Friday, January 10, 2020

Protect Your Kids By Protecting Yourself

I have spent years feeling stuck, depending on toxic and manipulative people for childcare. As a single mom, sometimes I feel trapped having to rely on people who do not respect my boundaries. Whatever help I receive feels transactional, like I owe them. I have wanted to be “No Contact” with both my ex-psychopathic abuser (the father of my kids) and my narcissistic mother. When I go No Contact with my mom, I find myself allowing my ex to encroach past boundaries that make me feel comfortable. I get stuck in a pattern of allowing him access until he goes too far. Then I push him away and allow my mom back in to fill in with the childcare. Then, inevitably, my mom will go too far, saying manipulative things to the kids about me or placing unreasonable expectations on me. Then I’m back allowing their dad more access because I can’t afford to pay a sitter.

Recently, during the holidays, I found out they have been teaming up and triangulating to work around the No Contact. In other words, if I was setting boundaries with the ex, my mom would aid him in going around me. If I was setting boundaries with my mom, he would aid her in crossing my boundaries. Finally, enough was enough. I decided to take the financial hit and pay for childcare. I am attempting “No Contact” with both of them. It is like fighting a war. They send their Flying Monkeys to guilt me and persuade me.

One of the manipulative messages I hear a lot is, “You’re using the children as pawns.” Another message I hear is, “Your personal boundaries are hurting your kids.” While I know this is not true, I find myself wrestling with this. It has taken a lot of work to come to the conclusion that building a healthy life for me and my kids, free from abusive and manipulative people, is NOT hurting them. I have to remind myself constantly that my personal health actually provides them with protection and freedom from abuse.

Recently, a nosy family member took to Facebook to tell me how she disapproves of my choices. I wanted to share this because I know there are other parents out there trying to establish boundaries with toxic family members. Often, we are confused by the question…”What is best for the kids?” I’m writing this to tell you that our kids need us to be healthy. They need us to set an example. Our kids need to know it is okay to have zero tolerance for manipulation and abuse. Most importantly, our kids need a healthy mom who is fortified to stand firm against abuse and mistreatment. Here is a portion of the Facebook exchange that took place. Thank you for letting me share.

“Concerned” Family Member: Taking them away is what’s best for you, not your children, then you are using them as a pawn in a hurtful way! Please take an honest look at the situation, can there be a solution or common ground. I hope peace finds you, avoiding certain people who hurt you is fine. But when they do what’s best for themselves over what you want, you’re just going to have to get over your tantrum and grow up! I love you, but you are hurting the one person who has helped you the most!

 My Response: I'm deeply sorry that someone has shared only one side of their story and thus we feel we need to choose a "side". Unless one has walked in another's shoes, I find it irrelevant to call things tantrums or the like. I choose to not engage in manipulative conversations and after 37 years have found that I don't have to sacrifice myself for anyone else's narrative. That's not avoidance or a temper tantrum, rather preservation of the self. No one knows my narrative and no one needs to, because it's not about justification of how I take care of my own mental health. If the people in my life can't support me in finding my own self-worth, I have to assume they aren’t actually on my team. I support anyone who does what's best for themselves as long as it doesn't involve mischaracterization or toxicity towards me or anyone else. And if it does, then we have the choice to stop living in an unhealthy way. If we have communicated our boundaries clearly, and they continue to be ignored, it is my choice to remove those people from my life.

For people who may be in a similar situation, protecting your children from toxic behavior is protecting your children. People that try to use this tactic of "Keep your kids in toxic situations to please the toxic person" is ridiculous. My kids seeing their mother set a boundary with another adult and that adult purposefully crossing it time and again with no consequence in place breeds codependent children that don't know how to validate their own worth and question their reality. Please have faith in yourself to know what is best for your kids and don’t let anyone try to make you feel guilty for wanting to keep your kids safe from abuse and manipulation.