Note: Mumsnetters don't necessarily have the qualifications or experience to offer relationships counselling or to provide help in cases of domestic violence. Mumsnet can't be held responsible for any advice given on the site. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.

Difficult/disapprovi ng mother

(40 Posts)
mermaid101 Thu 07-Nov-13 18:13:34

I've posted about this before, but I still feel I'm struggling and need a bit of help. The problem is that my mother makes me feel really anxious and unsettled almost every time I see her.

I think I know what's happening: whenever I see her, she seems to give off these quite subtle signs the she doesn't approve of how I am bringing up my child and/or of how I live my life. (I live a fairly "standard " life - nothing to be concerned about I don't think).

She was here today looking after my Dd and now she has left I feel very anxious and a bit teary. There was no fall out or cross words, but I know she is annoyed/displeased with me for a couple of minor reasons.

Does anyone else get this and how do you deal with it?

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 07-Nov-13 18:16:12

Why do you need her approval? Do you feel others are judging you? Do you need the approval of others?

Timidtessa Thu 07-Nov-13 18:29:41

That's a horrible feeling.I know it too.I'd be really interested in hearing why it is that we seek the approval of others.Sorry I have no advice to offer.

Hissy Thu 07-Nov-13 18:32:57

You need to find better childcare!

You don't want this kind of person being overly involved in the care of your child.

If it's not working, get it fixed.

Procrastinating Thu 07-Nov-13 18:35:53

Can't help you either mermaid. I have this with my mother, she leaves me feeling awful (yes, anxious and unsettled) although all looks fine with out relationship on the surface. I cannot work out how she does it or maybe I should say I can't work out what is going on (allowing for the fact that it might just be me but I don't think it is).

Timidtessa Thu 07-Nov-13 18:38:00

Yes procrastinating I get that too.Not with my own dm but mil.And like you said all appears fine but I come away feeling not good enough

mermaid101 Thu 07-Nov-13 18:46:08

I don't know why I need her approval. Rationally, I know that I'm probably never going to get it. I'd love to not worry about it. I would say the overall I do tend to seek approval from others, but it is "managable" and doesn't impinge on my life the way this feeling with my mother does.

She doesn't do regular child care for us, but the odd day here or there. Strangly I feel much worse when I haven't been with her for a long period if time. Today I was at work and saw her for about ah hour. If she had been visiting I.e. we had spent the day together with my DC, I know I probably wouldn't be feeling nearly so bad.

Thanks for the replies.

mermaid101 Thu 07-Nov-13 18:49:46

Yes! A feeling of not being good enough.

Did you feel like this throughout your childhood. I really did. I would have thought that at nearly 40 I might have got over it by now!

catellington Thu 07-Nov-13 18:50:47

I have this. I thought everyone had this but maybe not?

I could write a list of nags by DM, some subtle, some not, at the end of each day she looks after dd.

Today's list - should move cot away from our bed gradually otherwise dd will still be co sleeping when she is three
Why don't we have a bookcase for dd

The vests are all too big because we get next size up, poor dd

Comparing dd to me saying when I was just older than that (she's 9m) I could walk and would go and get my potty and sit on it!!!

I am not sure if I am being over sensitive or not.

mermaid101 Thu 07-Nov-13 18:56:34

Oh the list of nags! But dressed up as helpful advice. Does it make you feel particularly unhappy/anxious/down or are you able to shrug it off? How do you respond to it when you mum says these things?

IamGluezilla Thu 07-Nov-13 18:56:37

Mermaid, sadly you will never get over it unless you make a really concerted effort to get to the bottom of it and actively reject every point of her criticism.

IamGluezilla Thu 07-Nov-13 18:59:32

Ways to respond: (a) see it as her problem, she can't feel good about herself unless you feel shit (b) tell her it is a really bad habit, and it makes you not want to spend time with someone so relentlessly negative (c) call her on it, ask her why she would choose little barbs rather than just being pleasant.

