My mother put as little effort into parenting as was humanly possible. She made it clear that I was an obligation that she was fulfilling. My father left when I was four. I had six older siblings. Three were adults and out of the house. The other three left as soon as they were able with two marrying young and one moving in with a couple of roommates while she attended college. None wanted to put up with her.
When I was very young I was left with my teenage siblings who clearly resented having to take care of me and drag me along to their friend’s houses or school rehearsals. I don’t blame them for that. Once they left the house, I was left with the family of brother’s girlfriend which was a glaringly unsafe situation:
Can Anxiety Be Overcome Without a Fundamental Feeling of Safety?
If a belief that I am worthy of feeling safe is a prerequisite for dealing with my anxiety, I am screwed.
Finally, I was old enough to be left alone and I was pretty much left to my own devices after that. Even after my mother retired early on disability and was technically at home, she never did shit for me.
She must have cooked meals at some point, but I cannot recall a single instance of her cooking regular meals. She did cook on holidays and I remember those because they were so bad. She slow cooked a turkey until it was basically cardboard. It was not until I was an adult and learned to cook myself and heard about brining that I realized turkey could be good without a gallon of gravy on it.
She rarely cleaned. She did do the laundry semi-regularly until I took over washing my own clothes when I was a teenager so that it got done more than once or twice a month. She mightily resented when she had to do things for me like drive me to school events
If Your Parents Don’t Love You, Are You Fundamentally Unlovable?
Even if you aren’t, is it ever possible to convince yourself of that?
In terms of guidance in life, there was none. I learned very early that trying to tell her about my problems, or heaven forbid, ask for help, would get me belittled and dismissed. Nothing going on in my life could be so important that she needed to be bothered with it.
If I was doing something wrong, I never got corrected. Once I fucked up, I’d get yelled at. But there was never any teaching about what I should have done instead. I got to figure that all out on my own.
She never instilled any kind of discipline in me. She never supervised to make sure I was taking care of myself in terms of basic things like hygiene or supervision to make sure I kept up with my homework from school. I was allowed to skip school regularly. First, when I was young enough to be driven, she’d just let me stay home. Later I had my own car and would just not go.
My life was sink or swim. Many times it was sinking because I was a little kid. I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing. I was ostracized many times by other kids because I wasn’t doing what I should have been. What she should have been making me do.
Eventually, I learned to do what I needed to do to pass as normal.
What I never learned was basic self-discipline. I’ve struggled for years because I lack any kind of intrinsic motivation.
Many of the things I learned to do as a kid, I learned out of fear. I would remember to brush my teeth because forgetting would get me teased at school. It was not because I was motivated to take care of them or myself.
Thanks to my mother’s abuse, I will never feel worthy of that type of care:
Emotional Abuse Fallout: Feeling Unworthy of Even the Most Basic Things
I struggle to purchase even the most basic life supplies because I have to battle the guilt from a childhood that…
How the Damage from an Abusive Childhood Keeps Me from Seeking Healthcare
Why the way I was treated keeps me from treating myself well.
Finally, in my mid-20s I stumbled upon something that worked for me. Because I was unable to work up the motivation to do the normal things that self-disciplined people do (self-care, hard work, reliability, responsibility, etc), I set out to make them all habits.
I started with the most basic of things and slowly built my way up until everything in my life runs on habit.
I know it is a habit and not self-discipline or motivation because when my schedule gets weird, things that I normally would do start falling to the wayside. If I don’t do them regularly, I lose the habit and have to work to re-establish it once I realize what has happened.
It has been 20 years of building these habits and for the first time, I am close to successfully making daily writing a habit. After several stops and starts since the spring, I have successfully written and published every day since June 1st.
I can’t say it is a full-blown habit yet, because I don’t do it automatically. I have several reminders set and I have to consciously choose to sit down and write. A few days I have had to force myself, but the fact that I did force myself is evidence that the habit is being established. The pressure to give in the habit was strong enough to overcome the resistance. I hope soon it will be an automatic habit that I can expand to more than once a day.
I would never have gotten to this point if I had to discipline myself into it. Habits are the way for me.