Tag Archives: difficult mothers

Mother’s Day Torture: Intensity & Duration

3 May

d4b8b64207ddace48a30acdf29ba53e8In the weeks leading up to Mother’s Day, the assault begins on tip-toes. You might notice the wall of cards go up at CVS. Suddenly, 1-800-Flowers is emailing you twice a day, hawking Mother’s Day deals. It can be like a mosquito in the room, the hum of nerves that build up around the big day. And whether you have limited contact, no contact, or some contact with lots of boundaries, the approach of Mother’s Day itself can be like an illness creeping into your bones to set up achy shop for a while.

Mother’s Day is a typical American-style holiday, trumped up by card and flower sellers, which relies heavily on manipulating consumers emotions to “remember Mom on her special day.”  But what if your mom wasn’t so special? What if your mother was a terrible mother — abusive, neglectful — and now that you’re an adult, she’s a person who has the power to hurt you with a few carefully chosen words? You may need a strategy to get through this Mother’s Day commercial-filled full-court press; the same way an alcoholic plans trips avoiding hotels with lobby bars.

Mother’s Day can be emotional. So you need to decide ahead of time if it’s going to be a long, sad slog or a few minutes of sadness with a quick recovery. It’s your choice.

Here are a few things you might want to avoid:

Television Commercials: Make the decision now to avoid Hallmark-style commercials about great mothers. There is a flower company video making the rounds that starts with a delivery person handing “mom” an iPad with a message from her soldier son stationed far away. It’s a total tear-jerker for people who have great moms and miss their moms on Mothers Day. But for the adult children of Toxic Moms, it’s doubly emotional and terribly sad to find yourself wiping your nose as the son turns into the driveway holding his mother’s flowers. This year, why not decide ahead of time to avoid these sorts of commercials? Mute or fast-forward and don’t feel guilty about it.

63f4cdda1c34d95d116714817478e606Movies: For me, it’s, I Remember Mamma, a saga about the sacrifices made by an immigrant Scandinavian mother for her children. For you, it might be Terms of Endearment or Steel Magnolias, or even August: Osage County. There will be a press of mother-themed movies from now until Mother’s Day and avoiding them is probably a good idea.

Facebook: I am really, honestly, happy for my friends who have great mothers and express their affection towards them on social media. But try not to focus on these too much, other than a quick “thumbs up.” It’s a fine line between appreciation and envy.  The moment you start comparing your friend’s great mom to your toxic mom, you are hurting yourself. You can choose not to.

Sunday Brunch: There is a huge social pressure to take your mom to brunch on Mother’s Day and restaurants ramp up with flower giveaways and free mimosas. And, you know, your work friends will be making elaborate plans and asking you about your plans to treat your mother. You are allowed to spend your Sunday any way you like. Decide ahead of time what you want to do like: exploring a hiking trail, volunteering, attending church, or getting started on Spring Cleaning. You can still have a mimosa. In fact, a pitcher of mimosas are a great way to start Spring Cleaning!

Five years into this Toxic Mom Toolkit experience, a great trend has emerged in our community around Mother’s Day and I wanted to be sure to share it with you. Don’t be afraid to express your appreciation and affection for the women (and men) in your life who have nurtured you, as a mother should. You can send mushy, loving, butterfly-covered cards and write notes to the people in your life who love you the way you truly are; who have encouraged you and helped you along the way. You can thank other adults for their ability to make you feel safe and appreciated. And, who knows, maybe one day there will be a Hallmark commercial about those kinds of relationships included in the pantheon of Mother’s Day tear-jerkers.

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Ten Weeks to Healing: Book Group Syllabus for “Toxic Mom Toolkit”

26 Feb

25051ff279428c49eea5b304698ea461If you would like to organize a book group to read and discuss Toxic Mom Toolkit have I got the syllabus for you!

In addition to a week-by-week reading plan, I am making myself available for one hour SKYPE conversations, booked in advance, at the half way point and/or conclusion, or both.

Using  Toxic Mom Toolkit to explore past trauma or continuing toxic family relations will be enhanced by a supportive circle of like-minded readers gathering in a warm and safe environment. The weekly reading schedule amount to about an hour per week and your group decides how often you meet.

This method slows down the intake of a lot of information that can trigger memories or feelings and gives each person time to work these feelings through. A group discussion also proves that – as much as it might feel like it – you are not the only one who experienced and survived these things.

