This post is brought to you in response to this article on Slate which popped up on my Twitter feed this morning…
I’m repeatedly told by people who barely know me that I’m a horrible human being for not celebrating Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. The cycle continued over the weekend, as Sunday was Mother’s Day.
It’s hard to explain to people without going into TMI territory with people I don’t know. My best friend knows the details, my partner knows the details. For everyone else? All I ever really say is that I don’t have a good relationship with my parents.
People tend to read into that what they will. Most tend to assume that it just means we have silly little disagreements over things and I’m being childish. Believe it or not, I’m not actually that juvenile. Again, without going into detail, I grew up in an abusive household, with 2 alcoholic parents. My mother has a problem with drugs. My father suffers severe PTSD from his time in the military. Both took it out on my brother and I – physically.
Neither of us were ever sexually abused, I want to make that really clear. However I’ve lost count of the number of times we were hit, or lashed with a belt, gone hungry while my parents were out getting drunk somewhere, told that I was an unwanted mistake…
Some people like to tell me that I should be grateful for not being raised in a single parent household, that I should be thankful that I had both parents. Funny that. To me, being raised by both parents just meant double the abuse.
I fought back when I was old enough. I got kicked out of the house when I was 17, before I’d even finished high school. Hard as it may be to believe, I was actually a very well behaved child, straight A’s and everything at school. Probably most parent’s dream child. But that wasn’t enough for my parents – because I was an atheist, and they weren’t. I made no secret of that, and it was ultimately what doomed that relationship. I thought they’d get over it, nearly 20 years later? Nada.
Yes, I seriously got kicked out of the house for being an atheist and not condemning the “homosexual agenda” and for wanting to be a scientist who questioned the word of The Bible. Also because I had black friends. My parents are homophobic and racist bigots, shocker, right?
So I put myself through undergrad without one iota of support from my parents. I put myself through grad school on scholarships. I got myself an academic job on my own merits.
Then my parents, who I’d barely spoken to in years, ring me up to tell me that one of them has cancer. Unsurprisingly, they wanted money. I don’t know why people delude themselves that having a PhD and working as an academic means I’m earning good money. I earn enough to support myself and travel a bit, but I don’t earn enough to support my parents. And you know what? Even if I did earn enough, I wouldn’t support them.
My brother and I have discussed this. Our parents are actually horrible people, and the way we were treated as kids is unforgivable. I want nothing to do with them, and that includes providing them with any kind of financial support.
That does not make me a horrible person. I’ve tried to reconcile this relationship before to no avail. My parents are who they are. They are still abusive drunks, although they’ve finally figured out that my brother and I are now adults who are fully capable of fighting back. As a consequence, it may not be violent anymore, but the psychological abuse continues. “We gave you life,” is not a convincing argument for getting either of us to help.
I won’t pretend that my childhood doesn’t play a significant part in why I don’t want kids. It does. I’ve had to face the very real consequences of being born to parents who didn’t want kids, who weren’t prepared to sacrifice their lifestyles to raise kids, who never really had the psychological capacity to raise kids. I know I don’t want kids, and I would never want to bring them into the world unless I was willing to make the necessary lifestyle changes to support them. I’m not, so I won’t.
I wish they were dead so that I could just say that to people when they have a go at my choice not to celebrate my parents. This is not about forgiveness. I understand why they did what they did – alcohol, drugs, mental health issues – but that doesn’t make it ok. That is not an excuse for treating children that way. For the sake of my own sanity, I need to distance myself from them as much as I can. That doesn’t make me a horrible person, it makes me someone who has come to terms with the fact that their parents are not perfect. Nobody’s perfect, but there is a line between an occasional screw up and systematic long-term abuse.
I’d prefer to just forget that Mother’s Day and Father’s Day even exist. It’s just a reminder of what I had to endure as a child, and it’s not anything I want to remember.