My Bullying Father

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I fear my father has ruined my life. He was a tough man and I was terrified of him throughout my childhood and teenage years. I dealt with it by trying to please him. I did whatever he wanted me to do to the best of my ability.

As the eldest and only male child he decided he wanted me to work in his button factory as he was insistent the surname of the owner should stay unchanged when he passed away. I couldn’t have been less interested in buttons but when I was 16 he demanded I left school and became his apprentice. I gathered my courage and tried to persuade him to let me stay and do my A Levels and go to university saying that I felt long term I could be of more help to him and the company. His answer was to explode with rage and ignore me for weeks. So I gave up further education and accepted his demands. My mother was very unhelpful as she was scared of him too and went along with whatever he said.

I worked in the factory for 20 years and watched it slowly decline. He wouldn’t listen to any of my suggestions for modernisation and I eventually gave up. He died recently and nine months later the business went into liquidation. I have since not known what to do with myself. I don’t know who I am or what I want out of life. Is it all too late?


How sad that you have given your life so far to what your father demanded. Following the wishes of a horrid parent can leave people feeling empty and directionless once they have died, especially in your case as his business has also failed. It is a lot to process and understand and understandable that you have many mixed emotions about your life so far and are unclear about your path forwards. However it is absolutely not too late for you to start to live a life that will suit you, bring you satisfaction and hopefully some happiness. There are many ways that you could tackle this.

For a start give yourself time, keep your expectations realistic and don’t give in to feelings of hopelessness or expect miracles. Start to think about things that you like to do, what gives you pleasure and makes you smile. Do you have any hobbies you could develop or a course you could do that might lead to a new career?

An interesting exercise is to take a sheet of paper and write down all the attributes you see in yourself. In your email you have already shown obedience, loyalty, courage and persistence. Now is the time to add to this list as many other characteristics as you can. Build up a map of your own attributes and try and look at them objectively. You will hopefully start to see yourself as others see you and come to recognise your own worth.

When you find you have strong negative feelings about your father try and recall what incidents in your past lead to them. Think about what you would have liked to happen, such as your father listening carefully to what you had to say, or your father treating you with kindness and respect. Try and hold on to those wishes and be the sort of person that you would like your father to have been. See him as a template for how not to be. If he also taught you some useful skills, acknowledge and accept that.

Do try to build up your social connections as well as looking after yourself over the next few months while you are feeling particularly vulnerable.

Abandoned and Unwanted

I gave up having a mother ten years ago because her behaviour was intolerable.  I told her I wanted nothing more to do with her and using very unpleasant words she told me it was a very good idea.


Since then I have married and had two daughters who have never seen their grandmother.  I feel I made the right decision to cut my links with her but at times I feel such pain that she obviously doesn’t care at all about what has happened to me.  I have a younger brother who sees right through her too but doesn’t mind staying in touch with her now and then.  He has told me that she has never once asked after me and I believe him.  I never remember her saying sorry about anything when I was a child.  She was always right and never gave any ground in a discussion.  Life has only been about her.  No wonder my father left her when my brother and I were small.  I see him occasionally but he has remarried and it is obvious his focus is on his new family.


Fortunately  I get on well with my mother-in-law who is warm and loving to my children.  The eldest one now six has asked me several times if I have a mother.  I think it would be too dangerous to let them meet her, because she obviously doesn’t want to know me.  But I don’t want to lie and tell them she is dead.  Can you help please?




How sad that things were so bad with your mother that you felt you had no option but to cut ties. Now you have your own daughters it must seem incredible that your mother let you leave without trying her best for a reconciliation.  You are not the only one this has happened to and it seems their horrid parent cannot accept any responsibility for the damaged relationship.  A denial that is maintained because they are too proud to do anything about it.   Your brother may not have heard your mother express regret but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t feel sorry.      

It is understandable that you are concerned that your children don’t have a relationship with their grandmother. We agree it wouldn’t be a good idea to tell them that she is dead. Instead try telling them in simple terms that they can understand  that you find it hard to get along with your mother and have decided  not to see her. Perhaps you could use compare it to someone at school they don’t like. There are also plenty of family rifts in children’s literature and fairy tales so it won’t be an entirely new concept for them.  You might also need to doubly reassure your girls that such a situation would NEVER happen with them. As they get older you can go back to the subject and help them understand the complexities of your decision without giving them specific  examples of your painful experiences.


