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Please help me, feel like world's most awful parent

(40 Posts)
Feelhorriblyguilty Sun 14-Sep-08 22:49:01

I've name-changed for this as I feel so bad about what I'm typing.

I've been increasingly struggling with this issue and it's getting worse and I really need help. I'm a lone parent with a 7 yr old DD. Her father's never been around and has no contact with her at all. I've done all the parenting alone, albeit with help from my mother from time to time.

I feel so bad to even write this down, but I find myself getting so frustrated and upset that my DD is not as academically minded as I was at that age and that she's unlikely to be the brightest in her class. I'm an only child, my parents were in their late 40s when I was born, I was privately educated and very precocious from a young age - talking fluently very early on, reading by of the class throughout my school years, straight A grades in all exams, then Oxbridge and an MSc....My DD is so different - far more outgoing, friendly, laid back (I was/am neurotic), more artistic and into dance and drama. But she is not academic - she doesn't read books for pleasure and has to be cajoled to do her reading for school. We were recently reading Matilda together and when we came to the part about Miss Honey choosing books, and the horrible mother choosing looks, my DD piped up that she wanted to pursue the latter route in life sad. Throughout my life I've been driven by wanting to be the best and to be better academically than my peers. I love striving to get to the top and being rewarded once there. My DD has absolutely no interest in this whatsoever, and I feel increasingly frustrated with her when we come to do homework or in day to day activities such as shopping and working out the change due. I get horribly grumpy with her and cannot understand how she doesn't automatically 'know' the answer....she gets upset, I feel terrible, vow to be a nicer and more understanding mother, then the cycle repeats itself....

I feel that since DD is an only child I'm projecting onto her my aspirations. I sometimes feel that if I had other children who were more academic, I'd be far more relaxed about my DD. And I know and keep telling myself how lucky I am to have such a sweet, loving, pretty, healthy and sensitive child and I know I'm going down the path of screwing her up already. My parents had very high expectations of me and I can't find a way to stop having such expectations of my DD.

I know that I will be judged for this and I'm feeling so guilty to even admit to having such feelings. Does anyone have any words of advice or coping strategies?

BoysAreLikeDogs Sun 14-Sep-08 22:58:40

sad for you and for DD

Hoping that more experienced posters can help you.


Twinklemegan Sun 14-Sep-08 22:59:50

I think it's very good for you to have written all this down. My DS is only 2 and it is looking like he will be very bright. I was very similar to you up to the Oxbridge part. I turned down a place at Cambridge opting for music college instead, then changed my mind and ended up doing another degree entirely. But like you I have a tendency to be impatient if people/children don't "get" things immediately which I know I'll have to temper.

I can't really advise other than the obvious stuff about enjoying your DD as she is, that happiness is the most important thing, etc. etc. I think having written your feelings down you're a long way towards finding a solution for yourself. smile

pgwithnumber3 Sun 14-Sep-08 23:02:04

I think it is hard for you to see things from her perspective because you are obviously so different. As long as she is happy, does it really matter how well she does academically?

My father was pushed far too much by his parents, he is highly intelligent and the last thing he wanted was for his own children to feel that pressure. He ended up having a massive heart attack at 42 because he didn't know how not give 200%. sad

Let her enjoy her life as she chooses, you will eventually push her away from you in later life if you pressurise her to be somebody who she isn't.


Joolyjoolyjoo Sun 14-Sep-08 23:03:56

No real coping strategies, I'm afraid, but I can understand a bit. I, like you, was an only child and pretty academically minded. I loved to learn, and could read at 3. I soaked up information like a sponge too. DD1, on the other hand, is 4 and soo ditsy! She is a self-professed "girly girl" (I was/ am a tomboy, with a deep-seated hatred for Barbie and 4-yo's wearing mail polish!) and wants to be a fashion designer when she grows up! I find it difficult trying to do any kind of schoolwork with her, as she has such a short concentration span and doesn't seem to really want to learn. But I have had to accept that this is the way she is- for now, at least. She isn't me, or a clone of me, and she has different strengths and weaknesses. it is my job as a mum to find the best way to encourage her strengths and not accept her weaknesses. I tell her that yes, she is really good at art (I'm not!), and that she might well be a fashion designer, but that she could also be great at other things she hasn't yet tried. They are still young, and so just because she is this way now, doesn't mean she won't suddenly develop a passion for maths or physics later on. it doesn't mean I don't find it frustrating on a day to day basis though!!

