When I was a very little girl, I idolised my mum. She would tell me things like "I'm the best friend you will ever have" and "You don't need anyone else. You've got me". And I believed her.She shouted a lot, and lost her tempter often, frequently having violent rows and falling out with people. I was a bit scared of her, but because I loved her so much, I would be as good as possible so she would be happy and shout less. She would dress me up and tie ribbons in my hair and people would always be commenting on my pretty dresses and ringlets.
When I started school most of the other mums were trying to forge friendships on behalf of their children – arranging 'home to tea' events, and meeting up with each other for coffee. My mum didn't. She didn't encourage friends at all, and didn't really speak to the other mums at the school gate.
I loved school and loved learning. I asked lots of questions at home, but the answer was always the same: you don't want to be worrying about that – save that for school. That's what your teachers are there for.
One day the teacher told my mum I appeared to be tied to her apron strings. She commented that I never mentioned anyone other than 'mummy and daddy'. She gently suggested to my mum that I join a dancing class or Brownies or was encouraged to integrate with other children more. My mother was furious and told her sharply: "We are a close family. We don't need anyone else."
My mother did not like being questioned. She shouted "because I say so". Our relationship became brittle. We argued relentlessly. Nothing I did satisfied or pleased her. She told me my behaviour had 'affected her nerves' and that the doctor had put her on tablets because of me.
She did not approve of homework so my schooling suffered. Stupid rules were put in place such as not allowing me to wash my hair every day because it would 'ruin it' – even though she knew I was teased mercilessly because it was a greasy mess. I was not allowed a fashionable school bag, instead having a 'shopper' like my mother and nan had for groceries.
If I made friends, she would find something wrong with them and urge me not to trust them. People thought I was weird. I was. I skipped school. Truanted. Feigned illness. My mother didn't seem to mind that. She wanted so little for me. A job in a shop until I married and had children, then my days spent visiting her. Despite missing so much school I was accepted at college but then she told me to find a job as I should be out working, not still going to school at 17.
I got a job and moved out of home as soon as I could afford to, hoping that distance would perhaps smooth the waters. It didn't. In my early twenties I would see all my friends entering new phases in their mum/daughter relationships; they would go shopping together, for coffee, for wine. I was jealous.
My mother would do none of those things. I tried to turn her into the mum I wanted her to be, almost begging her to come to the shops with me on one occasion, but then when out she behaved so badly – shouting, loudly complaining about the quality and price of things, refusing to stop for a coffee because it was a 'waste of money'.
She constantly asked when I would settle down and marry. I didn't marry but I did have a baby. She offered no congratulation on my pregnancy, and after a violent row, I did not speak to her for five months. When my daughter was born she seemed to think I would suddenly need her. Outraged that she was not telephoned the moment I went into labour 'so I could see her being born'. I told a friend that I would have had the vagrant from the park at my side for the birth rather than her.
Having my daughter made me constantly and obsessionally analyse my relationship with my mum. I just didn't understand her. Her moods, her jealousy, her stifling behaviour. She continued to pop pills for her 'nerves' but would accept no other help from the doctors, only ever telling them half the story of her symptoms, rages and fits of anger. Most people had no idea what she was really like. She could act totally normal and good natured and then in private just totally go off on one. She would scream that she 'loved me' and ask me why I was so 'distant and difficult'. If I suggested she went back to see the doctor she would say she was like she was because I – and other family members – had made her like it.
She would critisise everything I did with my child. By default, every opinion I had was wrong. 'What you want to do' 'What you should do' 'What you need to do' started her every sentence. Never once did she ask me about me. How I felt. How I was coping. It was all about her and what she wanted from me: Give me the baby. Bring the baby to me. I want to hold the baby. I want the baby to wear this.
I felt duty bound to visit her when my baby was little, but left stressed and tearful almost every time. As my daughter got older, I found my mother replicating how she had behaved with me: telling my little girl she didn't need friends, she had Nanny. Telling her not to worry about school. Stripping her of any ambition. Criticising me for giving her music lessons, dancing lessons. 'Wearing her out' 'Pushing her too hard'. She would undermine me in front of her, telling me over her head that if she didn't want to do her homework to tell the teacher she was too tired.
I felt 13 all over again, and I did not want my child to have to deal with it.
I made the decision to stop contact with my mum some months ago. This Mother's Day will be hard, because I do still feel that ingrained sense of duty towards her. She is elderly and unwell now, but still very much the same person in terms of temperament and behaviour.
The last time I spoke to her I tried to tell her how I felt, but she told me I was dead to her, that I had made her ill and deprived her of her grandchild. I would like to be able to send her a card this Sunday telling her that I wish things could be different and that we could have some sort of relationship, but I know it would be pointless, and in my heart I know things will never change.
Do you have a tense relationship with your mother?
Has being a mother yourself changed your relationship with your mum?