Mother – Daughter Betrayal by Sara Wright


(1)

Today is my mother’s birthday and although she has been dead for more than a decade I still think of her almost every day. At the time of her death I had not seen her for twelve years. Not by choice. After my father’s sudden demise my mother chose my children, her two adult grandsons to be her protectors, and dismissed me from her life, permanently.

When she died, my mother divided her assets evenly between my children and me, forcing her only daughter to live beneath the poverty level for the remainder of her life.

The final betrayal.

At the time of her death I was teaching Women’s Studies at the University.

(2)

As a child I adored my very distant mother and did everything I could to please her, including becoming a second mother to my baby brother at four years old. I remember tenderly holding him and giving him his bottles.

Is that why I became so devoted to the divine image of Mary, Queen of Heaven the moment I was exposed to her at the convent garden that I secretly visited each day on my way home from kindergarten?

Three years later my parents went to Europe for a year leaving me in the care of my great aunts. “Baba Anna” allowed me to stay with my very devout Catholic grandmother for two days (the only time I was ever allowed to stay with my father’s mother – my mother disliked Italian Catholics, though she married one named Mario). My very Italian grandmother told me stories about Mary…

When my parents returned from Europe my mother brought me a silver plated triptych of Mary holding Jesus.

Astonished, I decided my mother must have magical powers.

(3)

I adored Mary just as I adored my mother but Mary, unlike my mother, was always loving and kind…

I feared my mother’s wrath but it was her sphinx –like Silences that paralyzed me, turning me to stone. Medusa, she often called herself in jest.

When I first saw an image of Medusa with writhing snakes in her hair and a demonic look on her face the figure terrified me.

My mother introduced me to this frightening goddess by naming her, by her fear of snakes, and through her actions.

 (4)

As an adolescent I discovered Mary Magdalene and because my childhood image of Mary as “virgin”* was at odds with my passionate nature, I turned to the “fallen woman” to find an image of myself.

I chose the “dark goddess” and split away from light without understanding what I had done.

My mother judged me harshly but no more harshly than I judged myself. As soon as I could, I married and moved to an island off the coast of Maine.

 (5)

My first son was born in December two years after I graduated from college. From the beginning he was a difficult baby that had tantrums and screamed for hours – unless I held and nursed him.

My brother killed himself.

Every time I looked at the Botticelli image of the Madonna and child that I had placed on the mantle I wept.

Guilt and Shame dominated my mothering years isolating me and leaving little room for self – development.

I gave up the two Mary’s, god, and Christianity shutting the last door on Hope.

 (6)

My relationship with my mother remained one –sided with me (desperately) trying to keep the door open between us because I needed her so.

After my brother’s suicide, she turned towards her grandchildren. And I was only too willing to give them to my mother whenever she asked, because I wanted to please her.

Some years she didn’t speak to me at all for reasons she never explained. In between her silences, I would discover that we planted the same flowers…

 (7)

When my children left home Mary came back into my life. I found comfort in her presence as the Mater Dolorosa and began going to church again.

I also began a quest to seek the Black Madonna and found the first image of her in Italy, my father’s country of origin.

Open conflict now characterized my relationship with my mother who I began to see as a flawed human being.

I blamed my mother for my brother’s death and her abandonment of me. I judged her as harshly as she had judged me. I saw her through the eyes of Athena, the goddess that sprung from Zeus’s neck. (such an unnatural birth) Now what I feared the most was becoming like her…

As Fate would have it Medusa came to life in me as the raging unwanted daughter… I was forced to live through the same pattern that my mother did and to witness the slaying.

I left the church to become a ritual artist. Nature became my Muse.

 (8)

 Years passed. When my mother died I felt relief before the night closed in.

Gradually, painfully, and with great resentment, I learned to hold my mother accountable for her betrayals, and to separate my experience of reality from hers. As I sorted the seeds I learned to deal with my rage by containing it but not denying my feelings; I also discovered the power of humility (My mother had not been a good mother to either of her children but neither had I for the opposite reasons).

 (9)

My mother’s greatest flaw as a parent and a person was that of entitlement. She lived her life as queen or goddess, “above” the fray, believing that she was better than others and believed that others should serve her. I lived my life below believing I was inherently flawed and therefore not qualified to be much more than a servant. Together, my mother’s life and mine comprise one whole. A sense of entitlement does not guarantee happiness any more than becoming a servant to others does.

 (10)

I discovered Guadalupe “the Goddess of the Americas.” The Indigenous Guadalupe appeared to an Indian peasant and asked that a church be built on the same hill where Tonantzin, an ancient earth goddess first resided. The request was granted, and it is said that a spring appeared at the site. Many miracles occurred here.

 (11)

I came to the realization that my mother and I both suffered deeply.

Equally.

We both lost children.

Tragically, my mother and I were never able to see each other as two women who had lost access to their female roots, women who chose betrayal of one another out of pain and lack of awareness.

 (12)

Recently, when I researched the Greek Medusa for an article I need to write, I discovered that she was one of three sisters –the only one that was mortal. In one version this unfortunate Greek goddess born of Earth and Water was a priestess to the goddess of war, Athena. After Medusa was raped by Poseidon, she lost her “virgin” status and was forced to leave Athena’s temple. Athena cursed Medusa, turning her into a monster whose rage turned anyone that looked at her to stone. She also banished Medusa to a desolate island. Later, Perseus killed Medusa, severing her head from her body (and from her female “roots” of earth and water). Perseus then gave her head to Athena who put Medusa’s face on her shield using it to turn others to stone. I was shocked to learn that Medusa was a victim of woman betrayal by a goddess that was often associated with wisdom…

 (13)

Today, I choose forgiveness, for the mother who birthed me, and for myself.