I think the danger is that you do project your own expectations of yourself onto them, and then, worse, you come to accept that they don't match up- they might surprise us!

I think it's also important to remember that a child's achievements are THEIR achievements, and we really have very little right to be proud or disappointed. My mum used to say that she wasn't proud of me for being clever, any more than she would have been proud of for being born double-jointed- she was only proud of the things I had worked for. Don't know if that helps you, but that's how I try to look at it

Reginaphilangy Sun 14-Sep-08 23:05:32


You need to try and focus on her positives.
You need to accept her for who she is and not for who you want her to be.

You said yourself in your post that she is sweet, loving, sensitive etc - these are wonderful qualities and your dd sounds adorable! Please try to focus on these things or you will just continue to make you both unhappy.

You can be successful in life without setting the academic world alight you know. To be a lovely person (as your dd sounds) is a much bigger assett than having a high IQ. smile

Hope you work this out.

FanjolinaJolly Sun 14-Sep-08 23:11:53

I really don't know what to say apart from don't beat yourself up about things.I often feel guilty about how I deal with ds sometimes,we are very different personalities.I think that when you initially concieve you have these rose tinted specs about these mythical idealised child/ren you will have and what they will be like and enjoy and the reality is very different.Whilst pregnant with dd I had a fantasy of her running around chasing her brother chatting away to me and so on reality brings a severely delayed child who is only just mastering walking with a frame and cannot talk in clear words (but is learning to sign )

You are also as you state a lone parent and that is VERY hard (I have had a 6 month taster of what this is like as my OH was hospitalised for 6 months and I was a single parent for this period.)

I think that you should continue to focus on helping her with the academic stuff but not making it the be all and end all also allow her to pursue her interests in the dance/drama stuff and encourage her with these if this is where her interests and talents lie.

I am sure you are not "screwing her up"You sound like a very loving mother.None of us are perfect,and we all get grumpy at times.I have had a few clashes with headstrong ds today

mrswotzisnotin Sun 14-Sep-08 23:12:50

As a mother if 2 dds I can see ow different they are, nothing to do with nurture, it's their nature that makes them so different. For yourself, you must let your child be herself and encourage the good in her. She loves you, however you judge her, but she will have her spirit and confidence fading away the more you judge. You need to find some fun activity you can do together, she is a child and will like childlike nonsense that has no purpose other than to share it with you. Art, rollerbalding, swimming etc......Please don't feel frustrated.

thornrose Sun 14-Sep-08 23:15:21

I have no real advice but can empathise. I have a dd with Aspergers and "learning difficulties".
I was a bright child, not especially academic but picked things up quickly and was slightly above average. I made friends easily and was very sociable.
My dd struggles in both learning and social skills and I've found it very hard.
A dear friend of mine once listened to me moaning talking about my dd and she said "it's not your life - bloody accept that", I was taken aback and upset but later I thanked her profusely.
It's not your life, it's hers!

Tryharder Sun 14-Sep-08 23:26:09

I wonder how old you are Feelhorriblyguilty? I'm in my late 30s and we were really one of the first generation of female children who were expected to do more with our lives than be housewives which is what most of our mothers were and there was a lot of pressure on us to attain attain attain.... I was very academic at school, top of the class, got a good degree etc etc but I was always the class nerd - I would have loved to have been more like your daughter - good at art, dance and drama - much more exotic and exciting than reading and passing exams. And 30 years down the line, has being academic really got me anywhere? I've got an OK job but there's plenty of people doing my job who left school at 16.

We all want our children to be academic, to shine in all aspects, to be the best at everything. But being academic is not everything and let's face it, the dumbing down of university qualifications over the last 20 years has meant that everyone and his dog now has a degree - what does it really mean? I know a 20 year old who left school at 16 but has 2 businesses - one doing beauty treatments and the other offering kid's swimming lessons - she's making a mint and is really happy. I also know a 25 year old with a degree - he's currently working in a well known department store for minimum wage and despairing because he owes thousands in loans.

