Motherless Daughters and Womanhood

As a child in foster care, nothing was worse than seemingly meaningless holidays like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. As an elementary school girl, being forced into making empty family trees and pottery gifts brought the sting of unworthiness and a not-belonging that was at times difficult.

Me. the year I entered foster care.
Me. the year I entered foster care.

I was put in foster care at age 5 after I was found locked and hidden in my mothers-basement abused, not fed, unable to walk or speak. I was found with other children who were also abused. I did have adopted parents for a few short years, but they both died a couple of years after the adoption.

So for me, as a child, the idea of “parenting” was elusive. I heard stories and complaints about tough parents from friends. My friends complained about rules, regulations, bad marriages and the usual identity crises of my female friends with their mothers. To me, it was a foreign land.

Having a past that is strewn with missing links can make becoming a woman feel like a bad carnival ride. Lines are long and the scenery is dizzying.

Through years of mandated court visits with my mother, I found myself finally at age 10, studying her for those few quick moments with her. She was so mysterious to me. She was a violent woman, she was a neglectful woman, she had allowed abuses against me and other children. But she was always smiling and playing the part of victim during those visits. Her skin, her hands, her hair were like looking in a fast forwarded mirror. It was challenge not to feel a hatred and love or pity for this elusive woman who was so transient and confusing. I cared for her but feared her.

It was hard to catch up to my idea of her. Once she vanished for good, my young mind created fantasies of her. Maybe she was some lost, desperate soul who really thought the world of me, if only she could get past things that happened to her? If only. But truth is, that following year she was long gone, and at some point so was the fantasy of her, or of a father or male figure. And so I navigated alone and sometimes the compass I used was shaky at best.

I identified myself with friends’ parents, only to sometimes feel the sting of jealousy when I could see I was not truly apart of their circle. I did identify myself with other women, foster sisters, and again found myself as a person apart from them. Without sharing the same childhood or environment it was hard to build a deeper connection. Their influences though, were invaluable to me.

As I got older, it was easy to fall into place in lover’s families. I was always the first to attach to someone’s mother, more so than the man who shared my bed. I reveled in this idea of motherhood, womanhood, long before I was a mother or a woman. I found it intoxicating. This idea of steadiness, of sometimes craziness, this idea of protectiveness; it was foreign to me. It was also the driving force of many dreams.

Me and my mini me, 2013
Me and my mini me, 2013

Becoming a mother to me was the pinnacle of these hidden wishes. Looking at mini me’s face when she was born gave me a purpose. It was not just the purpose of creating a life, it also gave me some type of lineage; a source of pride instead of pain. I finally had someone who looked like me, someone who would feel that sense of protection,love, discipline, fairness from me….just as I had sought as a child.

My whole soul goes into mini me. My goals changed when she arrived. The course of my fate was also miraculously turned around. And in mini me’s ten years, I realize I broke the cycle. A lot of my old wounds healed.

When mini me does think of kindness and fairness and womanhood as an adult she will think of me. She may do some complaining too, and I am proud! It has been a gift for someone like me to get the chance to sit at a ballet recital, to wake up all night with her crying, to rush to the emergency room through ear infections, to stand by and watch her grow through school.

To simply be there, to pass on my hopes, dreams, wishes, guidance and morals is all I ever dreamed I could have when I was a child. Talking about my past has created a strong sense of empathy for others in mini me. That is success to me.

Through life’s challenges and some fairy tales that didn’t come true, mini me has only felt the emotional stability of having a lot of love. The women in her life, me as her mother and her dad’s mother and grandmother, have shaped her into becoming a strong, kind young woman herself.

While I have given mini me the stability all children deserve, I have not entirely been true to my heart in other areas. I had to grow and change myself as I grew into my womanhood and put ghosts behind me. Out of fear, I have not been true to other desires and goals. I clutched onto safety and shied away from living what I’ve seen other’s live.

In this next step of “womanhood” I think it is time to show mini me a more authentic and content woman. Because while I overcame a dark past, I do need to make sure mini me does not close off her heart after it is damaged. Former foster child or not, any woman who suffers the blow of the fairy tale gone wrong can easily fall into a life that is safe and settled for fear of opening up again. I forgot about myself. And that is not something I would ever want for her.

I am going to enjoy this mothers day knowing that someone made me a little mug at school, someone respects me and someone will grow up knowing me and understanding the value of being a woman herself because of me.

Mini me will go through the typical identity crisis, but it wont be one filled with any darkness, or violence, or hurt or the pain of being thrown away.
My gift to mini me is to let go of past anchors, and let my heart open again. She will see there is beauty in womanhood and REAL life and in letting go and a new birth from listening to your heart. Even if it loses.

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This work by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.


2 thoughts on “Motherless Daughters and Womanhood”

  1. Thank you for sharing! As a long time foster parent, I’ve learned so much from my kids. Holidays like Mothers Day, are not all Hallmark cards and roses.

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