Estrangement: Are you an octopus mom?

by Sheri McGregor, MA

estrangement

Sheri, diving in a pool
Photo credit: J. Wininger

Octopuses are smart. They can learn how to work through mazes, figure out how to open jars, and they like to play—all signs of intelligence. That’s why it surprised me when a friend mentioned that a mother octopus lays her eggs, then devotes herself so selflessly to them that she dies.

 

In one documented story, scientists observed a giant Pacific octopus who brooded over her eggs for more than four years. She neglected her own care, going without food to the point of death—and then her offspring floated off into the ocean to live their lives alone.

Caring for children

When our children are young and growing up, we protect and care for them. For us, it’s more than preserving the species as it must be for the octopus. We love them. We want to develop good relationships with our children, expecting they will grow older and we’ll remain emotionally connected and close. But that’s not how it is in situations of estrangement. The children we nurtured and loved grow up and cut ties. The distance can range from never talking to an occasional text. Or, worse, many parents say their adult children only call when they want financial help.

It’s fine to help people you love, but with estrangement, I routinely hear from mothers (and fathers) who have repeatedly neglected their own care, health, and happiness. Some have sons or daughters who are in their 40s and even 50s and have a history of anger and abuse toward the parents they blame for all their troubles. These parents come across my book or this website, and that’s when they discover they’re not the only ones.

Estrangement: Don’t be a mother octopus

In the shame of estrangement, parents will sometimes give more than they can really afford to sacrifice. Trying and trying even though the estrangement is beyond their control. As one woman on the FB page for rejected parents recently said, “Didn’t break it. Can’t fix it.” (I’m paraphrasing from memory.)

Parents brood for years over an adult who wants nothing to do with them. Hoping their son or daughter will one day decide to change, and end the estrangement. Waiting, remaining emotionally invested to the point of exhaustion—but the adult children move on in their lives alone.

It’s okay to remain hopeful. It’s fine to think that one day your son or daughter will return. But there’s no sense neglecting yourself while you wait. Go on and enjoy your life. Find some meaning. Do what makes you happy and strong.

If that Pacific octopus would have eaten a few of those crabs she nudged away when they got close, maybe she wouldn’t have withered away while standing faithful.

estrangementObviously, we aren’t octopuses. Maybe it’s a stretch to even use this fact to draw a parallel for parents suffering in estrangement. Then again, maybe it’s not such a big stretch at all. . .

In estrangement, don’t neglect your own health and happiness.

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4 thoughts on “Estrangement: Are you an octopus mom?

  1. Juanita

    I survived mother’s day. Went shopping bought new clothes and some decorations for home that’s my creative finish old projects that needed to be completed

    Reply
  2. Juanita

    Wishing you all a Happy Mother’s Day of new beginnings. I have been dealing with my children on and off again alot over the last twenty years. About the time I think I got this something happens and I get to be needed by one of them again whether it be medical financial or some need. It’s been far too long since any of my children cared if I was ok and how my day is going. Or if I ever found someone to love now that they are grown. But time has flown by and people like you as Sheri have helped me to understand that there isn’t anything wrong with me. The truth is children grow up and because of divorces and money sometimes it causes our very own children to be distant but let’s not forget the lies told in the divorce which both parties are usually guilty. I told my children the truth about anything and everything I could remember about lies during our divorce and ask my x to do the same. Not so that my kids would hate him and chose me but so they would know the truth about our divorce and that they are not the reason or the problem if this divorce. I believe our children pay a high price having to chose between their parents or to hate one because the other one does it breaks kids hearts. Having to make such a choice at any age… It was tough being honest about what really happened in their young lives but I am certain that the truth has set them free from alot of heartache that they could have carried through their entire adult lives which causes emotional damage in them as a partner. I love my children that much that I need to be honest with them because I want them to be the best person they can be and find a good loving trusting mate. It hasn’t changed the fact that they come see me more often or that they talk to me more but it did heal them so they don’t live a life of lies… And whether I like it or not they are still my children even though the ignore me alot . I couldn’t tell you the last time I felt like a real mother to any of them and them actually making me feel like one because they want me to be. So I pray for my children lives to be good alot and that God watches over them everyday and that maybe someday they will come around again. I’m calling my mother’s day with this new beginning of finding things I like that bring joy to my life and trust me there are a ton of places and things I haven’t done like go on a cruise to an island. It does not replace my children but it helps me to love me even if they don’t come around. I hope you all are happy this year cause I’m going to be………thanks juanita

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  3. Sue M.

    Thank you so much for saying May is for new beginnings. Mother’s day is sad for me every year having an adult son I’m estranged from (8 years now) and a daughter in heaven. I’m lucky to have a wonderful son whom I’m very close to, so I focus on him. For my gift to myself I’m going to focus on eating healthy and losing weight. That would make my body and spirit feel better.
    It’s so helpful to me to know I’m not alone in this situation with my estranged son, thank you.

    Reply
  4. MARY W.