If I were you, I would concentrate on what your daughter is good at- the dancing, the art, the drama. I would celebrate the fact that she's a confident likeable little girl with tonnes of personality. Do you take her to dance or drama classes? Perhaps seeing your little girl shine in a non-academic environment might ease your disappointment in her academic ability.

But when all is said and done, she's still a little girl and what she enjoys doing now and is good at, may well not be what she's good at in 10 years time.

VersdeSociete Sun 14-Sep-08 23:27:04

Another thing to remember is that a child who is very like yourself can be hard too. I think in a strange way I find the two of mine who are probably less like me (academically driven, er neurotic) easier to be with than the more competitive, driven child. And I feel bad about that! So give yourself a bit of a break...

Tryharder Sun 14-Sep-08 23:33:22

Just reread my post - didnt mean to imply that degrees are totally meaningless nowadays - of course they are not! What I meant was that 30 years ago, if you had a degree you were really special because hardly anyone went to university and that "specialness" has now gone because so many people go onto higher education and having a degree is more commonplace.

Just didnt want to offend anyone who has a degree and worked hard for it! blush

Niecie Sun 14-Sep-08 23:39:25

I think we are all guilty of wanting certain things for our children. I want my boys to go to university, to me that doesn't need to be discussed, I just assume they will go because I did and I loved it. DH hated it and dropped out and says they don't have to go if they don't want to which I find a shocking thought!

I can understand the frustrations when they aren't good at things that you assume should come to them easily. I think we think that because they are our children they should be just like us and of course they aren't, they are their own people.

I agree that you need to focus on her positives and encourage her to do the things she is good at.

How do her teachers think she is getting on? Would it be useful to find out what they expect of your DD and help her to reach that standard rather than your own, maybe unrealistic standards?

WRT the reading she is still quite young and some children take a while to find something they enjoy reading. If you are like me (and I think you might be a little on this) you have a list of books that you hope your DD will read and enjoy as much as you.

DS's school believe that every child can enjoy reading if they can find something that interests them. Perhaps what we really need to be doing is to encourage our children to read what they want, fiction or non-fiction, worth pieces of literature or Hello magazine, whatever it takes. The important thing is an enjoyment of reading not what they read. Try giving her free rein to find something she loves rather than what she ought to read and see where it takes her.

BEAUTlFUL Sun 14-Sep-08 23:44:55

You're not the world's worst mother - that is me!

"Throughout my life I've been driven by wanting to be the best and to be better academically than my peers. I love striving to get to the top and being rewarded once there."

It's obvious why you'd be feeling like you do towards your daughter, as this drive was so strong in you -- and maybe now you feel your next academic "goal" is to raise a child who'll carry on your legacy, so to speak. But it sounds like you'll learn a lot from her if you take a step back (impossibly hard, I know!) and let her find her own route through life. All you can/should/will be drawn to do ultimately is make sure she is safe, secure and loved. With that as her bedrock, she can do anything.

Acinonyx Mon 15-Sep-08 09:28:47

I can understand where you are coming from. I was similar, but in my case, my parents had absolutely no interest in education and my monther was constantly negative about my interests. I was under constant pressure to 'get a life' i.e. get a steady job and get married. I've never got over the feeling that I was a terrible disappointment to my mother who had really looked forward to having a daughter she could bond with and enjoy shopping and home-making and stuff like that with. I've grown into some of that very late in life - but too late as she died some years ago. All my academic achievements were hollow without my parents enthusiam. They didn't come to my graduation and were, frankly, appalled at my doing further study.

This kind of background will be totally alien to my dd who has the mother and father of all middle class over-educated homes. But I absolutely do not want to project that feeling of being a square peg in a round hole. I get fantastically irritated by any comments about wanting her to go to Cambridge like her mother. She must live the life that is right for her. It will be ironic, if she turns her back on the things that were important to her parents after all we have gone through - but so be it. Of course I would love her to share my interests and have similar aspirations - but I have seen quite a few academics with teenage children who have had no academic interests so I know how possible that is.

But what I have that you don't have, is a profound understanding of what it feels like to be the child that doesn't (and can't) live up to expectations - the feeling that you are being raised by a different species. The desire not to repeat that blocks out all others.

iheartdusty Mon 15-Sep-08 09:45:05

Firstly, I would like to say that you have posted a really insightful, thoughtful post about something which is obviously very difficult, and your love for your DD comes through very strongly. It is immensely hard to change a pattern which has been 'baked' into us in our own upbringing, but I feel sure you will find a way.

