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Mommy Dearest




As a child I remember how much I admired my foster mom. She had beautiful teeth, smile, soft skin, long flowing push curl hair, and an air of a warm benevolent person. My foster mom worked in early childhood development as a teacher’s assistant presenting herself as caring, kind, and loving towards children, family and public while also seeking admiration, validation, and attention for her own needs and wants covertly. Over the years I vied for her attention. This facade of warmth and generosity was a part of her manipulative tactics to maintain control and power over me as a foster child, while also portraying herself in a positive light to outsiders. However, underneath this benevolent facade lies a selfish and egocentric nature, where her actions are ultimately driven by her own desires and interests rather than the well-being of me as a foster child.


When I was younger my foster mom always had a reason, I needed to be put on punishment and over spanked/beat. I practically had no social life, hobbies, nor friends allowed to come over or visit. Anyhow, since I was in the house all the time and my foster mom wasn’t allowed to go out unless I accompanied her (my dad didn’t go for that) I would sit on the living room floor and watch endless movies she’d put on. There were four movies that were her favorite, she’d watch when they were shown on regular tv and the lifetime network. Her favorite was Imitation of Life, a 1959 black and white movie about a black single mother, worked as a live-in nanny for a white child while raising her biracial daughter alongside. As a result of race, identity, societal expectations, and sacrifice the daughter used her financially, talked to her disrespectfully, and neglected her mother because she wanted to be socially accepted while looking down on her mother. While watching the movie I’d often curiously explore the complexities of mother-daughter relationships. What stuck out to me was how in the end the daughter was broken for failing to love and accept her mother. My foster mom always said it was her favorite movie which I could understand why. She vied for the love for her oldest daughter despite her embarrassing, tyrannical, criminal, salacious, addiction having, scantily clad dressed, non-motherly and neglectful daughter, enabled by my foster mom! Everyone could see her behaviors except my foster mom! She’d pay her rent, sign for apartments, buy her vehicles, raise all her children, dog her vehicles and home! I didn’t understand it! I recall my dad getting drunk one night and fussing at my foster mom and said, “I let you raise the girls while I raised the boys, you effed them girls up but you won’t eff this one up.”


The other movies were “Flowers in The Attic,” a movie about four siblings forced to live in secret in their “wealthy” grandparents' mansion after the sudden death of their father. Hidden away in the attic and subjected to neglect, abuse, and a twisted family dynamic. I felt she liked to watch it because of the family, betrayal, and the damaging effects of toxic relationships. The third movie is “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” which depicted a vengeful nanny who sought to destroy the family who she believed was responsible for her own family's tragedy, show cased the dark psychological side of maternal instincts, consequences of betrayal, and manipulation. Lastly, “Mommy Dearest” depicted an abusive and controlling relationship between a foster mom, her adopted daughter and the negative impact it had on the child’s life. The foster mom is portrayed as a manipulative and narcissistic mother who prioritizes her career and public image over her daughter's well-being. It was while watching this movie that I was finally able to make the connection between my own foster mom’s emotional abuse, narcissistic behavior, and the consequences of toxic family dynamics and boy was it eye opening. I remember how rough she was out of anger putting my ruffled socks on me in the mornings getting me dressed for daycare as frail as I was, having a broom broke across my back, being beaten to the floor with her fists, beaten with wire hangers, extension cords, lips and nose pinched, publicly humiliated, called winch or b*tch, made to do chores, and care for her grandchildren at 7 years old while not having a somewhat normal child hood, nor being able to speak up for myself at school or to anyone else. I was raised by the mantra, “What Goes on In This House, Stays in This House.”


Who was I going to tell? This seemed to be the norm in her family with fostered children as I watched my foster cousins Jennifer, Steve, Pluck, LaShawn, and Maria also beaten unnecessarily, made to do chores, berated, dressed in rags, emotionally abused, and neglected. Why was this normal and why wouldn’t they give us back to our biological parents we’d long for and ask about but denied and threatened for doing so? I could somewhat make irrational sense out of why my foster mom was the way she was towards me and part of that was my dad (my biological great uncle). He had his own childhood trauma that fostered certain behaviors of his although in my eye as a child it seemed normal. Especially since her Irish twin sister Alma, who was super Christian, took special interest in me as a child had the same type of husband. In elementary school the staff realized I needed some specialized attention and had me speak with counselors at school which I’d make up stuff just to avoid being disciplined by my parents for jeopardizing their facade of warmth and wholesome family orientation.


Fast forward to July 2005, my dad was on his death bed dying from stage 4 lung cancer and my foster mom was still going to work which she didn’t need to because my dad paid ALL THE BILLS EVEN IN THAT STATE! I get it though, people grieve differently, many days I’d sit at his bedside and ask him questions about raising me, how he was raised, not fearing death, and whatever advice I could muster up the questions to ask before the reality of the situation would hit me and I’d hold back my emotions and find something else to talk about. What I’d come to realize in that moment at 25 years old, as I watched him begin struggling to take his last breaths at 3:32 am was that despite his parenting flaws, I loved him. Maybe I wasn't loved because my foster mom couldn’t love after all the years, she spent in submission during marriage. I wiped the fever induced sweat from his forehead and fluids he was choking on from his mouth as he passed at 3:33 am. I was 8 months pregnant with my own daughter, reflecting on how as a child I loved her unconditionally with naivety because I had not yet been exposed to the complexities and challenges of the world. I had not developed the cognitive abilities to fully understand and process the nuances of relationships and emotions. My love for her as a mom was pure, innocent, and free from judgment or expectation. I’d always ignored being slighted by my foster mom because of my perception of her. I decided when I had my daughter that I’d love her openly and wholeheartedly, without any reservations or conditions, I had not learned to do otherwise.


