When Mother Doesn't Know Best

When Mother Doesn’t Know Best.

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My mother has absolutely no idea what I am really like. Nor does it seem to bother her. Although I am now middle aged, she still berates me if I don’t sit still when I’m eating and reminds me I was just the same when I was three and she was trying to brush my very curly hair. ‘You’ll never change’ she says almost triumphantly. ‘You just don’t do what you are told. Let’s face it you are just spoilt and wilful.’ She even warned my husband, when we got engaged that I was a trouble maker. He comes from an easy- going, stable family and was absolutely flabbergasted by her comment. Worst of all was telling him I was a slut because I had a lot of boyfriends before I met him. He told me he wouldn’t be able to contain his anger if he saw her and kept away her for several weeks until he felt able to face her again..

When I got pregnant with my first child she told me I would make a ‘terrible mother’ because I was selfish, always put my needs first and couldn’t even keep my bedroom tidy when I lived at home.

We now laugh at her ridiculous comments and both think she’s probably trying to get back at me for something that happened way back in her own life. As far as I’m concerned she makes very little impact on either of us now but my husband still finds her disloyalty to me very unpleasant. Are we right about her being damaged by her past?

OUR COMMENTS:

Your mother obviously hangs on to minor events from your childhood and still wants to punish you for them. Worse than that she has such a negative view of you as an adult that she has doesn’t mind at all about spoiling your future happiness. It is astonishing that you’ve coped. Not only do you not allow her nasty comments to wound you but find they are so ridiculous they make you laugh. Well done!

It’s no surprise that your husband is appalled by her behaviour and very positive that you discuss together why she might be as she is. It may indeed be something from her own childhood. She could, for example, have had a horrid parent herself - something you might explore with relatives should you want to. Or she may have been very disappointed by her marriage. Nevertheless her own bad experiences are no excuse for her to heap insults on you now. Her own past is, of course, not remotely your fault and rather than take out her frustrations on you she should have tried to be as good a parent as possible.

As your husband finds her meanness to you so hard to manage, you could work out together how you might become less involved with her.

Waves of Resentment

Waves of Resentment

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Very few people know I had a horrid mother and despite it I think I’ve managed to live my life quite well.   My eyes were open to her nasty sides when I was eighteen and realised that her aim was to put me down, destroy my confidence and belittle whatever I achieved.  

I told myself repeatedly that I was made of sterner stuff and worked hard to see how others lived and turn my miserable childhood into something positive.  I also chose not to talk about my childhood experiences as I felt it could turn me into a victim.  Nor did I want anyone to feel sorry for me. 

 By the time I had a satisfying career in medicine and got married in my late  thirties I believed I had left my past behind me. I had told my husband that I didn’t get on with my mother but rarely related examples of her vile behaviour.  It was important for me to move on. I never got pregnant which I thought at the time was quite a good thing as I was worried in case I became my mother.  

I managed to maintain a very loose relationship with her.  I was relieved when she died about fifteen years ago and have never once visited her grave. My father, who was a kind man, died some time before her.

 But it hasn’t been as straightforward as I thought.  Waves of resentment sometimes overwhelm me, particularly when I see two or three generations of a family together enjoying themselves and accepting each others’ faults.  My mother fell out with both her own and my father’s family and my husband was an only child so we don’t have other relations to turn to.  I also resent that I had such a tough time when I was young. I  hate feeling like this and don’t want to bring it out into the open.

 I came across your great website quite by chance and wonder if you could offer some suggestions to help me deal with them. Please don’t tell me to go see a therapist.  I don’t want to dig everything up from so long ago.  I am strong and would like to manage this on my own.  

 

 OUR THOUGHTS:

Well done - you have succeeded in your aim to survive and have a positive life on your terms. It must have taken great courage and determination. Unfortunately coming to terms with having had a horrid parent who made your childhood so unhappy is never easy. The families you observe tolerating each others faults are unlikely to have suffered your sort of pain. It’s much easier to cope with everyday ups and downs within a family if each member love and respect each other enough. Sadly it is not something that underpinned your childhood.

