This thread resonates so much with me. Thanks to every one for posting, and hugs to all who are feeling so much pain with these issues!
My mother has bipolar disorder with schizoaffective tendencies (hears voices, paranoid). She was on tranqilizers throughout my childhood, avoiding necessary meds was her problem rather than taking illicit drugs or alcohol. I was born with some birth defects that could be traced to those tranquilizers she did take while pg with me. She began her total breakdowns when I was 11, was gone permanently when I was 12, leaving me, my dad and my 7 yr old sister. My sister and I took care of each other as much as we could and are very close.
My dad remarried when I was 16, to a women with daughters the same age as my sister and I. Learned a lot from her, like how to cook vegetables and a lot about housekeeping, but she wasn't interested in mothering us really. There were some really hard moments like stepmom taking her daughter to the mother-daughter graduation tea and no arrangements made for me, living in the same house, graduating the same class, same year.... That marriage didn't last; motherloss number 2. Harder than the first, I think, because my own mother was just sick, and this one left because we just didn't measure up, as far as I could tell.
I was very needy in my relationships in my late teens, and I'm sure I pushed away friends and lovers who were frightened by that. My mom was in hospital for a long time, then lived with her parents, on a disability pension for her mental illness. I saw her once or twice a year, dutifully on my part. My grandmother and a couple of aunts were my biggest mothering role models, but they all had their troubles too.
I married in my early 20s -- the wedding was hugely stressful. I didn't want to have a wedding or even get married, but it was important to dh. (Who says women are the sentimental ones!) I told my mom I was getting married and she immediately called my sister and said "We have to stop the wedding!" She threw a scene trying to stop a family member's wedding when I was younger, which we all remembered clearly. We had the wedding without my mom and then went to stay with her for a week in lieu of honeymoon. Some family members were scandalized anyway and I had to deal with that.
: My father's sister made me a wedding cake and took me shopping for a dress which still touches me to the point of tears 16 years later, but I just missed the mothering I wouldn't have to feel grateful for, kwim? Getting married was the best thing I ever did, but I still wish we'd skipped the family wedding, despite the kindness shown by some.
Had a number of failed relationships with potential older female mentors and role models. One thing that has comforted me in the last decade is the Rosary and Marian prayer -- a universal mother figure.
Had 3 children in my late 20s and 30s -- waited in part to make sure I wouldn't have the troubles with mental illness that mom did. My 36th birthday was one trigger, because that was the age that mom was when she fell off the map of the family, so to speak.
My daughter is now 10, the age I was the last full year that mom lived with us. I'm really wondering how I'm going to handle parenting her through all those adolescent years when I was just left to wing it on my own. There are so many painful and awkward memories of my own to process in every single step. Thanks for the book recommendations! I'm definitely going to look those up!
I think raising the boys is/will be easier, because I know nothing about what boys go through, lol!
I just got back from a visit to my mother. She is never going to be fully well, but is doing very well, despite her challenges, and she tries hard to be a good grandma. I helped her buy a bike for my older son for his birthday and she was so proud that she was able to do that!