Thursday, October 22, 2015

Missy Francis grew up with the mother from hell...

Like so many people my age, I grew up watching Little House on the Prairie.  I also used to watch a lot of Saturday morning cartoons.  Both of those television related activities exposed me to a child actress named Missy Francis.


Those eyes are unforgettable...

Not long ago, I read a "where are they now" article about Little House on the Prairie.  Missy Francis, now going by the more formal name, Melissa, was featured in it.  Toward the end of Little House's run, Missy Francis had played an orphan girl named Cassandra Cooper on the show.  Though she was not one of the main cast members, I did remember her and was interested when the article mentioned that Francis had written a book about growing up a child actress.  I am a sucker for those kinds of books, so I quickly downloaded Diary of a Stage Mother's Daughter: A Memoir.  I just finished it this morning.

Melissa Francis calls her mother a "stage mother".  Maybe that is an accurate description of what her mother was when Francis was growing up.  However, I would also call her mother a textbook case of narcissistic personality disorder.  As I read page after page about her mother's shocking antics, I recognized the behavior all too well.  Melissa's mom, who had a long suffering husband and two beautiful daughters who starred in television commercials and shows, exploited and abused everyone close to her.  Francis writes of how her mother would shuttle her and her sister to auditions.  When Missy would land a part, her mother would brag to everyone who would listen... and when the paychecks rolled in, her mother would pocket them for herself.  Meanwhile, Melissa's mother never held down a job herself and would spend other peoples' money like there was no tomorrow.  Like all narcissists, Melissa's mom didn't have any empathy.  She saw other people as tools to manipulate and use.  

Woe be unto anyone who dared to cross Missy's mom.  In one heartbreaking chapter, Missy writes of how some neighbors complained about a few feral cats who lived on her parents' property.  Animal control had apparently tried to address the issue, but got no results.  So they took the Francis family's dog.  Missy's dad went to fetch the pooch from the pound.  Meanwhile, Missy's mother stole the complaining neighbors' dog, removed the canine's collar, and deposited her at an animal shelter miles away from their neighborhood.  Since the dog had no collar, no one would know where she belonged.  Her family would never think to look in the shelter so far from home.  And since she was elderly, it was unlikely anyone would want to adopt her.  Missy knew the dog would soon be euthanized.  She wanted to tell her neighbors, but knew if she did, her mother would make her pay for her disloyalty.  So she kept silent and sealed the dog's fate.  I almost had to stop reading her book after I read that passage.  While I understand why Missy felt she had to be quiet, I was also rather disgusted by her silence.  But then, I am also a dog lover.

Missy's sister, Tiffany, eventually outgrew acting.  Smart, beautiful, and talented, the older girl eventually went to Berkeley, where she dabbled heavily in drugs and alcohol.  Melissa writes movingly about her relationship with her sister and her sister's many clashes with their mother.  While Missy was able to make straight As and flourish despite her mother's excessive control and sniping, Tiffany slid into an abyss of addiction which eventually made her very ill and cost her her life.  Unfortunately, Tiffany was not as resilient as her sister was.  If their mother is narcissistic, and I am certain she is, then Tiffany was probably the scapegoat, while Melissa was the "golden child".

Surprisingly, Missy's father, who owned his own company and worked very hard, managed to tolerate his wife's craziness and be a rock to her daughters.  Perhaps "enable" is a better word for his behavior  than tolerate.  I often wondered why he didn't do more to save himself and his daughters.  Missy's dad once told Missy she could be anything she wanted to be if she put her mind to it.  So Missy took control of her life and went to Harvard University, where she was on the polo team and majored in economics.  She met and married her husband, Wray, and eventually became mother to two sons.  When she finally stood up to her mother, who exploited, abused, and stole from her, she found that there was no more relationship.  I am assuming that they are now on a no contact status.  While I don't take pleasure in learning about people who are estranged from their parents, I totally understand why Francis hasn't spoken to her mom in over a decade.  Unfortunately, when it comes to narcissists, going no contact is the only way to protect yourself from the damage they can wreak.

Diary of a Stage Mother's Daughter is not long on details about Little House on the Prairie, so anyone looking for juicy tidbits about that show will likely be disappointed.  However, the book will likely interest anyone who is fascinated by toxic mothers.  Some of the stunts Melissa's mother pulled are just outrageous.  I often found myself pissed off for Missy Francis and others who were victimized by her mother's ridiculous behavior.  And, once again, I found myself feeling some empathy for my husband's daughters, whose mother also displays many of the same abusive, exploitative, hateful, sabotaging and insane behaviors.  

Melissa Francis is now better known as a news reporter.  She currently works for the Fox Business Network and has a show called Money with Melissa Francis.  From what I can see, she has managed to make the best of her life.  I applaud her for that.  I wish everyone raised by a toxic parent could do the same.

I recommend Diary of a Stage Mother's Daughter.  It's basically well-written and a fast read.  I think a lot of people may even find it inspirational.  I do want to mention, though, that Melissa Francis apparently has a now abandoned blog.  The writing in the blog is not nearly as good as the writing in the book, which makes me wonder if it might have been ghost written.  Either that, or Missy's book was very well edited.  Either way, I think the book is worth reading.  I'd give it three and a half stars at least.






6 comments:

  1. I must read the book.

    I left you a DM on twitter.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes Alexis. This one is right up your alley.

      Delete
  2. It is amazing to me how someone who has no idea of the truth can write such an ugly review. There are no affairs, drugs, drinking, etc. on my part? R u blind? Missy's upbringing was quite the opposite but I am sure you do not care. Her father is a convicted felon and has been arrested for drink driving. This can be proved. He was a nightmare. He introduced Tiffany to drugs, drinking and smoking. He is a fall down drunk. Every cent the girls made was spent on them. Missy graduated from Harvard debt free..TIFFANY ditto from Berkeley and law school. Do u notice that there is absolutely no witnesses to anything? EVER? Missy spent most of her teenage years showing her Champion horse Flying Colors. Tiffany's horse was Duchess. There never was a dognaping. She wrote this tale for financial gain, period. Do some solid research. I never spent one cent on myself. I made sure my girls had excellent educations and everything their hearts desired. I am sure this is falling on deaf ears. Yes, this is all my fault; I should have left him. I had no
    idea what was wrong w TIFFANY until I asked TIFFANY how her drinking had started and she told me that she used to finish her father's vodka when he passed out. Why did Missy find it necessary to drag her sister thru the mud? She and I know the truth; she has painted herself into an ugly corner and has no way out. Early on, she admitted the book was fiction only changing it when she could not get a publisher.

    I have five wonderful rescues and shame on you believing such a terrible lie.

    I love my daughters with every fiber of my being. Always have and always will. Pray for Missy, she is lost.

    I have lost a child, for Heaven's sake!
    .

    ReplyDelete
  3. If you are Missy's mom, I'm not sure this comment really does you any favors.

    ReplyDelete
  4. What is meant by "I have five wonderful rescues" ?

    ReplyDelete

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