It sounds as if you have stored away your mother’s hurtful comments and behaviours but not been able to resolve them. It means they can at times spill into your current life and make you feel very resentful. Some people benefit from talking to a therapist but this option is not for you. However the pain you are experiencing inside suggests that you need to find a way of dealing with it as it won’t go away of it’s own accord. Otherwise you remain stuck within your relationship with your mother.

You could try to help yourself by making several lists. One: of your achievements big and small. Two: your personal attributes and the names of any role models who have supported you over the years like teachers, mentors and friends. Three: the names of your loved ones who value and appreciate you. This should help you realise you are a good person and have moved far away from being like your mother. Try to accept this reality.

Next you need to look at painful episodes you experienced. Jot down, as slowly as you like, every one of her unkind comments or nasty behaviour you can remember. It should not only help you see the extent of her bullying, but also begin to free you from the hurt. If this works for you try to make your story into a more coherent whole. It may help you gain some understanding of why she behaved like as she did. This will help you get some perspective.

If you feel strong enough after all this try to have an imaginary conversation with your mother telling her exactly what you think of her and why. You could even role-play an apology. Alternatively jot down examples of her bad behaviour and release your pain through physical exercise. Hitting a punch bag hard with a particular memory in mind can help.

Meanwhile do use your strength to move on and find the fulfillment you deserve.

A Threatening Mother

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My mother has been threatening me on and off since childhood.  If I didn’t do what she wanted when I was a child she would say I couldn’t go to a party or even celebrate my own birthday when it came around.  When I finished uni she threatened that if I left home before I got married – I’m nearly 60 and in those days you didn’t – she would write me out of her will.  More recently she’s said that if I refuse to do her shopping she will tell ‘everyone’ that I don’t care if she starves to death.  On and on the threats have gone.  Despite being irrational and completely over the top they still sometimes wound me.    

Fortunately mostly I can cope.  It’s a bit like surfing a verbal wave every month or so.  The change came a few months ago when I became a grandmother myself. It somehow made me decide that enough was enough and I would no longer put up with her threats. 

I told her so quite calmly and simply.  I know she is furious but I suspect she is also rather afraid.   

I am not sure of what to do next.  Can you offer some ideas? 

OUR COMMENTS 

It is not easy to stand up to a bully but it sounds as if you have found a way.  You have also sensed it’s made a difference in your mother’s behaviour.  So stand your ground and capitalise on your progress. Think about the sorts of demands that she is likely to make and work out your   boundaries. For example if she doesn’t ask you politely to do something, you won’t be available. You could also decide in advance what tasks you are willing to carry out and those that you feel are unreasonable.  Prepare some careful and calm replies to potential scenarios so you can talk gently but firmly to her.  If, for example she starts threatening you, tell her you are ending the phone call or offer to drop round to see  her later.  It might also help if you could find someone who could share some of the responsibility for her shopping and other needs.   

Try not to worry if she threatens to bad mouth you to other family members or even neighbours as they are likely to know what she is like.  If they do take her side, have as little to do with them as possible and tell yourself it is their loss.   

It must be wonderful to be a grandmother and feel the joy of a loving  relationship.

 

 

 

 

My Mother The Credit Card Thief

It’s almost unbelievable but I found myself overdrawn at the bank because my mother has been using my credit card details to buy things for herself on Amazon. 

She lives comfortably and she is still working so I assume she is not short of money.  Even worse, she didn’t mention a word about it to me.  It was desperately embarrassing as my bank called about being overdrawn and I told them firmly that it wasn’t possible.  I was really shocked when I looked on line and assumed that my account had been hacked.   

The only way I found out she was the culprit was when I told her what had happened during our weekly phone call. I’m always looking for something innocuous to say to pass the time and this seemed as good a subject as any.   

