“It reads as a short story, but only us, the children of narcissistic/enabling parents, know the deep pain contained within”
Shattered and Betrayed [Happy Birthday/Issue 819]
Thank you so much to Family First for publishing such a deep, familiar, touching story, and to the author for putting into words the reality of dysfunctional families as she shared her story of growing up with a narcissistic mother.
At first glance, it reads as a short story, but only us, the children of narcissistic/enabling parents, know the deep pain contained within.
I read the story several times, and my spouse even asked me if I’d submitted it. Not only are the details almost identical, it describes me to a T — how I relate to people, and like the author perfectly expressed, how the trauma makes me stay far away from certain people, doubt the kind of parent I am, the kind of person I am, the intention of potential friends. It gets even more complicated as there’s always that sibling with similar narcissistic traits.
For some reason, narcissists and enablers find each other. In my situation, my mother, a malignant narcissist, needed extremely strong boundaries. But when we would set those boundaries, she’d be the most vengeful person, going to any length to bully us into submission and then act like nothing had happened.
For some reason, the enabling parent thinks it’s better to give in than to set boundaries. The enabler almost feels like a referee, even a hero, for averting the next disaster. I also grew up feeling sorry for my poor, broken father. In fact, he wanted us children to see him that way, join him in the enabling act, basically protect him.
One day, deep into my forties, I realized that he was the adult and I was that child that needed protection, not the other way around.
When you grow up in this painful dynamic, you not only lose the narcissistic parent, but are abandoned by the enabling parent, who is usually very loving, but weak. It leaves you completely shattered, betrayed.
Wishing all of us complete healing and redemption from our childhood wounds,
A Need, Not a Choice [Inbox/Issue 819]
To the mother who praised keeping kids home until age three or four: Let’s get one thing straight. Sending out a three-month-old and sending out a two-year-old are extremely different.
First, most mothers need to work, unless they’re supported by family or their husband makes a six-digit salary. Whether they work for three or nine hours a day, many mothers don’t have a choice in the matter. Please recognize that. If you have the privilege of keeping your baby home after six weeks (or 15 weeks in Israel), then you’re blessed!
As to sending out a six-week-old versus a two-year-old: staying home with a two-year-old, even if you don’t work, is very difficult. Two-year-olds are wild. If you’ve ever had one (#HadassaSwerds), you’d know it’s not just a matter of “taking them to the grocery to explore the world.” I believe every mother needs to know her level of energy. If she’ll stay home with her two-year-old and newborn at the cost of not having energy to make dinner, keep the house clean, or be patient with her six- and eight-year-olds, she will need to decide what’s more important.
And with regard to sending out a six-week-old — every person should do what’s good for them. A mother needs to rest. She needs to shower. She needs to EAT. It’s difficult to do that with a newborn (or a one-year-old or two-year-old).
As mothers, we live and we learn. We need to consult our husbands and mentors and daven that we’re doing the right thing. May Hashem grant us all clarity!
Ramat Beit Shemesh
Sundays Are for Structure [Inbox/Issue 819]
To the Israeli letter writer who bemoans the fact that we don’t have Sundays off, I, too, read the Sidekick column thinking, “Seriously? Why are you complaining about such an asset, something that to any chutznik here in Israel is a long-lost memory of fun and freedom?”
And then I remembered that my only recollection of Sundays is from childhood... and that I’ve never done it as a mom. The column opened my eyes to the fact that as much as we mourn the loss of the late wakeup day after a hectic Shabbos, the concept works just in theory. I don’t know about you, but my kids wake up earlier on days off. I really don’t need a day once a week with my kids complaining they’re bored, and me trying to get things done while everyone is home. I’ve got enough of it during bein hazmanim.
Thank You, Hashem, for a Sunday of structure, and thanks Family First for reminding me that the grass is always greener on the other side.
Proud of My Fridays [Inbox/Issue 819]
Ever since my family made aliyah, and I got used to Sunday being a regular workday (it took just a few months), I’ve always felt a certain pride in Sunday being a regular day and Friday being the day off. As a mom, I feel immense gratitude at having the day off to cook and clean (Shabbos is coming either way), without the stress of having to work, too.
As Jews, we value Shabbos more than having a day off to run errands. Shabbos is the Day of Rest, a day to focus on the kids, so having Friday off means we get a whole day to cook and clean for a holy purpose.
I’m not making light of the fact that we could always use more time to get things done. As a working mom, I know this. But things get done, one way or another. Friday off gives us a chance to focus on our true goals, on passing on the right messages to our kids.
And besides, I remember those Sundays off as a teen, with all the kids home, bored or hungry. I don’t know how we’d find time for any errands. I personally love getting the kids to school on Sunday, and I feel just a tad smug (so sorry, can’t help it) when my friends tell me it’s Sunday, and all the kids are home.
Don’t forget why Sunday is a day off in the States!
That letter about kugel on Friday afternoon was beautiful, and I hope I can do that one day, too. Please, Hashem, don’t take away our Fridays.
Yes, It’s the Shadchanim [Inbox/Issue 819]
I’d like to respond to the letters talking to A Normal Single Girl, who wrote a Words Unspoken to a shadchan who she felt defined her by her medical condition. Specifically, I’d like to reply to the letter that said A Normal Single Girl’s anger is misplaced. I’m also a normal single girl, and even though I don’t have a medical diagnosis attached to my résumé, I felt her anger at shadchanim was perfectly placed.
Telling someone not to be angry will only increase their anger, while validating this girl’s very real pain could actually be what helps her move past the anger.
Another letter said shadchanim only behave the way they do because that is the expectation. I disagree. Take pictures, for example. I don’t send pictures, and it’s only ever been a problem for a boy once. It’s been a problem for nearly every single shadchan I’ve met. “You can’t get dates without a picture. I need a full body photo. Do you think I can get you dates with this picture? I need a different one.”
They’ve made me and my mother feel like garbage because I dare have self- respect. Somehow, I’m still getting redt to boys without them seeing my picture, despite shadchanim making that sound impossible.
I’m with you, A Normal Single Girl. I share your pain despite being in a different situation. The way I see it, the shadchanim are driving many of the issues in the shidduch system.
Another Normal Single Girl
Shadchanim Aren’t Magicians [Words Unspoken/Issue 818]
Dear “A Normal Single Girl,”
A shadchan can’t perform magic. They can’t produce or clone guys that don’t exist or force boys to go on dates they don’t want to go on. How do you know the shachan didn’t already try to redt you to a few boys, but was shut down/rejected by the boys and didn’t have the heart to let you know?
This is something you need to take up with Hashem. The shadchan is merely His messenger down here and is dealing with reality. Thankfully, shidduchim are “lema’alah min hateva,” and you’ll find your bashert, in whichever way and time that Hashem has in mind.
Please also remember that a shadchan isn’t on your payroll, and doesn’t owe you anything. Shadchanim are helping you, and likely many others, at the expense of their families. They’re usually very busy wives and mothers of children sacrificing their precious personal time to set people up. They’re shadchanim simply because they want to help Klal Yisrael.
I promise you, there are no side benefits. We only do the best we can. Please don’t shoot the messengers!
A shadchan who really tries her hardest
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 820)
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