They are lucky that they have a warm loving grandmother on your husband’s side so you can make the most of this to let your children learn about love across generations. 






I worry a lot and some days almost everyone and everything can get me going.  If I am feeling a bit down and my husband or children are late my imagination takes over about all the problems they could have encountered on the way home.  If my cleaning lady doesn’t arrive on the dot as she usually does I decide she’s found another job and didn’t want to tell me to my face.  If I don’t hear from a friend for a while, I think he or she might be fed up with me or upset by something I said when we last met.  I also worry when I come back to work from my holiday that there will be someone new at my desk and I’ll be out of the door.

 The key thing is that the majority of people who know me, sometimes quite well, don’t have any idea that I am such a wreck.  I keep it all inside and just occasionally confide in my husband what I am really thinking.  He has a very positive outlook on life and tries to jolly me out of my anxieties but occasionally I can tell he is fed up with me going on again that there is a disaster waiting around the corner. 

 I often think it all goes back to me feeling I had to walk on eggshells at home as I never knew what mood my mother would be in.  Is that a possibility?  Also could you give me some helpful hints on how to manage this anxiety?  I definitely don’t want to see a psychiatrist.


You are obviously worried about lots of things that might go wrong but you are not alone.  

Some people are natural worriers but it seems yours stems from growing up with a moody unpredictable mother and as a result you can feel tense about other people in your life. You also sound as if you lack confidence.  Yet despite all of this you have got a job that you enjoy, you have friends, got married and created a family that you love. These are all things to congratulate yourself about, but they are also what you fear losing.  

You are doing well to manage your feelings so that your friends and family are not aware of what is happening under the surface yet you also realise that it is time to tackle your worries. Having a caring husband is very helpful and he will need to support you on your journey, but fear cannot be jollied away.  It needs to be carefully considered.

If you wish to try this on your own there are several steps that you can take. Start with the obvious ones such as having as good a sleep, diet and exercise pattern as you can. Teach yourself some calming breathing techniques and learn how to do systematic muscle relaxation. There are several guides to these in the web. Practice these as often as you can.

You can then start to make a note of your worries and when they occur. Is there a pattern to these? Can you rate the strength of them say on a five point scale? Can you also rate how reasonable/likely each one of them is? Can you think of other alternative thoughts such as if a friend does not reply to an email immediately could there be different reason other than them being fed up with you? Perhaps they are busy.

Try combining all of these techniques when you start to feel worried. Breathe, relax and ask yourself if the thought is likely to be true. Give it time and you will find that you can slowly face your fears and relax as they fade.

You might like to talk some of this over with a trusted friend or join an on-line peer support group.

There are a number of useful books such as in the Overcoming series:


It's Always All About Her



I have a great job making documentaries.  I also have two gorgeous twin girls who are fantastic acrobats and so far have won every competition they’ve gone in for. 

But is my mother the slightest bit interested? Absolutely not.  When I visit her of course I ask what she’s been doing and who she has seen and she drones on for ages telling me in minute detail about anything from a  TV programme to her experience in the local supermarket. 

 She very rarely asks about me or the children so I try to keep her up to date instead. But she is not the slightest bit interested. She doesn’t question a word I say or make a warm comment.  Instead she pretends to suddenly remember another dull anecdote that I have to listen to.  

She needs to be the centre of attention no matter what.  She wants every conversations to be about her.

I realised over time that she is jealous of the work I do and hearing about it makes her feel inadequate. My twins aren’t bothered if she doesn’t talk to them.  Like many children they are excited when something good happens or they win another competition but less keen to talk about it to someone who doesn’t listen. Recently I’ve tried just listening to her and not saying much and cutting my visits down to about thirty minutes. I manage it but I often burst with rage when we leave that she is so disengaged with her own family.  

 Should I ignore what she does or tell the children what an awful person their grandmother really is?



It is both tedious and infuriating to listen to someone talk incessantly about themselves. If it was anyone other than family you would probably not bother to go and see her. Not only does your mother need to be centre stage her patent lack of interest in you and your daughters is extremely hurtful.  It is not surprising that you react as you do when you leave her company.  

You are correct that her behaviour stems in part from jealousy, probably because of her own lack of achievements or dissatisfaction with her life. But it’s also possible that she boasts about you and her granddaughters to her friends and neighbours but will not congratulate you or share how proud you are.

