I am about to confront my (formerly) abusive mother and cut off almost all contact with her. I would greatly appreciate advice from anyone who has done this, or any feedback at all about what I can say or how she might respond. Thanks in advance for reading my long story. (For the summary, scroll down to the bulleted lists.)
My parents were emotionally and sometimes physically abusive. The abuse mostly occurred when I was in elementary school, though it filled my entire adolescence with terror until I left home for college. After I moved out for college, my parents divorced and I cut off all contact with my father who was the main perpetrator. I’ve maintained a seemingly normal relationship with my mother in order to keep the peace, though I consider her just as much at fault as my father because she allowed his abuse and always took his side.
Years ago I confronted her about the most severe incidents in which she was complicit, and she denied they ever happened. I really believe that she actually forgot about them because she has a terrible memory. I never brought it up again. She actually believes that she was a good mother. (She did provide for me and pay for my college education.) In recent years she has become more reasonable, warm, and loving, but I do not love her and I do not want her in my life.
I now have a wonderful husband and we have a baby of our own. Becoming a mom has made me more and more resentful of my mother and the choices she made. She thinks everything is rosy and is thrilled to be a grandmother, demanding frequent updates and Skype calls with her granddaughter. Every time I hear from her or even think about her, it causes me anxiety because I remember the person she was and the terrible childhood she gave me. She emails or calls me several times a week to request a Skype call, ask me to send her more photos of the baby, or just to “make sure everything’s okay” and she freaks out if I don’t respond. We Skype or chat once a week.
We currently live on the other side of the country but are contemplating a move to a city closer to her, and she has already announced that she expects to visit us frequently and plans to pop in whenever she wants.
I feel like I’ve set a bad precedent, because until I became pregnant, I used to call her voluntarily pretty often (because that was easier than not calling her and waiting for her to badger me). I was also pretty lonely for few years after college so I would talk to her and tell her about what was going on in my life. It’s only since I became a mom that I am no longer able to summon the patience to deal with her. I have finally decided to lay down the law with her.
Here’s my plan: I’m going to email her to ask for a Skype call so I can do this face to face. After the conversation I will also send her an email with basically all these bullet points, so she can’t “forget” it because she has a terrible memory.
Here are the main points I want to make (not in these exact words obviously):
- My childhood was terrible because of her and my father’s parenting. It was traumatic and has lasting effects to this day because of how young I was. I will not discuss the specific incidents with her because she has not responded well in the past.
- Every time I have contact with her, I am reminded of those terrible memories and of the mother she was then. Even though she’s changed since then, I cannot change my attitude about it or my emotional associations because of how young I was when it happened.
- For the past ten years, I bore the burden of keeping her happy by meeting her requirements for a mother-daughter relationship.
- Since becoming a mother myself, it causes me pain every time I think about my childhood because I would never imagine allowing my own child to experience what I experienced.
- I cut my father completely out of my life because those are the consequences for what he did when I was a child. My mom has let him be the scapegoat for both of them, and now she must deal with the consequences of her own choices.
I will impose these restrictions on her contact with my family:
- A brief Skype call once a month so she can see the baby.
- She may visit us once per year for a few days, at a date that I agree to in advance, to spend time with the baby. If she shows up at other times she will be turned away.
- She will not stay as an overnight guest in our home.
- No other calls or emails that aren’t actually about important matters. We post monthly updates and photos on a blog so there is no need for her to contact me to ask for photos or news about the baby.
She is going to freak out. She is going to be extremely angry and devastated. She may hang up on me. She is probably going to appeal to my husband (who supports me 100%) and maybe even his family. She will probably accuse me of being mentally ill, having false memories, being an ungrateful brat, etc.
How should I start this conversation? I only listed the first set of bullet points so she can get an explanation for why I’m restricting her contact. But I’m not sure whether I should even include them. Should I not talk about the abuse at all? Should I let her respond, or just tell her these things and say this is not a discussion?