AIBU to still feel resentment towards my mother?(8 Posts)
Apologies in advance for the essay, it’s been really cathartic to write but I understand you might not be able to get through all of it so I’ve put a TL;DR at the bottom.
Since I was little I have had a difficult relationship with my mum. For a long time I couldn’t quite get my head around it and even after moving away from home and counselling I still struggle to define it – I feel a mixture of guilt and resentment when I think about our relationship, and particularly whenever I am back home to visit.
At school I was known by my year as ‘the crier’. I often cried because I was scared of everything, or rather I was terrified of getting in trouble with my mum. On average I’d say I cried about once a week, either at school or on the journey to and from school because I had done something she disapproved of. This was never wilful bad behaviour; it was things like not doing as well on a test as she would have wanted me to do, or forgetting PE kit or homework, once it was for washing my face with cold water instead of warm water and another time it was because I used the wrong mug for cracking an egg.
Her words were sharp and her anger was rarely measured. She would raise her voice and use extremes, e.g. I’m so disappointed in you, you make me so angry, what am I going to do with you, I can’t bear to look at you, etc. After an angry outburst she would often spend the evening ignoring me or refusing to acknowledge me, or snapping at me if she had to tell something. I would always tell her if I had done something bad because I couldn’t cope with the guilt of lying through omission and the fear of her finding out anyway. This was the pattern of most of my time at school. I remember asking my dad if she really loved me, because I seemed to make her angry so often.
Around the age of 13/14 my mum fell out with her mum and they were NC for two years. This was a difficult time for everyone involved – it felt something akin to a divorce, though not as severe. We were allowed to be picked up from school by my grandparents once a week but this usually led to a fight between my grandparents and my mum when we got home.
My mum went through a bad period full of hurt and anger and turned to my dad and occasionally me for support. During this time she would often tell me horrible details about her childhood, e.g. about the way she self-harmed growing up and the awful things her mother would say to her. I wanted to help so I would sit and listen but it was incredibly painful, partly because I was seeing a new side to a grandma I loved very much and partly because much of what my mum was talking about sounded like things she had done/said to me (though not as extreme) and I was amazed she couldn’t see the parallels.
Around this time she said something very cruel to me in a moment of anger and upset that I’ve never been quite able to forgive her for. I often see it as the turning point in how I viewed our relationship, and I started to think maybe the way she treated me wasn’t normal/healthy.
I secretly got counselling throughout sixth form which was incredibly helpful. My counsellor encouraged me to stand up to my mum but this led to its own set of problems. My sister and dad are very non-confrontational, and while they were supportive of me when mum was not around, they would join my mum in ignoring me at dinner or in the car when she was angry with me. When I started arguing back it caused issues, and would often draw my sister and my dad into the fray – something they found very difficult to cope with. I think everyone just wanted a peaceful family life, but in standing up to my mum it wasn’t going to work out that way.
I felt like a fly in the ointment, and to this day I still do. I am a bit of a drama queen, and I know I exacerbate issues by getting overly emotional and confrontational when I perceive anyone to be having a go at me. Very minor criticisms from my mum or my dad can be enough to trigger an emotional reaction.
My mum has improved a lot since I was younger to the point where she is almost unrecognisable – occasionally she will be judgemental and say harsh things and she still has a tendency to control or disapprove, but she is also very supportive, kind and loving. In a sort of Jekyll and Hyde way she can vacillate between the two personas, but for the most part she is on her best behaviour.
However, I struggle to believe that my parents are proud of me, and sometimes that they like me. I often compare myself to my younger sister and wonder how I could have turned out so differently to her – she is immeasurably kind and full of love, patience and support for me and my parents. She and I are best friends, but sometimes I feel so jealous because she has a much easier relationship with them which makes sense because she is intellectual, easy-going, uncomplicated and good-humoured.
I have tried to build up my confidence and it has improved a lot in the last few years, but sometimes I am hampered by my worry about my parents’ opinion of me. My dad told me this Christmas that my mum is a little ashamed of the job I do and how much I am paid. I had my suspicions for a while but I was still hurt when he confirmed this. It’s made me worry a lot about the career I’m doing, and right now I’m applying for a job (in the same field) but I’m too scared to tell my mum in case she’s disappointed in the job I’m going for.
I know the best thing for me to do is to let go of worrying about what my mum thinks of me, but I’m finding it so difficult.
Does anyone have any advice or has anyone been in a similar situation? I would sincerely appreciate any words of wisdom or a metaphorical slap around the face. I’m so ashamed of myself that I still feel like this at 25 years old, I hoped I would be over it by now but the pain from my childhood sometimes eats away at me like it was yesterday.
TL;DR – Difficult relationship with a critical mother growing up that I haven’t quite been able to get over. Feel resentment that I am seen as the difficult one in my family, but I also feel guilty because I know that I am often overly emotional and sensitive when I am with them which causes arguments. Would like to let go of the past and move on to have a good, stable relationship with family. Any advice?
Short answer: no, YANBU. you had an emotionally difficult childhood of which you still feel the effects.
I also had a difficult childhood where my relationship with my mum is still unstable and gets worse as I get older.
I found CBT helpful. Good luck with this xx
You have written your story so eloquently.
The only way to have peace is to accept your mum for how she is, and live your life the best way for you. Learn to make decisions for yourself without thinking of her opinions.
