Family is important. But if it’s not good for you, would you be brave to say enough is enough? Read this mom’s honest account of cutting ties with toxic family members for her own children’s sake.
What can you read in this article?
- The toxic environment she grew up in
- What made her decide to cut ties with toxic family members
We all know how closely-knit Filipino families are. But when you become a parent, you want nothing else but to raise your kids in the best way possible, in the healthiest environment possible.
I grew up in a happy ideal family setup… or so I thought.
The thing is, I wholeheartedly thought that my family was the epitome of an ‘ideal family’ back then. Not until I had my own family.
I guess it is true what they say, that you will never be able to see the whole picture until you stepped out of the frame. By then I realized how some practices of how I was raised were not as positive as I once thought, and how dysfunctional the whole setup was living with toxic family members.
Thoughts outside the box
I grew up in an environment of emotional control and torture without me realizing it until a few years ago.
You know that feeling of wanting to be the best child you can possibly be? Or at least a good child that your parents deserve to have? Because they have done so much and sacrificed a lot for you to have the kind of life that you are living, all you ever want is for them to be happy and be proud of you.
And if there will be any circumstances that will cause them discomfort, heartache, and pain, you will do what it takes to shield them from that feeling.
Yes, I believe almost every child feels the same way for their loving parents. And there is nothing really wrong with that.
But based on my personal experience, I realized that certain things that happened in the past were not as how I initially thought them to be. Extended family members who only mean well were hurt, some stories were not 100% factual.
Even some dreams I’ve had were somewhat twisted, because of the ideologies that were implanted in me while growing up. And that is the time when the whole picture was turned upside down.
Brief family history
I grew up in this setup wherein there seems to be some friction between my mom and my dad’s side of the family. A cold war that was ever existent yet the exact origin is unknown.
As a child back then, I recall some incidents when you have to do certain things to prove which side you favor, to show where your ‘sympathy’ belongs, or else you are to blame if your parent is hurting.
It was like living in a telenovela, to be honest, too much drama and all. Whenever I try to recall the environment I was in, I get that weird heavy feeling. Because now as an adult and as a mother myself, I realized that I should have not been exposed to that situation at that young age.
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I should have not been involved with the issues of the grownups and be put in a situation that for a child was so uncomfortable and difficult to understand.
Sure, there were incidents when the parties would try to resolve their differences. But for some reason, something just ignites the feud and they’re back at it again. Everything just seemed like a vicious cycle. There is always an issue present and living harmoniously all together just seemed impossible.
Whatever their exact reasons may be for their misunderstandings, as an innocent child, I should have never been involved. I should have never been put in a situation where I have to be unwillingly part of an emotional dilemma or be manipulated into responding to certain situations just to prove my ‘loyalty.’
Fast forward to present
When I had a family of my own, I was exposed to other family setups; that includes my husband’s and of course, their relatives.
Trying to start a family of your own is no joke. You have two people coming from different upbringings, with different personalities, trying to co-exist and create their own family setup. It’s challenging, especially when you have little humans to raise and be completely responsible for.
It was challenging, to say the least; a crazy roller coaster ride of emotions, beliefs, and adjustments.
But when you really want to be together and do it together, you will try your best to make it work and adjust accordingly to a new setup you are building as a family.
Image from the author
Everything was doing well at the start. Maybe not as smoothly as I hoped, but we have been figuring our way with things and building our own culture as a family, toxic family members included.
Until a certain incident happened where I was forced to make a decision. A decision that will surely affect the future of my family, especially my children.
It wasn’t an easy decision to make. God knows how difficult it was for me during those times. But I came to a realization that no matter what I choose, someone will definitely be affected or hurt. I can’t do anything in my power to shield anyone from that, so might as well choose what I believe is best.
The decision I made entails prioritizing what is best for this family I am building over other people that were part of my past. My husband and I decided to cut ties with toxic family members that we have. And instead, we decided to focus on the complete well-being of the kids.
From then on, things started to work out better for our family.
Putting the puzzle together
After much contemplating, I started to have a good view of the portrait I once belonged to. The dysfunctional setup I was exposed to and grew up in.
