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adult dd - please can you help me to approach this with her?

(75 Posts)
theresnowheretohidewithachip Sun 25-May-14 11:34:32

I'm so sorry this is long but I can't seem to make it much shorter.

I tried to be the best mum I could when dd was growing up. I was depressed, got no support and at times was emotionally not there for her. I feel terrible about this but there's nothing I can do now.

dd is in her late 20's and married.

I divorced her father who was abusive, when she went to uni.

She is now in a good career, married and happy thank goodness. She lives about 250 miles away.

In birthday and mothers day cards she writes beautiful messages saying I'm an inspiration and wonderful etc etc. In day to day life she ignores virtually all my texts, emails and rarely phones. I brought this up with her a few months ago and said I wasn't sure what she wanted as it feels as if she doesn't want me in her life because she barely contacts me or replies to my messages etc. She said that wasn't the case at all, and that she does want me in her life and that she is just very busy etc. I said in that case I don't think it's too much to send a text saying 'thanks" if I send one saying have a lovely weekend, holiday etc etc. I have seen her twice over the last year.

Things got a bit better after I approached it with her but have now gone back to how they were again. I sent a chatty email saying I hoped she and her DH had a lovely bank hols, asked how they were etc etc. No reply. Sent a whatsapp message saying enjoy half term whatever you're up to. No reply. I can see from the whatsapp app that she has been on there. She will be in contact if she has health concerns and will text and text for advice, opinions. But she doesn't tell me what she's up to or anything nice.

I was up all night feeling so sad and hurt. I have made mistakes in the past but try so hard to be supportive, acknowledge all her happy times in life and have made little things for her and DH and posted them just because. Maybe I was a far worse parent than I thought. I'm so confused because of the conflicting messages I get from her.

Do I bring this up again. If so how. I love her. I love her DH. I want things to be better but I don't want to guilt trip her or try force her into a relationship she doesn't want with me.

Sorry again, this is so long and thanks for reading.

theresnowheretohidewithachip Sun 25-May-14 22:19:27

Just want to say thank you to everyone. You have really helped me to start thinking about the situation differently and to approach it differently I am definitely looking for confirmation that dd can forgive/has forgiven me, for the bad times. I want her to know I'm interested in her life, care about her, am proud of her, am here if she needs me, and that most of all that I love her and her DH.

I will stop the texts and emails and phone her every so often instead and hope that in time we can become closer. If not, then I have to respect and accept her choice. I realise I cannot make our relationship into something it isn't or into something I might want but that she doesn't. You have really helped me see that. You have also helped me see that the content of messages might be received differently to how they were meant to be. I may mean one thing but dd may read into it something different - neediness/clinginess/dependence/responsibility/emotional blackmail etc.

Thanks again all and for sharing your experiences too.

MrsRuffdiamond Sun 25-May-14 21:16:39

Not patronising at all, Lying, but I can't say I've deliberately set out to be different. It's almost like a visceral need not to enter into that kind of claustrophobic relationship ever again. And I guess my odds were better, as I didn't have the same catastrophes befall me as she did, growing up, and I'm happier than she ever was.

It does leave a legacy, though, doesn't it? I have a lot of anger in me, as well as sorrow, in relation to her, and it comes from that lifelong feeling of being trapped. Knowing how vulnerable she is, I could never abandon her, but my God, there are times when I've longed for that freedom.

endlesspossibilities Sun 25-May-14 21:10:04

so much wisdom on here...and I'm sorry to butt in on your thread thereis. It may be that you're (subconciously) trying to make up for the time you weren't available for your dd. Now you have more time, more emotional strength.

I didn't have depression. I wasn't a single parent. But I did have work, worries, other kids, an irritating husband. I wonder did I do enough? was I good enough?

I look back at my kids' childhoods and wonder where it all went. There's such a sense of loss. While I think that's normal, I also feel a mixture of sadness and even anger at dd's lack of thought.

