Home Lifestyle My mum might be dead – I’m happy not to know

My mum might be dead – I’m happy not to know

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I didn’t feel like I could tell my mother I didn’t want to speak to her (Picture: GETTY / METRO.CO.UK)

I was sitting in my mum’s perfectly manicured garden on a bright sunny day in August. 

It glistened with pink roses, and the scent from her herb garden wafted on the breeze. 

My mum was, once again, telling me that I didn’t visit enough, and that when I did, I never stayed long enough. My brother – my rock – was apparently a good-for-nothing son.

I was used to this continual criticism, but when she started on my daughters, saying they did so little for her that they were dead to her, I got angry

I stormed out and promised myself I would never see or speak to my mother again. And I haven’t.

My parents divorced when I was five. My mum spent years bad mouthing my dad, who I loved. I remember her telling me that he never made enough money, and was beneath her. 

She would imply that my brother and I shouldn’t see him while insisting on having her social life. She would leave us in the house on Friday and Saturday nights when my brother and I were young teenagers, with a four pack of beer and some Babycham, so she could go out. 

Once, I came home from school to find she’d left a packet of biscuits on the table for tea. 

Me and my brother thought all this was normal. 

I did look at my friends’ mums, who made family meals and were happy to see their kids, and wish mine was more like theirs but it was only as a young teenager that I started to see my mother’s behaviour for what it really was.

I felt like she didn’t know me, and she didn’t seem interested in getting to know me. I started to pull away to create some distance, especially in early adulthood, but if I wasn’t in touch for a week she’d phone me and berate me for not calling her. 

I didn’t feel like I could tell her I didn’t want to speak to her; I didn’t realise that was something you could do with your parents

She didn’t give me any guidance or support

When I got married in my mid 20s and had my own children my mother shocked me by becoming a surprisingly good grandmother. 

She seemed to be genuinely delighted by my kids and loved buying them gifts and taking them on day trips. 

I spent more time with her as a result, but still, she was never interested in me.

I’m glad my daughters had that experience, but the fact that my mother could show affection only made what happened to me and my brother worse. Why was it just us that she hadn’t cared for?

When my children were preteens, my mother met a man at work and married him. He was her mirror image: he clearly never liked me and my brother, telling each of us that the other had never cared about them.

Together, they would turn up at my house, unannounced and uninvited, and lecture me for not visiting. They preferred to do this when my children were around, knowing I’d do anything to avoid a scene. 

So, I nodded and smiled. I arranged family meals and always invited them – and they would always ruin the day with their comments and put-downs. 

It was her husband’s behaviour that finally pushed me over the edge

Looking back, I wish I hadn’t indulged them; I wish I’d moved away and created more distance between us sooner. I didn’t challenge them because I preferred to keep the peace, and they made me feel guilty all the time. 

Ten years ago, my mum had open heart surgery. I made sure I was there for her even though it was difficult.

Then she developed Alzheimer’s. The disease seemed to take away any filter she might once have had: she told me that, when me and my brother were babies, she couldn’t wait to go back to work so she could get away from us. 

I had to remind myself that she had always been like this, that her illnesses didn’t change anything. 

But it was her husband’s behaviour that finally pushed me over the edge. 

He would call in a panic to say we had to go over right away, it was an emergency; when we got there everything was fine and he would disappear to the shops or to run an errand, and wouldn’t come back. 

I told him that he could arrange respite care if he needed a break; he responded that, as the daughter, I should be doing all the care. I told him I couldn’t, and he went on holiday for a week, telling no one where he was or when he was coming back.  

Just the thought of speaking to my mum and her husband again causes me great anxiety

My husband and I made the decision to cut contact with both of them. I didn’t tell them, I simply blocked their numbers on my phone.

My brother spoke to them a few times after that but they inevitably gave him the full force of their frustration because I was ignoring them. He also decided it was better if none of us saw them or spoke to them anymore.

I wish I’d cut contact years ago – I’ve never felt happier or freer. I’ve realised just how stressful it was to have my mother in my life. 

Nothing was ever good enough and she would react wildly to anything that wasn’t how she wanted it to be. 

Today, I can be myself without feeling like I have to continually please; I can talk about how I feel without being worried about an unpleasant reaction; I have so much more confidence now I am not being constantly belittled.

I have occasionally struggled with guilt over cutting contact but as I get older, I can see that life is too short to constantly pander to someone who has never given back. 

I’ve also tried to understand why my mother might have been the way she was. 

Her own mother, my grandmother, was a stern woman, but I think motherhood was much harder than my mother expected it to be. She was a very materialistic person and when her children didn’t behave how she wanted, I think she rejected us.  

I spent so long trying to prove my mother wrong about me, trying to show her that I can have a career, that I am intelligent, I am worthy. Now, I’m learning to put myself first. 

I’ve come to accept that I may not know when my mother dies. For all I know she could have died already. I’m ok with that. 

Just the thought of speaking to my mum and her husband again causes me great anxiety.

None of us owe anyone anything. 

You get out of relationships what you put in, no matter who that relationship is with.



Degrees of Separation

This series aims to offer a nuanced look at familial estrangement.

Estrangement is not a one-size-fits-all situation, and we want to give voice to those who’ve been through it themselves.

If you’ve experienced estrangement personally and want to share your story, you can email jess.austin@metro.co.uk


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