6/18/18, “Mother Love”
I’ve had a very busy week, with some of my children visiting me, and running around with them, doing lots of things, spending time together,—and still trying to keep track of my work, and not falling behind.
I hope you’ve had a good and productive week!!!
I was very moved by the responses to my last blog, about the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Mr. Bourdain in particular must have been a remarkable person. My children were deeply upset by his loss, and all week I have heard people talk about what he meant to them, and how inspiring he was. He was a public figure and celebrity who really meant a great deal to people, and he will be very, very much missed by his many admirers and fans. Suicide is always a terrible loss, and a tragic event. It is always far reaching, and saddens and affects us all.
One of the people, who responded to the blog, is a frequent ‘responder’, with thoughtful and kind comments about the issues I raise in the blog. This person shared his own grief about his grandfather’s suicide, and his subsequent estrangement from his mother. He talked about how deeply affected he has been by both of those events, and no question, those are both events which would shake anyone to their foundations. It led me to think about, and want to share some circumstances in my own life, that I rarely talk about.
My mother was an extremely beautiful woman, it was probably her most striking feature. She was a model when she was young, and beautiful and naturally youthful looking until she died at 80. Great beauty sometimes seems to be more of a burden than a blessing, and I don’t think she was ever a happy person (She was solitary and dissatisfied, and even bitter in later years). She married very young, at nineteen, to a much older man (my father), and had me when she was twenty. And like some very physically beautiful people, she was very self-centered, and she was accustomed to having her world revolve around her. People spoke of her beauty til the end of her days. It taught me at an early age that beauty is not enough, and no guarantee of happiness. Having children was never part of her life plan, and I think it must have rocked her world when she had me. She was never good at sharing center stage, I only knew her to have one woman friend during her entire life, and my mother offended her early on, and the friendship ended. She was always and easily surrounded by men who admired her, and were dazzled by her (including my father, who never quite got over her). I think she considered women a threat, and didn’t seek their friendship. So having a child, a daughter, was not a welcome event in her life. My relationship with her was tenuous from my earliest memories of her, and she left my father, and me, when I was 6 years old, and moved on. Like the man who responded to my blog, and spoke of how devastated he was by his mother’s rejection of him—-for any child to be abandoned by their mother is a shocking event, one that can take years to recover from, and certainly takes time and a great deal of thought and introspection to even begin to understand. Once I had children of my own, I understood even less how my mother could walk away from a child of six, or any child, at any age. When my children were very young, I would feel literally physically sick if I left them for more than a few hours. There is an almost physical bond between mother and child, where a mother NEEDS to be with her child. We see it in nature, with animals, and in people. And because I was abandoned by my mother so young, I have always been extremely devoted to my own children, present for every event, there for every moment I could be when they were children, and very close to them as adults. If anything, my mother leaving me probably made me a better mother, and perhaps made me love my children more. I knew what it was like to feel ‘unloved’ by my mother, and never, ever wanted my children to experience that. She was more present in my life again once I was an adult, but in all honesty, we were never close. I was attentive and dutiful, as an only child, but we never overcame the enormous tear in our relationship, which occurred from her leaving me when I was so young, and the time, years and experiences we missed with each other.
We all have preconceived ideas about what a mother should be, and most of us expect too much of our mothers, and expect them to be superhuman human beings, able to understand and meet all our needs, wanting them to be warm, loving, compassionate, all forgiving, and never let us down. But mothers are as human as anyone else, I don’t think motherhood ‘improves’ us, I think it magnifies what is already there, both the good and the bad. And some people simply shouldn’t have children, and cause a great deal of harm and pain when they do. Not having children by choice always seems a somewhat sad decision to me, but for those who know they don’t have what’s needed within them, they make a wise decision to follow their instincts and not have children.
We expect our mothers to love us more than anyone on earth, to accept us unconditionally—-and when they don’t, we are secretly convinced that it is some terrible flaw or failing in us which causes a rejecting mother to behave that way. It must be our fault if our own mother doesn’t love us, and those who have been rejected by their mothers carry that weight for many years, sure that something terrible must be wrong with them. It took me many, many, many years (and therapy) to understand that whatever my failings, the flaw was not in me, but ‘simply’ in a mother who didn’t have a mother’s love to give. Understanding that is an enormous relief when it finally dawns….’oh Wow, it wasn’t me’. Not having a present mother is a loss, but in some cases it is the loss of someone who just has nothing to give us. Their tanks are empty, and their heart. I share that piece of my history with you because being abandoned by a parent is a terrible blow, and we feel it reflects on us, and being abandoned by a mother seems even worse somehow—your mother is supposed to love you no matter what. But not all mothers can do that. Mine couldn’t, and apparently neither could the mother of the person who responded to my blog. It’s worth saying too that because you were unloved by your mother does not mean that you are Unlovable—-there’s a big difference between the two. That person, a mother, who didn’t love you, clearly wasn’t able to—but that doesn’t mean that others won’t love you in your lifetime. You ARE lovable!!! We all are!!! And deserve to be loved.
