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How do I avoid becoming like my parents?

(27 Posts)
Arethereanynamesfree Thu 26-Sep-13 15:32:50

The short version is that my family are not normal. I have had counselling regarding them and have come to accept that their behaviour is out of order, and I am in fact not the one to blame. Of course they refuse to accept this, so I have gone limited contact. I should probably go into details but not sure where to start yet, sorry.

But...DH and I are on the waiting list for IVF after long term unexplained infertility on my part. And I am really worried I will end up like my parents sad I already am teetotal due to them both being alchoholics, but I keep thinking what if I treat our child the way I was treated? How do I stop becoming like them?

Myself and siblings were basically assigned roles: what our parents saw us as, and were played off against one another in a weird sort of game. They would favour one of us and no one else could do anything right. Then it would switch, apparently randomly, to a different sibling. Sometimes they would appear to dislike all of us and favour one of our cousins or a random child from our school, etc. It was and still is impossible to win this game.

We never had birthday parties. They decided who we could be friends with, and where we could go, my mother even used to swop our bedrooms round when we were at school and do clear outs of all our clothes and toys where she would just randomly give away anything she wanted to. I came home once, went up to where my room had been that morning, and found we now had a lodger: I was nine at this point. They also would get pets and then get rid of them again as soon as we got attached. If we got into a hobby or sport, it was encouraged and then they would suddenly cancel it completely. Then we would be told we didn't have any hobbies and were weird because of it!

They were determined that I was the Ill Child. Father still tries to prevent me from doing anything he deems "too much for me". This ranges from taking the bus or train alone, to attending university - I finally went and graduated too as an adult - to working, to getting married and having children. As I will not cope, and am not cut out for it. (This is based on my having epilepsy, which is completely controlled by medication!)

Eldest sister was "weird", because she didn't go to discos etc. Middle sister was "a slut" because she did go out. Brother was "trouble" because he was the boy. And we had a brother who died in infancy - I am still often told how I was planned and wanted "as a replacement". The first time I remember that I was told this I was quite small, about five or six I think. Somewhere between my parents screaming at each other and my mother dragging me out to walk the streets with her at midnight in my pyjamas. No idea why, sorry.

They also told me repeatedly that our house was haunted by an old lady who died there and now she lived in the attic. Every so often, my room got moved to the attic. Always dreaded that. I still have nightmares about that stupid attic room!

A thing that stands out for me was how I was called for dinner once. I fell going down the stairs and hit my head hard on the skirting board. I lay there crying, and really dizzy. After a while my mother came and found me. She yelled at me for fussing and missing my dinner. I was seven. Apparently I was being clumsy on purpose.

My siblings and I have all sort of admitted it was wrong to each other but none of my siblings are willing to challenge our father over it (mother died several years back). And sadly father is keeping the game going. And my siblings go along with it. I refuse to, and so now am in the doghouse socially within the family.

I keep panicking in case I become like them. Are there books to avoid turning into a bad parent?

Sorry for the essay. Please don't flame, just ignore if you like.

Yougotbale Thu 26-Sep-13 15:37:54

Why would you be like them? You already don't drink because they do. Why would anything else be any different.
You would only maybe be like them if you thought their behaviour was normal. You don't though. You know in detail how it was wrong. So you won't make the same mistakes. I'd save your energy for IVF

Kikithecat Thu 26-Sep-13 15:40:10

Sorry you had such a hard time - I can't imagine how awful it must have been growing up like that. Anyway, you sound lovely, sensible and you can see what was wrong so I'm sure the last thing you'd do is repeat it. We all make parenting mistakes but if you know you love them and want what's best for them you'll do just fine.

Arethereanynamesfree Thu 26-Sep-13 15:46:54

Thanks, I think I am just finding it hard - I have said that I know it was not normal, but my family did not take it well. Everything was turned back onto me, hence my now having limited contact with them!

I don't know, I just panic and think what if I do end up like them? There is no logic to it, I'm just scared I won't be able to avoid it. Or that I won't know how to parent normally?