 You have started to change things which is a good idea because she is unlikely to alter her behaviour. Your girls are at an age where they do not seem to mind her lack attention but this may change as they get older. We recommend that when they start complaining about her that you give them honest answers.  Don’t bring up your own painful experiences but use what they say to help them understand a little of what she is like. In other words let them find their own way with her. They have not grown up immersed in her toxic care so will not suffer as you have.

 When you visit make a mental list of ways to interrupt her flow of words by, for example, offering to make a cup of tea or point out an interesting bird in the garden.  Meanwhile keep your own expectations of her realistic and enjoy your daughters.

Unending Rows



My father seeks arguments. Say one small thing that he disagrees with and he immediately builds it up into something explosive.    

His rows go right across the spectrum from politics to veganism and his views are the only ones that count.  My opinions are deliberately held to wind him up.  When I try to explain they are just what I believe in, he becomes even more furious.    

He spouts very old-fashioned views at great length and is incandescent if I mention that I have heard them before. Nor does he care if my wife and children are with me.  It upsets them enormously when he shouts at me, but I feel very sorry for my mother having to live with such a monster so feel obliged to visit her at least.  I’ve tried to get her out on her own for tea, but she is a home body and prefers me to come to her.  
I tried my best to find something we had in common and for a while some years ago we went out sailing together.  He’s enjoyed it as a young man and I’d had lots of training and take part in several races, which I suppose he didn’t like.  After a few attempts It became impossible as he shouted non-stop orders at me, some of which were ridiculous.  

A couple of years ago I finally lost my temper with him, something I really try not to do because it is pointless.  I aim to keep to topics that are safe and we were talking about the best time to plant a particular shrub, a soft subject if ever there was one.  He kept saying autumn while I said it was spring.  I knew I was correct as I’d looked it up on-line the previous day.  I refused to give in and just blurted out that I was fed up with him thinking he was always right and it was about time he listened to me. 

We didn’t speak for a year, which upset my mother enormously.  It all eventually calmed down but I now feel another row is building up, this time about Brexit.  Can I have some hints on how to cope? 

 Our Comments

You’ve made a clear and accurate assessment of your father’s character and style of communication. He wants an audience and believes your role is to listen and agree with him. He is unlikely to change.  When you tried to get him to see your point of view it only lead to an argument.  So think carefully about how you can support your mother and manage time with your father. You could, for  example,  phone her more often, send her emails or texts and even try an old-fashioned letter if you think she’d like that.  Perhaps when you visit you could try to do joint tasks with her, that wouldn’t interest your father. His behaviour sounds so upsetting that it also might be a good idea to cut right down on your children coming along too.  

It is a good plan to try to stick to neutral topics of conversation but you need to go one step further and work out how to avoid getting into any discussion at all with him. We recommend you don’t offer a different opinion or insist that you are correct. Instead change the subject, or say something bland like: ‘I See’  or ‘interesting’ or ‘possibly’. Keep your own ideas and views for your family and friends who appreciate you. And finally steer well clear of talking about Brexit!



My Child is Behaving Like My Horrid Mother

 I am devastated.  My late mother was a perfect example of a horrid mother.  She crushed my sister and brother but although I suffered inside I stood up to her and have had a good life.  I have been married for over thirty years and have a wonderful daughter who I am very close to.  However, my younger son treats me just like my mother treated my siblings.  I don’t know what I have done wrong, nor does my daughter but he is breaking both my and my wife’s heart.  I find myself walking on eggshells just as I did as a child.  

Initially we thought it was a teenage thing but he is now thirty and married with twin girls. He is very close to his inlaws but we rarely see him.  On the rare occasions he comes round, his wife is always ‘busy.’  He only told us the date of their wedding a week before it happened. I couldn’t go because I was working in the States and he subsequently told me he was ‘disgusted’ I didn’t change my plans.  Nor did we know they were expecting twins until the day his wife went was in labour.  He did though ask for some financial help for them to buy a small house and I gave him a six figure sum.  It upsets us that we have never been invited there.  He also flies into a rage about the smallest thing.  One year his birthday card arrived a day late and when we bought two presents each for the children instead of the prescribed one, he was incandescent that we had ‘disobeyed’ his order.  He then ignored us for months.  My wife has often offered to babysit but he turns her down.     

