Got a Dream: Ask For Help – The Toxic Mother Questionaire

Help for daughters of toxic mothers

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 newsyrayne@gmail.com. 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:

CONFESSIONS OF AN UNDUTIFUL DAUGHTER QUESTIONNAIRE

  • 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.

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  • January Smith

    I will most definitely help you with this and contribute. I am a survivor. Live on my own for 4 years now, and every day is still surreal. I escaped her home like it was a prison and I was a convict. It was terrible. I still cant believe i managed to get out. I will answer all your questions in whatever detail you think is best, only because i know that this will help other people. i am still delaing with the fact that i am “free” and it is still very hard for my brain to fathom — which is why I found this post. Thanks.

    • Rayne

      I’ll look forward to receiving your completed questionaire
      Glad you found this blog. I post every Sunday.

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    • Rayne

      Many thanks for getting the word out. Rayne

      • Denise

        Rayne,

        I would like to take part as well! I am looking for encouragement, support and most of all sisterhood among women that have experienced these toxic relationships. I found your site as a result of seeking help for closure in my own personal way. At 41 yrs of age, happily married and three children I just yesterday decided to end all contact with my adoptive mother. She is due to have heart surgery in a month. I am a true survivor with one sister and we have survided terrible physical and mental abuse from the time we were small children and currently as adults. A simple short phone conversation can turn in a whirlwind of some sort of verbal putdown, yelling and criticizing. I have finally said I’m done. I have done all I can do and it’s time for me to make the choice to free myself,

        I had an opportunity to tell her I forgave her and thanked her for showing me how “not” to treat my children, but, how to be a loving, caring, passionate human being. She was livid at that, said I was a liar and proceeded to curse me. I gently hung up the phone and freed myself from the abuse. My moments now are peaceful, yet surreal, the one person as an adoptive child I used to call my “Mother” is no longer. I have as well, freed her of that responsibility so maybe she can save herself. Although, I feel numb, I’m in touch with my emotions, yesterday was a necessary time in my life! I congradulate myself for my strength, courage and ability to survive and share my story!

  • Rayne

    Hi Carolyn,
    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us at 8WomenDream.com. I post each Sunday. Hope to see you here again. FYI, happy to hear you love your parents! Have you told them lately? Hey, I know what! Share your dreams with your parents. That’ll get you going for sure!
    – Rayne

  • Carolyn Pecoraro

    This blog is so informative and amazing!!!! These stories of yours make me cry and I love my parents!! Such a cool concept for a blog. I should be going after my dreams too instead of partying so much. I have a hard time focusing on it. I admire anyone who can go after what they want. CP

  • Rayne

    Dear Can’t Be Bothered, Thanks for bothering.
    I really appreciate your comments.

  • Catherine, Site Admin

    Wow Can’t be Bothered, your post reads like a poem. I think you are more of an amazing person than you even know.

    And I’m sorry your mother didn’t appreciate how wonderful it is to raise a son. It is the highlight of my life. I would recommend it to anyone.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Catherine

  • Can’t B. Bothered

    I am a man, so I will be brief.
    These are the results of my toxic relationship with my mother:
    I am impotent and sexually dysfunctional.
    I suffer from chronic depression.
    I can’t form relationships with others.
    I live in fear of intimacy with women.
    I have never been married.
    I have no children
    I can’t hold a job (I’ve had more than 100 jobs in 44 years).
    I am unemployed.
    I have no health insurance.
    I have no assets
    In spite of this, I am a feminist, and I advocate unconditional economic, social, educational, vocational, reproductive and political equality for women.
    In other words, I don’t hate women, in spite of having a mother who hated me.
    She destroyed an essentially human part of me, and replaced it with intense feelings of worthlessness that dominate my dreams and my consciousness. I can only imagine how a similar experience might affect a woman. Good luck to you with this important project.

  • daniel

    i want to thank the blogger very much not only for this post, but also for all your previous efforts at touching upon this explosive, painful topic.

    • Rayne

      Thanks Daniel for the encouragement! I love to see guys on this blog. It makes me think that girlfriends/wifes are getting the support they need from their boyfriends/husbands. See you next Sunday!

  • vivian timmins

    Hi, I was wondering what exactly you mean by toxic mother.
    I think I qualify. Let me give u a couple of examples. When I was around 8 me,mom,dad were on our boat we lived on the water. The skies were getting dark clouds, the water was getting rough, a storm was coming, the boat was taking on water, as my dad furiously was trying to empty the boat of the water it was taking on. My dad yelled to us, jump off the boat and swim home.
    Me and mom jumped, and she was swimming ahead of me. I got stuck in a huge bed of seaweed and yelled help,I couldnt get free from it. I remember my mom just turning her head to look back at me, as I yelled, help I’m stuck. She didnt show any sign of any emotion, as she turned her head forward again without missing a stroke in her swim and kept going with out helping me. I managed to untangle myself, I had no other choice if I wanted to be free of the tangled seaweed. I swam behind her, we arrived home. I dont remember if I said anything to her about not helping me.

