Tag Archives: toxic relationships

Toxic Mom Toolkit on Grief: A Passage or a Prison?

10 Feb

A dear church friend of mine died this past weekend and I’m grieving. She was a Sunday school teacher for many years. She loved to sing and taught so many children their hymns. All the children, teens, even the kids away at college, were devastated by the news of her passing. I find my eyes filling up with tears while I’m driving. I have to grab a tissue 20 times a day. For the past few days, any thought of my church family carries a sad weight. And yet, I know that in a few weeks or months, I will reflect on her life and think only good thoughts. Her memory will very likely inspire me to do more for our church and I’m sure there will be many times that I quietly, anonymously do things at church in her memory. Grief is a sad dark tunnel, but eventually you walk out into the sunshine again.

As children, our goldfish introduce us to grief. A few hours or days of remembering our pet naturally morphs into appreciation for all animals and our role in caring for them. If we forgot to feed our fish, we may suffer longer. But if a good old fish turned up floating, it was simply sad. We get through it.

And then our hearts are broken in puppy love, re-introducing grief. Perhaps one of our grandparents passes. Then a beloved teacher is suddenly swept away and our families and friends talk about loss and grief and introduce the idea of respecting each person’s unique life and our personal timetables for grief.

In adulthood, the loss of a child or a spouse or sibling is a great grief and the sympathy we receive never seems to outlast our grief. But there is an understanding that even in the worst grief, there is a turning point. Even a widow is allowed her long grieving and then we are happy for her should she remarry and rebuild a happy life.

And yet, for the adult children of toxic mothers, the grief over existing with an unloving mother is indefinite. As long as your toxic mother is living, you can feel that you are in a state of perpetual grief. When she is cruel to you, you may experience periods of deep, low-functioning grief. Or your mother grief may feel more like a low-grade flu that never ends. Grief often includes a feeling that you need to stop in your tracks; that you shouldn’t make plans; shouldn’t plan fun things. It can become a foundational feeling of great sadness that keeps you from feeling you deserve happy plans, fun trips or get-togethers with friends.

That’s why it’s important to ask yourself: When do I decide to trade in grief — over my childhood, over the stress of my current relationship with my mother, over the pervasive feeling of being cheated of a mother’s love — for hope? When do I leave my sad, dark mindset and walk into the sunshine of living my life?

If a Sunday School student had come to my late friend and expressed deep grief, she may have pointed to Matthew 5:4, Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Are you ready to consider comforting yourself regarding your toxic mom? Is your grief about your toxic mom a passage or a prison? Could you imagine the luxury of giving up your toxic mom grief?

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Blogging 101: Who is Rayne Wolfe And Why Is She Blogging About Toxic Mothers?

6 Jan

cropped-4-up-on-2011-04-15-at-17-47-4.jpgToxicMomToolkit.com, the blog, was started in 2009 as I began to write my memoir, Toxic Mom Toolkit. I started the blog as a place to be found by others who also struggle with having super toxic mothers. I needed a place to ask questions, create community, and a platform to conduct Totally Unscientific Surveys, like how many others survived the wooden spoon. (No way! You too?)

 

With a lot of author friends, I knew that writing a book can be isolating. What started as a one- or two-year project grew into a three-year slog that taught me why so many writers drink. I put on weight. I chopped off my hair. I took four months to write two pages on sexual abuse. It was a laugh riot at my kitchen table in Petaluma, California, let me tell you.

 

By 2013, after a year of editing and listening to Test Readers, I decided to self-publish on Amazon. A very famous New York City agent, (who hadn’t spoken to her own mother for over 30 years) told me I’d be crazy not to. She pointed out that I had grown my own readers by letting people peek at the process through Facebook, Pinterest and this blog.

 

Along the way, I haven’t always been on track with blogging. Not that it’s hard for me; it’s just one extra thing. I was looking for a way to improve my attitude about blogging when WordPress.com offered an online course called Blogging 101. Lesson Number One? Introduce yourself.

 

Dec Jan 2011 roof bathroom dogs 317And since I’ve been blogging for a long time, that seemed sort silly until I remembered something I learned in the newsroom.

 

When assignments are being handed out, there is sometimes a real “groaner” story on an annual bake sale or the fire station blood drive, or deer hunting season. I forget the specific story, but I remember letting out a long groan once over a story like that. An editor took me aside.

 

“Write it for the person who moved here yesterday,” he said with a pat on my shoulder.

 

Newspapers cover small town parades, hunting season and blood drives every year and if you see it as a reporting opportunity instead of a drag, your story will be richer.  When I blog, I should always remember the new person who just Googled: “terrible mother” or ” toxic parent” while crying over the keyboard, who landed here.

 

So, if Blogging 101 said introduce yourself, I’m going to do that – and more. I’m also going to tell you what I’m working on (in addition to blogging) – next.

 

photoI am currently at work on a second book about going no contact. The working title is Toxic Mom Toolkit: The Final Plan. I’m guessing it will take about six months, which probably means at least a year and certainly another bad haircut just when it’s grown out long enough for a French twist. In the New Year I would also like to do some work to produce something for the sons of toxic mothers. Hint-hint: I’m looking for guys ready to tell their stories to me.

 

Through my blog I know that there are so many people out there just waiting for an opportunity to contribute to the collective knowledge on this topic. The first brave story contributors (all women) led the way, and I hope that the 7% of our male community feels ready to tell their stories this year.

 

And I’ll be blogging about it – more often that usual – so please sign up to get email notices when new blog posts go up.

 

 

 

 

 

Toxic Mom Toolkit – Spitting Into the Wind

24 Mar

I have a very strange brag. It goes like this:

I am the only person I’ve ever met that has never looked into the eyes of another human being to whom I am related by blood.

And if you’ve read my book, Toxic MomToolkit, you know that because I was adopted and never had children that this is technically true. Although… I may have met one relative on my journey to Iowa. But I’m not sure. I can never be sure.

14b2b972a7e6e40806650e3d2e4ba11bAccording to my adoption records my birth mother and her parents are Norwegian. When I grew up and found my birth mother, the one thing that she was very cagey about was saying anything about my birth father. One time she said he was Finnish. Which, when you grow up in an agricultural area peopled by Scandinavians is plausible. But really, who is HALF Norwegian and HALF Finnish? People are all sorts of things that their grandparents and great-grandparents contributed to the gene pool.

For most of my life I’ve thought of myself as Scandinavian. My adopted mother was mostly Swedish and my adopted dad was German and English and they loved going to health spas in the Scandinavian mode with steam rooms and cold plunges and alder sapplings to beat your own back with to encourage blood flow. With straight teeth and good skin, I joke that my Viking genes have been good to me. So, am I Scandinavian? I think so.

But what if I’m not? What if I’m Irish, too? What if I’m Persian, too? Or Russian, too? Of course, the specifics, the national origin doesn’t matter so much. I already know I am a combination of things, like everyone else. What matters is knowing what everyone else takes for granted.

One of the most toxic things my birth mother ever did was to withhold half of the basic information on my nationality. I have to think that the reason she holds this information so close is because she knows I really desire to know. Is it a way for her to hurt me? Perhaps in her mind, I hurt her by being born, so this evens it out?

When I was a reporter and stories would come across the wires about DNA and proving if one person was related to another through genetic testing, I read every word. And as the cost of DNA testing fell, I always hoped that one day, I could swab my cheek and finally find out what I was.

My birthday was this February and my darling husband gave me a $99 Ancestry.com ancestry test kit. Others have warned me that you end only get a colorful pie chart that may include countries of origin, but it may also just say that you’re 85% Northern European with a few percent Hawaiian thrown in. Nevertheless, I was stoked.