Last Christmas he told us on 22ndDecember that he was spending it with his in-laws in the country and has made no suggestions for popping round since.  We are devastated.  His sister, who he is almost equally unpleasant to, has tried to suggest she and he sought some therapy but he mocked her.  If I spoke to his in-laws or wife I know we will never see him again. Has he perhaps inherited my mother’s genes? Please help me.  


How sad that you had a horrid mother and now your son is behaving in a similar unpleasant way, particularly as you don’t know why. Until you understand the situation better it will be hard to work out how to  move forward.  

Unfortunately in some families there are patterns of unpleasant behaviour that run from one generation to the next.  Sometimes the cycle can be broken by  kindness but some personality issues develop by themselves.   

It sounds as if your son’s behaviour problems began when he was a teenager It may help for you and your wife to think about his development and note when they occurred and the most effective ways you managed him.  You could also talk to your  daughter and others you are close to help you pinpoint any unresolved arguments or resentments as this will increase the change of you understanding what may be happening. 

It sounds as if his wife is also part of the problem as she obviously wants to keep her distance.  This may be a reaction to what your son has told her about her  but she may also just not like you.    

As things are quite tense at the moment it might be worth keeping lines of communication open from a distance. You could ask your son if he would like you to send your presents to his daughters or if he’d like to pop by and collect them.  Try to keep to his boundaries at the moment but then gradually make a gentle attempt to  discuss what has upset him and your wish to be part of his family unit.  You might prefer to try this through an intermediary, or by email, whichever way you think is least likely to alienate or anger him. It will take time so don’t rush it or set your expectations too high. 







My Very Angry Parent


I came across your website unexpectedly and found your suggestions on coping with a horrid parent riveting.  I wish I had seen it decades ago.   

What I remember most of my late mother is her appalling endlessly raging bad temper.  It’s so sad, but that’s how I think of her.  From the time I was a small child until my late forties when she died she shouted at me for misdemeanours  that most people would consider were inconsequential or a normal part of a child growing up.  Forgetting my homework was one, looking scruffy was another, as was leaving a used drinking glass on the kitchen work surface.    

It went on from there and included not studying law at university because she found it fascinating – I didn’t so in her eyes I let her down and she always raged when she didn’t get her own way.  I teach history instead.  At the other end of the scale despite my age she continued to criticise my clothes.   

I have never married as I couldn’t bear to risk having someone else harangue me in the way she did.  As I was her only child and my father died when I was twenty I took responsibility for her welfare as she aged and contracted various ailments.  That too infuriated her as she couldn’t bear to be vulnerable.  It was only a small consolation that she also shouted at the cleaning lady and a very nice neighbour for asking how she was feeling.   

I am now 48  and when I look back it seems that anger was the only emotion she could express and I suspect that she blocked herself from feeling other more vulnerable emotions like feeling sad, anxious or disappointed. For myself I wonder whether it’s possible to overcome such an unhappy start to life and find some personal happiness?



Many people struggle to accept what they are feeling and some find the experience so unpleasant that they deny them, both to themselves and to others. But strong feelings have a way of re-emerging and if we try to mask them they may appear in a different form. So you are probably right that your mother could not accept or admit to her wider range of emotions. Perhaps her resentment about this led her to appear angry and she took it out on you as her only child. If it interests you to do so, think back over your mother’s life and maybe see some events that would have been hard for her to manage and consider how else she could have reacted. This is not to excuse her but to enable you get more perspective on her as a person which will also help you believe that none of her fury was your fault. 

It is not easy to live with so much pain and there are no quick solutions, but there is no reason why you cannot start to move forward in your life now that your mother has died. You could try making some plans about how you would like your future life to develop. Think about what you have achieved so far: your education, professional life as a teacher, friendships and hobbies. Note what has given you most satisfaction and what else would you like to do. Make a list and be as broad and creative as you can. Take ownership and control for yourself without thinking whether or not your mother would approve.    It’s time to do what you want and make the most of your freedom.

Also think whether some counselling might help you on your way?


2019 Here We Come!



New Year Resolutions are often doomed to failure because they are too ambitious.  They can also be rather boring.  Instead of giving yourself unrealistic expectations, why not approach the new year in a different way that hopefully will make you feel good about yourself, be more confident and better able to cope with your horrid parent.    Our suggestions offer you things to think about, things to write down and things to remember.