    Then at other times she was overboard the other way. I remeber a big party with our church friends at this ladies house. She lived on the canal and about 20 of us were swimming for about 20 minutes, when all of a sudden there was a loud shreik, scream, that brought all the conversations and merriment of the afternoon party to an instant halt. While my mother screamed, that I was going to drown, and get out of the water now. How embarrasing! The church leader guy was standing next to my mom and said, just leave her alone, she’s fine. So she did. But why did she not even help me when I needed it and now all of a sudden she’s the concerned mother. What a bunch of shit.

    She was way over protective most of the time. I wasnt allowed to do stuff other kids got to do, like ride my bike to the TSS store, or have a babysitter. My parents always took me to their grown up parties, instead of hiring a sitter. I had to go and be the only kid there and made to be upstairs in the living room by myself and go to sleep on the couch. I could never sleep at those things, while I could hear all the loud adults getting drunk. I would be bored out of my mind and wishing I was home. I remember my dad being so drunk and running a red light while my mother screamed at him, and I was scared.

    The one time I did have a babysitter I drove her nuts because I was so over excited about it. We baked cookies and I was in heaven. I begged for her to babysit me again.
    Of course that never happened.

    My mom was extreme in her ways. Her personality was overpowering and I was not allowed to freely have my own opinion. It was her way, and she would win any battle, still to this day.

    When she was scolding me, I was not allowed opinion or discussion, or even to sigh, tsk, roll my eyes, in fact I just held my breath as to not make any movement, because if there were movement of any sort, it would mean more screaming or scolding, being in trouble for that. I totally avoid conflict, and I get embarresed if someone wants to point something out, like if they have an issue with me, and others are in earshot. It takes me right back to those days.

    We had to go to church 3 times a week, and go preach the word of god, door to door. I hated that. She said I didnt have to worry about college, because I was going to marry a “brother and preach the word of god”

    She was so strict, it was horrible. She had an accent which embarresed me, then the church thing, and just all these rules all the time.

    I had just given birth to my third child, and my mom got home from vacation, she’d been gone a month. She came over and gave my husband a nice sweater she bought for him, my daughter something and something for the baby. Then she looked at me and said,” Oh, I’m sorry, I didnt get you anything.” I said that’s ok, I was not going to show that I wish I had gotten a gift. So I played it off as if it didnt hurt.
    When she left my husband came up to me and said she hates you. Your mother hates you.

    I said no she dosnt, why do u say that? He insisted she did, and he said didnt u hear what she said? She didnt have a gift for u, but she had gifts for all of us. He started to point out things that made me think maybe she did hate me.

    All I know is that she controls everything. My father hasnt spoken to me in 17 years. When I tell my mother she has to do something about that before he or I die. The survivor is the one that is going to be left unfairly holding on to baggage that will be overwhelming.
    She says she cant help it thats the way he is. She is full of shit. He is not talking to me, because she dosnt want him and I to re unite for some reason. She is holding a big secret, which is another whole long story, but believe me, if she wanted us to re unite and be father and daughter like normal, we would be.

    There was a period of time that I didnt speak to her, and people didnt understand. My daughter also was not speaking to her and if we said we hated my mom. people wouldnt understand and think we are being mean and wrong.

    Any way, this is just an idea of a little bit of how it was so let me know if you are interested or if this isnt what you are looking for.

    Ps my daughter gets everythiing all the time. I get almost nothing. My mom cuts back on me when she spends on my daughter. They will cut back on me when they buy her a brand new car or something, when mine just got stolen.

    Any way email me if you wish

    • Rayne

      Vivien,

      Thank you for reading my blog and for your long message. To answer your question – a toxic mom is a mom that hurts us. That’s it basically. The level of hurt can span coldness, neglect, verbal or physical abuse or worse. I think daughters of toxic moms recognize it, although when younger it can be an elusive concept.
      I’m wondering if you’d be willing to fill out a questionaire? I’m collecting women’s stories to share their wisdom in the book I’m writing. All you need to do is copy the questions, answer then in a word document and just email to me at newsyrayne@gmail.com.
      Many thanks and hope to see you next Sunday.
      – Rayne

  • Rayne – get used to the cheering section since I’m in there too! I’ll be sending my own questionnaire your way today…

    • Rayne

      Awesome!

  • Bernadette

    Your stories are amazing and I am glad I have the mother I have. I don’t have a story to share but this is an incredible blog!

    • Rayne

      Thanks for the encouagement. I post
      each Sunday. Please check back and
      leave a comment even if it’s just an
      ‘Amen!’

  • Catherine, Site Admin

    Excellent – I’ll be excited to hear your updates!

  • Rayne

    Thank you readers for filling out the questionaire and sending it to me at newsyrayne@gmail.com. They started coming in first thing this morning. Our readers are amazing! Many thanks!

  • Catherine, Site Admin

    I adore my mom so I can’t help you on the questionnaire, but I can get the word out to women looking to tell their stories.

    My mother even asked me yesterday if you were interested in her story of her toxic step-father and how she ultimately resolved it late in life. She still says growing up under him was hell.

    So yes, your story does strike a nerve.

    How exciting that the women you met follows your story and I love hearing how people are reading this website – so exciting and so exciting for you!

    I think her prayers will be answered!

    Cath

    • Rayne

      It always surprises me when readers say they’re rooting for me! I’m going to try getting used to it – what a concept…