Bad Childhoods, Dysfunctional Families, and Mental Illness: Reflections on HBO’s ‘Mommy Dead and Dearest’ From a Childfree Perspective

  • SPOILERS: This post contains spoilers from the HBO documentary ‘Mommy Dead and Dearest.’

My husband and I cuddled up on the couch on Saturday evening to watch Mommy Dead and Dearest, the HBO documentary about the murder of Dee Dee Blancharde and the accused, her own daughter Gypsy Rose Blancharde. Not the most romantic date night for sure, but intersting nontheless. Gypsy endured one of the worst cases of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, a mental illness and form of abuse in which a caregiver intentionally makes their dependent ill, ever to be recorded. After watching the documentary, I read this article detailing what Gypsy plans to do after being released from prision. In addition to considering culinary and cosmotology school, Gypsy had this to say as told by her step-mom Kristy:

She had told me that one day, she hopes when she gets out, that she wants to be able to grow a family. And she had mentioned that to one of her cellmates, and her cellmate said, “Well, aren’t you too scared to raise your child like your mom did?” And she said, “What I have learned is how to not raise my child how my mom raised me. I am learning how to raise my child by [Kristy,] my mom I have now. With compassion, and with love, and being honest, and being there for your child for all the right reasons.”

-Anna Gragert & Rachel Sanoff, hellogigles.com

Despite the grizzly tale of Gypsy’s life, her comments here scare me more. About 30% of abused and/or neglected children will grow up to later abuse their own children. You might reason that Gypsy stands a 70% chance of not abusing her future children to which I say, why take that chance?

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Being Childfree: Its Impact On My Relationships

Relationships are, by default, complicated. It doesn’t help that we have to balance so many of them in our lifetime, which is exceptionally difficult considering humans literally cannot multitask efficiently.

Not unlike many spouses, I view my marriage as the most important connection in my life and thus, most of my ‘relationship energy’ is funneled into its maintenance. However, this doesn’t mean I neglect my other relationships – friendships with close friends, my family, my in-laws, even my workmates – the list goes on and on.

By very definition, a relationship is the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected. But what happens when there is a break in what connects us?

For instance, I had a very close friend when I was a teenager. We spent a lot of time together doing the typical teenagery, boundary-pushing things and formed a bond based on shared interest. This friend is now married with a young child, owns a business, and lives some two hours away. The glue of our relationship – essentially, immaturity and convenience – had come undone as we aged. Many refer to this phenomenon as growing apart.

Unfortunately for the childfree, mainly those of us who are still in the “child-birthing years”, we experience this loss of connection at a seemingly more frequent rate. Many of our closest friends have gone on to have children and the bond that once held us together is severed. Rightly so; most of that ‘relationship energy’ is now set aside for their most important connection – the relationship with their child(ren).

But what about those relationships that have been affected, but not broken, by our decision to be childfree?

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