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The Baggage & Motherhood Guest Writer’s Series gives a space for moms around the world to share their story of what life has thrown their way and how it has impacted them in their role as a Mom. In this post, Kristie McCauley shares about having grown up with a toxic mom and how that has affected her as a mom to her children.

All of the posts in this series touch on the real life struggles of bringing your “stuff” with you to your most important job: Motherhood.


I Have a Toxic Mom

When you have a Mom who is a toxic narcissist, you can talk yourself out of cutting her, the negativity, the toxicity, and the verbal abuse out of your life in a million different ways.

“Oh, that’s just the way she is.”

“She’s my mom so I have to deal with it.”

“She’s my kids’ grandmother so I have to deal with it for them.”

WRONG.

For 43 years, these are the things that I said to myself, while she continued to verbally and emotionally abuse me. I promise you I am not a slow learner but I kept telling myself these three statements. On the 43rd year, I took action.

Cut Her Off

After 43 years of word vomit, the final straw for me was a nasty text message she sent to me after my kids and I returned from a visit with her. Combine this with the underhanded comments she was making to my kids during the visit and I was done.

Mind you, it wasn’t the first nasty text message she sent or the first time she made underhanded remarks to my kids. I wish it was. I decided it would be the last, though.

I was so angry as I read the text message that I was shaking. That was it for me. I was done enduring her verbal and emotional abuse. Her last line in that particular text message was, “You deserve what you get.”

This, and only this, is she right about. I deserve better and I’m taking a better route for me, but especially for my girls. 

I DO NOT want to be anything like my mother. I do not want my girls (I have 3) to feel about me the way that I feel about her. I knew that this meant that I had to make a conscious effort EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. to work on myself as a person, as a mom, as a wife, as a friend, and as every other role that I have in life.

Most important to me is my three girls, though. While I knew it would be scarring for the older two (5 and 3 at the time) to cut their grandparents from their life, I knew it was the best thing for them and for me.

Having her gone (I blocked their phones, emails, etc.) meant that I didn’t have to worry about waking up to a nasty text or voice mail or a crazy email from her. It removed a huge amount of stress and anxiety from my life.

Started Therapy (but Not Just Any Therapy)

I knew in order to stop the cycle of snapping, stop the verbal abuse, to stop the emotional abuse from going to me to my girls that I had to seek some professional help. I knew I couldn’t change 43 (now 44 years) of what I dealt with on my own.

I started seeing an art therapist. I also take the girls with me to some of my appointments.

I told the art therapist why I was there. That my #1 goal is to be a calmer mom. I told her about my toxic mom and how sometimes I see those tendencies creeping into my life as a mother and how it’s the LAST thing in the world I want.

So, through various mediums of art (who knew there were so many art mediums), I am able to channel my anger, my hurt, my stress in a productive way. At the end of the day, the main point of the art therapy sessions is to help me self-regulate so that I don’t go from 0 to 60 in 2.7 seconds like my mom – that I appropriately react to situations.

Instead of snapping, yelling, and making abusive comments, like my mother does, I can pause, collect myself, and react appropriately to the situation.

Show Myself Some Compassion

I am too hard on myself sometimes. I tell myself that what I just said or did is something that my mom would say or do. I tell myself that I have to be better and that I have to do better. I tell myself that I am not being the best mother that I can be. I tell myself all sorts of negative things.

The reality though is that because I have a bad moment with one or all three of my girls does mean that I am just like my mom. Besides pausing and self-regulating, I also have to give myself a break. I have to show myself some compassion and some love.

The relationships we have in life have a lot to do with the way we feel about ourselves. We can’t truly love someone else – be it a significant other or a child – until we love ourselves. It’s not cliché. It’s true.

I am not perfect and I never will be but I can show myself some compassion for those imperfect times and use those moments to figure out how to react to the situation better next time. It’s a journey to have more good days with myself and my kids and less of the rough days.

Self-Care

When I became a mom for the first time, I got so wrapped up in being a mom and a wife that I lost myself. I gave up all of the things that I love to do like reading, getting my nails done, going out with friends, and working out. 

After I had my second daughter, I slowly started to take my life back. I started to take care of myself. I realize more now than ever how important self-care for moms is.

When I come back from book club, playing bunco or getting a mani-pedi, I come back a better wife, mother, and person. These are not selfish actions but necessary ones. 

When I was growing up, I thought a mom that snapped at me for eating crunchy food in front of her, or having a problem with, well, everyone she encounters, or suing the last two of her employers or yelling and screaming at me and my dad and everyone else for that matter for every little thing or…I could go on and on and on here, was normal.

It’s not normal. It’s not normal at all, and it’s why I have to break the cycle. 


Kristie McCauley is the mom to three girls, a professional copy + content writer, the resident chaos coordinator, laundry doer + boo-boo kisser. She talks about raising strong girls and helps other mom bloggers with writing their content at girlmomchaos.com.

Follow her on Facebook and Instagram!

You can find Kristie’s open letter to moms with a toxic mom here!


I want to thank Kristie for writing this post. The connection between a parent and a child is one that is thought of as the most pure and strong. Unfortunately when a mother is incapable of being the loving, uplifting, supportive person she is supposed to be for her children, they suffer.

Breaking free from a toxic mom or parent may be the hardest thing you ever do. Kristie is so incredibly courageous to not only choose to put herself and her children first in her life, but to share it with us here.

