“I’ve always been envious of women who are close to their mums. Unlike them, I can’t say that my mother is like my sister or my best friend. In fact, I’d compare Mum to a frenemy – someone who appears to care for their friends, but deep down, dislikes or even resents them.
The way I see it, Mum resented me even before I was born. She told me that she wanted a son and was disappointed when she learnt that she was expecting a girl. She also almost died giving birth to me, and because of those complications was advised against having more children.
As a baby I also had a lot of health problems, so Mum had to give up a well-paying job in order to stay home and look after me. As I was growing up, I remember her blaming me for standing in the way of her career. ‘If it weren’t for you I’d be working right now’, she’d say.
A miserable childhood
Mum was never physically abusive towards me I was a child, but she did criticise me a lot and her harsh words made me feel small and insignificant. I thought this was normal until I witnessed how my friends’ mothers treated them and I began to question my mum’s motives for treating me as she did.
I feel that Mum held me back from achieving my potential as a child and stood in my way of accomplishing my dreams. For instance, as a pre-teen, I showed promise as a tennis player and was very much into athletics, but she refused to give me the extra help I needed to go further in sports. She said that I belonged behind a desk, not on a tennis court or running track. It was hurtful watching my friends at their practice sessions and seeing their parents cheering them on and encouraging them.
As a teenager, I wasn’t allowed to date, wear trendy clothes or hang out at the mall with my classmates. Mum was strict with me, and became even more so after my father passed away when I was 17. But I never rebelled during my teenage years. As angry as I was with Mum I obeyed her rules and never talked back or argued with her.
As I got older, I found that I could no longer contain my anger and bitterness towards my mother. And when I started working as a teacher, I got to see her true colours.
For instance, I’d only been teaching for a few months when Mum would pull me out of classes for some ridiculous reason or another. She would also pretend to be ill so that I’d feel obliged to stay home and look after her, but then, as soon as I got home she would say that she felt better.
Many times, she would also ‘accidentally’ throw away whatever work-related paperwork I left on the table at home. All this got me into trouble with my principal, who warned me to act more responsibly or risk losing my teaching career.
Mum’s ploy to ruin my professional reputation lasted several months, during which I was almost forced to leave teaching because I was missing too many classes. When I eventually asked her why she was trying to jeopardise my job, she told me that she didn’t know what I was talking about. Strangely, her antics stopped after I confronted her.
Driving a wedge between my man and me
I hated the idea that Mum didn’t want me to be successful in my career, but I resented her even more for trying to deprive me of a romantic relationship. When I was in my 20s, she often criticised my looks, saying that no man would ever be attracted to me. When I started dating Peter*, Mum would make me feel guilty for leaving her alone to spend time with him. ‘You’re never at home’, she would say, ‘what a kind of daughter leaves her sick mother alone in the house?’.
She was good at making me feel guilty, but the way I saw it, Mum just couldn’t see me happy. Whenever Peter came over, she would complain that he was taking me away from her. Once, she even told him that she hoped we didn’t get married, because then she would be left all alone if I moved out of her house.
And she would talk me into dumping Peter, saying that she could tell he wasn’t serious about me. I always defended my relationship with Peter; this led to endless arguments with Mum. Her rude and hurtful comments also caused a lot of tension between Peter and I. In fact, we almost broke up on a few occasions because of her.
Keeping my distance
Mum wasn’t happy when Peter and I got married. In our wedding photos she looks absolutely miserable.
After I moved out of home and began life as a married woman, I decided that I had to distance myself from Mum. I had become quite depressed and I sensed that my relationship with her had something to do with it. I soon came to the conclusion that Mum didn’t want to see me succeed because she was jealous of me.
When I reflected on the things she’d said and done over the years, it made perfect sense. Of course, I do believe that Mum loves me in her own way, and, as a dutiful daughter and her only child, I still check up on her from time to time, accompany her to doctors’ appointments and take her out on special occasions like Mother’s Day. But, knowing how she feels about me makes me feel like I can’t get too close to her.
The good thing is that our arguments have become less frequent now that we’re older – I think we’re both just tired of the crying and fighting.
In Mum’s eyes I’ll probably always be the daughter who almost killed her during childbirth, who robbed her of her career and who denied her certain opportunities and experiences that she believed she deserved to have and enjoy. But I’ve learnt not to feel guilty about any of it, and, while I yearn for the closeness that other daughters have with their mums, I know I’ll never be able to enjoy such a bond with my mother because of the way she feels towards me.”