    I was the biggestt octo mom ever also helicopter mom
    MY WHOLE LIFE WAS ABOUT MY KIDS THATS WHY IT WAS INCONCEIVABLE TO ME THAT 2 OUT OF 3 DID THIS TO ME
    MY FIRST REACTION WAS COMPLETE DISBELIEF THIS WAS MY LIFE SELF ESTEEM MY HEART MY SOUL
    I WAS NOTHING NEVER LIVED INVISABLE DEAD WITHOUT MY KIDS I ALWAYS LOVED THE SAYING “NEVER EVER NEVER LET ANYONE TAKE AWAY YOUR SPARKEL” SO MANY MEAN JEALOUS TRIED TO; BUT MY RESPONSE WAS I LIVE A HAPPY LIFE AND COULDNT CARE LESS ABOUT YOUR OPINION I WAS TOLD BY MANY THAT MY HAPPINESS SPARKLED THROUGH MY EYES I KNEW I WAS IN TROUBLE WHEN I HAD TO PRACTICE MY SMILE IN THE MIRROR WHEN THEY LEFT I WONT GO THROUGH IT ALL BUT TWO OF MY KIDS WERE BY FAR THE CRUELEST PEOPLE ALONG WITH THEIR HUSBANDS I HAD EVER SEEN. WHEN I TOOK THEM PLACES IN MY MIND I COUNTED 1 2 3 ALL NIGHT MAKING SURE THEY NEVER LEFT MY SIGHT NO SPANKINGS NO PUNISHMENTS JUST LIFE LESSONS WE SPENT EVERY DIME GIVING THEM HUGE BIRTHDAY AND HOLIDAY PARTIES NOTHING TOO MUCH ALL WERE INVITED
    THEN THESE DIRT POLITICIANS STARTED THEIR LIES AND THE TRUTH WAS NOT IN THEIR HISTORY BOOKS NOT WHAT I LIVED THROUGH THEY BEGAN SEEING US AS EVIL ALTHOUGH THEY WERE BOWING TO EVIL WE ALWAYS SAID AGREE TO DISAGREE WHICH DID NOT SUIT THEM WE WERE JUST EVIL THEY LEFT US AND BLOCKED ME NOT ON ONE BUT TWO OF MY BIRTHDAYS IN LAYMANS TERMS THEY KILLED US MY DR SAYS THIS IS DOING IRREPABLE DAMAGE TO THEIR CHILDREN WHO WE HAD A LOVING RELATIONSHIP WITH THEY DONT CARE THEY ARE CRUEL HATEFUL AND HEARTLESS ALSO I WAS HUMILIATED AS THEY WERE THE MOST IMPORTANT IN MY LIFE I PRAY MY MESSAGE IS THEY WILL OPEN THEIR EYES AND RETURN APOLIGETICALLY I DONT KNOW WHY BUT I JUST CANT DO THIS ANYMORE IVE ENDURED HOLIDAYS BIRTHDAYS AND MOTHERS DAYS FOR SOME REASON I CANT DO THIS ONE I JUST CANT ITS OVER FOR ME I CAN ENDURE ANY MORE HEARTBREAK SINCE THEY THREW US OUT I HAVE DEVELOPED HEART PROBLEMS (TWO TYPES OF MEDS) AN ANYERISM AND MOST RECENTLY LYME DESEASE WHICH I WAS TOLD I HAD HAD WAY TOO LONG MY BONES KILL ME I SLEEP UNTIL 2 AFTER ALL TESTS WERE DONE ON ME IWAS PUT ON HYDROCHLOROQUINE AND PAIN MEDAS (25 VIALS OF BLOOD) AND EX RAYS ON EVERY JOINT IT IS FATAL CANNOT BE CURED AT MY AGE BUT WITH MY MEDS IT IS MANAGEABLE SEVERAL DRS SAID I WAS SICK AND COULD DIE FROM A BROKEN HEART I TAKE MY MEDS AND REMOVE MYSELF FROM ANY UPSETTING SITUATION I CAN THIS IS PURE EVIL TAKING OF ALL THINGS YOUR MOST PRECIOUS POSESSION MY KIDS I KNOW GOD WILL SWOOP IN AND SAVE THE DAY BUT THIS MOTHERS DAY SEEMS TO BE MY BREAKING POINT TO FIRST BORN DAUGHTER YOUR HUSBAND CLEARLY ABUSES YOU WE KNOW HOW AND BY THE WAY SLEEP DEPRIVATION AND NOOO PRIVACY CAN GET ANYONE AND YOUR KIDS LOVE US; WHAT EVIL THING DID YOU TELL THEM? THE DEVIL LAUGHS AT YOUR WEAK SOUL TO MY SECOND WHO HAS ALWAYS WALKED AWAY FROM ANYONE ALL THE TIME NEVER LOOKING BACK THIS EPIDEMIC IS SUITED TO YOU EVEN THOUGH YOU WERE THE SWEETEST BEST BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTER WE COULD HAVE WISHED FOR THE EVIL IN YOU IS UNHIDEABLE I PRAY EVERY DAY AND NIGHT FOR BOTH OF YOUR REDEMPTION AS YOU FOLLOW EVIL WHILE PLAYING AN ACT AND AFTER ALL THIS; WE STILL LOVE YOU UNCONDITIONALLY GUESS TRY AS WE DID YOU WENT OFF WITH EVIL AS SOON AS YOU SAW IT MY ONLY WISH FOR YOUR SALAVATION TO MY YOUNGEST I KNEW FROM CONCEPTION YOU WERE AND OLD WISE SOUL SENT TO SAVE US YOU HAVE MANY TIMES I KNOW YOU HAVE A HIGH PLACE IN HEAVEN THANK YOU FOR YOUR LOVE SUPPORT AND CARING HEART IT IS IRREPLACABLE

    Reply

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