Maternal Alienation is a child's condemnation of his/her primary emotional connection - a mindset and subsequent lifestyle of contempt for their mother. You don't hear about it often, because many divorcing and/or abusive fathers are trending toward the pretense that it happens only to them, and that evil mothers are the ones perpetuating it. They've even made a cause célèbre out of it (and a highly profitable industry has been created from it). They call it "Parental Alienation Syndrome."
But Maternal Alienation seems to be a growing phenomenon among kids, especially those who were raised in abusive homes. It's so common an experience among the women I've talked with that I got frustrated enough to write a novel about it. Alienated mothers can, and often do, completely lose themselves inside their misery.
If you haven't suffered the anguish of losing your child's respect, love, and trust, then this column won't make much sense to you. Still, it may give you some insight into the hell that so many mothers are trying to survive in a culture that has turned largely contemptuous toward women, while becoming devoted to the notion that fathers’ rights trump all.
If you do know what I'm talking about: First, I'm so very sorry; and second, read on, because you need to keep living - and you have a right to live well. Not just "as well as possible," but to enjoy a life that has meaning to you - which can be especially difficult around the holidays. One woman wrote to me recently about her loneliness and ended her letter by asking, "All the things I'm missing out on... Does the pain ever go away?"
I think the answer to that depends on where your pain is coming from. If you define yourself solely as a mother - and nothing more - then by definition, your life as an abandoned mother will feel empty. As difficult as it may be, you need to expand your perceptions of both yourself and the world around you.
The holiday season can be an emotional mine field, as you recall the happy times and the traditions that you created for your children. Many alienated mothers wind up rejecting their own memories, and avoiding the things that made them special, because the pain is too intense. But consider this carefully: Those traditions belong not only to your kids, but to you, too. If you dismiss them, you’ll be erasing a large piece of yourself. Although it may be just too painful for you to hang their childhood ornaments on the Christmas tree, or bake the traditional holiday treats, you can create new traditions and share them with others. A few ideas:
Give new Christmas ornaments to a needy family, and keep one of them, every year, for your own tree. Or donate your holiday - including your special traditions - to an afternoon at a retirement home or a homeless shelter. Volunteer at the local soup kitchen, and share your family’s favorite recipes. And don't refuse invitations from friends and family to join them for their celebration - let people care for and about you.
There’s often a lethargy that develops with the alienation, and you might not feel like dragging yourself out of the house, especially on special days. Do it anyway, and decide that your efforts are not just temporary measures to get you through your anguish: Let them become extensions of your traditions, because you have every right to sustain them. After all, you created them.
The pain will lessen as you rebuild your own life and share it with others, because much of the pain and loneliness comes from hiding the love in your heart. Being rejected by your kids might cause you to reserve the best parts of yourself only for your children; as a result, alienated mothers often close themselves off emotionally, denying themselves and others the benefits of the wisdom that they earned from their struggles.
Of course, you'll still have the moments of longing and of missing your children. Sometimes, those moments will knock the wind out of you, but resist the temptation to withdraw. The knowledge that you're wanted - and needed - elsewhere will tend to prop you up, because nothing dissolves loneliness like a sense of purpose.
Next time, we'll discuss the ways in which you can deal with your anger. Until then, please create a beautiful holiday for yourself. You deserve it.
Jenna Brooks is a certified professional coach, specializing in divorce, domestic violence, and Maternal Alienation. You can find Jenna's books on her website , and she welcomes your comments through the contact form at Jenna Brooks Online.
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