I think it is unlikely that you will be like them because you have such good insight into what was going on. However, I understand that you might be scared of being like them still. I'd suggest some more counselling specifically focused on dealing with your fears in this area. I think once you understand what your emotional processes are like and how they differ from those of your parents, you will feel more secure about your own parenting style.

sweetfluffybunnies Thu 26-Sep-13 15:54:25

Nobody knows how to parent when they start - everyone learns as they go along. You are at least one step ahead in that you have thought about it lots, and know what not to do.

Please try not to worry too much. As a pp said, we all make parenting mistakes, but as long as you love and nurture your child, it will be fine.

Good luck with the IVF!

callamia Thu 26-Sep-13 16:03:39

Everything you've said means that you're aware what was 'wrong' about your parents' behaviour - this already means that you'll be aware if you see any of it in yourself.

Your partner is not one of your parents either, and will be able to bring a whole new perspective on parenting to your new family. I'm saying this as someone who will be taking a lot of lessons from my own upbringing as a 'what not to do' with my own children - my partner is nothing like my father, and our relationship is nothing like my parents'. We can talk about what my parents are like, and it's helpful to have him as a second who reassures me that their behaviour is unhealthy and sad.

You're going to be a great mother - the fact that you worry about it at this stage is convincing enough! But, if you really want a book on bringing up children in a positive way, can I recommend 'why love matters' by Sue Gerhardt. I really love this book - it's not a manual, just a straightforward discussion of why warmth and love is so important. Good luck with your IVF. You're going to be marvellous.

YoniBottsBumgina Thu 26-Sep-13 16:06:13

There is a book called Siblings without rivalry which might help you wrt the sibling and "role" stuff.

Other than that, as long as you remember your DC are people and not props in your life, you won't go far wrong. It sounds to me like you're aware of stuff which wasn't quite right with your childhood, so this probably won't be a problem.

Meerka Thu 26-Sep-13 16:10:58

Yes, there are books and there is also therapy. People sometimes advise therapy like its a cure-all for a broken toe even, but in your case I think it might be worth it.

Susan Forward's book Toxic Parents is very good indeed.

Yes youc an break the pattern. There's no doubt at all about it. The first thing you need is teh WILL to break it, which you clearly have in spades. The second thing you need is ruthless honesty with yourself and your partner, and willingness to listen when he or someone you trust tell you (^constructively^) that you are maybe making a mistake. Good and honest support systmes of friends / partner helps a lot. Monitoring yoruself is also absolutely essential. Seeing older parents whose examples you find good is also helpful. Watching what they do and trying to learn from it helps.

It can be done, though it's hard work. Also, small mistakes arent a worry. Every parent makes them.

Again though, in your particular shoes therapy might be a good idea becuse there will be all sorts of hangups lurking in the back of your mind which can emerge to trip you up, without even realising.

also, I'm sorry to say this, but look very very carefully at your relationship with your partner and be sure there is absolutely no chance that you could be repeating the pattern of your own parents' marriage. Sadly, people often fall into the pattern of relationships they are familiar with and it causes an intense problem.

Best of luck.

You can do better than your parents, and you've taken the first giant step.

mehefin Thu 26-Sep-13 18:12:57

Hi Arethere , Scapegoating is fairly common amongst alcoholic parents I ( being the wrong gender to replace a child who had been adopted out ) was always the scapegoat. At least I knew where I stood even though it wasn't a good place to be.

Now I have 4dc in their early 20s and I have not parented them in the way I was parented and not wanting to is the most important step in achieving that so you are already doing great.

Parenting is sometimes stressful and exhausting and you need to plan in advance as you cannot fall back on parenting on automatic pilot. Read parenting books, watch tv programmes and discover what sort of parent you feel you can be. I ended up with a mix of attachment parenting and supernanny ! That's not a recommendatation just what worked for me.

Consider how you will deal with toddlers, discipline, teenagers etc. Discuss all this with your DH so you are supporting each other. Preparation is key I found, it may sound a bit clinical but I found it safer to have some kind of structure and this allowed me to enjoy simply loving my dc for most of the time.

Concentrating on how you will parent rather than how you were parented is also a good way of moving forward.