I’d always wondered how my foster sister who had a beaming example of a mother in my naivety could be a neglectful mother herself. I recalled my dad putting her out of his house once for swinging on him for correcting her for trying to discipline her daughter that he and my foster mom were raising. He yelled to her, “You’re lower than a female dog because even they care for their young until they can fin for themselves” before he banished her from his home until his terminal diagnosis. It took years for me to understand that some female humans don’t necessarily have instinctually mothering capabilities due to the biological, environmental and evolutionary factors that influence maternal behaviors. Female hormones like estrogen and oxytocin play a role in promoting nurturing and caregiving instincts in women. However, not all women may possess these instincts and mothering capabilities vary among individuals with social, and cultural factors also playing a significant role in shaping maternal behaviors. Looking back, I realize my foster mom’s favorite movie choices reflected her psychological issues in a few ways.

 

It provided insights into her underlying psychological issues. For example, someone who frequently watches horror movies might have unresolved fears or anxieties. On the other hand, someone who prefers romantic comedies may be seeking comfort and reassurance in relationships. The characters and storylines that resonated her and revealed her psychological struggles. For instance, a person who identifies with characters who are lonely or misunderstood may be struggling with feelings of isolation or alienation in their own life. Since she was controlled by my dad the movies seemed to provide her a form of escapism versus confrontation, seeking to distract herself from her own problems by immersing herself in a fictional world or directly address her psychological issues and helping confront and process her emotions. Growing up she never would hug me, say I love you nor attend any of my field trips, acknowledge my achievements nor supported my hobbies/extracurricular activities to which she’d say, “I raised my kids, I'm tired.” I remember one Christmas she only bought me a rob and curlers after saying I didn't deserve anything while her oldest daughter stole and wore my bras, underwear and shoes! She allowed this daughter to be jealous and a bully towards me my entire life despite her obvious mental instability.


The only time I had her attention was when I was either in trouble or answering questions or share gossip. Being raised by a narcissistic mother who also suffered from domestic violence can be an incredibly challenging and traumatic experience. After becoming a mother and witnessing other women and their mothers’ bonds it became clear that my foster mom was narcissistic.  Prioritizing her “Golden Child,” her own needs and desires above the rest of her children, certain grandchildren, leading to neglect, emotional neglect, and manipulation. By the time I birthed my second child and found myself in a toxic relationship and unpredictable environment for a child, I ended it so that both my children could have the best emotional well-being and safe environment and upbringing possible. I believe witnessing and experiencing domestic violence can further exacerbate the trauma and fear, as any child may feel helpless and powerless to protect themselves or intervene on behalf of their parent.


I became strong enough to speak up for myself by third grade. Being raised in an unpredictable environment leading to feelings of guilt, shame, and confusion, as well as long-term emotional and psychological consequences. By the age of 15 coupled with my desire for change I’d left home and never returned. Being raised by a narcissistic foster mother who suffered from domestic violence can have lasting effects on a child's self-esteem, relationships, and mental health. I watched as her two biological daughters/my foster sisters chased men, took after their mother by being selfish, egocentric natured, abusive, driven by their own desires and interests rather than the well-being of their children. In conclusion I vowed to be a better version of myself and mother to my children no matter what struggle I was going through determined not to have my children experienced this type of upbringing but instead be open to them. I worked on my spiritual development to best process the long-lasting effects of a traumatic past and heal from it. I also forgave my foster mother and urge any woman functioning in the role to do the same.


Statistically speaking there is no legitimate reason why foster parents/parents should abuse or mistreat a child in their care. However, some potential factors that may contribute to this behavior include a history of trauma or abuse: Some foster parents may have their own history of trauma or abuse, which can impact their ability to parent effectively and may result in them perpetuating cycles of abuse. Lack of support or resources: Foster parents may feel overwhelmed or unsupported in their role, leading to feelings of frustration and resentment towards the child in their care. Unhealthy coping mechanisms: Some foster parents may struggle with their own mental health issues or maladaptive coping mechanisms, leading them to lash out at the child under their care. Power dynamics: Foster parents may feel a sense of power and control over the child, which they lack in their own live and environment leading to abusive behavior as a means of asserting dominance.


I want to be a voice of the unheard children in need of loving and supportive homes, those in need, and incidents of abuse who are not representative of the way society should support them. However, it is crucial for agencies and organizations involved in child welfare to thoroughly screen and train potential foster parents to ensure the safety and well-being of children in their care. If abuse or mistreatment is suspected, it is important to report it to the proper authorities immediately. I also encourage the family members, friends and associates who sit my idly and do nothing to be proactive or an advocate for children being mistreated to step up and do your part. Together we can collectively begin to heal and properly nurture our children.

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