Let me introduce you to HOUSE MOM.
This wonderful mom-person has been mentioned on this blog a few times, but last year, at P4 Retreat: MONTANA 2022, she made a surprise in-person appearance. Only the retreat planners knew she was coming, so she was a completely unexpected retreat attendee for everyone else to meet. Bravely, she stepped into my world, our retreat world, and she suddenly became HOUSE MOM.
Yep, can you believe it? She willingly came to Montana, volunteered to help in the kitchen, volunteered to help with the laundry, volunteered to help with general tidying as needed, and by doing so, making her presence visible, we deemed her the Honorable, Fantastic (and certainly overwhelming) Royal Title of House Mom.
Can you imagine? What a way to become a House Mom!! Starting by being the House Mom at a retreat brimming full of dissociative survivors? She suddenly got to meet lots of folks! And I mean, lots and lots of folks, lol. Oh, and remember. Just because I am familiar with DID, doesn’t mean she was familiar with DID. She was not, but wow, her willingness to take on the House Mom role was more than impressive. I was incredibly proud of her ability to step right in this world and be so comfortable.
And oh my gracious, I am so enormously grateful that she was there. There’s no way in the world that our Montana Retreat would have gone as smoothly as it did if she wasn’t there to help.
You may remember House Mom from her famous words and little children’s song, “Help One Another”. I’ve written the story before, so you may go check that bit of history out, if you want to understand a little more of who this mom-person is.
Anyway, in Montana, the retreat attendees got to see this woman — my mother — in action. In real life. There, standing in person, living her “help one another” life motto out for all to see.
They got to see how she diligently hard she works.
They got to see how kindly she speaks, how freely she relates, how nonjudgmental she interacts.
They got to see that she’s a real person. And they got to feel like real people in return.
Like I said, House Mom ROCKED THE HOUSE in Montana.
And…. let me tell you, we most definitely challenged her!
First Challenge: Organization.
House Mom walked into a Retreat Kitchen that looked like this! Oh goodness gracious!!
Yep, and that was only some of the groceries that we had. We had piles of food everywhere, and we had to find places to tuck that all away, in an organized fashion, so it would both be stored properly, and also be easily found on the days certain ingredients were needed for the menu. (We did lose the bagels for a few days, and some boxes of butter hid somewhere in the back of the fridge, and 6 large tins of tomato soup stayed in camouflage in the back of the cupboard, but even these items showed up before the week was over.)
House Mom was part of the team who unpacked all the foods, and began to make the kitchen functional, placing what we needed, where we needed it. An unorganized kitchen is nothing but a disaster, so thankfully, we had a team of women with great organizational skills working the job.
THAT giant task of kitchen organization didn’t freak her out. So gold stars there for you, House Mom.
Second Challenge: The Kitchen
Well, House Mom’s role in the kitchen was incredibly important, and very layered. Who knew, but as it turns out, cooking and prepping food for a busy retreat is a giant job. It takes hours of work in the kitchen. Hours every day. Even after all the preparation done ahead of time, and having a designated Kitchen Captain in there as well, I had completely underestimated the incredible amount of work that needed to be done in the kitchen. House Mom was on the job. On task. Willing. Diligent. Persistent. Happy to be there.
She was an amazingly good sport in there. We couldn’t have done that without her.
Every day, there were three meals a day prepared at the Retreat. Items to find ahead of time. Foods to serve. Fruits and veggies to chop and peel ahead of time. Meats to cook. Ingredients to measure. Recipes to put together. Desserts to make. Snacks to set out. Goodies to find. Seasonings to add. Drinks to pour. Coffee to make. And that was the fun bit!
Not only was there prep to do with foods, there was the whole buffet line to create to set out the food. Foods had to be grouped in a way that a serving line would make sense. Cold items couldn’t be set out too early, or they would get too warm. Hot items couldn’t be set out too early, or they would get cold. House Mom did an excellent job navigating these uncertainties, especially while I was out there in Group Activities taking a long time to get done (and all too often, not on schedule!). But dish after dish after dish, we knew that House Mom would have an amazing meal presented on our buffet line every single time we went that way. Gold stars again, House Mom.
There were also…. dishes to wash. Pots to clean. Pans to scrub. Silverware to sanitize. Counters to clear. Trash to take out. The CLEANING role in the kitchen is a never-ending job, that is for sure.
Sometimes House Mom had kitchen helpers, retreat attendees who graciously took turns doing the dishes, and cleaning up the mess. But sometimes, House Mom would shooooo people out of the cleaning roles, and send them off to the next Group Activity, telling them not to miss out on whatever else was happening. For goodness sakes! That’s a lot of cleaning to do on your own, House Mom! But House Mom is selfless like that, she really is.
Help one another ... and she was more than willing to help us at the retreat.
Third Challenge: The Skits
Poor House Mom! This was my idea, and maybe it didn’t work out quite as well as planned, but we asked House Mom to participate in one of our DID skits. In 2021, at P4² in Chicago, our Awesome Email Alex had played a front role in a DID skit, and we planned a somewhat situation for House Mom.
In this skit, House Mom played a role where she was the front host person hearing a lot of internal children speaking to her. Being new to the concept of DID, the skit (and the noise!) was a little overwhelming for her, but at the same time, the group of retreat attendees worked really hard to help explain what DID is, how it starts for a child, and the importance of good therapeutic help in the healing process. This was a quick crash-course of learning about Dissociative Identity Disorder, and while it was a lot for House Mom to absorb, that didn’t deter her at all. She was deeply touched by the experience, and House Mom carried on!
AND, for that matter, later in the week, she was enlisted by the group members to help pull a fast one on me in a skit where I was in the hot seat! I can see how this went, lol. Turn-about was fair play!
