Am I Turning Into My MOTHER?

Teddy Bear Picnic

Am I turning into my mother ?

Ye gods! The idea makes me shudder!

Don't get me wrong--I love my mother in some deep, elemental, imperishable way, but as far as wanting to be her? No. Not. Definitely not.

My mother is 88 years old. She was born in 1921, at a time when women obeyed men; just one year after the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution gave women the right to vote. Both she and my father came from small working farms in Upstate New York that were hit hard by the Great Depression. Neither of my parents went to college.

My father worked hard. He tried to run a farm and work full time at an electronics factory, simultaneously. He had to give that idea up, over time, and rent out the land to other farmers, as his job with the electronics firm (GE Sylvania) increased in scope. My dad was an inventor, with seven patents to his name when he retired. He had a very strong work ethic, which he passed down to his kids. He didn't miss a single day of work in 30 years !

He was a very strict fundamentalist belonging to an obscure sect called the Church of the Pilgrim Fathers. It was a dark, hellfire-and-damnation kind of religion and suited our father to a T. They didn't believe in the perfectibility of human beings (all are sinners, doomed to burn forevermore in the Lake of Fire & etc.), but they didn't make allowances for human error, either, which seems contradictory to me.

My mother was 19 when she married Dad. She let him rule the household, absolutely, and oh my! What a tyrant he was. He beat the newborn babies until they stopped crying, so he could get his rest to go to work in the morning. Apparently neither parent knew that newborns have to be fed through the night.

I won't harrow you (or myself) with too many more details like that. There are many family horror stories of Dad's cruelty to us children, and even after all this long time, they can't stand the light of day.

Mom went along with all of this. We accepted the situation, ourselves, when we were very little children. It was all we knew.

By the time I was ten or eleven, I began to seriously question things, and realize there was something really wrong here. I was always a great reader. My great escape from a grim existence was through books. I was so helpless to do anything about our situation at that age, and very angry and frustrated by not having the power to protect myself and my brothers and sisters and not having the power to improve things for us one whit. My mother's calm acceptance of some really unspeakable brutalities on my father's part, especially towards my sister Carole, drove me CRAZY !

I couldn't confront our Dad--it was worth one's life to try and confront Dad, you knew you couldn't win--he had sheer brute force and no conscience on his side. But I could, and did, confront Mother.

Oh, poor Mom! I confronted her over and over. I couldn't understand how she could put up with this. Why didn't she do something? how could she be so inert ? Where was her zip , her pep , her get-up-and-go?

I understood her better later on in life. She was afraid to make a change. The Great Depression left its mark on her. She was more secure where she was. She had seven children over a 14-year period. She suffered from anemia. Her vision was poor; she was overweight by the time I was ten or eleven; she never had a job outside the home. She was a housewife and mother. That was her identity.

In her day, a woman who left her husband, no matter for what reason, was a fallen woman--a Jezebel. Her thinking was that women were subject to men and men were subject to God; that was the natural order of things; men were breadwinners and women were housewives and mothers. The women and children put up with whatever the men dished out. Women and children were essentially chattels of men, in our Mother's mind. This way of thinking relieved Mother of the responsibility for our circumstances, and for her own.

Even at 10 and 11 years old, I didn't accept that. I believed Emerson when he said, "I make my circumstance." I wanted to "make my circumstance", too. I told Mom that if money was the issue, we could all work and help out, and between us all, we could make it. We could do it. I could pick apples; I could pull potatoes, onions and beans (we had some wetlands around there where machine harvesters couldn't go, so there was some fieldwork available); I could get a paper route and babysit and shovel driveways if we moved into town.

I thought it was critical that we got away from Dad. He'd do one of us in, one of these days, in one of his red, red rages. He really didn't know when to stop. More than one of us had come close to a fatal situation more than once (like I said, I won't get into too many harrowing details). I had a constant nightmare of being buried at the end of the garden when I was not quite dead yet.

Mom refused to act.

I turned my face away from her. I could not, would not, think like that.

I was determined to be as little like my mother as humanly possible. I was determined never to get married. I was determined to make my own way in the world.

Well, time goes by and all things change. I've been married, twice now. Neither marriage worked out, and that's not too surprising, really.

I have made my own way in the world, as far as I've got. I've been self-supporting whether married or single.

But now that I work from home, I'm finding I'm more like my mother than I ever previously would have thought. I'm a real homebody now. I make big one-pot meals, and freeze them. I order things from catalogs. I spend a lot more time with household matters.

i take less care of my appearance. I used to dress very well; very professionally--to go off to work every morning. I took good care of my hair, makeup, business suits, and shoes, and was careful of my personal presentation.

