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What does family mean to you?(25 Posts)
Just having a few thoughts... I have two basically grown up children who still need quite a lot of input to course choice/careers type stuff but I can see in just a few years they will be living their own lives and I don't think I will be a big feature in their lives! I have/had a difficult relationship with my own parents, my mother is quite a 'hard' woman and father died young from alcohol related problems. I watch things like Bake Off or X factor where contestants ring home with their good news, I would have got sarcasm or who do you think you are responses... I really hope I do better for my own DC but still worry that I will soon be largely irrelevant in their lives.
I think they can be living their own lives but still have you as an important feature in their lives. If you're lovely to them and are interested in their lives but not too nosy, and if you do enough things so they don't think you're too reliant on them for company etc, then everything should be fine.
My parents were never irrelevant in my lives - and I was in my 40s when they died. They drove me crazy sometimes and I lived on a different continent but I rang them regularly (every day when they were older), went home, they visited me, we had a real laugh with them before we had kids and they were brilliant grandparents - children still talk about them. I think there are a few years maybe in their 20s when children are setting themselves up, distracted by organising their own adult life but in general people like having a nice family to "come home" to. No matter what, I knew my parents were intensely interested in everything I did or achieved and would always be on my side - that was a lovely feeling.
My dh is the same - he probably contacts his mum less than I would but he is still in contact with her regularly, would ask her to meet him in a different city he knew she would enjoy if he is travelling for work, we do family things with his siblings etc.
I know this is a big transition but don't judge by your own upbringing. You weren't a hard woman and your children probably have a very different emotional view of family and mum than you did.
I have adult dc away from home and I would say I am still the most relevant one in their lives. I have been there through relationship break ups, job changes, house moves, always at their request +insistance tbh!! When you have a great relationship not living at the same address won't change that imo!!
Pali sees that sounds great, I need to know how to be like that!
My fear is really they won't choose to meet or visit
Ours are still very close to us and each other.
Today one is unwell so we called to check she had seen doctor and didn't need to be fetched home from university.
One is buying a flat so we had to go and measure for curtains/blinds yesterday and go to buy lampshades etc today.
Another is on nights but her boyfriend came over for lunch with us and the son buying a flat. He didn't want to make a noise in their house whilst she was sleeping. He also wanted to borrow a drill and lawnmower. She called when she woke up and as they swop and he is doing nights next week she's coming over for a couple of days indulgence.
Another needs their father to sort out internship with someone he knows. They want to use our Birmingham flat whilst doing the internship and need extra keys cutting.
They all phone most days. They all come home quite often and choose to come to village events, on holidays and to stay when we are in Birmingham. I don't see that changing any time soon. I think village life means they have a close community they feel part of too and we tend not to differentiate between the generations.
My youngest moved out in July.
I see her on her day off to take her shopping or a day out every week. I
I see my son and his girlfriend on a different day to take them shopping or a day out.
Sometimes we all have a day out together.
I also see my daughter during the week to either pick her up or take her home from work if rhe weather is awful
I also see them on other days if they need a lift when public transport isn't available. I chat to them a lot on Facebook messenger and or text. I send them funny pictures of the dogs as well!
I pay for some of their bills and shopping etc so I guess it wouldn't do for them all to not keep in touch!
Sometimes I do say no to them but that's only if I am unwell or they've sprung something very short notice on me but really I am available to help whenever I can.
They've flown the best but I'm still the mother hen or more likely the old turkey as they probably see me as!
Fix my in laws and my own family are very different. And I'll be honest, as they got older my parents did drive my sister and me a bit crazy. But the good bits were/are for both my family and in laws:
They genuinely were interested in us and thought we were brilliant.
They loved our spouses and never criticised them.
They loved seeing us with our friends - I'd come back home to see my widowed mum and she would be genuinely happy to see me go out with my friends- would ask when I was seeing them.
They had their own lives too - friends, hobbies, interests.
They looked at the world "glass half full". Thought they were lucky and happy.
They had/have good senses of humour.
They didn't measure out time with in laws/them.
Not even really sure what I mean but I do similar things as you describe, help with applications, lifts, plans, ask about friends, listen to problems, offer advice if I think it will be well received but I still feel like once I'm not needed that way then what?
I imagine next steps are going to be weddings, more new houses to sort, then hopefully grandchildren to adore and spoil completely. I also think it's nice having time to enjoy with my husband doing things we couldn't afford to do when we were younger. Nice those that are settling are buying houses nearby but not on our doorstep. Lovely to be able to go for lunch or to cinema without having to sleep on air beds or in nearby hotel.
the next thing is having a mother who is living a good, fulfilling life herself whom you know is someone you can always rely on and who you enjoy being with (to a point - parents aren't like friends imo). fix I think you need to start adjusting your attitude to your relationship with your children from "they need me, how can I help" to "we love each other and support each other and enjoy spending time together regularly (defining regularly as whatever suits you all)"
My MIL struggles a bit with wanting to be needed. She loves when she is needed for babysitting etc. We are gone beyond that now and anyway were always pretty independent. But I'm just off the phone with her and had a lovely chat and in a few weeks she will be here for a visit and while she will bug the hell out of me at times (I'm sure I do the same to her), we will have a nice time going places, chatting, sitting down together in the evening.
I think that people project an ideal rather than reality. Social media does not help...
In the microcosm that is my life all the 'close' families are deeply dysfunctional. They contain adults still heavily reliant on parents, unable to think, make decisions or bring up their own DC without them, not just childcare but everything down to DPs disciplining DGC because they are unable to parent . (Think getting DGM on phone to tell off DC)
Does that make them better than my own where my own DM has very little to do with my life, has rarely ever seen her DGC and has only ever met her eldest DGGS once although living 40 mins away.