 1.  Before the new year begins try to clear your mind of obsessions, big or small  that have been bugging you in 2018.  This could include minor irritations about people you know, the amount of time you spend looking for your keys or something someone said to you ages ago that still makes you feel bad.  Either deliberately park them at the back of your mind and refuse to dwell on them any more.  Or write them down, scrunch up the paper unto a small ball, then throw it away.  This should help you welcome in 2019 feeling less bogged down by trivia. 

 2. Write down three things that you are good at.  It doesn’t matter what they are and they can be as simple as remembering football scores, making muffins or doing crosswords.

 3.  Write down three kind things you have done for a friend, relative or an animal.  These can be simple too and include phoning someone to see how they are, stroking your pet or helping a blind person cross the road.     


4.  Finally write down one thing you have done this year that’s enabled you cope when your parent was being horrid to you.  Remind yourself how effective it was, how it made you feel and if you could modify it to use in other slightly different but equally unpleasant situations.    

There are also three important things to remember about your horrid parent. 

You will not be able to change them.  

Your parent arrived on earth well before you did and therefore you are not to blame for their behaviour or characteristics.   

You are not alone.  It is the unfortunate fate of many others to cope with similar experiences.   

We can’t foresee what will happen in the world but we can help ourselves.  We hope this assist you in getting the new year off to a positive start





Grandmothers and Mothers

It’s my grandmother’s 90th birthday just after Christmas and she is coming from her nursing home to join my mother and me on Christmas Day so we can celebrate the occasion at my mother’s home.  My grandmother is physically quite unwell, but her mind is as sharp as a razor.  She dislikes my mother which is possibly why my mother dislikes me.  My wife left me during the year and our five-year-old twins are spending this Christmas with her.  It’s been a stressful time which I am beginning to recover from and I am determined that I am not going to let a bad atmosphere or spiteful comments from either of them get to me.  I shall think of myself as a duck for the day and let whatever they say just roll off me.  If it becomes unpleasant it won’t be my fault.  Do you think that will work? My grandmother dislikes Christmas pudding as I do and I am planning to leave just after the turkey.



Our comments: 

It must be hard for you to have separated from your wife and not having your twins with you over Christmas. There is still time to think ahead and prepare yourself for difficult moments.  There are several ways to do this and imagining you are a duck so that nastiness rolls off you is a great idea. Another possibility is to imagine there is an impenetrable shield around you, so that any arrows thrown at you automatically bounce off.  You could also think of a brief mantra to chant in your head whenever you hear a mean comment, such as ‘I’m ok, I’m ok, I’m ok.’ or ‘that won’t hurt me’ or  even ‘la la la’. 

It’s also important to give yourself some space and time alone over Christmas. You are bound to miss your own family and there will inevitably be some unpleasant comments to cope with. Plan to use this time well by choosing to listen to soothing music, lighting a candle, doing some yoga, reading or going for a walk.  Meditation/mindfulness can  also soothe worrying thoughts and it is a good idea to practice  some simple and quick exercises before Christmas.  

Do try and keep your visit brief and remember that if either your mother or grandmother are unkind it is not your fault.

Christmas and Teenagers

A Selection of our Followers Concerns over the Holiday Period


Week 2

This will be the first Christmas Day I will be spending with my parents for some years and my husband and two teenage daughters will be with me. One of our daughters is very accommodating but Jill, (not her real name) the older one is going through a rebellious phase and will turn up with tattoos, piercings and very strong views, all of which my father will hate. I am worried that it will ruin the festivities, which traditionally are very fraught. Should I warn my parents in advance about Jill or wait until we arrive, ask Dad to take no notice and explain that it is probably just a passing teenage phase and to please not let it spoil our family Christmas? Of course I don’t want him to launch into me either and tell me I am a lousy parent, which is what he thought I’d always be. Luckily my husband understands by now what my father is like and will try to divert him into football talk which he even mugs up on before we go.

Our comments

What a shame that after several years your reunion with your family at Christmas fills you with dread. It’s a good idea to think through some of the possible pitfalls in advance and try to work out a coping strategy. It may not avoid your Father’s critical comments, but will make you aware of what might be said.

It is great that your husband supports you and has practical ideas to help the situation. You might think of recruiting your daughters in the same way. Perhaps suggest they think of ideas of jollying their grandfather along. Despite the tattoos Jill might be able to charm and soften him. Do remind them before you go that a key strategy in families is to be tactful and not cause offence.

We also think that you should warn them about her appearance as a shock could make them react even more strongly. If your parents choose to spoil Christmas because of what their granddaughter looks like or something any of you say there is little you can do about it. However, if either of them are unkind to your daughters do step in to protect them. There is no need to apologise for how your daughter looks.