And yet I'm sure that in my 20's it my last priority was my Mum. It was good to know she was there..I just assumed she was OK and luckily she was. I have no idea how often I contacted her or if she felt the "empty nest" syndrome - I never even thought of it.

Desert, you brought tears to my eyes, and Buttocks your post makes so much sense too.

This song makes me sob www.youtube.com/watch?v=dsk5Qz5oEWo

sunbathe Sun 25-May-14 20:37:21

Theresnowhere, I was in your dd's situation at one time. My mum didn't seem to leave me alone for long enough for me to think, ooh, haven't spoken to mum for a while, and then do something about it.

Instead I'd be thinking not again when she phoned, or turned up.

I think if you leave it longer, you'll maybe give her the space to contact you?

theresnowheretohidewithachip Sun 25-May-14 20:33:48

Desert your last post brought tears to my eyes.
LivingZuid thank you for your kind words too. I DO feel guilty and I find that hard to let go of. I want to make things right but I can only make the hear and now right. I can't put back the things that needed to be there which makes me sad and angry with myself.

I had really bad PND after a very scary pregnancy (pre-eclampsia) and an EMCS where we both nearly died. For the first 10 days dd was in PICU and the outcome was very uncertain. I was petrified she'd not survive and nobody was giving me much hope that things would be ok. I was physically and mentally traumatised after we got home and had no support from DH and my own Mum had cancer and couldn't support me much either. So we got off to a bad start and I felt very alone, scared and vulnerable.

2 depressive episodes while dd was growing up were the result of having married the wrong man (who was abusive) and not having the courage or strength to leave and staying for over 20 years in an utterly shit situation. Not a great environment for a child to grow up in. Though there was no physical abuse or arguments she had to witness thankfully. The 3rd was after my Mum died.

I'm going to back off with texts/emails. And not try and make the relationship what it isn't but hope that in time, things will change and hopefully get better.

livingzuid Sun 25-May-14 20:33:45

Sorry just seen your latest post. With the visiting, why not plan a mum and daughter weekend, just a night away somewhere a bit different and neutral ground? Or go and see her but stay in a b&b if you don't want to impose but I bet she would want you to stay with her. I'm sure she understands you want to see her and she would appreciate you making the effort to go up. Have you suggested it before? There is no harm in asking smile

alphabook Sun 25-May-14 20:32:34

It sounds to me like she does love you, and she knows you love her. As others have said, when she stops to think about it (on your birthday etc) her true feelings come out. When she needs you she calls you. However it seems like you're not at the forefront of her mind in her day to day life. And although that might be hard for you, maybe that's just the way it has to be. Some mums and daughters have a "best friends" type relationship, but I think that's quite rare, and there's no point trying to force it if that sort of closeness just isn't there.

To be honest, the big problem seems to be your fears. Your fear that something is wrong if you don't hear from her, your fear that she hasn't forgiven you for the things that went wrong in her childhood, your fear that she'll think you don't love her if you don't contact her frequently. But actually, everything you've said suggests that even though she is getting on with her life she knows you are always there. If you back off a little bit, it might actually give her a chance to realise that she misses you. If you don't hear from her after a few weeks there's nothing to stop you contacting her, but giving her some space might mean that the contact you have is more meaningful for her, and less of an obligation.

StrawberryCheese Sun 25-May-14 20:20:20

OP, your DD sounds like me, but then my mum doesn't tend to inquire as to how I am. She will just text or phone to tell me how many hours she has worked that week (she's part time but thinks she's a martyr for doing a few hours overtime) and generally talk at me until she wants to hang up. So you can see my reasons for not really bothering that much! However you sound lovely and I think you should pick up the phone and call your DD on a Sunday afternoon or whatever, rather than the texts and the emails. I'd gladly talk to my mum more often if she actually took an interest and listened to what is going on in my life. smile

DesertRose1958 Sun 25-May-14 20:16:43

that should be is in actual fact the reason things get better

DesertRose1958 Sun 25-May-14 20:16:02

Iwillifhewill - hello smile xxxx

DesertRose1958 Sun 25-May-14 20:14:27

Theresnosnow - tell her. Tell her all you've just said in your last post.

