My mother always told me that getting married and having children ruined her life. She told me her own mother had forced her to get married when she was 17 years old because that was the right thing to do and she would not have her daughter living in sin. If I recall, my mother had already graduated from high school, gotten her own apartment and was in nursing school by then. My dad was 20 and as men always seem to do, he moved in to her space and thus inserted himself into her life forever. My mom never wanted children and actively tried to prevent that from happening — she tried the dangerous and essentially experimental early high-dose birth control pills that gave her terrible side effects. She gave up on them after 5 years, my dad regularly raped her and refused to use a condom, and I have no idea what else she tried or didn’t try before she became pregnant with me at 22, pretty much immediately after stopping the Pill. She was pregnant again 2 months after I was born, and then again when I was 3.
When she was telling me that my dad and us kids had ruined her life she wasn’t being mean about it, she was just telling me a forbidden truth that most women and most mothers never speak and that’s how I took it. I believed her when she said that if it weren’t for us, she would have been perfectly happy in her little apartment, making a substantial wage as a nurse with minimal education (only a 2-year nursing degree was required at the time) and she would have lived a happy little life doing whatever she wanted to and doing it her way. She said she had even wanted to go to medical school and she thinks she would have gone. In reality, she ended up saddled with 3 kids and worked full time as a nurse while putting my dad through medical school instead of herself. He hadn’t even thought of the idea until he knew she wanted to go.
Obviously I was paying attention and I was listening when my mom spoke. I saw that she was indeed completely miserable, my dad was a dick, us 3 kids weren’t doing so well either, and I believed her when she told me that all of this was my dad’s fault. I figured I wouldn’t repeat her mistakes, and I mostly hated kids anyway, even though I still was one, and as my brother was born with a terminal heart defect he ended up living with for 21 years, I understood intimately what a chronically ill child can do to a family, to a mother, and that it was mostly out of the mother’s hands whether she gave birth to a disabled child or not. Even on the best day, having kids was likely to ruin the woman’s life, but having one that was disabled, well I wasn’t an idiot. I saw that as a mother, your life is basically over once you are charged with caring for a chronically ill infant. My brother was sent home at a week old to die of his illness but my mother just couldn’t help herself; always the nurse, she actively nursed him through his worst sicknesses so that he was just well enough to survive, never really “living” or thriving and still needing multiple heart related procedures and open heart surgeries throughout his life. She never felt as if she could return to work because my brother’s condition was fragile and unpredictable and he could “crash” at any moment and several times did.
She left my dad when I was 13 and did all of this alone from then on, my dad’s presence reduced to a malignant force that kept her constantly stressed and battling him in court for a decade. I was just starting middle school when she took us and left him and halfway though college when the divorce was final. When she first left he had told her, “I hope you and the kids all die” and he did everything in his power to make sure that happened, including refusing to pay child support, refusing to pay for urgently needed medications, and gaslighting, abusing and mentally torturing us all to within inches of our lives. By the time he boldly kidnapped me out of my mother’s new home, I hated him so much that his life and my own meant virtually nothing to me. We are both lucky I didn’t blow his fucking head off with my mom’s gun. He may’ve sensed he was in danger because he made me dress in front of him with the door opened before he stole me away. Or maybe he was just a pervert. Maybe both. At any rate, I knew I never, ever, ever wanted to do any of this again.
And with the “malignant force” as a father and a struggling single mother who couldn’t work and never wanted kids in the first place as my “family” I knew if anything ever happened to me and I needed their help that I would be on my own. My mom and dad were both products of their own respective families as well, and the apples hadn’t fallen far from their respective trees. Almost every child born on my mother’s side for 4 generations have been girls, and these girls have all found husbands early and never amounted to much besides becoming mothers themselves. My dad’s family was mostly all men and there was poverty, extreme domestic violence, developmental disabilities and severe autism on his side. I had one sibling, a girl, that may grow up to be successful but probably wouldn’t and one brother who would probably have to live with and be supported by my parents forever. Looking into my future I realized that in a material and supportive sense, I probably couldn’t have been more alone. Armed with the information and trauma I had gathered from growing up in this family, and considering what my mom had said caused it, I decided that I needed to be “successful” and probably remain single in order to secure a safe, sane and comfortable future for myself. Although I know that many people have it worse, I had had enough insanity for a hundred lifetimes and would’ve done anything in my power to never repeat it.
Although I got mostly excellent grades, I struggled mightily through college which I did not enjoy and dropped out several times to work, only to find that being an uneducated, entry-level (and female) worker left me vulnerable to abuse. I was sexually harassed, verbally abused, demeaned and degraded at every job I ever had and every time I went running back to school. For whatever reason, I just couldn’t abide this treatment or for long even if it meant I never acquired any seniority and was never once a candidate for a substantial raise or other upwardly-mobile type rewards for working. In other words, I was open to the idea of being a “successful” uneducated worker if there was such a thing but in my case it seemed impossible that I would ever make it under these oppressive conditions. I had also started to believe that my supervisors and others were treating me the way they were because I was uneducated, unskilled, and hadn’t earned it yet, and from there I decided I needed an education and a skill. Once I graduated from college I tried to get a professional-type job — the only college courses that were of any interest to me were my Women’s Studies classes so I applied for jobs in legal and social services hoping to serve women. No job offers were forthcoming, and I had no money and no way to get any. Not knowing what else to do, I once again went running back to school and the need-based student loans that sustained me — I applied and was accepted to law school.
This concludes Part I of this series, in which I describe my early motivation to be “successful” and to never let a man ruin my life the way my mother had. Due to my dysfunctional family as well as our collective lack of resources I knew that if I ever needed serious help or if something went wrong, I would be all alone. In Part II I will describe how I put my plan into action and tried to become a self-sufficient, responsible, prepared independent person able to create a safe, sane and comfortable future for myself without needing anyone’s help and without letting anyone run me off the rails, least of all, men.