Now it's more track suits and jeans and T-shirts. I even have (shades of my mother!) a couple of loose house-dresses in my wardrobe. I find they're more comfortable in the summer.

Mom lives in my apartment building. I look after her somewhat; we get along OK now. My Aunt Helen takes the most care of Mom, for which I'm grateful.

I've come to accept her the way she is. There are certain topics we avoid: we are both peaceful people and dislike confrontations, and on those topics, the gulf between us is too vast to cross.

More than that; we each, in our own way, are optimists. We both try to give people the benefit of the doubt. We both try to look on the bright side. Neither of us is any good at holding a grudge for long.

It sounds so strange to say it--in a lot of ways, I'm like my mother, after all.

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Comments 23 comments

Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 4 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thanks for the comment, Enlydia. I love the Teddy Bear Picnic, too!


Enlydia Listener profile image

Enlydia Listener 4 years ago from trailer in the country

Paradise, this is the first time I found this...I relate to so much of what you said...you wonder why your mom didn't stand up for you.I try not to think too much anymore of my childhood, anyway.

I love the Teddy Bear Picnic.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 4 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thanks for the comment, Duchess, and I'll try to follow your advice.


Duchess OBlunt 4 years ago

I've read some of your history and I can understand how you would not want to be like your mom.

I have always had a good relationship with my mom, but I used to get upset when others mentioned how like her I was. I guess we all want to be our own people. But our parents are typically the largest influence in our lives when we are younger, so it is no wonder we adopt some of their ways.

I'm happy you and your mom get along (a little) these days.

Do try to get out more Paradise. Enjoy the music that was so much a part of your life maybe.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Traqqer, I'm so glad that this hub of mine makes you feel that way, to want to be a better father. That's success, to me. Thank you so much for the comment!


Traqqer profile image

Traqqer 6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

Sorry for what you had to go through with your dad. I realize those were different times and also understand at least some of what your mother went through as well. Thanks for sharing. Makes me want to go the extra mile to be a better father.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thank you so much, Jen, for that insightful comment.


Jen's Solitude profile image

Jen's Solitude 6 years ago from Delaware

I think we know we've come full circle when we can see ourselves in an abusive parent, and know we are not like the parent in the most negative sense. I think it means we've accepted them flaws and all but have determined not to repeat major character flaws and mistakes. It means we can then determine who we are and feel free to be ourselves for the first time in our lives. You've obviously done this and know the total you. The person who is very stable and adjusted, given what you've been through. Quite an achievement, so congratulations!


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thank you for the insightful comment, apricot. I believe I HAVE made peace with mother, after all. I certainly hope so--we've had lots of time.

I love that expression: "It's the optimists who see the darker shades of the painting and accept them as part of life." And that about sums it up, too!


apricot profile image

apricot 6 years ago from Italy

What a beautiful story! I mean the fact that it's actually real life and you can tell it in this way - with no vein of bitterness or blame - that's what was beautiful about it and I can certainly tell you're an optimist. And I think it's the optimists who see the darker shades of life and accept them as part of the painting. It's funny but despite the turmoil of your story my lasting impression is one of peace - this is what I call uplifting. Thanks for sharing this Paradise!


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thank you for your very intelligent and understanding comment, and your moral support. I was comforted to read it, Beth.


Beth100 profile image

Beth100 6 years ago from Canada

Thank you for being intimate about your life. The truth is, you are not like your mother because you have seen and understood her. You made choices that were different. You broke the cycle. You may have similarities, but those are now choices that you make freely. We all have some similiarities to our parents -- mostly, it's genetic and we can't get away from it! This is a great article you have written, and I can relate completely to what you have expressed.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 7 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Hey kingjenia, yes, you're absolutely right. I think this hub came out a little bit more negative-sounding than I intended it to. I wanted to contrast how a teenage daughter thinks as opposed to how an adult daughter thinks; I believe the teenager's voice came through a lot stronger, for some reason.

What my mother has put up with, what she's seen, in all her 88 years, is something I won't ever be able to fathom. I reach for her point of view but she edits it out, as though I was still a child. Some facets she unintentionally reveals are not those I would share with others. She isn't a saint. But she is a very strong person in her own right, and a survivor.


kingjenia 7 years ago

Your mother is the strongest person I know (haha just had a typo and it said strangest originally). Hmmm...truth in typing? Of course, I am kidding! She is a symbol of strength and perseverance. She puts so much importance on anything but her own happiness, to me she is a saint.

We "modern" women have no idea the hell women such as your mom had to endure. We can have careers, we can get divorced, hell we can have children without even having a relationship. We can do all of this and we are not shunned by society - in some cases we would be commended for it, in fact.