It made my life infinitely easier once I understood that it had nothing to do with me. She was just fatally flawed, and didn’t feel able to be a mother, unfortunate to be sure—-but what crime could I have committed by the age of 6 to make her not love me? None at all.
Interesting things happen too when you don’t have a mother. Throughout my life, much older women have appeared in my life who were wise, loving and compassionate, and took me under their wing for a time, and gave me a kind of love and approval that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Much kinder and more intelligent and wiser women than my mother, a friend’s aunt when I was in my 20’s, just an extraordinary woman, a friend I met when I moved to California/ a Superior Court judge who had no children of her own. Both of those women were loving mentors to me and cherished friends until they passed away. And a third one, whom I had known as a child, a friend of my parents who lost track of them early on, and reappeared about 20 years ago, and she is an extraordinary woman, still active and brilliant and engaged in life in her 80’s, unfailingly loving to me, and always a source of love and encouragement in just the way I would have hoped from my mother as a child, or later on, and never had from her. I feel very fortunate to have had these women in my life, each of whom has made an enormous difference, and gave me enormous gifts of love. So my needs were met, despite my own mother leaving me as a child.
What I wanted to share is that the turning point comes, and the healing, when you realize that a child is never abandoned because THEY are insufficient in some way—but because the parent is insufficient and incapable. It’s not about you/the child, it’s about the parent who lacks the ability to love a child adequately, enough to be a loving mother. Being a mother, especially a good one, is not an easy job, and not everyone is equal to it. Once you understand that, all the heat goes out of the loss, or most of it. And our needs are met in different ways in life, not always from the sources we expect, but sometimes from more unusual ones. Losing my mother for all intents and purposes so young wasn’t easy, but once I understood who she was, and saw her with compassion, the loss was no longer a tragedy, but simply a fact of my life. And yes, I did hope for better from her right to the end, but it never happened. She died quite suddenly, still in very good form, still beautiful, and leading a very independent life. She died of a bad flu, within a week of catching it, when it turned to pneumonia. I was able to see her before she died, and I hoped for a minute that she would suddenly say everything I had hoped to hear for all of my life, but she didn’t. She was who she was, true to herself and true to form until her last breath. Quite amazingly, about a week before she died, she said in passing “You were the best thing that ever happened to me.” I was stunned, had never heard anything like it from her in my entire life, and jokingly said to a friend “she must be dying to say something like that”. It was a final gift, and the best she could do. And between my children, and the kind women who have mentored and befriended me over the years, I don’t feel cheated, I feel blessed. And the best I can wish for those who had a similar experience to mine—I hope that you realize in your heart of hearts that there is nothing wrong with you if you feel that your mother didn’t love you—if so, it was her burden to carry, and her failing, not yours. And the sense of loss and lack falls away when you realize that. Our best mothers are not always the women we were born to, which was just an accident of fate. And Don’t forget that YOU ARE LOVABLE, whether your mother loved you or not.
On a lighter note, I’ve told you about the White Dinner in Paris before—-it’s a very special event that happens once a year and originated in Paris, where thousands of people are invited to dress elegantly all in white, and meet in front of one of the spectacular monuments of Paris, for a moonlit dinner on a June night, and to bring with them a table, chairs, white table linens, china, silverware, candles, dinner, and enjoy a magical evening together, and then disappear like mice at 1am, leaving not a shred of mess or evidence that anything took place in the location. There is an incredible Cinderella feeling to it, and it’s a prize to receive an invitation (the dinner is free, by invitation only and meticulously organized. And the location is revealed an hour before the dinner). With my children visiting, I didn’t attend the event this year, and was driving with my children that night, and lo and behold, we drove into the Place Vendome, and there was The White Dinner, I saw friends there, all the gorgeous candlelit merriment, and the long rows of elegant white tables, gleaming with silver and chrystal. I chatted with friends there for a few minutes, and then drove on. What a gorgeous event the White Dinner is!!! It is truly magical (I wrote a book about it called “Magic”).
So have a wonderful week, full of beautiful surprises, good people, and happy times.