In every situation there has to be the person who risks being hurt or taken the wrong way or being seen as a pain in the bum etc, but perhaps by being the person who risks being seen as all of those things a person is on actual fact being the reason things get better.

And this as the daughter of someone who had mental health issues - I always knew my mum loved me. I was never in doubt even though at times I did wonder what the hell was going on. Maybe your daughter does know that you loved her but perhaps she had to be self sufficient to quite and extent and now doesn't know how to be with you. Could you maybe just say to her can we try and sort out how to be with each other, to make up for lost time.

I dont know how your depression manifested itself but with my mums ill health we had long periods of normality where life was wonderful, only for things to then come tumbling down and life to be absolutely hell on earth. Perhaps for us the periods of normality helped with our feelings and love for each other so that when things were bad we had good times to think of - but I really dont know. I do know however that when there has been ill health in a family and mental health problems in particular that its never too late or too futile to try and fix things, and someone has to take the lead.

I really do wish you well.

livingzuid Sun 25-May-14 20:09:06

Gosh xp with fantastic's excellent post.

You can always call her if you want to. If she doesn't answer it means she can't chat right then. And if she answers, then she's free for a chat. I wouldn't get worked up about her not answering.

I'm wittering now too so will stop!

IWillIfHeWill Sun 25-May-14 20:06:18

desertrose, we have similar early experiences. so much so that I wondered if I'd written one of your posts...

theresnowheretohidewithachip Sun 25-May-14 19:57:48

Fantastic Your summary is really helpful and yes, you are right, I do focus on what there isn't not what there is. I'm feeling really hormonal (menopausal) and teary this week and that's definitely not helping. But you are right, I need to remember that there ARE good things and that because things are as they are now, this doesn't mean they will always be that way.

I find it such a hard path to steer - don't want to phone as she is always tired out after work. Obviously texts/emails are not what she wants to have to deal with. I don't want to invite myself to stay. Yet I don't want to sit back and say/do nothing because that could be interpreted as "Mum doesn't give a shit about me or my life."

DesertRose Up to now I've felt that I've wanted to try do things to let dd know I love her just in case that wasn't always clear at times when I was depressed. I don't want her to feel that because I wasn't the best parent, I didn't love her. I want her to know I love and respect her and am proud of all she is.

livingzuid Sun 25-May-14 19:51:55

In my 20s I was too busy enjoying my freedom and starting to grow up a bit to be always thinking, gosh I must call home. My brother went four months before making a call when he first went to uni! Granted things were not easy there but it's just part of leaving the nest. Doesn't mean children don't love you any less, it's that the nature of the relationship has to change as they turn into adults and simply don't need you in the same way. I think a pp has already mentioned this.

The texts and calls and emails though are purely for your benefit, not hers surely? If she wants to talk to you she calls, no? And it's about the important stuff. Honestly, it's fantastic that she still needs your support and opinion and love and values your opinion. On the want/need thing, she wants to talk to you about the things that really matter in her life.

She's not going to tell you about the drunken nights out with her friends or what she did in the office that day smile there are some things for most of us that we just don't share with our parents! Particularly not when at uni and as we are finding ourselves as grown ups. God I can't imagine telling my parents a good 9/10 of what went on in my 20s. As an expecting mum in my mid 30s my life is now rather sedate in comparison and as pps have said, your relationship with her may change as she gets older and the dgs arrive.

If you still feel guilty, leave it behind in the past. My mother only does what she does because she knows full well she screwed up and is trying to make herself feel better about things. Unlike you, however, she has never said sorry or explained it. So if your daughter is OK with it all then that is all that matters.

Whilst you are not trying to control or expect a response, that may not be how it is perceived at the other end. The risk is alienation if it carries on. And with the cards, perhaps she is not good at expressing her love for you and this is her way of doing it.