The plus side is that when my DC were growing up I had to be the adult in their lives, not a kidult.
My DC and I now have a mutually respectful adult relationship, if they do need me they know I will always be here for them, but they get on with their lives. They do not need to run every decision past me..my eldest DS needs a little more support due to MH but he has control over that, he is still an adult. --not that his ex understands this, she thinks I should be micromanaging his life, ergo she comes from a 'close' family.
Honestly OP, I think you just have to run with each family dynamic.
I think it's better to encourage your children to develop the skills to negotiate and form Alliances with non family members
Relying on family tends to be the easy option because your parents will think The Best of You whatever you do it's more of a challenge to form ties with other people
With my adult children I see my role as one of being there in the background as a safety net, ultimately I think it's in their best interests to go forth and transcend their family of origin
I dont want to encourage them to be too dependent on me
Failure to cut the apron strings will limit personal development
This is all really interesting. I think I'm struggling with understanding that distance (physical and or emotional?) doesn't mean you don't care (on either or both sides).
The 'close family' is very interesting to me too. On my father side they appear to be a very very close family but we were most definitely not part of that.
I wouldn't say my family is particularly close, but we are very interested in each other and mostly love each other. I like that saying about 'home is the place where they have to let you in' - to me family are the ones who have to open the door.
I do worry that we are not closer - i probably contact my sister directly about 5 times a year and my brother maybe three times? I've actually shocked myself writing that. I ring my mother twice a week for lengthy chats and she is someone who makes me feel better just hearing her voice. My dad i have a short call with every week and that's as much as we can manage.
I wouldn't underestimate what it means to your family just knowing you are there to speak to.
My DParents have always been a great supporting presence in my life. We never lived in each other's pockets but they were there for me. My DM coming from work to take me for a drink before catching her train home because I had just been dumped. My DDad letting me sit on his office floor in floods after a miserable exam then taking me out for lunch having said all the right things.
I haven't been local since I finished uni but that doesn't mean they wouldn't always have dropped everything for me (as now I will for DM). I miss DDad every day even though we usually only saw each other about once every month.
I guess all I'm saying is that it's possible to cherish and support family but have your own lives. For me it was that they never ever judged. Advised and sighed, yes, judged, never!
My family is really important to me. I'm not dependent on them as we lived in different countries for years, now we are all a matter of minutes from each other We all have our own lives but I like how their home always feels like my home too despite never lived there.
My dad's a happy go lucky sort and good for a laugh as we have a similar sense of humour. My mum's the more serious one but great for a chat with a coffee or wine.
We don't always agree with each other and have had our arguments but don't let things fester. If any one of us annoys each other it's brought up and sorted out. Things like my parenting are no-go comment areas and they know the boundaries as I raise my kids differently as to how I was (smacked for one)
People could say maybe the apron strings need cut as I do see them quite a lot but looking at the familial relationships in some other countries, there are a lot that have tight family setups. When I see friends and the issues some have with theirs, I feel lucky to have the relationship I do with them.
My family is close in that we are supportive, and care for each other, but geographically we are spread and busy around in our own lives so contact is more intermittent. I can go for a couple of weeks without ringing my mum as we've struggled to find a mutualy convenient timeslot. I'd take that that over an intensive, dutiful relationship with difficult people.
Very wise points made by Palliser.
Basically, the art of staying close to older children is to make it easy for them to think about you with warmth.
So not only don't push them away, don't be nasty and over-critical, but also don't make them feel guilty about growing up, guilty about moving away, guilty about not needing you so much. Nobody can cope with guilty for too long, so the simply answer to neediness is to remove yourself. Don't be that parent.
Let them know that you are enormously proud of the capable, independent adults they are growing into, let them know that you have a happy and fulfilling life that doesn't depend on them not growing up iyswim, but also let them know that you are always there and always enjoy speaking to them and seeing them. Let them know that they can go to you with any worries, but that they don't have to.
My dd moved out at the start of this month to go to HE and I am not expecting her to come back here to live. I took a leaf out of my parents' book and let her know that I'm going to be ringing her once a week, and we agreed a mutually convenient time. She has actually rung and spoken to us a bit more than that, but there is no pressure. I miss her, of course I do, but I also know that this competent person who gets on with her daily life and pays her bills and sorts out her wifi is what I was dreaming of and working for for so many years: it's a very warm feeling.
Good points cory.
I see my role as a parent as enabling my DCs to grow up into mature, independent adults. I've got a long way to go, the younger one is new into reception class. People have wondered how I've felt about that, and I've let him go with joy because he's ready and it's what he needs. Emotionally holding him back and getting upset about him growing up achieves nothing. Childhood is transient. The days may be long sometimes, but the years are short and passing by, and I need to enjoy my DCs as they are as they develop.
Holding adult DCs too close can be detrimental to things like their relationships. DB had a partner (plus DC with her) and a not insignificant factor in the breakdown of the relationship was the "intrusion" of the DP's parental relationships. They were busy professional adults, but every weekend was influenced by the unbreakable ritual of Sunday Afternoon Tea. Not even petty inconveniences such as close family weddings elsewhere in the country must break the Sunday Afternoon Tea routine. The number of times he'd have to rush halfway round the country to be back in time was ridiculous (this continued long into EOW access as the DGD apparently HAD to be present). Being that close and inflexible is claustrophobic and can damage adult relationships and family units.
Liking all these responses, just making me think more! I agree if you love someone let them go, just worrying about them coming back. Warmth is a great way to describe how to be as I think that was very much what I missed out on.
It means a lot of gritting of teeth, trying to forgive, love, bitterness, tears, laughter, knowing that they'll be there always.
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