Much love, Danielle
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Thank you for sharing this moving story! Have a wonderful week, Danielle!
I can relate to you. I lost my beloved son some years ago and no you can never get over it. Please keep writing your lovely stories.
Magnificent blog—just beautiful and heartfelt-believe it will be helpful to many who read it.
Thank you for this from the deepest part of me.
Your post felt VERY healing and left me full of HOPE.
Love is reflected in Love.
Truth, Wisdom, Love, and Sincerity, to ALL Mankind.
In French there is something called: ” L instinct maternel est souvent aveugle “. This translates into English means ” mother’ s love or mother instinct is blind. We see this in animal kingdom : for example lioness ‘ love towards her cubs and how she defends them against danger. Another example will be the way mama bear defends little koala bears.
Unfortunately your situation Danielle was different.
From academic standpoint ( I studied psychology, social psychology and sociology at University )and from life experience; I can explain this situation. Even though , I am not familiar with your mom childhood and background , I can say this behavior came from the interaction between her and the environment where she was living in ( social psychology), and this situation ended up by shaping her behavior.
I had an aunt that had the same pattern of behavior. When I was a kid it was hard for me to understand , but I after I went to university I did understand her behavior. That behavior was just the result of micro events from childhood till adult life.
Well Danielle , I think you did a pretty good job, because 70 to 80 % of the time those who suffer those lack of love from their mothers end up by repeating the same thing with their kids. In your situation you did the opposite , that was a 180 angle rotation .BRAVO!
Your mom story was kind of similar to Marilyn Monroe( Norma Jeane Mortensen). She had all beauty, charm , fame , a lot of attraction but was lonely in somehow.
I can also mention somehow Michael Jackson or Prince.
But so far you set a good example for the new generation.
Thank you for sharing this personal story. I have always imagined you to be the absolute best mother in the world. You seem to just have a natural instinct for that. It’s so obvious you are truly a good person, always wanting the best for others, even at your own expense. In my life, being a mother, of children long grown, has been the best job I ever had in my life!
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us and for your loving encouragement. As a child, I was severely abused physically, emotionally and mentally by my mother. Throughout my life, I wanted nothing more than to have a family of my own and be the best Mother to my sons. Without the love and guidance of a handful of women, I wouldn’t be the person I am. I have been fortunate to have been loved and mentored by some amazing women in my life. Some lasted just a few years before moving on as friendships do, others have gone on to BE my mother in all ways to me and now grandmother to my children. Your words were almost as if you were telling MY story. My heart goes out to you for all you’ve experienced. I think it may explain why I’ve been drawn to so many of your characters. (!)
One thing that struck me was your mention of the judge who was childless. I’m wondering if my great Aunt was your Superior Court judge? She passed away in 1987 in Los Angeles. If this is her, I’d love to share rememberances and photos with you. I have some of her belongings and she’s meant a great deal to me. My Aunt was an amazing woman in her time, (She was quite the trailblazer in a time when women weren’t in law!) and while I didn’t get to establish a relationship with her due to my young age (I was 12 when she passed away) I always aspired to be like her. She was elegant and smart and I can’t help but think she might be your loved one as well! If you think this might be the case, I’d love to chat privately auth you about her via email!
Thank you again for sharing such deeply personal experiences with us. Sending love and prayers your way!
Wow, this couldn’t have come at a better time. I love your books and am an avid reader and own over 90 of them. I don’t participate much in social media, so I never thought to look you up and see you have a blog. I came across it haphazardly and I am so grateful for your sharing. I had a health scare recently and getting to the source of it is difficult. But one thing you pointed out so eloquently is that not all mothers meet your expectations and mine didn’t as an adult, it is sad and stressful, but it will be ok because I am better off without her causing undue stress. And I am loved by my husband and children (my absolute joy) and other wise women who are fantastic role models.
Your books are a source of comfort, hope and energy for me that keep me engaged and focused when anxiety sets in. It is an honor to read your books and I thoroughly enjoy each and every one (most recently, Past Perfect and Accidental Heroes). I thank you kindly for sharing your talents with the world and I wish you all the best always! I hope our paths will cross and I get the joy of meeting you someday in person. Love and hugs!
Hello Danielle , thank you for the encouraging story. As mothers we try the best we can always. Life is like a wave, you have to deal with it one wave at a time. I always tell my daughter, she’s my greatest achievement in life. I’m sure you’re mom did love you, but for some women back in the day it was hard to express feelings. My grandma was like that with my mother. You’re a GEM, Danielle take care …………Much Love ……Susan