She listened then said: ‘Ah that was me. I couldn’t find my card so I used the details on yours.’  It took a great deal of effort to keep my voice calm, because I know from my childhood if I shouted she would shout back much louder.  Instead I said I looked after my expenditure very carefully and would have appreciated knowing what she was doing in advance.  She laughed and said it was about time I paid some things for her after all she did for me when I was small.  

I have acquired a new credit card, which I am not telling her about and make sure it is never on view.  But fancy not even apologising.  But then she is never in the wrong.  

  

OUR COMMENTS: 

It must be deeply shocking to realise the extent to which your horrid parent can’t be trusted. Sadly this can happen all too often when a parent has an over inflated sense of their own entitlement and disregards their offspring.  They may casually use their child’s money, take items from their room or home, or even someone else’s belongings, often using the  ridiculous justification that the person it belonged to ‘wasn’t looking after it properly’.  

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You are fortunate that your mother admitted her theft - for that is what it is – a horrid parent like her will usually react very badly to being found out and challenged.  

You have also done well to manage your mother by selecting topics of conversation that should avoid trouble, as well as staying calm when she laughed in response to your request to be told in advance about using your money.  It reflects how well you are coping.

Do remind yourself that you don’t owe your parent anything beyond common courtesy.

 

The Silent Treatment

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I am a 48-year-old man holding down a senior position in the financial world and my mother still treats me like a child.  A key memory of my childhood is of her not speaking to me, sometimes for several days at a time if I displeased her in any way.  Often I wouldn’t know what I had done wrong.  If I asked, she’d not reply.  As a result there was often a terrible atmosphere at home.    

She didn’t speak to me for two weeks after my wedding for some slight she won’t discuss.  My wife thought it might have been something to do with the table plan as we chose not to have a top table in case she caused trouble.  I asked my late father at the time if he knew what was wrong but he wasn’t in the least helpful and said the usual: “well, you know what she is like?”   My wife and I call it The Silent Treatment. 

She remains unable to discuss things in an adult way.  I wouldn’t take any notice except for the fact that she is now quite elderly and lives alone.  If she doesn’t return my calls I worry about what might have happened to her.  I try to ring at least once a week and pop round to see her every fortnight.  I keep both quite short to avoid confrontation. She gets cross if I change dates or times, but this is sometimes unavoidable due to work commitments. 

 Any tips on how I can manage this?

 OUR COMMENTS 

It is really hard to manage a horrid parent who refused to communicate and it gets tougher as they age. She is obviously trying to punish you but you seem to be managing pretty well communicating regularly but briefly.   

It might help if you could start a gentle conversation with her about  what options of support she might need as she grows older.  It won’t be easy and is likely to need several attempts. She may totally resist a logical conversation but it is important for you to try. A good start is for you to find out about local schemes that provide services such as a personal alarm system for the elderly. You haven’t let us know if you have siblings as it would be a good idea to talk it through with them and perhaps her friends and neighbours.   

Ultimately though this is her life and she needs to choose any plans.  If she refuses to discuss the matter we feel there is no reason for you to change your arrangements. Her lack of response may well be to raise your anxiety and manipulate you into visiting her. 

In addition you should continue to be firm and clear about your work commitments when you have to adjust your visits. Remind yourself that her treatment of you is very childish and unkind and her behaviour is not your fault.

Criticised in Advance

I waited  until I was four months pregnant before telling my mother I was going to have a baby.  I am a late mother as I didn’t find the right man until my late thirties and then I had various fertility issues.  My husband and I are thrilled and you  might think my mother would be too as, if all goes well, the baby will be her first grandchild.

But no.  She has behaved as she has always done by immediately finding a way of criticising me about something that hasn’t yet happened.  She said she pitied the baby having me for a mother as he/she would have a problem getting fed because I didn’t like getting out of bed in the morning. She added for good measure that she never saw me as a mother as I was part of the ‘me’ generation who only thought about myself.

