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I feel nothing for my selfish and absent mum

SUNDAY MAGAZINE
By By SHIRLEY GENGA | October 6th 2013

By SHIRLEY GENGA

It is hard to imagine a mother being anything other than loving, caring, selfless, giving, patient and kind, but not all live up to these societal expectations.

There are mothers who would rather be out with friends dancing the night away every day of the week, than stay home with their children. These mothers are quick to leave their responsibilities with others while some are emotionally abusive, jealous, selfish, mean, cold, irresponsible and narcissistic.

Because of the pressure to fit in and the fear of being shunned, those with mothers who fall short of the ‘good mother’ qualities are forced to stay mum or pretend they have the best mum in the world — it is almost unnatural to say anything bad about your mother.

Mike, a lawyer in his late 20s, says he doesn’t have anything good to say about his mother.

“I used to be embarrassed when I was younger because my mother didn’t behave like other mothers. Mum was never there for my two sisters and me. Dad raised us while my mother was in and out of our lives. She would disappear and reappear at her leisure and dad always took her back. When we were younger, we thought she was back because she loved us and could not bear to be away from us, but as we grew older, we realised her return into our lives always had a selfish agenda; she either had no money or things were not working out for her. As soon as things got better, she would be gone without a care in the world,” he says.

Mike explains that growing up with an irresponsible mother who could not commit to anything made him grow up faster than his peers.

Unapologetic

“Dad tried very hard to make a home for us and to fill the void left by mother, but there was only so much he could do.  She was never there when we were sick, or for school events. She was nowhere to be found during school visiting days. I was, therefore, forced to grow up fast and take on a parental role to my two younger sisters,” continues Mike.

To date, Mike’s mother is unapologetic and still wanders in and out of his life.

“When I was younger, I used to adore her and did everything to get her to stay and love us, but she never did, and my adoration turned into hate. Now I feel nothing for her; I just accept her as she is. My youngest sister, however, was so affected by my mother’s lack of interest in us that she not only got into a lot of trouble growing up, but now at age 22, behaves just like my mother. She has a son who she does not care for; her son stays with my dad. She cannot commit to anything or anyone,” says Mike.

Maureen is another victim of an uncaring mother. The 25-year-old businesswoman says her mother knew nothing about motherhood.

“My younger brother and I were raised by a single mother who did not understand what it meant to act responsible or to be selfless. She refused to grow up and let our grandfather take care of everything. She was unable to keep any job and my grandfather was forced to parent us. My mother would also bring men home all the time. Sometimes when she thought she was in love, she would disappear from home days on end, never caring that she had not left the house girl with any money for food. We would eat with neighbours who felt sorry for us and at times called our grandfather,” says Maureen.

Things got worse for Maureen when her grandfather died.

“In my last year of high school, my grandfather died and it was a struggle. In fact, if my brother’s father had not chipped in, we would have starved. After high school, there was no money for college or university but miraculously, I managed to get a job and quickly moved out,” says Maureen.

Even though she lives away from her mother, Maureen plays parent to her mother and brother.

“I pay for everything, as my mother still has no job. She still does not act her age and I am often forced to play the role of parent. She stays with my brother who is in primary school and he recently informed me that mother still brings men home. I had to face her and tell her to stop this immoral behaviour, as it affected my brother. I do not hate my mother; I just wish she would act her age. I am only 25, but I feel so old,” says Maureen.

Another example of irresponsible mothers is Rose’s sister who has two children but could care less about them. Rose, a student, says she, together with her mother don’t know what to do with her eldest sister.

“My sister is successful in the public relations field, but when it comes to being mother to her two sons, she does not care or try. Her husband works out of town and she stays with her sons in Nairobi. Even though she provides for her children financially, she is emotionally unavailable for them. The children go to the best school and have two house girls to look after them, but that is as far as her duties as a mother go,” says Rose.

Also according to her, there are days her sister’s children do not see their mother.

Emotionally detached

“There are days she comes home, but doesn’t enter the house. She leaves food with the watchman and then heads out to the local pub. We have tried talking to her but she fails to understand, thus my mother and I have been forced to be mothers to her sons,” continues Rose.

The phenomenal of bad mothers is baffling, as it is difficult to understand why a woman who gave birth to a child can be detached and heartless to that child.

Becky Gitau, a counselling psychologist at Nairobi Women’s Hospital and the treasurer for the Kenya Counselling Psychologist Association says the reasons why a woman would fail to be a good mother are complex and many.

Self-centered

“A mother’s inability to love and completely give to her child is often linked to her upbringing. If an emotionally unavailable mother brings up a woman, chances are that she will turn out like her mother. Other times, a mother will emotionally withdraw from her child because her relationship with the child’s father is not working. Some mothers will do it unconsciously and others will knowingly reject their children as a form of revenge on the father. Another group will neglect their children because they believe they are still too young and are not ready to be mothers,” explains Betty.

“Lack of self love is also a huge contributor. Some mothers do not love themselves and so when they have a child who resembles them, they transfer those negative feelings onto her. Some mothers are, however, just careless or selfish. They imagine the world revolves around them and it is all about them,” says the counselling psychologist.

Becky blames peer pressure for this irresponsible behaviour among mothers.

“Some mothers are busy trying to please others outside their home and as a result forget their responsibilities,” says Becky.

She further warns that children need affirmation from their mothers and when they do not get it, they suffer various effects, including low self esteem, difficulty in forming healthy relationships or attraction to unhealthy and abusive relationships, persistent fear of abandonment and depression.

Becky, however, says all hope is not lost for mothers struggling with parenting and those who were brought up by irresponsible mothers, as they can seek counselling to better their lives and stop the cycle.

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