How My Childhood Sexual Abuse Trauma Impacts My Parenting

From an outside perspective you may perceive that I am somewhat of a “helicopter parent” — and I am OK with that label. There’s a reason why I am such an observant parent. I am a childhood sexual abuse survivor. And yes, it has shaped me and impacted my mothering.

Childhood sexual abuse is much more prevalent than what we assume or talk about in our mom circles. One in three women has experienced sexual abuse in their childhood. Sadly, I am part of that statistic.

I remember that day like it was yesterday. It’s like a scar that is a permanent fixture on my skin. A scar I forget is there until randomly my hand passes over it and I suddenly remembered what caused it.

I was but a few feet away from my parents when it first happened. My abuser was a person I loved dearly and had always been so happy to see. It was a moment in time when the little girl who was known as a chatterbox suddenly lost her voice and her ability to love freely and without fear. It was a moment that would shape my life forever and would only open me up to more sexual abuse by others.

Interestingly enough, prior to becoming a mother I thought I had overcome this trauma. But somehow motherhood had a way of bringing that trauma back to the surface.

Those fears I had as a child were reborn with every one of my children. The need to keep them safe is something I hold like a shield around my daughters daily. Sleepovers are not something I am comfortable with and, honestly, I am more afraid of those closest to us versus friends and strangers. That may sound crazy to you, but all my sexual abuse came from relatives. I have taught my children about their physical anatomy, and we speak about our body parts in scientific terms to leave no room for confusion should we need to have a conversation about certain body parts. This is something that works for my family; it may not work for yours, and that is OK. 

As mothers, we each take different paths, but we share a common goal of wanting the best for our children. We are all focused on their well-being and their happiness.

Their innocence is something I will do everything to safeguard, not because I do not want them to grow up but because I know how short childhood can be — and how it can all be lost in one moment.  

Sexual abuse is an important topic of conversation for us to have not just with our children (in an age-appropriate way), but among mothers as well. How can we create that safe space in our moms’ groups so we know we are not alone? That reassurance of knowing another mother is watching and understands is important. That feeling of not being alone, not feeling ashamed. If you have gone through any form of abuse and are now seeing how it affects your mothering journey, know that you are not alone.  

I am blessed to have a husband who understands my traumas and understands the impact it has on my parenting. He balances me. Therapy has also been a particularly important part of my life; if you need someone to talk to, I cannot recommend therapy enough. Our mental health is especially important. We might sometimes assume we have moved beyond past events or traumas and are over certain things. But motherhood has a way of bringing out that inner child. This is not something to be afraid of. It is something to acknowledge. Mama, please know you are not alone. No matter what you’ve experienced, you can overcome anything. 

Nancy is a mom of five girls ages 10 to 1 and a zoo wrangler to two rescue pups, a black lab named Duke and a chihuahua named Pancho. She loves black coffee, hot weather, a bargain, and all things guacamole. Being a mom to five strong little women is no small task. Her bilingual home is filled with all the wonders and joys that chaos brings. On days where she finds a tiny bit of time to herself she writes at www.Motheringinchaos.com. As a graduate of Bowdoin College, Nancy has gone from classroom teaching to focusing mainly on the nonprofit education sector. She has had the privilege of working with organizations like Summer Search and Posse, and she has served as a community organizer. Before motherhood, she lived in Los Angeles, Boston, and New York City. Currently, she is a stay-at-home mom to her five amazing girls and has been happily married to her best friend for the past 18 years (he’s clearly outnumbered). They are excited to raise their first-generation American daughters together while keeping them close to their Guatemalan roots. Nancy is thrilled to find herself contributing to Boston Moms, especially coming from a fear of writing. It’s a testament that it’s never too late to keep dreaming and growing! 

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