Native Cover.4417111.inddYou can also request free red jelly bracelets for your reading group by emailing me at newsyrayne@gmail.com. Of course, how ever you run your group, I want to hear from you! Please encourage your readers to join Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook and to check out past blog posts at ToxicMomToolkit.com and short videos on YouTube.

This year’s Mother’s Day might be a lot easier to navigate with the support of a group of people who have experienced similar things. If you start a group soon, you might be able to finish before Mother’s Day on May 11!

Toxic Mom Toolkit is available on Amazon.com as a paperback and a Kindle edition. Check out the Reader Reviews — all are 5-stars so far.

Toxic Mom Toolkit 10-week Book Group Syllabus

Week One: Chapters 1, 2, 3 and 4.

These chapters introduce you to the author and her unique perspective. She explains what happened to her and why she decided to write Toxic Mom Toolkit. This group also introduces the first “VOICE,” women who decided to share their stories to help other readers.

Week Two: Chapters 5, 6, 7 and 8.

These chapters introduce the topic of childhood neglect and emotional and physical abuse. A self-test, “Your mother might be toxic IF…” helps the reader gain perspective about her own mother and childhood experiences.

Week Three: Chapters 9, 10, 11 and 12.

This group of chapters explores the value in family history and digging into the past. Do you know very much about your mother’s relationship with her mother? Understanding the pathology of a maternal line can unlock the mystery of why your mother treats you the way she does.

Week Four: Chapters, 13, 14, 15 and 16.

Two VOICES chapters allow us to explore mixed messages we receive from toxic mothers and the isolation one can feel around holidays. The closing chapter on Adverse Childhood Experiences is a concrete way to objectively measure your childhood trauma.

Week Five: Chapters, 17, 18, 19 and 20.

These chapters cover early childhood trauma related to family “group think,” substance abuse, as well as sexual abuse. These are hard chapters, but they lead to the next group, which include amazing tales of rising above terrible childhoods.

Week Six: Chapters, 21, 22, 23 and 24.

I could use a laugh – how about you? Chapter 21 delivers a list of things we’ve been afraid to say out loud most of our lives. Go ahead, say a few out loud! We also cover why dreams of reconciliation, while tempting, rarely materialize. Closing with perhaps my favorite VOICE of the book, “The Path to Helping Others.” How can one mini-memoir hold so much pain yet offer so much hope?

Week Seven: Chapters 25, 26, 27, 28 and 29.

This group is a sort of meditation on why facing the darkest incidents n our past can light the way towards our peaceful future. How far would you be willing to travel to unravel the mystery of your family of origin?

Week Eight: Chapters 30, 31, 32 and 33.

The “disaster sequence” of toxic mom story-telling, these chapters show us that we can tell our stories without fear. We can still love and be loved after telling our truth.

Week Nine: Chapters, 34, 35, 36 and 37.

Finally “seeing’ the story of your life is part of healing. These chapters focus on endings and grief including grieving over a mother that never really existed. You can choose how to view the stories in your life.

Week Ten: Chapters 38, 39, 40 and 41.

            What a difference one loving adult can make in the life of a neglected or abused child! These chapters tell us more about two people we’ve been curious about: Rayne Wolfe’s father and stepmother. This group of chapters also covers the feelings that having our own children can trigger.

Additional Reading: Chapter 42, the author’s full questionnaire – All of the VOICES chapters filled out a questionnaire and this is the authors. As a closing exercise you might try to fill out your own questionnaire using all the questions in this final chapter.

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.

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.

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.

Looking for a Toxic Mom Toolkit?

1 Jun

Well, you’re in the right place.

I’m Rayne Wolfe and I am writing a book about how to grow up happy and sane despite toxic parenting. I blogged about that process at http://www.8womendream.com for a year over 2010/11. I moderate a Facebook page called Toxic Mom Toolkit. That’s where you want to go for daily affirmations, positive advice, and the wisdom of other adult daughters of Toxic Moms. You might be looking for a hammer or a blow torch, but this toolkit is full of peaceful, sane, and loving tools that will make your life easier. I promise.

As the Toxic Mom Toolkit community on Facebook grew (now at 20,000 visitors per month) it became obvious that we needed a place to go deeper. We needed a safe place for adult daughters of really super bad toxic moms to explore the topic further. This is that place. If you want to create an alter identity to participate here, that’s fine with me…