Timidtessa Thu 07-Nov-13 19:01:03

I don't know what it is.Will we be like this too when we have grandchildren?Lots of little things.Is it their own anxieties making us feel anxious or is it our own personalities-a combination of both?I sometimes wonder how does she think they survive at all .Much easier on second dd though as I'm more confident in my choices.

mermaid101 Thu 07-Nov-13 19:09:35

I suppose I think I do I know the root of it: my mother is quite a cold, unhappy person. She doesn't really value things like warmth and kindness and joy. Most things in her life are done either for show/appearances or as some sort of calculated exchange. For example, she once got up very early to give a friend a lift to the station. When I commented that it was a nice thing to do and would have been a great help to her friend, my mum responded that she had to keep her favour bank full so to speak as she didn't have many people in get life she could rely on (possible dig at me- she thinks I'm unreliable).

I would like to challenge all points of criticism, but sometimes I do sort of agree with them. For example, today she took washing out of the machine and hung it up. She commented that it seemed it had been there a while. She was right and I had hoped my partner would have hung it up before he went to work, but he didn't. This is just a small example right enough. I could try to call her on other things, but she rarely comes right out with it. It is mainly done through looks and comments and pulled faces!

Timidtessa Thu 07-Nov-13 19:14:01

Sounds very much like its her problem.If she wanted to help you with the housework great but she shouldn't have bitten her tongue.It kind of takes the good out of it.

Timidtessa Thu 07-Nov-13 19:14:18

Should have

mermaid101 Thu 07-Nov-13 19:29:11

Well, exactly. It would have been easy to say something pleasant and encouraging along the lines that its hard working and having a family and it only took a few minutes. The sort of things most people would I suppose. Or just leave it and not do it.

Just made me feel like I'm not doing a particularly good job and as a working parent I guess that kind of comes with the territory.

I just wish she would say something encouraging or helpful from time to time!

marryinhaste Thu 07-Nov-13 19:43:45

Oh this really resonates with me too. I'm a single parent with a pretty full-on job. Everyone else I talk to tells me I'm amazing. My mum looked after DD for half term (staying at mine) and I just got negativity from her - not a positive word. Some of my favourites:

DD had a tantrum. Mum told me I need to take her to see someone about her behaviour.
Mum said if she was me she couldn't go to work knowing the mess she was coming home to.
I should have coat hooks at child height as the kids just dump stuff when they come home. They are 5 and 3.
I have a terrible life ahead of me because I let the kids get away with too much.

Why do they think it's OK to critique everything in our lives? Is it because we're their children? I would never tell her how to live her life. It's exhausting!

Timidtessa Thu 07-Nov-13 20:01:11

Yes I think we put enough pressure on ourselves as it is.It is hard to be a mother whether you are a sahm or working outside the home.I think any woman who has had children would be well aware of this and try to offer support.Seems obvious to me!It must make her feel better to belittle you.

mermaid101 Thu 07-Nov-13 20:15:43

It is so exhausting isn't it! I think I'm a bit better placed to deal with it when I'm not too tired or frazzled. But it's when you feel like this you need a bit of support.

Had anyone ever had a "talk" with their mums about this. I'm toying with the idea of sitting her down and yelling her exactly how I feel. I know she will react badly and it will cause a big drama (and possibly lots of guilt for me) but it might be worth it? On the other hand maybe she's too old to change and I should try to change how I react. Although I haven't been particularly successful in that regard thus far!

I'd love to hear if anyone has tried this and what the result was?

mermaid101 Thu 07-Nov-13 20:19:53

Telling not yelling. Will make sure I don't yell. That would be the end of any "conversation"!

Timidtessa Thu 07-Nov-13 20:40:35

Haha.I'm sure there will be someone along soon who can give some good advice on how to approach it.I know, it's worse when you're exhausted.I suppose the important thing to remember is that its not you.Sometimes I wish I didn't care but its hard when its people close to you finding fault with your actions.I would like to read of find out more about why I need others approval though.

Procrastinating Thu 07-Nov-13 20:43:52

Yes, timidtessa I think it is my mother's personality and my mother's anxieties. I don't think she knows what she is doing and has never stopped to think about it. Parents in the 60s and 70s didn't seem to question themselves much, so I think our generation will be quite different. I know I think about the effect of just about everything I say (or don't say) to my children. Which might just be a different kind of madness.