I was so shocked and couldn’t stand up for myself.  I am very emotional about the whole experience and I spent the rest of the day in tears.

My husband did what he could to reassure me and suggested I stay away from her for the rest of the pregnancy and not risk her being nasty again.

Frankly I don’t know what to think. 

Our comments:

It’s a shame your hopes that being  pregnant would help your relationship with your mother  have been dashed. And the way she has responded shows she is unlikely to change her behaviour. So you need to think about how you are going to manage this and protect yourself and your family.

Your husband suggests you stay away until after the baby is born.  Or you could try reducing the number of your visits and calls. 

 

 

    It’s an awful experience to be criticised for something you haven’t done and have no intention of doing.  But a horrid parent often anticipates behaviour they think their child might do, even when they are adult, without the slightest indication they will.  Instead they see it as an opportunity to undermine their child with a list of what they must not do.    Pregnancy is a particularly emotional time so be kind to yourself and try to build up your self-confidence.  Keep telling yourself that her criticism is totally different from a parent who would offer helpful advice and guidance. And try to stay wary.  Don't expect her nastiness to stop and remember it is not your fault that your mother is so critical.   

 

It’s an awful experience to be criticised for something you haven’t done and have no intention of doing.  But a horrid parent often anticipates behaviour they think their child might do, even when they are adult, without the slightest indication they will.  Instead they see it as an opportunity to undermine their child with a list of what they must not do.  

Pregnancy is a particularly emotional time so be kind to yourself and try to build up your self-confidence.  Keep telling yourself that her criticism is totally different from a parent who would offer helpful advice and guidance. And try to stay wary.  Don't expect her nastiness to stop and remember it is not your fault that your mother is so critical.

 

When Your Horrid Parent Needs You

My father has been a spendthrift all his life, but when it comes to me he behaves like a miser.  

He left my mother when I was two and my brother four and rarely paid maintenance.  He saw us occasionally when he didn’t have anything else to do but never managed more than a card for our birthdays.  Nor did he give either of us a present when we got married, saying that he was ‘absolutely broke.’  Instead he relies on a practiced wink and a certain charm to win everyone round. 

For the last thirty years he’s lived abroad and been looked after by one young woman after another, but he’s getting on, has various health issues and none of them are now prepared to look after him for nothing. 

As a result he’s decided to return to the UK and has asked my brother and I to pay his fare, find him accommodation, fill it with furniture, get him a TV, computer and car and provide a weekly sum for ‘extras.’  I mentioned his pension but he dismissed that as being pennies. 

He, just like I’ve read about Meghan Markle’s father Thomas, believes we should keep him in the luxury he’d like to get used to.  What’s more he wants to live very close to me so he can come over most days explaining it would also be ‘easier’ for me to get his shopping and cook his meals. 

My brother and I are both work for charities so neither of us are rich.  I’ve told him I am prepared to help him a little.   I have also insisted on various boundaries including that he can only come over once a week.  He was shocked.  I know I am right but I feel both guilty and resentful. 

Please help. 

OUR COMMENTS:

Your father seems to wants to put himself at the centre of your life when he has never made you the centre of his.  This is a difficult situation to manage.  Adults choose whether or not to have children and children are not obliged to have any financial responsibility for them in return.  The more so when the parent has not provided for their child or managed their  own money sensibly.

 

    In other words the relationship between parent and child is not a reciprocal one.  Parents should do their best for their children without expecting anything more than gratitude in return. In fact most reasonable parents prefer their children to focus on providing for their own offspring rather than them.   You are obviously aware that your father is trying to take advantage of you and the boundaries you have set up make sense.  Managing your feelings of both guilt and resentment may seem hard at the moment, but if you give in to his demands your guilt will vanish as your resentment increases.  Try to make notes of why you have made your decisions about him and what you are prepared to do, for example phone or visit him on a regular if infrequent basis.  You could also share ideas on how to manage him with your brother. 

