I can’t help it but at some point every day I feel guilty about my mother and more so at this time of year.
From my childhood onwards, her aim has been to upset me. Even today twenty years on, I can still remember her laughing at my spots. She seemed to enjoy making me feel useless and discouraged me in everything I wanted to do.
She said I would never get the grades to go to a decent university. I did. She said no one would want to marry me. They did. She rubbished the thought of me being a mother telling me I was hopelessly disorganized and incapable. But my three kids and I seem to get on with each other just fine.
Gradually over the years I learnt not to take her negativity to heart. I don’t shout at her or even try to discuss thing calmly as that wouldn’t get me anywhere. Instead I withdraw. I don’t ring her very often and when I do I don’t speak for long. I’ve cut down on the visits, but, and it’s a big but, I get overwhelmed with guilt, especially when she says all her friends’ children see them much more often, particularly over the festive season. The reality is that visiting her is never nice and it bothers me that as she gets older and more lonely she will expect me to come more often.
In fact she’s lucky she sees me and the kids at all. My husband says I should break off all contact because she is so unpleasant, but I don’t want to. I suppose at some deep level I love her but I don’t like her.
I used to long to be close to her but I know it will never happen. Equally I now can never be the daughter she wanted. So how do I deal with the guilt?
Feeling guilty is a common reaction to having a horrid parent and is compounded by the fact that a horrid parent can never be satisfied. They are inconsistent about what they want from their offspring moment to moment and day by day. Accepting that there's nothing you can do about what she does and doesn't want can help you realise that you have made a wise decision to distance yourself from her.
When you do feel guilty it might help if you say to yourself “If I do X she might be angry. If I don’t do X she might be angry.” Tell yourself it is impossible to get right.
Keeping your horrid parent at arm’s length and talking about neutral subjects is a good way to maintain some sort of relationship while also protecting yourself and your own family. It will also mean you are trying to be the best daughter you can be.