I have thought about talking to mine but I just wouldn't know what to say because I still haven't quite worked out how she does it (and I'm in my 40s).

I think her method is a kind of witholding of praise rather than a lot of criticism, and no empathy either. I look after small children all day and work all night but she has never offered to help, or expressed admiration or said 'you must be tired'.

My mum does not acknowledge that I have spoken 50% of the time, and she often talks over me. I don't feel that she is critical of me as a parent, but me as a person - which I think is worse.

Procrastinating Thu 07-Nov-13 20:46:39

We probably need approval because we didn't get it as children.

Timidtessa Thu 07-Nov-13 20:57:14

I think you've hit the nail on the head.Yes dm or mil would never praise me but very quick to point out anything I should do.Different generation?I certainly give a lot of thought to what I say too.

mermaid101 Thu 07-Nov-13 20:57:51

I think you must be right procrastinating. When my mum makes those veiled comments or pulls faces, it takes me right back to my childhood. It's horrible feeling that mixture of fear and bewilderment and general despondency. And anger.

Do you think there is a way to "fix" it , so we're a bit less susceptible to this particular type of criticism?

Do you mind me asking if anyone's dad features in this at all. My dad is dead. He was quite, quite different and acted as a bit of a balance. It's times like this I really miss him .

Procrastinating Thu 07-Nov-13 21:07:37

I didn't really have a dad, my mum left him when I was 5. So there was mum or nothing. What a shame for you mermaid, I look at my dh with my daughter and think she is so lucky to have him. An approving father would make lots of difference to me.

I work too hard in a pathetic effort to get approval. I'll be up until 3 or 4 tonight writing a lecture because I took on too much work in a bid to look important. I know why I do it but I can't stop myself. The funny thing is that nobody could be less impressed by my career than my mother!

Viviennemary Thu 07-Nov-13 21:10:59

I had a really difficult relationship with my Mum. We just didn't get on most of the time. I annoyed her and never managed to please her. In the end I just accepted this wasn't going to change and it got a bit easier. There isn't really an answer but I don't think it's uncommon.

mermaid101 Thu 07-Nov-13 21:24:16

It's quite disconcerting how this can spill into all areas of our lives. In a way I'm similar and different about my work. I've been encouraged to go for promotion a few t

I had this with my mum and have ended up going NC

There was always criticism growing up and like you I was reverting to my childhood, even as an adult, with that mixture of fear and bewilderment and general despondency. And anger.

Once I had my children it got worse - it felt like everything I did was wrong. Other people would say things like I had lovely children & they were a credit to me, but I never got anything nice from her.

My children were spoiled - I let them away with too much
My daughter needs a "good slap"
I was too strict with them
Using a naughty step is abuse
Not wearing a vest in summer is neglect

The final straw came when we were trying to get a diagnosis of Autism for my son
He doesn't has autism, that's just how boys are
He doesn't have autism, your sister looked it up on the internet
He might have autism - but only because you caused it

I can honestly say, my life is better without the constant guilt I felt whenever I talked to her, or even thought about her. She is still in touch with the children, but I haven't spoken to her in over a year. My mental health is much improved (I suffered with anxiety and panic attacks for years and I am convinced it's to do with my childhood. My dad left when I was 9 and I'm sure if he'd been around he'd have managed to temper her criticism somewhat).

I'm sure you're not looking to go to that extreme, but for me it was the only way - there was no way else that I could have escaped her judgement. She definitely was not the type to have reasoned conversations/listen to constructive criticism.

mermaid101 Thu 07-Nov-13 21:35:17

Gah posted too soon. Was just going to say that I get that thing about this spilling into other aspects of life. It sort of frightens and angers me in equal mesures.

I have been encouraged to go for promotion a few times and have actively avoided it because I just don't have enough confidence or self belief, despite extensive support from my colleagues. Then my mum made a throw away remark about how I should be thinking of ways to increase my salary and suddenly the promotion seemed like such a great idea. It's mad!

I don't think you're pathetic at all to take on challenges at work. I think it's really admirable. And impressive. Doing a lecture sounds amazing! I hope you don't have to stay up too late. Remember what the thief of time is...