And because life is not always fair, a few days after my birthday my husband and I had a BIG fight. The kind you may only have two or three times during an entire marriage. By the time I cracked the test kit case open I was feeling very low and unloved. Plus, I didn’t know who I was, I thought to myself for the millionth time, as I endeavored to create sufficient spit to fill a (seemingly bottomless) vial.

photoI had no idea how long it takes to fill a tube full of spit. I bet it took me twenty minutes.

I mailed the small box off and promptly made up with my husband, therefore regaining some sense of love and belonging. And it occurred to me that what I felt when I briefly felt unloved by my husband and then loved again might be akin to my desire to know my nationality. I have been born into a perpetual state of loss on this basic level of my identity. As everyone deserves to be appreciated and loved, everybody also should know where their people come from.

The turnaround takes 6 to 8 weeks, the pamphlet said.

Judge, Jury and Toxic Grandparents

23 Jan


94175905bbf65c6a2a303aad37779156
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.

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.

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: Thoughts While Editing – Time is Short

27 Jun

I always wanted to write a book. In grade school I carried around small leather-bound classics hoping I’d impress my teachers and schoolmates. I wanted them to think that I understood Dickens and Twain when I was EIGHT.

I could always imagine my name on a best-seller list. But for writing what?

It was brave of me to leave my newspaper job to write this book. As I dedicated myself to the writing effort, blogging about it and building an online community, I learned to truly trust my husband, the universe, and myself. It was one of the most difficult and ultimately rewarding journeys of my adult life.

Accepting that I was simply doing what was right for me was a huge leap of faith. At each transition the next step rose up to meet me. Choosing to forget about what others thought was crucial for me. It was very hard.

Of course, I had doubts all the way through. I remember wondering what former colleagues and co-workers thought. To some, I was weird enough to begin with. Were they poking fun at my efforts? Was I too obsessed with my childhood? Was I propping myself as an expert on a non-topic? Was I inventing a passion to have something to do? The chatter raged in my brain. But eventually, it died down allowing space for quiet contemplation.

I remembered, time is so short.

I travelled back in time and studied my life, the life of my parents and relations and I wrote it all down.  I remembered how I earned my courage. I was ready to tell readers about it.

That I signed up with 8WomenDream.com and wrote my little heart out on the topic of toxic moms for an entire year is pretty astounding to me now. I found my focus early on and I trusted that readers got it. At Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook we grew from the 30 or so “likes” I needed to start my stats to nearly 60,000 people reached around the world each month.

As I got to know my followers in the U.S., Australia, Japan, the Middle East and Europe, I began to think of my book as a wonderful life form that needed me as its midwife. On days when it was too hard I worked anyway on blind faith. If I had to tell myself I could have chocolate after writing a chapter, that was okay. I’m sure plenty of surgeons imagine cocktails or golf or other rewards waiting for them when the nurses take over the suturing.

As I racked up chapters, I taught myself to embrace the work joyfully even if I’d rather be doing anything else.

The very last bits included stories of sexual abuse. Feeling sickened I stalled and stalled and stalled, not wanting to welcome my own abuser back into my head. I was cranky and tired and a pain to live with. An emotional war raged in my head. I dreaded and resented having to revisit these events, yet I had to. I had kicked these stories out of my head long ago and even a brief visit made me dizzy with sadness.

My husband complained about my attitude.

“I’m walking around with my abuser in my head right now so you’ll just have to forgive me,” I told him.

“Don’t think about it,” he suggested.

“The problem is, I can’t kick him out again until I write the whole story and I can’t decide how much of the story I can live with out in the world. How much? How much? How deep? It’s a struggle,” I replied.

Our eyes met. Enough said.

I married a man who expects great things from me. Sometimes I can do things to impress him that I can’t do for myself. That I finished this book is in great part due to his complete faith that I would.

As I edit and shape and clean up I’m realizing that his book taught me to value my dreams, make room for them, and commit time and energy to them without apologies. Time is so short.