Juliëtte broke off contact with her mother. With that she took Yfke (7) and Ninthe (5) from their grandmother.
Juliette (34): “My mother is a complicated woman, perhaps that sums it up best. There’s not one thing I don’t like about her, it’s a whole host of bad sides that have led to us not seeing each other now. It was actually a long time coming. My friends have told me so many times that they would have pulled the plug long ago, but it is my mother and I only have one of them. So I kept forgiving her, over and over. Until last Christmas.
Put salt on every snail
I don’t know if she drinks too much. Well, my father also liked a drink, only my mother had a bad drink in my youth. She was fine for the first two glasses, then everyone around her started walking on eggshells. She put salt on every snail, exploded for nothing and scandalously crept into the victim role. I don’t remember how many times my brother and I were told that we loved our father more than we loved her. Well, it was a reproach that touched me very much as a child, perhaps because it contained a kernel of truth. My father was much nicer than her.
Always in the foreground
My mother is verbally very present. Always in the foreground; I used to be ashamed to death on a regular basis. She can’t listen either. When you tell her something, you see her searching for words to tell her own story right through. Most of all, she is very busy with herself.
“When you tell her something, you see her searching for words to tell her own story through it”
When my father died suddenly nine years ago, his funeral was more like ‘The Great Annet Show’. She had no eye for the grief of my brother and me. She played the grieving widow, all in black, with huge sunglasses and crocodile tears. I didn’t find her grief believable. My father and she had been in a marriage of convenience for years.
At the drink after the service she drank a bottle and a half of wine. She got into a big fight with my father’s brother on the spot; it was too embarrassing for words. ‘Take good care of your mother’, my uncle said when he left the mourning center emotionally. I took those words seriously. Now that my father didn’t do it anymore, I had to make sure she didn’t completely derail.
I missed my father terribly. My mother’s grief was over the day after the funeral. She started dating; Not a month went by without her hooking another guy. I didn’t want to meet them; it was a pattern that it didn’t last even a week. She blamed me for that: didn’t she also grant me my happiness with my friend Niels?
A year after my father’s death, I was pregnant. I had told my mother in confidence because it was so early, but that afternoon I received congratulations from all quarters. She had trumpeted her about becoming a grandmother and didn’t care that we wanted to keep it a secret for a while. ‘I’m going to be a grandmother’, that’s how she brought the news, not ‘Juliëtte is pregnant’. That choice of words typifies what she is like. Everything revolves around her.
Niels and I wanted to keep the gender to ourselves, as a surprise for everyone. That became for my mother with a drink another reason for a banging argument. She felt left out, she cried. In the end I gave in. I had no energy for her whining.
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To watch out
Even during my pregnancy she made it clear that I should not think that she would babysit, she also had a life of her own. I hadn’t intended to ask her at all; it also regularly happened that she already had a glass of wine at lunch and then got into the car with a sip. Just the idea that our kid would be in the backseat with her gave me panic attacks.
“You don’t want to argue with my mother and that’s why she gets away with a lot”
Yet, when Yfke was born, she criticized me for seeing her far too little. Niels’ parents did babysit one day a week and she was clearly jealous of that. Not on the watch out, but on the contact. It made her mean. For example, she would have Yfke on her lap and she would say in a cooing voice: ‘Yes, of course you don’t recognize Grandma Annet, do you? Grandma Annet barely gets to see you.’ I let a lot come over me, just like my father always had. You don’t want to argue with my mother and that’s why she gets away with a lot.
Three years ago she ran into her current boyfriend Goos. Just like my mother, Goos likes a glass of wine and their relationship is cracking. They can rage against each other and the next moment they are kissing deeply again.
When they come to visit us, I always have to recover afterwards. They start one discussion after another and, the more they drink, the louder and more indiscriminate they talk. Not infrequently they get into the car with twice the legal amount of alcohol in their blood. And they’ve already left arguing a few times, leaving me in tears. It eats energy.
Last Christmas I invited my mother and Goos. My brother was also there with his children; I intended to make it really fun. Days before I had been busy with the shopping and I had gone to great lengths in the kitchen, even handwritten menus on the perfectly laid table.
My mother said nothing about all my efforts when she came in. Even during the meal I didn’t get a single compliment about my cooking. She did talk a lot about her renovation and she regularly asked if there was still wine. She didn’t care about the grandchildren at all. When Ninthe got a little grumpy after dinner, my mother snapped at me to put her to bed. I thought of my mother-in-law, who in such a case would have gone upstairs with her granddaughter to read and tuck her in at length.
The breaking point
‘How awful she is’, my brother sighed when our mother and Goos were smoking in the garden. Those words were a breaking point for me. Horrible: she was, yes. And coincidentally also my mother, but that didn’t mean I had to let her make me unhappy any longer.
“Just because she was my mother didn’t mean I had to let her make me unhappy any longer”
Entirely according to tradition, the evening ended with a fight. That night I hardly slept and the next morning I made it clear to my mother in a long email that I don’t want to see her anymore. It was incredibly relieved, although it made me cry too. I have not received a response to my email. I have insulted her to the bone with my rejection.
I find it very sad that I have taken from Yfke and Ninthe their grandmother, but I saw no other option. Strangely enough, they hardly ask about her. I don’t miss my mother, it hurts me that I never had a mother who is also there for me and my children. That my in-laws are such sweethearts makes up for a lot. Who knows, the contact will one day recover, but for now I think it’s okay; she gave way too much noise on the line.”
This article appears in Kek Mama 08-2022.
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