Procrastinating Thu 07-Nov-13 21:44:41

Ha! I have to stay up so late because my procrastination is bloody terrible (thus the name). I procrastinate because of lack of self-belief funnily enough.

I would react just as you did about the promotion. In fact I would get a warm rush of happiness thinking that I could do something my mother might approve of. It is tragic. I hope you got promoted anyway, that is a positive side-effect.

My mother is coming tomorrow. I'm going to keep a notebook about my person and try to identify her methods. Each time I feel wretched I'll try and work out how she did it.

mermaid101 Thu 07-Nov-13 21:46:51

Good luck. Do let me know if you can draw any conclusions. I would be very interested to hear!

TalkingintheDark Thu 07-Nov-13 22:14:45

Toxic parents are very damaged inside, usually hiding a wellspring of self hate that they project onto their children. Usually, they were damaged in their own childhood, and they in turn damage their own children.

Nothing goes deeper than the way your parents treat you as a child: it forms you, forms your future responses and self image at almost a DNA level and that is why they have this hold on you well into adulthood: it seems crazy to be still reacting like that age 40 but actually it's completely understandable.

Talking to her is very unlikely to improve anything, you will almost certainly meet with defensiveness and denial, if not outright hostility, however reasonable you are. The problem isn't you, it's her, but she will never want to see or admit that, it's pretty safe to say.

Would you find it helpful to do some reading about mother/daughter relationships and/or wider family dynamics, to put yours into some context?

ButterflySwan Thu 07-Nov-13 22:32:54

Have you seen the 'Stately Homes' thread here on Relationships? Think you may find it enlightening as you're not the only one to feel like this unfortunately.

Timidtessa Thu 07-Nov-13 23:07:03

That's very true about toxic parents.Both mine were very damaged .There was no love or warmth shown to either of them.Both from very different backgrounds.The way they were treated would now be considered abuse and neglect.Its no wonder my parents ended up the way they did.Its very very sad.Dps parents backgrounds were similar .

Timidtessa Thu 07-Nov-13 23:14:26

I actually had to stop visiting one relative of mine with my little girl as I didn't like the way she was treating her.She glares at her and makes assumptions about her behaviour-says she is emotionally immature, highly strung and tries to blame her when something happens with other kids.She had also commented on her physical appearance.I don't know where this comes from as dd is a very mature, confident,kind, sensitive child.She has a lovely nature.

Timidtessa Thu 07-Nov-13 23:15:16

I actually had to stop visiting one relative of mine with my little girl as I didn't like the way she was treating her.She glares at her and makes assumptions about her behaviour-says she is emotionally immature, highly strung and tries to blame her when something happens with other kids.She had also commented on her physical appearance.I don't know where this comes from as dd is a very mature, confident,kind, sensitive child.She has a lovely nature.

catellington Thu 07-Nov-13 23:17:22

It does make me down mermaid, I am not very good at hiding my feelings so sometimes I get snappy. I would prefer DM just to be gm and not to do childcare because I find that really hard. By dd and DM love the time together so I think that's important.

Even since I wrote on this earlier there has been another moment when she made me feel bad about our co sleeping. I wouldn't mind but it isn't a case of explaining why we do something and her understanding...things never change however clearly I try to say why we don't put hat on dd in bed or two wool blankets on top of her sleeping bag etc etc etc

Mrspebble Thu 07-Nov-13 23:35:36

I am also in this position. I get a sick feeling in my stomach before I see her. She comments on everything, my weight, skin, even says I will turn funny because I work with disabled people. She knows it is my dream job and she's twists dedication into me being obsessed!! I can't tell anyone in rl only my husband. She is all sweetness in front of others. Nasty to me. I once said it to her and she stirred so much trouble that I went no contact. Didn't go home for Christmas etc. then she said she wanted to be dead because of me.

Honestly, it took a lot out of me. Up until then I had never confronted her, did her housework, took her criticism ie. even at a young age I had a birthday party and invited school friends. She shouted at me after as she had told everyone I had no friends. To this day I find it hard to have confidence.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now