The holidays can make old wounds feel fresh again when we are faced with visits to family who are toxic. Take a page out of Kristie’s book and take a hard look at those negative relationships. Maybe it’s finally time to stand up for yourself and your happiness.

Sending so much love to everyone this holiday season.


To see other posts in this series, click here!

Christina Furnival

Christina is a mom to two wild and wonderful kiddos, a licensed psychotherapist (LPCC), the founder of her website ChristinaFurnival.com and therapeutic motherhood blog Real Life Mama, and a children's book author of a social/emotional wellbeing series, Capable Kiddos! She and her Scottish husband are raising their family in San Diego, where they love to hike, play soccer, cook, walk around the lake, and go to the beach.

30 thoughts on “Baggage & Motherhood — A Guest Writer’s Series: I Have a Toxic Mom by Kristie McCauley”

  1. Thank you for sharing your exPerience. Its more common than you know. I have a toxic mom and i had to completely cut all ties. Shes homeless in Las vegas and all of her kids were taken from her. It is what it is and i am better off. Ill Always love her but from a distance.

    1. I am so blessed to have the mother (and mother-in-law) that I do. But I realize not everybody has those wonderful blessings.

  2. Thank you for sharing. Im happy you were able to make the best deciSion for you and your Girls. Ive never heard about art therapy so it was interesting to read aBout that!

  3. Hearing stories like this always break my heart. I didn’t have my mom long but I know I was very lucky that I had a great one. This post was beautifully written and I’m sure there are many out there who unfortunately can relate.

  4. So much of this post resonated with me and my toxic relationship with my mother. It’s extremely difficult and leaves very deep wounds. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Healing takes a long time… I am so glad that you are getting therapy, THe one thing I try to tell my clients is taking care of you is so important, and the best way to do that is to forgive yourself, and your Mother, and then when you walk away you will not be taking the pain with you. We can’t change others and when we are ready to move on we have to be able to release the pain and heartache because you have not done anything wrong! Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers!

  6. It does take a long time to come to terms and to stand for what you need. Being verbally abused and controlled is very overpowering and hard to break from. Good for you for recognizing that and offering your girls a better life!

  7. So happy she broke the cycle. NO need for any toxic people to disrupt your life even if it’s family. GOod luck to her in her journey!

  8. I’m GRATEFUL that you took a stance to protect yourself. My mom and I don’t have the best of relationships, mainly because she kept trying to bring the issues of her horrible relationships into mine and my fiance’s. Trying to excuse my mom’s actions, I saw that the tension was starting to seep into our relationship until I finally had to snap at my mom to respect Stevenn’s and my happiness together. I feel bad that it had to get to that point, and I’m grateful that the rest of both of our families are supportive, but sometimes you have to put your foot down. Nobody deserves to be controlled or stripped away of their peace.

  9. Props to you for figuring out what needed to be done to have a healthier life…crummy relationships are no good and sometimes hard to figure out.

  10. This is something everyone should do with any family member. I have an incredibly toxic sister, she is not welcome in my life, no matter how much it upsets my mom, who has no ability to put real boundaries on her behaviour. Just say no to these people!

  11. Wow, what a tough situation. We went through something similar with extended family where we had to cut ties for a time, and then we were eventually able to have a relationship with them again. Boundaries are so important!

  12. People can be toxic, family or not. It’s such a difficult decision to cut off a family member from your life. Saying no and setting personal boundaries can mean the difference between a happy life or a very difficult one.

  13. Thank you for this post! It definitely caused me to pause and reflect on my own upbringing, and how I react to my children (no joke, I do sometimes snap when they eat with their mouth open next to me, so your comment about crunchy food struck a chord). I like the idea of not going 0-60 in 2.7 seconds! Thanks for making me stop and think!

  14. People can be so toxic. So good that she was able to get out of that relationship even if it was her mom and found ways to help her get through it.

  15. I love this! My step daughter definitely has a toxic mom. She’s 23 and finally cut her out of her life. I wish she would have done it sooner, but at least it’s done. She’s better off this way!

  16. My mother and grandmother were both toxic moms. I do everything I can to not be like them. However there is a shame in telling people that you don’t associate with your mom anymore. they just can’t understand why but thank you for understanding.

  17. Its difficult but so CRUCIAL to eliminate toxic people from our lives! Then we can focus energy of personal growth rather than protecting ourselves.

  18. It’s always encouraging to hear one is not alone in this battle. It can be difficult to talk about as so many of my friends have wonderful, healthy relationships with their mothers. I do not. so, it’s helpful to hear coping mechanisms to move forward. thank you!

  19. I know this situation all too well with various family members. It took years to learn how to cut them out of the picture and stand up for myself. IT’s not easy, but sometimes very, very necessary.

  20. Oh My!! when i was in my 40’s i shut the door to my toxic mother too! I didn’t have any guilt because I was protecting my kids from her vile and kept thinking “if this was anyone other than my biological mother would i have that person in my life?’ the answer was hell no!!

  21. I can’t even imagine going through this. Since I lost my mom when i was just 12, I tend to cringe when someone says they no longer have a relationship with their mom but in this case I can totally understand it. you have to do what is best for your mental well-being.

  22. I believe that there are many of who have to make that decision that what we take away from our parents is what we don’t want to be for ourselves and our children. sad as it is, it is also some of the hardest and best growth. good stuff maynard as they used to say. thanks for sharing.

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