I too grew up with a critical mother. I remember when dd was a baby, one of her shoes fell out of her pram and got lost. It was her first pair of Clarks shoes, so not cheap. My first thought was, "omg what will my mum say!" That realisation stopped me in my tracks and I knew I had to learn to detach in that way without guilt.
You will do this.
I think it's pretty fucked-up that your dad made a point of telling you -- over Christmas, no less -- about how ashamed your mother is of you. What the hell. That goes beyond not sticking up for you.
Reminds me of a dear friend whose whole family has always been in this weird collusion to pretend everything is perfect. She's one of the more messed-up people I know, because she has a terrible time naming the harms without feeling like by doing so, she's somehow being a liar and a traitor to the family. The harms were either "just" emotional, or could be re-explained in reasonable terms. Her parents were the masters of plausible deniability! So she has no scars to point to now, to say, "Look, this is where someone hurt me." It's tough.
I think it's admirable that you've been able to begin articulating some of the confusing and damaging stuff from your upbringing. That's the first step. I wouldn't think of it in terms like, "I have to get over this," though. I think that's part of what the shame is about. There's no shame in having normal, human reactions to unkind things that others say. You're allowed to feel the human things you feel.
You sound smart and thoughtful and like you're not afraid to self-examine, and like you're beginning to turn that intelligent eye on your family, as well. Good! All the best to you as you find your path.
Maybe you need to redefine your adult view of things, with a great big step back from what is a really bizarre family situation.
Your mum's expectations that she can behave the way she does and have a constructive relationship with you is unrealistic. The idea that as a child, or an adult you won't ever make a mistakes, or do something in a way that she doesn't like is unrealistic. The idea that the only value in your work is how much you earn is unrealistic and short sighted. Your sister and dad aren't challenging this which is hurtful, but...fine, whatever.
What do you think is important, in a person? Be that. What would you value in a child? Them being happy, kind, thoughtful, doing a job they enjoyed or let them have a life outside of work that they enjoyed? This is how LOADS of people would evaluate a person. Perhaps take a step back and realise that you don't have to measure yourself by your mums expectations / or take criticism now in the context of her scathing responses to things that She doesn't like.
Outside of this family I doubt people would think that things you've done in the past would justify her response. She is massively out of kilter, but because it's so normal in your family (as you dad and sister don't correct or comment on it) you feel it's you, and it naturally it makes you feel very sensitive to criticism because in the past critism has been such an attack and a means of making you feel like a person unworthy of respect and care. Who won't now feel over sensitive!
Do you have close friends / partner that makes you feel more secure? Can you spend more time in more constructive relationships to help you remember that this isn't how people normally operate, and try and dilute the family stuff? It is them not you, you don't need to fear criticism. We all get it, and that's ok, not something you have to fear as it's really unlikely anyone will behave in this harsh and disrespectful way again, because you don't deserve it. You mum for example has made some very poor decisions as a parent, you dad has been less supportive than he should have been. Pretty big mistakes as parenting goes.
It's sad reading this that you are the one that feels ashamed for feeling damaged by this, your parents should feel so very ashamed. I would feel ashamed if I made my daughter feel like this. Moving forward perhaps keep the relationship at a distance that doesn't hurt, try a build some constructive relationships that make you feel good about yourself, and put what is one person's very difficult approach to you in context. It's really hard but you might have to accept that what is a really hurtful treatment from your parents might not change. What does your sister say about it?
You sound considerate, constructive, generous in your description of such a difficult relationship and very articulate. Don't let your view of yourself be filtered through the lens of your mum, I'm certain that there are many people that know you who think you are brilliant. I understand this is a relationship that's really important to how you see yourself, but maybe step away a little and start building a view basised on some more balanced, healthy relationships 💐💐💐
Depends how old you are. Tough childhoods aren't nice but there is a point at which you become an adult and stop blaming your past for all lives woes. Sounds hard I know but we can choose how much we let previous experience dominate our lives.
Yanbu. Your final paragraph before TL;DR has brought a lump to my throat. You have nothing to be ashamed of but I know exactly how you feel.
I had a "difficult relationship" with my mother; I baulk at writing that because it was not a two-way street. She was physically, verbally and emotionally abusive, and there are times even now when I feel that I cannot forgive her.
I am 20 years older than you and have had years of psychotherapy, CBT, etc. It is practically impossible to just "let go of worrying" in your situation. I had a long hard road to reclaim any sense of identity and self-worth and I can still find myself back in that place of fear, guilt and self-loathing when my mother is anything other than breezily happy.
I believe it was largely because I changed the way I responded to her that my relationship with her changed, though I do also give her credit as she has done a lot of work on herself.
Try to exercise self-awareness and refuse to fall into familiar habits in your interactions with her. Withdraw if you feel victimised. Don't pressure yourself to "get fixed" within an unrealistic timeframe. Forgive yourself for feeling so hurt and damaged because you are entirely justified in this. Don't blame yourself for your feelings or question their validity. They are valid and you did not deserve any of this.
All the best. Hugs for you
It takes along time to get there. I had the epiphany when I was about 27 that what my Mother thought about me was in no way connected with how ANYONE else saw me and was all to do with her. Classic being "I had to take you to WW when you were 6 you were enormous and people were judging me". You are totally separate from your mother.
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