoptees it amazed me how many times a woman would discover something she felt all along: that her actual mother was her aunt or much older sister, or the family friend who stopped by every fifth Christmas.

One way to decide who your mother really is can be solved by asking yourself who really looked out for you when you were growing up. In the 20 Questions Every Daughter of a Toxic Mom Should Ask Herself blog post at 8womendream.com, I suggested that you sit down with a piece of paper and a pencil and try to write down three wonderful things your mother ever did for you.

Giving birth to you doesn’t count.

Can you think of one but not two? Can you only think of things that were really rooted in your mother’s image of you like paying for a good school or buying you designer clothes you didn’t really ask for or throwing an over the top wedding.

After compiling your list, turn that sheet of paper over.

Ask yourself: Who has done the nicest, the kindest things for me?

In my case, a boss I worked for cared for me like another daughter. He paid me well, he established a retirement fund and made me contribute to it even if he had to loan me the money to do it. He told me I was smart. He paid for my early writing classes. He told me to write because he could see I was a writer before I did.

My husband constantly does so many kind things for me from handling all the stressful stuff involved in staying solvent and keeping a peaceful home – to always texting me positive and encouraging messages and scheduling time to just talk and listen.

My friends, who know more about me than any member of my family ever did, have regularly checked on me as I went missing during the two years I worked on my book. The coffee dates, phone calls, emails and small treats that arrived in my mailbox have really encouraged me.

So, who is my mother – the one who nurtures me and wants the best for me? It was never my mother, the woman who raised me. My life has taught me that the people around me who possess those loving impulses to encourage me are mother enough.

Look at your list. Who really is your mother/encourager? Who has the power to sustain you when you are discouraged? Mother’s Day is coming on May 12th. I don’t think Hallmark makes a card for this: Happy Mother’s Day to You – Thank you for being like a mother to me. Or maybe they do? How many cards like that could you send out? Write about this in your journal. Explore the idea of mothering and how it applies to your life.

And report back!

Visit us on Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook for daily humor,

encouragement, support and positive images and ideas. 

Toxic Mom Toolkit – Media Page

30 Mar

TOXIC MOM TOOLKIT

Addressing the last taboo: talking about unbearable mothers

 NOT EVERYONE IS EXCITED ABOUT MOTHER’S DAY

 Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 13, 2012

Is it possible that not everyone is excited about Mother’s Day? For some,  Mother’s Day is the most emotional and difficult day of the year.

TOXIC MOM TOOLKIT is an online support community established by journalist Rayne Wolfe for adult daughters of toxic mothers. Reaching 45,000 visitors per month and growing, it is a daily resource for anyone endeavoring  to rise above toxic parenting.

Purpose: Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook offers support through humor, positive images and quotations, video messages and links to news stories, books and other resources. A companion blog, ToxicMomToolkit.com, provides topics for independent therapeutic journals. A Toxic Mom Toolkit YouTube channel encourages frank discussion and mutual support.

Community: With over 45,000 visitors per month Toxic Mom Toolkit connects women from all over the world who face stressful issues concerning their mothers. For many, it is the first time they have ever spoken up about dealing with a toxic mother.

Rayne Wolfe is available as a media resource or radio and television contributor on the subject of surviving toxic parenting.  Her background includes ten years as a daily news reporter for a New York Times regional newspaper in Northern California. From 2010 to 2011 she was a lead blogger at 8WomenDream.com, which focused on encouraging women to pursue their passions. In the late 1990’s her business column, “What Works,” ran in the San Francisco Chronicle and Seattle Times and other papers. She has published in numerous magazines including Glamour Magazine, has taught creative writing at Book Passage, and has read her own short stories on NPR affiliates. She is also a contributor to the Chicken Soup series – Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul.

A former Sonoma County law enforcement chaplain, she has helped families deal with the trauma of sudden loss.

She has written and is preparing her first book Toxic Mom Toolkit for publication. It includes her own memoir of growing up in 1960’s San Francisco, the daughter of three mothers: a toxic birth mother, a toxic adoptive mother and a loving step-mother. Her book includes stories of other women who grew into loving, happy and optimistic adults despite toxic mothering.