But hey, House Mom was a great sport, and I do think she learned a lot when she participated in our activities as well. I know she absolutely made the Body Movement classes a LOT more fun! She brought the giggles for us all. 🙂
Fourth Challenge: Personal Interaction
Now the real beauty of having a House Mom in a retreat where most all the group attendees have mother issues, or some version of mother abandonment, or serious chronic momma-trauma in their life story, is that House Mom, by the very nature of who she is as a mother and a teacher, played a very important role in numerous different situations.
Just by being there, just by being herself, just by being the Mother she is, House Mom had an amazing positive impact, allowing opportunities for healing.
House Mom played a helpful retreat role, and having the label of “mom” in her name automatically meant she had that place of significance. However. Also, having that “mom name” meant she could have been a target of emotional distress, trauma-transference, abandonment feelings, and projected irritation. Was it a good thing to bring a House Mom into a retreat with dissociative trauma survivors? I am very very aware that most trauma survivors have complicated, painful, difficult relationships with their mothers. How was House Mom going to navigate all that? Would she feel it? Would retreat attendees get angry with her? Would retreat attendees be inappropriate with her? Would retreat attendees overly cling to her as the mommy in the house?
Would retreat attendees be able to see House Mom as her own self, separate and different from their own mother who hurt them for so many painful years?
However difficult it would be to be “the mom” in such a tangled messy world for mothers, House Mom navigated that situation with ease, grace, and kindness. Gold stars for her, no doubt.
She spoke with everyone, and was kind to all.
She didn’t judge, she didn’t get angry, she didn’t create ugly scenarios. She didn’t manipulate, she didn’t complain, she didn’t fuss, she didn’t yell. hmmmmm. She didn’t quit, she didn’t refuse, she didn’t hide, she didn’t force her own agenda. She didn’t argue, she didn’t scream, she didn’t hit. She didn’t get too close, she didn’t stay too far away, she didn’t leave. She didn’t act inappropriately.
What she did was show acceptance, kindness, patience, and graciousness. She was simply good to others, gentle in her manner, and willing to help anyone.
She was also willing to teach, she was willing to bake, she was willing talk, she was willing to listen. She was willing to wait, she was willing to dig in, she was willing to stand back. No matter which way the day went, House Mom was willing to stand in the kitchen until all the work was done, or play in the kitchen until all the cookies were made. No matter the schedule, no matter the day, House Mom enjoyed the time in the kitchen with whoever was in there with her.
Most of all, House Mom showed us — all of us, by the way she interacted with all of us — how to treat others with respect. How to take people as they are, how to be natural and kind with them, and how to create new and positive experiences.
Fifth Challenge: Create Healthy, Healing Experiences
And create positive and NEW EXPERIENCES for these trauma survivors is exactly what she did. Without purposefully meaning too — but she did, just by being her usual kind self.
I speak often about Corrective Emotional Experiences — the process of enormously in-depth healing dissociative system members can experience when they have creative-new experiences, positive-healthy experiences, kind-gentle experiences instead of a repeated negative experiences. To heal old injuries and wounds, trauma survivors often need to experience something new, something better, something decent, something kind. Wounded people need to experience kindness from others, acceptance, warmth, etc. Because House Mom is who she is, she provided hundreds of new and creative experiences for the retreat attendees, without even trying.
- People were watching House Mom to see if she would belittle me (her daughter), she didn’t. She spoke respectfully with me.
- People were watching House Mom to see if she would suddenly turn, quickly becoming mean and vicious. She didn’t. She remained kind and gentle at all times.
- People were watching House Mom to see if she would put poison in their food, or serve something gross, or force them to eat what they didn’t like. She didn’t. She served yummy, tasty foods.
- People were watching House Mom to see if she would do inappropriate touch or angry slaps. She didn’t. She gave hugs or stay appropriate to herself.
- People were watching House Mom to see if she would reject them and shame them. She didn’t. She offered acceptance and nonjudgmental attitudes.
- People were watching House Mom to see if she would become argumentative, and manipulative, or be coercive. She didn’t. She stayed cooperative and calm.
- People were watching House Mom to see if she would scream or yell. She didn’t. She stayed happy, pleasant, and didn’t get grouchy, not even one time.
- People were watching to see if House Mom would ignore the. She didn’t. She was willing to have conversations with anyone who was near her, about any topic that was on the table at the time.
House Mom showed the retreat attendees that a MOM could be the kind of mom they had only heard about. She really was THAT MOM. Seeing House Mom in action, in person, knowing it was a reality, a genuine possibility, provided hope and encouragement to the retreat attendees in fostering growth their own family relationships.
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Challenges: Successfully Completed!
What I know, without a doubt, it was an honor to share my mom with a house-full of dissociative survivors at the retreat. I had full confidence that my mom could be an excellent House Mom. She really is who she is, she’s been a wonderful mother for many years, and now my DD people have been able to see that and experience time with her as well.
House Mom has earned every gold star we send her way. ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
AND…. as we plan for P4 Retreat: North Carolina 2023, yes, yes, we are planning on House Mom returning, giving the same of helpful impact she had in Montana to the folks at NC ’23. The retreats need someone like her, and someone who fills that role. I can’t think of anyone who could be any better.
I’m proud of ya, mom!
House Mom really does ROCK THE HOUSE!!
Hey — join us, and come to a retreat if you need a little extra help in your healing journey. NC ‘ 23. July 21-30, 2023. We’ll be having a great time. Hope to see you there.
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For more information about P4 Retreat: North Carolina 2023, go to P4DIDConference.com .
New information is being added daily and the P4 site will continue to provide more and more details. Registration will be open soon, but attendance is limited, and conditions apply. Contact us via P4DIDConference.com if you are interested in knowing more.
Copyright © 2023 Kathy Broady MSW and Discussing Dissociation