Part of my effort to write “Confessions of an Undutiful Daughter“ (changed to the title, “Toxic Mom Toolkit” in 2012) includes gathering stories of other women who grew up with or are struggling with aging toxic-moms. Early on, many friends offered their stories and from time to time readers offer their stories.
These stories help flesh out my understanding of what daughters live through – and often triumph over – and how they make rules they can live with when it comes to dealing with their moms. In anticipation of a meeting with my writing mentor, I’ve been reviewing my stack of interviews. I realized I’m going to need more – lots more.
When I speak to women for this project, I use a one-page question sheet, which I’ve pasted at the end of this post. I’ve yet to ask every person every single question. Sometimes I already know that things don’t apply or learn during our conversation that a mother had died, so current relationship questions don’t apply. I give everyone the option of skipping a question or skipping several.
I’ve learned that in order to get authentic stories women need complete freedom in the telling. I realize that a step-by-step questionnaire can be overwhelming emotionally or a great starting point. If someone chooses to focus on one question and expound for pages, fine with me. My goal is to gather a wide range of information on the topic of how women deal with toxic mothers.
In my own case I know that my view of my mother changed as I matured.
Capturing a fluid, emotional story is a real challenge.
I did an interview last night with a woman who had an incredible story. She was quick to point out that she wasn’t perfect, but she had been clean and sober for 13 years. Her current life included working with others in recovery. Her past life included stepping over strange men her mother brought home.
She had a great sense of humor. She could laugh as she told me she was a little girl who stood in a bar doorway to ask her toxic mother for lunch money. Her story was amazing, yet what amazed me more was something she told me as we were saying our good-byes. She said that she follows my posts and prays for my book project while she drives because she knows it will help people.
Indeed, she speculated that a book like mine could theoretically help people not even born yet.
Yeah, no pressure there!
So, I’m asking my readers to consider being part of the process.
I’m asking for help.
If you can, please copy the questions below to a fresh page, or use the Confessions pdf – fill in the answers and e-mail them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. To be clear, I’m asking you to send this questionnaire to me directly – not to post it to the 8WD website.
In the future I will credit these statements to initials, age, and home state only to protect everyone involved and I hope encourage real sharing. I will need to confirm that you are who you say who you are and that I’ve indeed had contact with you. I may also need to schedule phone interviews to flesh out individual stories.
One last thought. If it doesn’t make sense for you to participate and you know someone who might want to, please forward a link to this story to that person.
Okay, here are the questions:
- Tell us about you. What year where you born and where does your birth fit in among siblings? Please provide a basic description of your parents/family. Did your family grow through adoption or foster placement?
- Describe the arc of your academic and professional life to present. What is your current occupation? If you volunteer in your community, how often? Doing what?
- Describe the relationship with your mother in three segments: as a child, a teen and young adult.
- How old were you when you first realized your mother was different than other mothers?
- What is your biggest criticism of your mother?
- What would she criticize about you?
- Describe any significant periods of estrangement. How easy (or difficult) was it to limit (or cut off) contact?
- How has your relationship with your mother affected your relationships with others?
- How many friends can you really talk to about your mother?
- Describe your current family status. Do you have children? If not, why not?
- Describe your current relationship with your mother. Given your current levels of contact how are you viewed within your family?
- Have you ever talked to a therapist about your mother? Was it helpful?
- Moving forward, do you anticipate any changes in your view of your mother?
- Do you experience personal guilt, social guilt or remorse about decisions you’ve made regarding your mother?
- As your mother ages, do you see yourself having more or less contact? Why?
Thank you for answering as many of these questions as possible.
Please feel free to add any other comments.
Be sure to include your contact information for any follow up questions.
Rayne Wolfe’s dream is to write her first book Confessions of an Undutiful Daughter by the end of 2011. She has since changed the title of her book to “Toxic Mom Toolkit”. She completed her one year dream journey May of 2011 on 8WD after a year living her dream. You can find her at Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook.