Negligent Mothers Impact Their Children's Lives into Adulthood

Tracy Stengel

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When I did outreach for street level prostitutes on the meanest streets in Toledo, I grew attached to the ladies. They became my friends, and they were gracious enough to share their stories. A recurring theme was the absence of their mothers.

“My mom left when I was ten,” Jazzy told me. “My dad was an addict and couldn’t take care of my little brother and me. I wound up foraging for food. I begged neighbors, gang members, anyone I met, to get some candy or a package of hotdogs. Nobody knew my brother and I were left at home for months at a time.”

Jazzy was 27 when I met her and had two kids by two different men.

Tears dripped down her cheeks when she spoke of her children. “They were the only things keeping me alive, but the courts took them from me. My aunt is raising them, but I’m not allowed to see them. It’s probably for the best … even though it kills me. I’m not good for anyone.”

Jazzy’s drug addiction keeps her on the streets. Shame is what keeps her from fighting for her children. “When my mother left, I felt like I was trash. Why wasn’t enough for her to stay? I knew there was something about me that was damaged. Now, I’m just like her.”

While Jazzy’s story is heartbreaking — no little girl should be abandoned by her mother — the effects of abandonment reach to those shunned as adults.

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My friend, Leeza, was raised in New York. She is a no-nonsense woman with a can-do attitude regardless of what life throws at her. We met three years ago, but I was recently astounded when she confided her mother disappeared when she was 22.

“I had a three-year-old daughter with sepsis and my son was a toddler. He fell down the stairs and broke his arm. I needed my mother, but she disappeared. She left my father the day after my little brother graduated from high school. It wasn’t until years later, we discovered she had moved in with a couple close enough to our family for me to call them Aunt Martha and Uncle Larry.”

Her dad had a nervous breakdown and Leeza swooped in to nurse him back to health. “My mother wrecked our family and destroyed Aunt Martha and Uncle Larry’s marriage. She and Uncle Larry were having a secret affair. Nobody knows when it started, but when Aunt Martha realized what was going on, she sounded the alarm.”

When I asked her how she feels about her mother now, Leeza’s eyes grew swimmy. “I am ambivalent. I love her, but I am still angry. She tries to be my friend, but I can’t trust her. How can I? She has betrayed everyone.”

Leeza has two children. “The only way I would be out of my children’s life is if I were dead. I will never abandon my children until the day I die. I will never become my mother.”

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In https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/tech-support/202110/unloved-daughters-plumbing-the-pain-maternal-abandonment, Peg Streep, author of Daughter Detox: Recovering from an Unloving Mother and reclaiming Your Life explores the effects of children neglected by their mothers.

The “mother myths” — that all women are nurturing, that mothering is instinctual, that maternal love is always unconditional — stand guard in front of the cultural cupboard where taboos and secrets are kept.

While many parents aren’t equipped to parent, we as a society, have to take up the slack. If you know of a neglected child, please reach out and show them love.

For those of you who have experienced the pain of an absent mother, I would love to hear your stories in the comments. What helped you thrive? What ramifications of not having a mother hindered you from thriving?

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Tracy explores the world with a positive eye, an open heart, and a sprinkling of humor. Without laughter, she would be lost.

Onsted, MI
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