 

In other words the relationship between parent and child is not a reciprocal one.  Parents should do their best for their children without expecting anything more than gratitude in return. In fact most reasonable parents prefer their children to focus on providing for their own offspring rather than them. 

You are obviously aware that your father is trying to take advantage of you and the boundaries you have set up make sense.  Managing your feelings of both guilt and resentment may seem hard at the moment, but if you give in to his demands your guilt will vanish as your resentment increases.

Try to make notes of why you have made your decisions about him and what you are prepared to do, for example phone or visit him on a regular if infrequent basis.  You could also share ideas on how to manage him with your brother. 

In Need of Care?

My very difficult mother is going to be 80 in a couple of months.  Overall she’s in reasonably good health but I’ve noticed she is getting rather forgetful.  Her fridge invariably contains out-of-date foods and recently she’s fallen over a few times.  

Luckily she hasn’t hurt herself badly but I feel it’s time to plan for her future care.  My two siblings live abroad and want very little contact with her.    She’s never cared for us as I believe a mother should but now she needs more help she is trying to be nice to me.  I know it’s an act not least because she can’t keep the façade up throughout a single visit.  She believes I should  make her my number one priority and become her carer which I am determined not to do.  I dislike her as much as my siblings do but I have more of a guilty conscience.  I live more than two hours drive away and have my own life.   Nor do I think it’s right for a woman who was horrid to all her children then expect them to come running when she’s needy. 

I’ve tried to discuss her future care several times, but she brushes it aside saying she is fine.  I’ve also spoken to her GP who said we both know what she is like, in other words she’s very determined and unlikely to change, which wasn’t very helpful.   Sheltered accommodation would be enough for now and I’ve offered to drive her round a few places but she won’t consider it.   Her behaviour is so unreasonable that I too am tempted to walk away. 

This is a very difficult situation for you to navigate.  Dealing with an ageing parent is hard enough even when they are much loved and much trickier if they are horrid.

Ultimately unless a person lacks capacity only they can make final decisions about their care, but can take advice from whoever they choose.  You are aware of her needs and have been looking at options.  She is aware she should get help but thinks that you should be he one providing it.  Until she understands that you won’t take on a caring role, she is unlikely to agree to any other options.  So this is your place to start.

We suggest that you first think through your own motivations so you can offer her options that are in her best interests and not influenced by any residue feelings you may have to get your own back for her general unkindness in the past.  It sounds as if so far you have managed, despite her behaviour, to be a dutiful enough daughter.  Do try to continue to be so. 

Then tell her as clearly as possible what you can and cannot do. If she doesn’t listen, you could get some brochures or visit some places and  put the options put in a letter adding that you are willing to action any of them when she is ready. Sometimes it takes an accident like a fall or illness for an older person to face their reality and start to accept professional help.

Most older people have a wide range of concerns about their diminishing faculties and may feel anxious, confused, angry and resentful about their future. You mother’s behaviour may well get worse but try not to take this personally.   Try instead to imagine her as a frail neighbour who needs some support.  This might help you distance yourself from her general unkindness.  Do think about offloading some of your frustrations to a friend and even your siblings and don’t feel guilty. You have shown your mother compassion and that you are also trying to help her as much as she will let you.

 

 

 

 

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Estrangement

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Meghan Markle’s father Thomas, 73, is begging for his daughter to get in touch saying that he could die soon.

 

He claims that he has been shunned by the Palace since he sold staged pictures of himself to the paparazzi in the run up to the royal wedding.  He told a newspaper that he wants to put their differences behind them and is worried about her.  ‘I think she is terrified,’ he said.  ‘I see it in her eyes, I see it in her face and I see it in her smile….I know her smile..this is a pained smile…I think she’s under too much pressure.’  He has also publicly revealed what Prince Harry said to him in a private conversation.  