I would not charge up there demanding to know the problem. That just sounds like 100 kinds of awkward when all that's needed is a few tweaks. Can you plan more short trips to enjoy quality time with her, maybe with activities planned out that you both enjoy doing together? Relationships change and vary all the time and we have to be adaptable.

You should rightly be very proud of the fact that you've bought up a self-sufficient, independent woman (sorry that sounds like a Beyoncé song) who seems to care about you as much as you do her.

DioneTheDiabolist Sun 25-May-14 19:45:21

That should be: they are not an effective conversational tool for me.

DioneTheDiabolist Sun 25-May-14 19:44:25

OP, I have a good relationship with my mother. We see and speak to eachother on the phone a few times a week. However, if my mum was to text instead of calling, I would not reply. I don't like conducting my conversations by text and am known to be terrible at replying to them.blush

Texts are for things like "be there in 15minutes" or similar. They are an effective conversational tool for me. It's possible your DD is the same. So call, don't text.

DesertRose1958 Sun 25-May-14 19:34:18

endless, we cross posted. I really dont know what to say to you because the situation you are in is just horrible. I hope your girl does get home next month and that a new chapter begins for all of you. xxxxx

FantasticButtocks Sun 25-May-14 19:33:54

Perhaps what is 'meaningful' to her, and what is 'meaningful' to you on a daily basis, are not really the same. You are different people, after all, and your interpretations of how things are will be different sometimes.

The messages on her cards are what she really thinks in the moment when she's writing them (so therefore focussed on thinking about how she actually feels about you). Which, when you look at it, is brilliant, OP.

Most of the time she is not focussed on thinking about the relationship between you, obviously, because she is just living her life and possibly not even seeing your relationship as a problem.

Here's my take on it.

The really good things:

1. She loves you and has said so - fantastic!

2. When she thinks about it, she has wonderful positive messages for you - again something to be really, really glad about.

3. When she needs someone motherly to call on for health/problems etc. she calls on you, her mother - again, how lovely that she feels she can talk to you about those things, and treat you like a mum.

4. In day to day life she ignores virtually all my texts, emails and rarely phones. I brought this up with her a few months ago and said I wasn't sure what she wanted as it feels as if she doesn't want me in her life because she barely contacts me or replies to my messages etc. She said that wasn't the case at all, and that she does want me in her life and that she is just very busy etc. Again, do not forget these positives, OP.

The difficult things:

1. You and your DD have different ideas about what constitutes a good relationship.

2. You do not figure so largely and so often in your DD's thoughts as she does in yours. (doesn't mean there's anything wrong with the relationship though, most parents are more interested/concerned about their children and more often, than their children are about them.)

3. Because you are sad not to be having things as you'd hoped, you are perhaps tending to focus on the negative aspects, much more than you are focussing on the positive aspects. When you chooses to focus on these (negative) bits, rather than those (positive) bits, you are reinforcing in your mind that things are bad, or not as they should be, or not as you would like them to be. These are only your thoughts, your interpretation of the facts. These thoughts do not have to be focussed in this way, you can re-focus, decide to change your way of thinking, try another approach. I think you could do a few sessions with a good CBT counsellor and help you change that way of thinking.

This is getting really long now and I am in danger of waffling on all night, by which time the thread will have moved on etc etc, so I'll just post now... blush

DesertRose1958 Sun 25-May-14 19:32:27

There is so much I would like to say here but I can't for the simple reason there is so much to say. For now though I will add that I grew up in a war zone with a serial philanderer father and a mum who had severe mental health issues. My dad didn't cause them - the fact my beloved and adored mum had them was the reason they met. And no, it wasn't in an asylum ;) However, he sure as hell did make them worse.

Its taken me a life time to get over it all and Im now 56 and if there is one thing Ive learned through out it all its that knowing someone loved you and wanted you in their life will be more of a comfort one day than the fact they backed off and left you to it, whatever 'it' is. In my mind its far better to try and be rebuffed than not to try at all.