You can reach Rayne Wolfe at 707.481.7180, newsyrayne@gmail.com or message her at Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook. She is based in Northern California.

E-Publishing Loves Daughter Memoirs

25 Mar

I just finished reading Cris Beam’s short memoir Mother/Stranger about growing up with a mother so mentally ill that she told her family that her daughter was dead, when, in fact, she had just moved away for her own safety.

Beam is a creative writing professor at Columbia University who also wrote Transparent, a nonfiction book that covers seven years in the lives of four transgender teenagers, which won the Lambda Literary Award in 2008.

Mother/Stranger is one of several very short memoirs I’ve recently downloaded as Kindle reader editions. These books can run from free to 99-cents and are often less than $10. There are a ton of new biographies and memoirs written by first effort authors who have struggled with toxic mothers.

One of my other favorites is by June Cross entitled Secret Daughter: A Mixed Race Daughter and the Mother who gave her away.  When her white aspiring actress mother has a love affair with a black comedian, she first intends to keep her baby – – if it can pass for white.

But this was the 1950’s and soon, June Cross is placed with a loving black couple living in Atlantic City. Her story of bouncing back and forth between the east coast where education and hard work are valued to summers in Hollywood where all that matters is the next fun party is fascinating particularly because she loves her mother and the “Aunt” who raised her, but struggles with literally being a secret.

Cross graduates from an Ivy League school and eventually becomes a producer for the television news show Frontline. It is in telling her own story of creating a documentary about her unique experiences that she shines.

I always say that you shouldn’t be afraid of your own story and that if you have to go out and interview relatives – do it! Cross shows us how to conduct an interview, when she finally asks her own mother all of the questions that have tortured her for her entire life. I was on the edge of my seat.

I asked for a Kindle reader this Christmas and received a Kindle Fire. Having had a library card since I was six-years-old and being the type of person who visits my local branch twice a week at least, I thought I’d mainly use it to download big, long, challenging reads. But what I’ve discovered is that e-publishing is making available so many little books written by real people and at such a low-cost, instantly via Amazon.com and other providers, that I’m reading like a maniac.

These earnest little books that can be read in one setting are often less than 100 pages and feel like meeting someone on a plane or a bus. We have a tendency to tell strangers so much more than we would ever tell our own social circle, don’t we?  These books feel like a whispered conversation. Almost like we’ve found an abandoned diary and are turning pages quickly for fear its owner will return and snatch it from our hands.

The other great thing about Kindle reading is that you can highlight lines and create a treasure trove of nuggets. I was highlighting a lot of Beam’s book Mother/Stranger. For example:

“I remembered the way my mother had told her family that I was dead and wondered if they ever believed it. I thought how strange it was to be a ghost: solid enough for everyone’s projections to land and stick but too ephemeral to fight back.”

Beam has great insights into what a child must suffer through having a mother with mental illness. She also reserves great sympathy for her mother.

“After therapy or years of a safe and protected life, a person can suddenly give language to what was once only a sensory terror. That’s what happened with my mom.”

She also has a great way of looking at the big picture, at one point writing that “estrangement runs in our family.”

Whether you use a library card, a laptop, or a Kindle reader be sure to explore these new memoirs that might help you to better understand your own experience. Check out the online book descriptions and be sure to skip down to the reader reviews that often refer to additional books.

Have you read a good memoir lately? Please tell us about it in the comments section below

Happy Reading!

Toxic Mom Toolkit: You Can Laugh or You Can Cry

24 Mar

As part of the Toxic Mom Toolkit Journal Project the next question is:

When you were little what did you think was the funniest thing? What made you laugh until your stomach hurt?

My dad, the beatnik printer, used to always say with a gleam in his eye,

“You can laugh or you can cry.”

When I would take a hard fall on skates and run to him weeping and showing off a fresh scrape he had this act, this routine, that would always leave me dissolved in giggles.

“You FELL? Where? Show me where you’re hurt!” he’d say breathlessly.

He’d scan my arms and legs with his huge hands, squeezing and waving my little limbs, asking me if this or that was broken; could I still feel it?  After he determined that I wasn’t actually broken he’d demand that I take him back outside to the sidewalk in front of our house and show him the precise, exact inch of sidewalk where I landed. He was worried that if I hit it that hard I might have left a crack and the Crack Police would come and write him a ticket – which cost money.