Meghan has been very close to her father and very much wanted him to walk her down the aisle.  Now he claims he has only heard from her just after the wedding and says significantly:  ‘I am her father and deserve some respect.’

Estrangement is a controversial issue and there were over 8,000 comments on line during just one day.  Here is a small selection.   

 ‘I don’t know why he keeps blabbing to the media if he wants to rebuild his connection with Meghan, but I feel sorry for him. Meghan should do the right thing and contact her father.  She is behaving appallingly to her dad who gave her everything and helped get her where she is today.’

‘This is the man who sacrificed to pay for his daughter's private education.  He played a huge role in making her what she is today, a refined, well educated woman. He may be a socially awkward hermit but he still deserves some respect from his daughter and son-in-law.’ 

 

‘He needs to shut up.  He is nothing but an embarrassment to himself, his daughter and the Royal Family and he just doesn't "get it" the more he blabs to the press the less likely she will contact him.’

‘There is a strong stigma around parental estrangement but if a child has made that decision they have already been pushed to their limit. They have been forced to draw boundaries with a toxic parent who has failed to provide emotional, psychological and/or physical care. A child should not have to get anyone else's approval to set the boundaries they need to thrive, be emotionally healthy and live their life.’

 

Please let us know your views on Facebook or on our Forum reached via www.myhorridparent.com

A people pleaser

On the whole I think I have done rather well getting over my manipulative and permanently critical mother.

I have a good marriage, two special teenagers and friends who care about me.  I’ve made a career in marketing and am currently working for a small company where I enjoy being one of the team. 

But, and it’s quite a big but there are still things left over from my childhood that I can’t quite master.   For example I sometimes wake up at night really anxious that  problems my close friends have might somehow be my fault and feel guilty that I can’t make whatever it is better for them.  It’s even worse if my husband has a bad day or week at work.  He’s quite a high powered lawyer and of course some cases are particularly difficult.  Nor can he win them all.  When he’s down I actually feel a pain in my chest that this too might be my fault.   

Overall I try my best to please everyone, which at times is exhausting.  For example one of my teenagers is vegan, the other loves fish, while my husband is a solid meat and two veg man.  Sometimes I make three different dinners to keep them all happy.  My husband often tells me I am too easy on  our son and daughter,  but I am just the same with him because I go along with plans I am not very keen on.  

One reason is because I hate arguments.  There were so many when I lived with my parents.  I remember trembling with both fear and anger not least because I wasn’t allowed to express myself. 

I am able to say what I think at work, because I am confident in my skills and also keep part of me back.  It’s different with my family.  They mean so much to me that I try never to reveal that I have been hurt or annoyed them.  I  dare not risk rejection.   

I’d be grateful for any tips. 

Our view:

You have coped very well to have both a career and a family and  interesting that you have freed yourself to speak out at work. Perhaps you can think about how and why you have been able to do this. If you fear rejection at home that’s where you should start.

 

 

   You have created a close and loving family so it is unlikely that they will turn on you just because you stand up for yourself.  It is important to be genuine in a family and this means revealing your thoughts and feelings. Unlike your past experiences at home with your parents you may well find that your own family will not be angry or feel threatened if you stand your ground. Your anxiety about doing so stems from your parents,  It is understandable but also irrational.  It may be a good time to challenge some of  your fears and feelings of responsibility.  Take it slowly and try to tackle one thing at a time.

  You have created a close and loving family so it is unlikely that they will turn on you just because you stand up for yourself.  It is important to be genuine in a family and this means revealing your thoughts and feelings. Unlike your past experiences at home with your parents you may well find that your own family will not be angry or feel threatened if you stand your ground. Your anxiety about doing so stems from your parents,  It is understandable but also irrational.  It may be a good time to challenge some of  your fears and feelings of responsibility.  Take it slowly and try to tackle one thing at a time.