My kids loved and adored their granny who by the time they came along was in a happy marriage and doing ok mental health wise even tho she did eventually die in a psychiatric hospital. There is so much they dont know about the best nana in the world even tho telling them would have made them know me more and explain a few things. But that has all gone to the grave with my mum and there it will stay. When she was able to be the best mum in the world my mum was able to be the best mum in the world but when she couldn't be - I won't go there. I dont even know why Im telling you this, its just that Im trying to say if you have someone you love then tell them again and again and again. Dont let them get away, dont let them one day be in the situation where they say oh she just let me get on with being estranged, or too busy enjoying my life to stop me for a few minutes and and say hey, I'm your mum, I love and miss you, I want you. Can we sort this out and start again?

I hope some of you understand this and can relate it to the opening post and a few others.

Phineyj Sun 25-May-14 19:30:41

Also, this won't be much comfort to those who would like more contact, but I think having a grown up DD or DS who rings regularly to witter on about all their problems must be awful too (especially if they forget to ask about yours).

Phineyj Sun 25-May-14 19:27:16

OP, your relationship with your DD sounds a little like my DH's with his DM (my MIL). He loves her, but he simply doesn't want to chat on the phone, and doesn't return her calls and texts unless nagged to by me, or unless she wants something concrete. If she wanted advice on which car to buy, he'd be on it, but a 20 minute chat about his week - um no. I always thought it was rude of him not to respond, but over the years her focus has shifted to me and I find it equally stifling. My DPs email, mostly, which I find much better as when you're shattered from work it doesn't demand an immediate response. Since we have had DD it has definitely eased things with MIL (thinking up chitchat is much easier with a baby trying to lick the laptop screen - even DH can manage it grin) and maybe this will happen for you if your DD has children later.

It is considerate of you to not ring her after a day at work. I often think my DPs and DPILs have completely forgotten/never knew in the first place what doing a demanding full time commuting type job is like.

As it sounds like your DD likes cards, maybe send her one of those once in a while? It sounds like you do interesting things, so a photo of somewhere you've been? But definitely stop the weekly texts. Not only do they probably prompt guilt (and therefore make her less likely to ring you), it's easy to forget to reply to one even if you meant to, if you're busy.

endlesspossibilities Sun 25-May-14 19:18:05

desert, we last saw her 8 months ago. Didn't see her at xmas as she had to work and we were in different countries. She had to work as saving for an overseas trip which was fantastic. She's not totally out of contact. We've had photos of her trip, an email last week (after practically begging) and one long skype call 2 months ago. Sigh.

I do worry if we don't hear from her - she told me a few months ago - just because you don't hear from me doesn't mean there's something wrong.

Apart from that I get an occasional one line message on FB. She doesn't post there much (says she's grown out of it) so if we look at her friends' profiles we might see the odd photo of her - just to reassure ourselves. Of course my other kids think that's stalking. Sigh.

She says she's coming home for a week next month - if she wasn't I would deffo go and see her.

Maybe I should take some of the advice on here...and just back off.

LyingWitchInTheWardrobe Sun 25-May-14 18:58:30

MrsRuffDiamond... I was my mum's confidante too. Your post made me cry. I think it's exactly right as you've identified - my mum has done what she herself absolutely craved and it's made me feel completely stifled.

I hope this doesn't sound patronising but kudos to you for being so self-aware that you've avoided this behaviour in your own children.

theresnowheretohidewithachip Sun 25-May-14 18:49:09

Endless I am sorry you're are feeling left out of your dd's life too sad You've summed up how I feel when you say "I miss her and it hurts".

I really am not needy or controlling. OK I've not been a great parent, but I've not been a totally shit one either I don't think. I spent lots of time doing things with her when she was growing up - cooking, going to the park, playing with her, reading to and with her, encouraging her interests, loads of contact with friends/sleepovers/outings etc and listening to her worries/problems etc. I had some bad bouts of depression but many years where things were pretty normal.

I feel very confused as the messages in her cards seem incongruous set against the lack of a meaningful relationship most of the time. Her words and her actions seem very different.

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