We’d get down on our hands and knees and touching the concrete with our fingers, feel around for fissures.

My dad would point to a little normal city street crack and demand to know if I had broken the sidewalk, right there.  Maybe we could ‘pin it’ on the little neighbor kid down the block.

“His dad’s a car mechanic. He can afford to pay the Crack Police fines. Not me! Not this week!” my dad would exclaim dramatically.

The routine went on and on until our giggles attracted a little knot of neighborhood kids to help us study the cracks in the sidewalk in front of our house. My father wasn’t worried about little hairline cracks, but big divots that collected dirt and allowed weeds to grow – that would be trouble.

My father had a knack for turning childhood upsets into funny adventures. When the gold fish died we held a New Orleans funeral for it, opening umbrellas in the house and parading down the hall behind him holding the fish bowl up high then pouring it dramatically into a flushing toilet. Then we’d all applaud poor dead Leon on his way to Ocean Heaven.

My dad and I wondered aloud what flowers said to each other and why birds liked to steal penny nails. We gave inanimate objects names in order to talk about them more. We talked and giggled and used our imaginations. Kids cry. But when my dad was involved, tears quickly turned into laughter.  We learned that bad things happen, but if you let the bad go, it’s natural to find something funny about it. Laughing is a choice, a habit. It’s a gift from my father for which I am eternally grateful.

When you were little what did you think was the funniest thing? What made you laugh until your stomach hurt?

Toxic Mom Toolkit: Control Tools – What Did Your Mother Use? What Still Works?

11 Feb

As part of our ongoing journal project at Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook, here is our next question.

How did your mother control you when you were a child? What doesn’t work anymore? What still works?

Children look to their mothers for clues on how to behave. Daughters of Toxic Moms often get confusing or hurtful messages about how to behave at home or in public.

It doesn’t make sense to act one way at home – to be as quiet or invisible as a little mouse – and then be expected to smile and be talkative outside of the home. But that’s what many daughters of toxic moms had to deal with growing up.

Our mothers teach us to ignore bad behavior of adults, to lie and keep secrets and to pretend to others. It’s the reason so many of us face life-long impulses NOT to ask for help or support. Everything is always wonderful, so who needs help?

In the Toxic Mom Toolkit questionnaires I’ve grimaced reading the types of things some mothers do to control their little girls.  They can include constant demands for oaths of loyalty, sharing inappropriate adult information, lying, and pinky swears to keep awful things secrets. Rules of behavior are often enforced with delayed punishment, public embarrassment, pinches or slaps, neglect or physical abuse.

A mother’s eyes, a raised eyebrow, a curled lip, or a nervous laugh that telegraphs a threat can silence children.

What did your mother do to control you as a child? Does she still control you in these little ways? What doesn’t work any more? Why?

Toxic Mom Toolkit Journal Project: Question #5 – Riding Shotgun

3 Feb

As part of our ongoing journal project, here is our next question.

Question #5

You’re in the car with your mom and ahead of you is an all-day road trip. What would you like to tell your mom about during that long, long drive? What would you like to hear from your mom? What would you say if you knew it was the very last time you’d speak to her?

A big part of the frustration with having a toxic mom is always feeling verbally shut down. As we mature, we test the waters by asking questions or demanding answers with mixed results.

If you have a family history filled with secrets, no doubt you have many questions only parents or grandparents can answer. And it’s not enough to ask. A direct question can be deflected, ignored or twisted into an emotional bat, which will be promptly swung in your direction.

Is anything more slippery than a toxic mom?

Are toxic moms the ninjas of none’ya business?

But what if you knew you had six or more hours locked into a rental car with your mother? What if life forced you two into red Buick and set you on a flat dull road? What if you had ALL DAY to sort it out; to ask questions; to listen and take mental notes? What if you COULD call bulls–t on her?

What if you could do all that with the knowledge that it was the very last day you could ask any and all questions that weigh heavily on your heart?

What would you ask?

What would you finally tell her?

And when you arrived at your destination and parted company do you think you would feel sad or satisfied as she shrunk smaller and smaller in your rearview mirror?