Dear Mama: Standing Up to My Mom for the First Time

When I turned 18 I didn’t feel like a woman and I sure didn’t feel like an adult.

I felt like the same little girl who was punched in the face by her mom in the 5th grade, for having a messy desk and writing a love note to a little boy in her class.

I felt like the same little girl who cowered in the presence of people who were outspoken and more confident than her.

I felt like the same little girl who lived in silence for fear of offending, upsetting, or disagreeing with someone else’s opinion.

Despite growing up in an abusive household, I thought that when I turned 18 something magical would happen.

I assumed the world would naturally respect me, and treat me like the adult and woman, I longed to be. But they didn’t.

It was my sophomore year of college and I was stressed.

In addition to staying on top of my academics, finding money for school and trying to maintain my social life, I found myself driving home nearly every weekend to take my siblings to church or to drive them 4 1/2 hours to visit my mom in prison.

One weekend while I was home, I got a call from my mom. She called asking if I could bring my siblings to see her, call one of her friends, and do a few other favors.

 I’ve always been scared of my mom. She is the definition of a strong, black woman. Although she had stopped being abusive when I was an upperclassman in high school, her words were still powerful and captivating enough that when she spoke, positive or negative, her words could either mend a heart or pierce it.  

After my mom asked me to do a few favors for her. I responded in a way that was foreign to me. I said “No.” 

With endless tears streaming down my face, I whined, “No, I don’t want to bring them up and I’m not going to. I’ve done so much and I have so much on my plate. I don’t feel like it mom.” 

I couldn’t believe it! These three seemingly small sentences, were the biggest sentences of my life! I finally said no!

I’ve always been a people pleaser, a push over, a hopeless chameleon who conformed to the views of others. As a child, my opinion never mattered and the abuse magnified my unworthiness. I felt like I didn’t exist. I was merely a reflection of everyone that I encountered. I had no opinion, I had no thoughts, I had no mind of my own. However, the day that I said “No” to my mom, was the day that I started fighting for myself. It was the day that I felt like I was finally becoming a woman. 

My mom sounded shocked and disgusted by this new word that I had learned. She abruptly ended our phone conversation. I cried in my grandfather’s arms hysterically.

Standing Up to My Mom for the First Time

Although I was vulnerable, I felt like I was finally on my way to becoming a big girl. I followed up that prison call with a long letter, explaining to my mom how I felt. One of the most significant paragraphs from that letter was:

“Mom, you are a strong black woman. You’re outspoken and independent.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t given the opportunity to be this way.

Always being shut down and suppressed, I never had my own opinion because I was so used to agreeing with you, in order to avoid conflict.

I never know if I’m sad, mad or happy because I denied my feelings for so long, that when I feel a bad emotion, I feel guilty and suppress it.”

Whew! I’m getting emotional just replaying these events! I don’t remember how my mom responded to the letter, but I do know that after the letter, we didn’t talk for some time.

It took us a while to rekindle our relationship, and when we did, it was like meeting each other for the first time. My mom had a new found respect for me and I for her. During our time apart, I focused on forgiving my mom for her mistakes. It was a painful but very necessary prerequisite to healing. I also began reinventing myself. 

I had conformed to those around me for so long, that by this time in my life, I felt like a baby. I felt like I was starting from scratch. It was challenging but sobering.

It gave me the opportunity to figure out what womanhood meant to me along with identifying what kind of woman I wanted to become.

Some of the characteristics I wanted to possess were: confidence, humility, determination, assertiveness, independence and positivity. Over the last few years, I’ve been able to transform from the timid and fearful young girl that I once was, into a strong black woman. Who would have ever thought?

Today, my mom and I have a great relationship. We have our ups and downs but we love each other, we respect each other and I admire her!

It’s crazy how generational cycles poison families. After a series of “girl talks” with mom, I learned that she had some very traumatic experiences of her own that contributed to the decisions she made as an adult.

If you’re going through a tough situation with a parent or loved one, there is hope. Things can get better.

Have you had a similar experience coming into your own as a woman? Please Share!

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  • Thank you so much Jamie <3

  • Jamie Rockymore

    This is deep. Thank you for being so transparent and expressing your relationship with your mom. This helps readers grow as they conquer issues they are dealing with in our personal lives.

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  • I’m so happy you found this useful Nellie!

  • Wow. Whats so funny is that I was just talking to someone about this and this was needed. It gave me a confirmation of what I need to do to face that area in my life. Thank you girl!

  • Terri

    Thank you for sharing Brandy! I appreciate your support. I can’t wait to see your Mocha Girl on a Mission post!!! :)xoxo

  • Brandy

    AMEN! I loved your inspiring story. I myself have taken steps to have a better relationship with my mother. It’s so nice to hear your stories because we grew up together. I never seen or heard everything that happen in your home and you never heard all the troubles in mine. I would love to share a few of my stories on your blog. This is a beautiful movement your making to help support, love, and inspire young women. I support you! When I go to the schools to be an inspirational speaker I will be sure to spread the word about your blog. GOD BLESS YOU! YOUR A VERY STRONG WOMAN!

  • Terri

    Thanks for sharing Bridget! I appreciate you reading this post and taking the time to comment! I’m always so fascinated at how the personalities of those who raised us has such a great impact on who we are today. I’m glad that you were able to find happiness and freedom 🙂

  • Bridget Davis

    This is a powerful article. I have some similarities with my upbringing, while my mother wasn’t abusive I was very intimidated by her strong personality. Which unturned led to me suppressing who I was. As a result I often found my self in situations in my personal and professional life where I allowed people to misuse me. It was not until I began to focus on my career that I was able to identify my issue and make changes. It’s as if I found a new found freedom and I am much happier today.

    I love your positivity and I know you are destined to have a powerful influence in the lives of others.