Whilst I was in the abusive relationship, I was scared and I was anxious and I was low and felt worthless and useless. He’d worked really hard to ensure I felt that way. I also felt like the world’s worst mother. Well he told me I was, daily. He told me about how the children would be better in care than living with such a terrible mother as me. I believed this by the end. In the same way I believed I was thick and fat and ugly and no one would ever want me except him.
He’d put years and years into ensuring that I felt this way. Not all at once, of course that’s not how they work.
What began as questioning if I was wearing that outfit? Was it not a bit too tight in the tummy? Did it not make me look a bit heavy?….through how he’s told me if I wear that dress it makes me look fat? He’s only trying to help. Ending with not bothering to get dressed in anything nice, yet still being told I’m vile and hideous and disgusting and how he obviously has to sleep with other women because I’m so grotesque.
It took him 8 Jo years to get to that. These men are bastards but bloody hell they do put the hours in!
It was the bad mother jibes that got to me most though. I was the worst mother. I already believed it. He told me that because I taught the kids to read pre-school that meant I was torturing them in some kind of bootcamp. If I let them stay at his mums that was me palming them off.
Aside from that though, I carried crippling guilt every single day. My own guilt this time though, not the guilt he’d gifted me with. I was letting them live in this environment. I had had children with this man. I couldn’t leave.
I truly was the worst mother.
After we had left, the guilt didn’t leave. I’d done it, I’d taken them out of that life I should’ve felt better. I had a new guilt now though. I’d scooped them up and ran away, 2 hours away from their family, their school, their home.
I’d taken them away from their dad. That was good for me , but how selfish was I ? How I felt about that man counted for more than how the kids felt about him??
I truly was the worst mother.
I’ve spoken about doing the Freedom Programme before. I’ve told of how sitting in that room with those women was, and remains, the only place I’ve ever been able to talk openly and honestly about my experiences. There is no judgement there. They know. I got so much out of it and I’ll be forever grateful to the women in that room.
At one session though we discussed how children are affected by domestic abuse. The impact on them and what beliefs we pass to them. There were lots of tears that night. We’d all been sharing this guilt.
We all felt truly the worst mother
Talking about it helped. Tears were wiped, tea was made, then we began to discuss the benefits to our children of leaving the relationship. The ray of sunshine, the bright light at the end of the darkest gloomiest tunnel ever.
I’d improved their lives. Me the worst mother ever had improved their lives, their futures. I took that thought, grasped it tightly with both hands and I’ve never let go.
I had no control of their home environment whilst I was living with the perpetrator. I could attempt micro management. I could spend his days off work holed up in the kids room with them. The whole day we’d sit up there playing as far as they were concerned, hiding as far as I was. I could do little things to try to keep him calm. Ultimately though I had no control over anything.
Now I do.
Away from him with the little ones I could play and read and giggle with them. We could even PAINT! Who’s going to shout about the mess? Not me!
We could kiss and cuddle and tickle and I could lavish as much attention as I want on them with unleashing the wrath of the person who was jealous of me paying my own children attention, telling me they were spoilt!
We could have people over, even my sister – his arch nemesis! We could have friends from school over, anyone we want!
With the elder one I was finally able to honestly answer his questions about what had happened. This wasn’t easy, I’m not going to fib. When we moved my eldest child suffered with anger and anxiety. Now we were away though I was able to get him help with a counsellor who took him through a programme that I could back up at home, which really helped us to talk. I now have a happy, confident teenager. We have a lovely relationship and I couldn’t be more proud of him.
So you see that one session, that was like I was given permission to let go of a bit of the guilt. What happened wasn’t my fault. I got out when I was able and I’ve improved my children’s lives by doing so.
So many years on, greatly healed, I can see how true this is. I’ve amazing children. We’re the family I always hoped I’d be able to have. I’m so very lucky.
I know that if you are in the grips of an abusive relationship that you can’t envisage a happy family. He’s taken away your hope. You can’t see a happy home filled with love and laughter in your future. I didn’t believe it was possible either.
Here we are though.
If you are that woman, I know it’s bleak now. When you are ready though, It’ll be worth the hard journey it takes to get there.
You’re stronger than you can even begin to realise yet.
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