All the best

Arethereanynamesfree Thu 26-Sep-13 18:29:01

Thanks again, sorry I had to pop out for a bit! Yes, I will look into further counselling and therapy, and am also going to read the books you have suggested. Thankfully DH and I have a good relationship: we are almost always on the same page and talk about any concerns openly. He very rarely has a drink - think a glass of wine or a beer at a special event - and I know he will tell me if I do start acting like my parents!

Thankfully he had a normal sort of upbringing. He knows I am worried, and it was his idea for me to try on here, as he reckons I will keep going in circles in my head worrying unless I start talking about it openly. Years of being told my actually normal reactions were wrong have led me to question myself a lot. So I think yes I will speak to my GP about finding therapy.

Thanks again smile

HotDAMNlifeisgood Thu 26-Sep-13 18:41:12

OP, good luck with the IVF.

I agree with all the previous posters who say you are already proving how different you are to them. However, I want to point out that it is likely that you will sometimes be like your parents towards your children -- and that's ok!

We subconsciously pick up a LOT from our parents. Once you are in the parent role yourself, you will instinctively repeat some of that behaviour. And a lot of that may well be harmless or good stuff! Things like how you make their sandwiches. What songs you sing and stories you tell. etc. So if you find yourself acting like your parents some of the time, don't let it put you off: you may just be mirroring the harmless/good stuff.

Now, sometimes you might mirror your parents in bad ways -- for example telling off, or emotional distance when they need your attention, etc. That's ok too! It's ok because a) everyone makes parenting mistakes sometimes, and b) you are conscious that if you make a mistake, you will also want to make it right. That's really the key difference you need to maintain with your parents: the willingness to notice your parenting mistakes, to cop to them, and to make it right.

Sometimes you will catch yourself in the act, and rectify your behaviour. Good! We learn by doing. And maybe, in 20 years, your DC will tell you about something you did that hurt them when they were little. I hope you'll be the kind of parent who is willing to acknowledge their hurt, and to say you're sorry. Because if that's the kind of parent you'll be -- and it sounds like you will be! - then you'll do fine.

All the best!

somersethouse Thu 26-Sep-13 18:43:01

I could have written your post.

I fear, every day, I will repeat what my parents did to me, to my DD who is 5. How could they have done that?

As others have said, you will not do it. You are too aware and too kind and a proper mother.
I am the black sheep of the family as I spoke out and cut contact.
I have nothing particularly helpful to say to you, but I have empathy in spades.

All the very best OP. Sending you love.

somersethouse Thu 26-Sep-13 18:47:59

What a lovely post hotDAMN.
It gave me hope!

TheArmadillo Thu 26-Sep-13 18:53:59

From what I have read on this subject (a lot as I have these fears myself), the single biggest factor in making sure you don't repeat what they did in all the literature is:

Awareness that what they did was wrong

That alone is enough to ensure you do not repeat their abuse.

I use parenting books to build my confidence and to help have a idea of 'normal' parenting is.

CailinDana Thu 26-Sep-13 19:05:44

My advice would be to use this time before you get pregnant to finally really get to know yourself properly. Find out what you truly value, even the small things like are perfect table manners a must or are you more a dinners on laps kind of person? I think once you're comfortable and happy with yourself you can't go too far wrong. Children aren't a mystery - as long as you have a kind attitude and know what you feel is important for them to learn the rest becomes clear along the way.

Arethereanynamesfree Thu 26-Sep-13 19:07:24

I keep wondering how they couldn't see that this wasn't normal. Growing up, I thought everyone lived like this. Then I met people who clearly didn't, and suddenly I had to rethink everything. It has taken me almost twelve years to get to where I am now. This included learning to do basic normal things like travelling alone, and managing finances, etc. My father always controlled the money, and DH is the opposite: we have a joint account and also one each for personal savings.

We talk instead of either rowing or sitting in silence for days. He encourages me to go out and socialise and try new things - I had never been allowed to decide what music I liked until I met him. He was really shocked by that and took me shopping just to listen to different groups and buy the ones I enjoyed. He knew I love animals and that I wanted a cat. So for our first valentines together, he got me a rescue kitten. Then he sat and hugged me while I told him about all the pets that were taken away. (Yes, we still have our cat, though she has six other homes too, typical cat!)

