“Free at last, free at last. I thank God I’m free at last. Free at last, free at last. I thank God I’m free at last.”
–American Negro Songs by J.W. Work
The gift of creating, bringing, and giving life can be the greatest experience of our lives. For the most part, we cherish these events. However, the question arises: what do our children owe us for giving them life? We, as parents, could have opted to not create, bring or give our children the opportunity to breathe air and live in this world. Still, does this mean that our children bear an obligation to us as parents?
Do we have the right to expect our children to be grateful to us and give back to us in return for what we have given them? Doesn’t the Bible itself say “Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land?”
This month, in Bobbi’s Journey of Self-Discovery, Bobbi seeks to empower her psychological self in order to withstand the demands of her mother, who often employs the very arguments above. This month, Bobbi stands at her own crossroads as she confronts her own internal conflict: being beholden to her mother, who is tightening her clutch on Bobbi as she comes to the end of her life.
The Gift of Life Is Not A Debt: I Owe You Nothing! (Journal entry 1/22/14).
My sister Ginger and I spoke about funerals again. Mother is expecting us to pay for her funeral. Mother also hinted that I was the one to do it since she didn’t have anyone to take care of her when she gets older. She is expecting me to call her. I don’t feel that I owe it to her.
Why do I need to take care of Mother when she abandoned me when I was a child? She chooses not to remember forcing me into the state foster care system at the age of twelve after threatening me to put my eyes out with a fork when I told her that her husband had been sexually abusing me for almost three years. I was in the system until I was 18 years old.
She chooses not to remember the hell that I can never forget. I am not going to enter her “land of make believe.” In her mind,
- She was this wonderful mother who met my needs.
- She was a loving mother who was not abusive.
- She was a mother who gave unconditional love to her children.
Mother was none of these. Now that she’s getting older, she wants me to be responsible for her? She feels I am indebted to her simply because she gave me birth to me? I don’t feel that my children owe me anything, so why am I indebted to her?
I am not angry or even surprised at Mother’s complaints. She is doing exactly what I expected from her: she is refusing to let go of her delusions and face her own reality. I am not going to call her to discuss any of this. If any conversation happens, it will be because Mother put forward the effort. But, I know she won’t call. Instead, she will seek sympathy from her friends, telling them what a terrible daughter I am.
I know that Mother will not be happy with my decision. It’s not that I don’t care. I do care. However, for the first time in my life, I will be an advocate for myself. I will place what I want and what I need over those of my mother. I am no longer more concerned about her feelings than I am about my own.
I can listen to the sounds the rain is currently making. For once I am listening to my own voice.
Today is a good day.
We can see from Bobbi’s entry that the external control her mother once exerted is now over. In her therapy sessions, Bobbi often shares that in the past, she has shielded her mother from her own painful experiences with domestic violence, poor parenting, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse and finally, the betrayal by her mother in being tossed out as a child following her disclosure of many years of sexual abuse.
As death sits patiently waiting to greet her, Bobbi’s mother has used her birthing of Bobbi as a debt that has come due, now that she is older, frail and becoming more dependent on others. However Bobbi, reflecting on her own motherhood, has come to her own realization in retouching those memories of raising her children.
As Bobbi stands at the crossroads she acknowledges her own joy in motherhood, affirming that “my children have brought joy and happiness in my life. They owe me nothing.” Bobbi is able to compare the actions and behaviors she has initiated for her children to what she received as a child.
In her therapeutic work, Bobbi is able to sort through the contradictions and confusion as to what a mother does for her children out of love. It is that clarification that allows Bobbi to fully assert her own personal power and distance herself from her mother.
Bobbi views her children as gifts to be cherished, treasured and loved. In acknowledging that her children owe her no debt, she is able to view the debt as asserted by her mother as an illusion without foundation.
Bobbi now acknowledges the yoke of shame, guilt and self-denial she has worm for the past four decades. Standing at the crossroads, the shackles that bind her are now broken. Bobbi will no longer bear the weight of the yoke.
As Bobbi’s mother enters her remaining years of life and prepares for her last days, it will be Bobbi’s choice and not her mother’s attempt to shame, guilt or create a debt that will decide whether she will make herself available to assist her mother. By advocating for her psychological self, Bobbi has set herself free. She is free to walk her journey of self-discovery without hindrance from her mother. Free.
A word for the journey
Be careful how you treat or interact with others while you are in the prime of your life. One day as you will decline to your final rest, you may have to depend on or interact with those same people.
I invite the readership to stay tuned for the sixth and final entry of Bobbi‘s Saga and her journey of self-discovery.