In addition, if they criticise your parenting remind yourself that allowing your daughters the freedom to express themselves as they wish, is what has made you a great mother. You should also seek an early exit.

Christmas Holidays

A selection of our followers concerns over the holiday period. Each week we will be looking at a different problem


Week 1

I am dreading our family Christmas. Not least because my mother seems to lie in wait to criticise me and regularly loses her temper if I have a different view to her. She also gets very stressed over the meal and getting everything ready at the same time. The two particular issues this year is that we have a new baby who will obviously need a lot of attention and I know how hard she finds it to be flexible over timing. The other issue is that my husband and I have given up eating meat. I have already told her this over the phone but she abruptly ended the call by telling me I was the most ungrateful daughter in the world. I don’t know whether to call again and offer to bring something with me, just eat the vegetables, which knowing her she will cook in the same dish as the turkey. Or just stick with the smoked salmon starter and Christmas pudding. I am also thinking whether it would make things worse or better if, when we arrive, I said something along the lines that I know she doesn’t approve of us being non meat eaters but we don’t want to spoil her traditions and we are delighted to be with the family at this special time. We are not of course but I do want a peaceful day. As a last resort of course we have decided to use our baby as an excuse to go early but it’s a two hour drive each way so we’d like to avoid that if we can.

Our comments

It sounds like whatever you do your mother will get upset, so keep that in mind when you you’re your decisions. You are right to try and have as peaceful a day as possible, but you it may well be outside of your control. You decided to visit your mother and family so being as pleasant and reasonable as possible is important. As are your baby’s needs.

We think you should try to talk to your mother ahead of the day about timing, particularly of the meal. This will give you an opportunity to remind her that you and your husband will not be eating meat and to ask her about her preferred option. When you know roughly when your mother will want to serve the Christmas meal, you could try timing the baby’s naps around that.

Be aware that your agreed plans could get sabotaged. If your baby is fretful you could take it in turns to look after him or her so the meal is not interrupted. Your ideas for the starter and pudding could work well. Of course your mother might make unpleasant comments but your can’t do more than your best to fit in.

Festive meals can be a minefield and you may well have to cope with her criticisms and uncharitable remarks. Don’t blame yourself if this happens and feel free to leave if it gets too much. Maybe plan something special to look forward to when you get home.

My Ungrateful Mother



Choosing a Christmas present for my mother has always been a nightmare as she makes ungrateful snide comments about whatever I have chosen.   I try not to let it spoil my Christmas but it’s always a tense time.  

I’ve tried everything.  If I buy her clothes, she says I am insulting her by buying a big size, when she and I both know she is a UK 18.  If I try perfume, she’s says she’s gone off that scent ‘long ago.’  If I choose chocolates she claims I’m trying to make her fat  and if it’s something like a scarf or gloves she mocks me for giving her present no thoughts at all.   

 For a couple of years I thought I’d solved the problem as my two sisters and I clubbed together to buy her something.  But it only provoked the most unpleasant childish sulk that lasted all day because she only had one present rather than three.   

The underlying problem is that I am the eldest and she likes me least. She felt certain she was having a boy and had even painted my bedroom blue.  She’s made it clear that I failed her from the start and even started a trend for her to have girls.  Of course she knows none of it can possibly be my fault, but it gives her endless opportunities to try to blame me for everything.   

This year I am so fed up that I’ve thought of giving the money I would spent on a present to a water project in Africa on her behalf and just giving her the certificate.  But I don’t know if I dare, particularly as she has racist tendencies. 

Can you help me out here? 

Our comments 

Choosing a present for a horrid parent is often a minefield, because however much thought you put into your choice you will usually be derided.  We suggest you keep your expectations low so you will not be disappointed when she rubbishes whatever you have bought.  If you keep hoping to satisfy your mother then you are continuing to play the ‘game’ that she has set up for you. So try to step back from this manipulation. 

As for what to buy, you can choose a gift that she might like, even if she doesn’t acknowledge it. . You could get her a neutral gift token from a department store so she can choose what she wants. Or as you suggest send a donation to a charity in her name but do choose something you think  she would support.

It is not your fault that you were not the boy she wanted. Keep believing in yourself as the strong person that you have become, despite her unkindness and try to find joy elsewhere during the Christmas period.


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?


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.