Today, I choose Earth and Water as the elements that support me.

Today I see myself as a compassionate woman with integrity, one who continues to develop deeper insight as she ages, weaving darkness and light into one multicultural braid.

Today I honor my mother as a woman who loved…

 

 

Sara is a naturalist, ethologist ( a person who studies animals in their natural habitats) (former) Jungian Pattern Analyst, and a writer. She publishes her work regularly in a number of different venues and is presently living in Northern New Mexico.



Categories: Ancestors, Catholicism, Childhood, Children, Family, female friendship, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, General, Mary, Motherhood

Tags: , , , , , ,

28 replies

  1. Dear Sara, What an extraordinary piece. My heart feels for you and I also admire your strenth. Susan

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is beautiful. Sadly, I can relate in the most intimate of ways. Your ending was a blessing and gift.

    Like

  3. It is difficult to sort out the good and the bad in parents who were troubled and troubling. It is easier for the child in us to see them as all bad one day and as good the next, when in fact most of them were complicated, and as you say, most probably wounded themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, it is very hard. With both my very troubled parents it wasn’t until after they were dead that I could sort out this from that – a long and very painful process. However, today I see both my parents as people who were capable of love – however, my mother remains such a distant figure that I still have days when I wonder…

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      • At the moment I am remembering the good in my Dad while not forgetting that he had a very hard time accepting a daughter who did not conform to his wishes. Being able to see both at the same time is the hard part but I think one of the keys to healing.

        Your mother may have been capable of love but if she was incapable of loving the daughter she had, then she also failed at her job as a mother in important ways.

        My father was good in some ways and not good at all in others.

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        • I believe that you are right Carol. You are doing what I call “both and” work – it is hard – but we know it’s possible. As for my mother, I am clear about the forgiveness part but the fact that I still doubt her capacity for loving me raises a red flag – She was capable of love, but probably not capable of loving her daughter. certainly my dreams bear this truth out.

          Like

  4. Sara,thank you for sharing your story. My mother and I had a lifelong difficult relationship.She died in may of this year. Thankfully we had been talking for the last seven years, after not speaking for six years.

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  5. Sara, Thank you for this very moving and beautiful essay. This sentence sums up so much: “I came to the realization that my mother and I both suffered deeply.”

    I’ve come to see and understand that suffering is everybody’s lot in the world. Connecting ourselves with human suffering can bring a positive outcome–forgiveness and love. As you write, “Today, I choose forgiveness, for the mother who birthed me, and for myself.” And, “Today I honor my mother as a woman who loved…”

    Blessings….

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am so sorry for all these sorrows and stand in wonder at how you have woven them into a mantle big enough to shelter and honor both of you.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for your bravery in sharing your story. Mom/daughter relationships are very complex and I rejoice with you in your pro active choice of forgiveness which it seems has set you free. May you find that same deep peace in relation to your children. I appreciate the sharing of your journey, past and present. Blessings on your continued journey.

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  8. Yes, I have been set free and that is a blessing that I would love to pass on to others…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I found your lovely writing to be so incredibly timely- today is my 54th birthday. I have not received a call from my mother and this is a first. My heart hurts but I am focusing on all Life’s surprises that have come my way- revealing that I am deeply seen and loved for who I am. I am so happy you are at peace– we need women to share this possibility.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh, have a lovely birthday and thank you for your comments – it is so hard when a parent or an adult child for that matter doesn’t acknowledge your birthday – it’s a fomr of invisibility – no wonder your heart hurts.

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  11. An incredible journey of suffering in your life , you have gone through, until you were able to find peace with your mother. Myself, I had a harsh and never me respecting mother, finally after her death, after going through some of her journals, I was able to forgive her, recognizing that she must have suffered from depression. Just a have suffered at times, yet faith has put me on the right path, to practice forgiveness. So I truly feel with you, thank you for sharing, Sara

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  12. What a beautiful essay, Sara. Congrats on coming to the place of acceptance.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Sara, thanks for your post. For me, the relationship with my human mother, Elizabeth was one of the most painful in my life. Acknowledging that has been healing. I support you to feel and release all the grief- give it to Medusa, her snakes can eat it. The generous, reliable, nurturing goddess is there. Revel in her and soak up her blessings. For me, the flawed relationship with my mother catapulted me into goddess worship and the spirit. I don’t think I would have been so passionate for her without a real bad human mother. Draw on your love of nature and life- the true source of delight much more so than your biological mother could ever provide. Love and prosperity to you.

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  14. I love your message and I want to honor your journey. It is hard to talk about mother-daughter betrayal issues as it is not considered “normal.” And yet I believe it is far more normal than we think because of the taboos in dealing with it. My mother betrayed me as well, again and again. She died about a year and a half ago and I am in still in the process of thinking about and working out my layers of forgiveness and seeing her for the wounded soul that she was here on Earth.

    You are a beacon and have created a pathway to help me and others. Thank you and blessings for that. May your own journey continue to nourish and nurture you with love.

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    • I think mother – daughter betrayed has been normalized by a culture that wants to control women – breaking the intergenerational link – teaching women to “compete” – teaching women to hate their bodies splitting them away from themselves – I could go on and on here.
      It took my five horrible years to come to terms with the legacy of women -hate that had been handed down to me – I refused to give in and eventually found some measure of peace… oh how I wish the same for you.

      Like

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