Mom Torture: Surviving the Dark Spots of Mothering

4 years ago

Mom torture n. 1 emotional pain experienced by a woman when her child is in distress 2 a strategy used to weaken a mother's resolve in regard to her own beliefs and practices 3 a primary cause of sleepless nights See also tough love.

In my forty years as a mother, I have been on the rack, buried in sand up to my neck, tied naked in a sea of red ants, and kept confined in a kneeling position (closely resembling prayer) for hours and days.

I've been forced to watch horrific train wrecks, endured a thousand cuts, and been kept in the dark for months. I've stumbled out of the dungeon time and again only to be blinded by the too-strong light of reality.


Motherhood is not child's play, my friends. For some of us, not all, motherhood is wicked tough business. Oh, I have friends who've lived in whipped cream while raising their kids. Now they are easing back, retiring, having those beautiful grandkids visit while their own kids are off accepting awards and promotions. They escaped mom torture. Why is that? Why am I and so many women I know constantly getting the sharp bamboo under the fingernails?

Mom torture can happen with kids of any age but it is most severe when the kids are grown. When kids are little and they are suffering, mom can take action. A child getting bullied at school? Teach her how to respond. Advocate for change in the school's policies about bullying. A child having trouble academically? Find after-school tutoring. Provide more support at home. It's not always possible to fix little kids' problems but moms have more of a fighting chance. Moms do, after all, control the world and everything in it when their kids are growing up, right?

Mom torture really leaves the big welts when kids are grown and "out on their own." Examples? Oh, let's see, drawing from my vast experience and that of friends, relatives, people on Facebook, hypothetically speaking, some mom torture might include an adult child who:

  • is in a domestic violence situation that she won't leave
  • has untreated serious mental illness
  • is addicted to drugs or alcohol
  • struggles to be a good parent to his or her own child
  • lives in a dangerous neighborhood or associates with risky people
  • bumps from one low wage job to the next and can't make enough to live on
  • has serious health problems and no health insurance
  • is always unhappy and seemingly lost about life
  • is involved in criminal activity or is actually in jail

Mom torture when the kids are grown is the absolute worst because not only are your kids hurting, YOU ARE POWERLESS TO MAKE IT BETTER.

I used to have in my head the notion that at some point in time, I would get everything just right. My kids would be all in order like ceramic figurines on the mantel. Then my work would be finished. I could sit down and be satisfied. My kids could bring me flowers. I'd be serene and proud.

I'm not serene. But I am proud. Not sure of what. Maybe that I haven't surrendered to the torturers yet. Bring it, you fiends! There's no quit in this girl.


Jan Wilberg

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