Mothering Without A Mother



As long as I can remember, I was raised by other people. I lived with my mother until I was 15 years old, but I was raised mostly by my grandparents. My mother was a SAHM who was in school most of my life. She was my Girl Scout leader and head of the PTA at my school. She threw the best birthday parties for my sister and I. She sewed our clothes and fed us a home-cooked meals every night. She brought us to and from school. But she never raised us.

 My mom was a young mother. She had me at 21. After I was born, she moved back home with me, where we lived for a year or so. She dated a little, and then married my step-father, who worked off-shore. We moved out, all three of us, into a small apartment, where my sister was born. I was in kindergarten at the time. We moved a few times, and the memories of my early childhood are wonderful. I felt loved, secure, and protected. It wasn’t until I was a little older that the awareness of my mother’s illness begin to take shape.

The day my sister was born. I was 5.

When I was in second grade, I went to stay with my grandparents for a week. At the time, I thought that she was depressed and sad and needed some time to herself. The truth was, she was addicted to Valium and had gone into treatment for a week. After she returned, there were days where she would stay in her room, door locked, Fleetwood Mac on the turntable, and my sister and I left to our own devices. My mother never neglected us. She always pulled herself together enough to prepare our food and do our homework with us. She did neglect us emotionally, however. There were plenty of hugs and “I love you’s” for everyone, but she was a person who lived in her own head. She never gave more than she got. She never bent over backwards for us. She never did anything that didn’t make her look good.

When I was in high school, my mother and step-father divorced. My mother moved to New Orleans to attend medical school and I stayed behind three hours away, choosing to finish high school with my friends. While my mother was in school, my sister and I lost her. Meaning, we lost our mother emotionally. She began to go out more and more. She started dating strange men. She began using pills. My sister moved in with our aunt, where my mother handed over legal guardianship of her and I moved in with a man seven years older than me. I was 18. He was 25. It was my mothers idea.

My mother began years of drug abuse when I was in college. She was in and out of jail for DUI’s. She would show up at my house manic and high. Police were called constantly. My sister and I moved back in with our grandmother, where my sister finished high school and I worked and went to school full-time. My mom was constantly in the paper for arrests. It was embarrassing.

The hardest day was the day that I got a phone call that my mom had shot herself. For hours I didn’t know if she was dead or alive, where she shot herself, or is she was even in a hospital. Finally the hospital let me know that she had been transferred out of town to Shreveport, where she was to recieve attention. She shot herself in the arm with a hunting rifle.  All for attention from a man she was fighting with. She never understood how or why my sister and I were so upset by this.

Through all of this, I knew SHE wasn’t who I wanted to be. I felt the hurt of a child without parents and I knew I could never do that to one of my own children. I vowed to be a better person. I made a promise to my future children that they would never know the hurt of my childhood, and that I would never lose myself.

My mother passed away Easter morning of 2008. I was 16 weeks pregnant with my son. It was a hard blow. It was unexpected and sudden. The fact of the matter is, I knew she was better in Heaven than she was here. With her gone, I would never have to wonder where she was. I would never have to worry if she was alive, if she was abusing her body, if she was okay. Most importantly, I could protect my children from her and from them witnessing the dysfunction she brought to our lives.

I miss my mother tremendously. She has three beautiful grandchildren who she never got to hold. She missed both of her daughters getting married. I have had to maneuver my way through parenthood myself, not being able to call her for guidance or opinions. Sometimes I do wish things were different, and that she hadn’t lost her way so long ago. Other times I am thankful for a first-hand look into how important the role of a mother is to her children.

I made a promise to myself many years ago that I would never allow my children to feel what being alone feels like. I will always protect them from harm. Being a mother is to be selfless. You have to put yourself behind your children. If that’s what my mother was here to teach me, she did a great job. Now I make it a point, everyday, to be the best mom that I can possibly be. Thanks to my mom.

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  1. Jenna Carey -  November 30, 2012 - 9:41 am

    Misty, this column brought me to tears. Aunt Leslie was a beautiful woman, however flawed by things she may not have been able to control. I wish my mom was here to read this she would be SOOOOO proud of you. I know I am, I tell my dad and my sister about you and how well you are doing and they smile. Aunt Bet is also happy for you. I love you and I wish I saw you more often. I wont have a mother see me get married either and if it wasnt for my sister who has already had her children, I would be lost when motherhood finally reaches me. You are such a beautiful person. Please contact me if you come home for Christmas.

  2. Rebecca -  November 30, 2012 - 10:55 am

    That was beautiful. I too was “raised” by a mother with mental illness and she died 7 years ago this December. It has taken me a long time (and still working) to come to terms with who she was and why she did what she did… But she DID give me a great gift the want possibly the need to be the type of mother I ALWAYS wanted…

  3. Hannah -  November 30, 2012 - 11:51 am

    Thank you so much for your article. It brought me to tears. Sometimes I feel so alone in this. My mother had problems with mental illness and her addiction to prescription drugs took her life almost 3 years ago. I feel so angry about her dying. She loved me so much and “raised” me the best way she knew how. It was hard for her to raise me though since she couldn’t even take care of herself. My father died 3 weeks ago from the same addiction. It kills me. All I want is to provide a better life for my son. I want to be a good example and give him the love I always wanted. My mother never saw me graduate from college or buy my first house, or most importantly meet my son. My father was there for all of the above, but he couldn’t be there to see any of this because the addiction he had was far greater than his need for family. I recently started going to a counselor just because I don’t want the hurt from their deaths affect me the rest of my life so negatively. Something positive has to come out of this. THANK YOU for your story.

  4. Linda -  November 30, 2012 - 12:17 pm

    Misty, You are very brave to share your story so honestly. I am so proud of you! It is hard to separate a person from her addiction, and it is admirable the love you have for your mother in spite of hers. You are such a good mother. Love you. Miss seeing you and your beautiful family!

  5. Christy -  November 30, 2012 - 2:14 pm

    I will never forget the pain that my friend was in. I will never forget when you got the first call. The emotions and the tears.
    I will also never forget how strong of a person you always were. You were beautiful at time when life wasn’t so. You were more disciplined than I had ever seen.
    Even with all your quiet woe’s I was amazed by you. I am still amazed by you xxoo

  6. Papa Bear -  November 30, 2012 - 4:08 pm

    There is no way I can ever imagine what you go through knowing your mother will never know our children. Or how you handled your childhood. I do know, however, that everything you have been through has made you the person you are today. I feel guilty at times because you can’t talk to or see you mother whenever you want to. I wish Jax and Elliot knew your mother. I wish I knew your mother. I feel as though a part of me is missing because I never had the chance to meet her. But I know for sure that she loved you and sister more than anything. She will always be with you, me and our children. Without a doubt, everyday, she smiles down upon Jax and Elliot; bragging to her fellow angels about what beautiful grandchildren she has and what a wonderful daughter she has. She would be very proud of you. Just like I am.

    All my love,

    Papa Bear

  7. Ana -  December 10, 2012 - 2:40 pm

    So bittersweet and heartbreaking.

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