Not sure if I want my side of the family involved with our child or children. Well actually I really don't want them involved but that sounds kind of awful. Really hate the idea of them continuing on with the cycle. Something to discuss in therapy, I guess.

Arethereanynamesfree Thu 26-Sep-13 19:11:59

CailnDana, we have a table, but often end up not using it! We both love cooking and I think as long as the children were being fed properly (and hopefully eating some of it!) then that will be fine. Mess is just something that happens, I tend to tidy up as and when possible and settle for hygenic other than perfect.

Meerka Thu 26-Sep-13 19:12:18

If you don't want them involved - go with what you want. actually, maybe talk it over with your husband first (he sounds absolutely lovely) and then come to a decision together.

But your family sound appalling toxic and well - this is easy to say and hard to live with, but as a principle, you'd keep your children away from poisonous things, aye? go with your gut.

Arethereanynamesfree Thu 26-Sep-13 19:13:33

Sorry, DH does housework too by the way! He does the dishes, and I dry them, he washes the floors I do benches, etc.

Arethereanynamesfree Thu 26-Sep-13 19:16:34

Thanks, yes good point there Meerka. Hotdamn, I hope our children will always be able to talk to both of us and tell us their true feelings. Hugs to everyone who has been there too, it's so bizarre looking back into it.

WafflyVersatile Thu 26-Sep-13 19:24:11

Agree with everyone.

you have insight into your family
you have a supportive partner from a normal family who will be co-parenting with you
you know you do not want to be like them and you've had counselling to counter your previous view of what is normal and healthy
you have limited contact with them, which reduces their influence on your current life.

I'd seriously consider whether you want to expose your children to your family's culture.

lavenderhoney Thu 26-Sep-13 19:30:28

You sound very nice, and so does your dhsmile good luck with the ivf.

My parents were rather odd too, and I left at 16 and didn't go back. Took ages to learn to pick myself clothes, friends, and took years to find out what sort of person I was.

Dc- the thing I made sure of right from birth ( sounds odd) was that they don't feel they are a nuisance or in the way. Bizarrely, it was my dm who gave me this advice - hello pot, meet kettle.

Dc are loved, hugged, told how fabulous they are til they roll their eyessmile
They get choices, they learn to argue without shouting, they are confident and great fun.

I read parenting books, and followed the advice of my dsis who said bluntly just do the opposite of them. I read " your child from 0-5" which was exactly how I wanted to be. I now read " how to talk so kids will listen..." And 123 magic, age appropriate stuff. And there is no smacking.

I do my best. I get it wrong, I apologise and we sort it out. There is no alcoholism and we like being married to each other ( mostly!) plus you have mn!!

wordyBird Thu 26-Sep-13 19:31:31

Please go with your instincts and keep your children away from your family.

Let me quote from your OP:

They also told me repeatedly that our house was haunted by an old lady who died there and now she lived in the attic. Every so often, my room got moved to the attic

I came home once, went up to where my room had been that morning, and found we now had a lodger: I was nine at this point.

They also would get pets and then get rid of them again as soon as we got attached.

This is sick, toxic, destabilising behaviour. sad You don't need these people in your life or near your family. Trust yourself, OP.

Arethereanynamesfree Thu 26-Sep-13 19:32:48

Waffly, I think I may well be going non contact with the majority of them, definitely with my father and middle sister as she has started to copy my late mother sad

lavenderhoney Thu 26-Sep-13 19:44:33

I might as well add I am nc with my siblings. The relief of it.

Really, living a long way away from them helped. Abroad, in my casesmile

You will get advice from everyone though, so dont be too hasty to advertise to the world you dont know if you will manage. You will want to do things your way, and people can get awfully bossy round babiessmile looking at you, mil, who had a personality transplant when I had dc.

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 27-Sep-13 11:00:49

IMHO you can either treat your parents as a 'good example' or a 'dire warning'. However you approach being a parent yourself, and however good your intentions, you're bound to make a cock up of it from time to time. We all do. So relax, do your best and enjoy the ride.

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