I also learned the other side of the coin, the other side of the stories I was told when I was young. And boy it was bananas!
Growing up, I only heard my mom’s side of the story, and stepping out of the portrait led me to learn the stories from the other side of the fence.
By this time, I am old and mature enough to look at things objectively. Somehow I was able to put the pieces of the puzzle together and complete the picture looking at it from an outsider’s perspective.
Yes, no family is perfect, no parent is as well. I have had good and bad takeaways from how I was brought up, from the experiences I’ve had growing up, the ideologies I was raised to believe in, the stories I was told.
I have learned lessons from the not-so-good ones, and I deeply cherish the beautiful ones. Yet, I promised myself that I won’t be raising my kids to the negativity I was exposed to. I will do my best to shield them from all the toxicity especially those which may have effects on them in the long run.
A few years ago, I came to the realization that I was raised by a mother who controlled me emotionally.
Don’t get me wrong, she was such a loving and supportive mother, and she took care of us to the best of her capacity. And I am forever grateful for everything she has done and sustained for me.
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She may not be fully aware that it was ‘emotional control,’ and sometimes maybe it wasn’t her intention to do so. But objectively speaking, when you are ‘forced’ to respond to a certain situation because of the emotional dilemma thrown at you, especially when you are a child, that is emotional control. She was manipulating me as a child.
And as I said, she may not be fully aware that it is what she is doing, perhaps she was also raised the same way. But now that I can see and understand the whole picture, whenever I recall those instances, I get such a heavy feeling. It was emotional torture.
So it came to a point that I decided to cut the ties I have with her. Not completely because she is still my mother, just distant enough for me to be able to ‘tie my own family’ together.
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Enough is enough
The truth is, it was crazy at first. I received long messages from her side of the family trying to make me feel guilty for my decision. I tell you, they were so toxic. Again, a number of emotional torture coming from different people, one after the other.
But wait, there’s more! Imagine suddenly receiving a comment in your social media account, from an immediate relative you once looked up to, with quite a narrative of how you are being an ungrateful daughter for giving your mother the kind of pain she is feeling. Yes, in social media, for all the world to see. That is undeniably toxic and a perfect example of emotional torture.
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I told myself that this is exactly the situation and feeling I never want my kids to be exposed to, much more to experience. It was such a heavy feeling to bear and the toxicity is utterly unhealthy especially deep within.
Just like most parents, I am only after what I believe is best for my kids, which includes a healthy non-toxic environment.
Since then I cut some ties with some people regardless if we are related by blood because never want my kids to ever feel the emotional stress I experienced.
For some, I may be an ungrateful daughter, but in my heart I know I am just being a protective mother. I am responsible for my kids’ total well-being—physically, intellectually, and emotionally.
Image from the author
Should you cut toxic family members out of your life?
If you are in a similar situation right now and you’re at a loss on what to do, here are the factors I considered:
1. Cutting closely-knit ties is the best choice for everyone sometimes.
Being distant with still an ample amount of respect is way better than being closely-knit but negatively affecting each other.
2. If you’re a parent, your top priority should always be the well-being of the kids.
I have come to that decision because I believe I have to prioritize what is best for my kids and for my own family. And with everything that I have experienced, including the dysfunctional setup I was brought up in, this is the healthiest option for my children.
3. We also have to look after ourselves and our sanity.
Gone are the days that I have to respond depending on the emotional weight I have to bear because I was trying to be a good daughter. I am now a mother who wants nothing but a healthy positive environment for my kids.
As long as they’re in your lives, the emotional stress will always be present and can hurt you no matter how you try to shrug it off. Choose what you believe is healthy for you and your family
In the end, we will be judged not by people but by a superior being.
I believe, as a parent, one of the most important things we should learn in order to have a harmonious and healthy family setup is to care less about what other people will say or feel, especially if they are not directly related or not totally helpful to the own family you are taking care of.
It’s okay to cut toxic family members out of your life. As they say, blood ain’t thicker than peace of mind. Move forward with the family you created and protect it with all that you have.