If you are becoming your mother, you should be proud of it not horrified by it. I have become my father, something I would have been horrified of in the past. But, because I really didn't seem to have any say in the matter - one day it just happened - I have come to accept that. I'm hoping that I am my father, with a little bit of mom mixed in, in the form of compassion (something dad seriously lacked). No matter how horrifying that thought may be to you, being a bit like both, intermingling your own experiences and taking traits from both, is really all we can do. Trying to be something your not is just as bad as denying who you really are, isn't it?


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 7 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thank you, sroberts9. It is true; I shouldn't judge my mom. I don't really have the right to. Thank you for the blessings.


sroberts9 profile image

sroberts9 7 years ago from Northern Virginia

I use to think the same thing! My Mom, God Bless her, was very hard to understand too. I tried my BEST not to be like her in any way as my Dad was from that same time in space where men dominated and ruled and women followed along and he loved alcohol and women more than life itself. But, when my mother died, that's when it all came to be what I call my "full understanding" of her as a woman, wife, a human being and then and only then I cried out to God, if he could at least make me as half the wife and mother she was in my life and Dad's then, I'd be ok. She told me once when I interfered - by adding my 2 cents - that this was "her marriage" and "her business" what goes on between him and her and I had no place in it and although I did not like what she said, and thought she was crazy, deep down, I had to agree and now I hold it true in my own marriage to my children to but out of what's going on between me and their Dad. After she passed, I found out that Mother had many secrets that Dad and I knew nothing about that kept her on top of things, and sane, she was really the one who really kept us both together - not Dad and finding out all that she did, helped me to understand and respect her the woman, wife and human being she was and had become. I am saying all this to make one point - don't be so harsh on your Mom - you do not have ALL the facts about her and her life - trust me. Only after death -"the real truth and thorough understanding come" and when it does, it shows its face to all - whether or not you want to see or hear it or not. It's almost like it has a destiny to fulfill and it does not stop until it's purpose has been fulfilled. May God Bless your Mother, her life and you.


heyju profile image

heyju 7 years ago

Paradise,

It was a pleasure and I can't wait to read more of your hubs. I'm very fortunate to find such a place as this!


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 7 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Hi Catherine! Thank you for the comment. I think they'll be a few more hubs later on about my family...I never know if it's interesting to anyone but US! Thank you for being interested.

heyju! You know what--my mother was stronger than I thought, too, to go through everything she did with her mouth shut. I couldn't, either. That really hit me when you said that. It's so good to find so much accord here; I love our meeting of minds.


heyju profile image

heyju 7 years ago

Wow, I read this title and had to read it!! I can really relate to your story. It's funny when you look over time how women have changed. My mother and Grandmothers had those same values as your mother. I on the other hand did not and couldn't understand why they did. After all I was independent and strong, no way would I let a man rule me like that!! lol As years pass you do look at things differently and begin to understand. I understood the era they came from and the way things were suppose to be back then. Leave It to Beaver comes to mind!! lol

Our poor Mothers, I was afraid to confront my father as well and let my mother have it a few times on certain issues. She took it and still loved me. I like to think now that I cook large meals and spoil my husband and children in such ways I do this out of choice, not because I have to, but when I think about it maybe I too have become like my mother in someways and wonder sometimes if I got my defiant spirit from my mother, who is stronger than I thought, and went through what she went through with her mouth shut. I'm pretty sure I couldn't.


Catherine R profile image

Catherine R 7 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

I love this hub! I feel like I have read the first chapter of a book I was really enjoying and now it has been whisked away from me. Your family is so interesting. Please can we hear more about them. I assume your dad died? How was your mother after he died? It reminds me of my grandmother who was married to a similar brute of a man - she must have felt liberated when he died although she never said so. I think we do turn into our mothers to a certain extent - sometimes I feel as though my mom's voice is coming out of my mouth when I speak to my kids! Hopefully a little learning goes on along the way though. And its OK to wear tracksuits if you aren't going anywhere! If you were going out to work again I am sure you would scrub up!


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 7 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thanks, dohn & Island Voice.


IslandVoice profile image

IslandVoice 7 years ago from Hawaii

My mom and i didn't get along for a long time. She too allowed dad to get away with a lot of things, and i said i will never be like her. Perhaps this is not so strange because we see this happen to many mother's and daughters. It is possible that we will eventually find that there are parts of us that have actually been 'touched' by the woman who raised us.


dohn121 profile image

dohn121 7 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

Maybe it isn't so bad if you do become your mom when you put it that way! I always figure you much younger :D That's wonderful to hear that you have such strong values in you upbringing. Thank you for sharing this with me, Paradise7.

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