Momfession Monday // I’m an Outsider in My Own Family

It’s a weird feeling: This realization and most recent acceptance that I am the outcast in my family. I simply don’t fit in and probably never have. When my friends complain about their in-laws, I sit silently because my in-laws are not the cause of my grief or frustration. My in-laws are a breath of fresh air, a sigh of relief, a safe haven. My family, however, is . . . complicated.

There is really no better word to describe my family than “complicated.” Complexity engrosses my family, from the immediate one I grew up in, to my extended family of grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles. Shrouded in abuse (both sexual and physical) as well as numerous affairs and divorces — complicated defines my family.

I love them, don’t miss that, but I dread the day when I have to explain the family tree to my children, and why almost none of the mommies and daddies still live together and the many half siblings and why this person doesn’t talk to us or why that person doesn’t talk to that person, yada, yada, yada. There is so much heartache and pain intertwined in the branches of our tree. How do you explain the pain to your children, and simultaneously assure them that their family is safe?

With my in-laws, I don’t have to worry about explaining anyone. Everyone is harmonious. Everyone is still in love. They are imperfect, of course, and there has been pain, but that pain lies past my mother and father-in-law, in the part of the family we can avoid. Life is easy with them. When we visit my in-laws, or vice versa, I can relax. Conversation flows freely and easily. There isn’t any underlying tension. There is no jealousy or strife. They feel like family.

I understand I am not the only one with a complex family. I’m also aware that I have likely created this chasm myself. I have always felt a bit like an imposter, and I’m sure that has worked as it’s own self-fulfilling prophecy. I know I have my own preconceived notions that have encouraged the distance I feel.

Momfession Monday-2

Aside from the muck of our past, here’s the real problem with my family: Complete and utter lack of communication. We assume we know what each other is thinking, so our feelings are hurt before anyone says a word. I assume my mother is jealous of my healthy marriage; she assumes I’m smug about the success of my family while she’s three divorces deep in mistakes. I assume my family feels inferior to my college degree (with which I am doing very little), and they assume I look down on them for never stepping foot on a college campus.

‘Round and ’round we go on the merry-go-round of assumptions with no one willing to stop the cycle.

Recently, we spent time with my family. After two days of barely speaking when my kids were asleep, I decided to break the silence. My mom had been going through a rough time, where she made clear she was not interested in my advice or opinion (ouch). When I brought up the topic, I decided to preface with, “I am not asking to judge, but to simply understand what is going on in your life.”

As much as I hated to preface, it worked. She opened up to me in a way she hadn’t in as long as I can remember. I didn’t pretend to agree with her choices, but I kept my mouth shut and sympathized with the pain she was experiencing, because sometimes that’s all you can do — and that’s okay. I may not ever feel “at home” with my family, and their choices will inevitably bring hard conversations for my kids and me, but they are still family. I can choose to either succumb to their presumptions, or I can accept my family for who they are and choose to love them regardless.

When no one else wants to put their foot down and step off the merry-go-round, I will take action and stop the games. Because that’s what family does.

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