Most of the images and discussions surrounding mothers and motherhood are positive ones. We talk about the sacrifices mothers make, the love they give to their children and the bond mothers and daughters share with one another. But in many relationships, that is not the full story. Some relationships are tinged with strife or have been completely destroyed by dysfunction.
In order to tell these very real stories, MadameNoire, is launching a new month-long series called Mommy Issues. These stories are from real Black women, sharing their real experiences.
This first installment in the series comes from Phylicia*, a 27-year-old woman. She’s the daughter of Diane, a woman who gave birth to four children. Phylicia is the product of Diane’s relationship with Roger Sr., a man who battled with several addictions, making him an inept and abusive parter, and later, an absentee father.
So Diane raised Phylicia and her siblings by herself. And because of the disappointment Diane experienced in her life, her issues with depression, suicide attempts and even dysfunctional romantic relationships took a toll on not only her but the relationship with her daughter Phylicia.
Here’s her story.
Was there a specific time when you realized your relationship with your mother was different from other people’s?
I would say that I first noticed that the relationship was different or not healthy in first grade. That’s when my dad moved out. Well, he didn’t move out but she packed his stuff and moved in with my grandma. My dad was a hot, raggedy mess. But it was like her treatment towards me changed.
Why do you think it changed?
I’ve always been a daddy’s girl. And even when she would get frustrated with me, she would say, ‘Oh you remind me of your dad.’ At that time it was just me and my brother Roger living with her. And he was always in the hospital so I was usually with my dad by myself while she was with Roger in the hospital. So we didn’t have time to really bond. And even right before my parents had broken up, my dad—who was drunk most of the time— he jokes and prods at people. He would make jokes at her and I would laugh and she would snap on me, even though I was only four years old at the time. So I think she has a lot of resentment toward me. I think I was a reminder of my father just because me and him have such similar personalities. And then, I just feel like she lashed out at me at a young age because I reminded her of him.
I don’t feel like she ever treated me as a child.
You know that children do stuff and it’s innocent. I feel like she always felt there was an intention behind what I was doing. I don’t think she ever recognized me as a child or having innocence.
Even when it comes to business matters and finances, she would talk to me about things you’re supposed to talk to adults about, things children shouldn’t know about from an early age.
I was the first daughter that she actually raised because my other two sisters went with my grandmother from a very young age.
My sex talk was my mom dropping condoms on the table.
What was the relationship like between your mother and her mother?
My grandma is really passive aggressive and she was really strict as well. Except for my one aunt, she has strange relationships with all of her daughters. And she always treated her one son better than she treated her daughters. Which is the same thing my mom does.
And now that I think about it, my mom and my grandpa were really close and I think my grandmother was really envious of that but she was never say it, she would just nit-pick all the time.
And then, when she started having children—so my uncle has been married four times. My grandmother has never said anything about that, even though he was clearly messing around with his past girlfriends while he was married to his first wife [They would even show up at the house sometimes.] But my mom, having two different fathers for her children, [my grandmother] always threw that in her face. So basically, it was a whole bunch of respectability politics. And girl, my grandma was never a saint. They just don’t talk about stuff. Even with my period, the only reason why I know about that stuff is because my great aunt told me. It’s a weird situation. They don’t talk about sex or anything. When I went for college, my sex talk was my mom dropping condoms on the table as she was leaving. And I wasn’t even having sex at that time, girl! But my mom thought I was having sex at around age 15. I was talking to people on the internet but I was never active.