I found that my DD picked things up more quickly when she saw the advantage to herself. So as her wish for independence grew, so did her wish to master things like money, shopping and change. Does your DD have her own pocket money? Do you allow her to take the lead - for example, she can choose what shop you take her to to spend it?, and then she may have a completely free hand in choosing? all this did wonders for my DD's arithmetic and understanding of money.

"Try giving her free rein to find something she loves rather than what she ought to read and see where it takes her" from Niecie above

this sounds like fantastically good advice about reading. Maybe she would prefer comic strip style? Or a diary style? In any event, it seems that reading for pleasure comes at a variety of ages - at age 7 years she still has plenty of time to develop the habit.

cocolepew Mon 15-Sep-08 09:54:16

You are very aware of your attitude to your DD which is good, but please, being 'bright' or clever is not the end all. My DD is bright but last year was horribly bullied, she was so unhappy it was terrible for all the family. If it was a choice between happy or bright, I'd pick happy any day. BTW she wasn't bullied for being academic, the girls doing it were in the same set as her.
My second DD isn't as bothered by school work and is a much more relaxed child.

Clockface Mon 15-Sep-08 09:59:43

Horriblyguilty - I have to wrestle with this as well. I was always writing stories (and I mean always!) as a child and as a teenger became very competitive and driven academically. I still have that in me now and am a complete perfectionist in the study that I am doing atm.

It doesn't make you a bad mum though. My mum was a semi-pro tennis player before she had us and she always said that she wanted one of us to win Wimbledon! grin Unfortunatly for her we were all rubbish at tennis and I was usually found in the corner of the court writing a quick story. grin So no Wimbledon champs in our family.

All familis have things they value, all families have ambitions, whether spoken or unspoken. The trick (if there is such a thing) is to recognise your biases and "play to your strengths". I am fortunate in that my dh is v. different to me and he is much more sporty (although still not a Wimbledon champ) and practical, so the dc see two role models - one academic and booky and one fixing things.

If your dd can mix with as many different types of adults as poss that will help her to find out who she is. It will take the pressure off you to be everything to her as well. Can you find a network of friends / extended family who can just be around for her? One of my dd's best role models outside the family so far has been her football coach.

About looks over books...dd decided over the summer hold that she wants to become a headteacher. Not just a teacher but a headteacher. When I asked her why she said she wants to earn lots of money and spend it on make up sets....!

purpleduck Mon 15-Sep-08 10:16:17

OK, you are bright in one way -academically.

Everyone, EVERYONE has strengths, which in my mind are forms of intelligence -Your dd is creative THAT is how her brain is wired - that is intelligence too. The world would be be a seriously boring place without art drama, dance etc.

You have said that you are neurotic, which probably comes with the territory of being a high academic achiever.
Do you REALLY want that for your dd? hmm

You say you are very bright, so put that to the test, and try and make your dds homework interesting FOR HER, to help her get through.

The thing that makes parenting hard is that it makes us look very hard at ourselves, and sometimes we need to pull up our socks.Its hard.

Sorry if I sound harsh -I just feel very strongly about this. Each person has their strength, and the world NEEDS that diversity.- I applaud you for trying to sort it out

Good Luck

MadBadandDangerousToKnow Mon 15-Sep-08 10:30:13

I also recognise a lot of what you say, FHG.

Everyone in my family is academically very able - although not all of them have had the opportunities which I was lucky enough to have. I was very driven as a teenager and thought that any exam result lower than an A was tantamount to failure. I was/am quite neurotic.

I have only one child and I probably do take it for granted that she'll follow the same route as me. I don't think I'm projecting my ambitions onto her - it's more a case of assuming that her life will be like mine. But as she gets older (she's 6) I can see that other options might be open to her that weren't to me; although she is very strong academically, she also has aptitude for dance and music which I never did.

It seems to me that because you are aware that this may be an issue for you, you're well on the way to overcoming it. You've already mentioned that you need to relax and you've identified your daughter's strengths. More may emerge as she gets older; you say that she is not academically-minded, but that doesn't mean that the latent ability isn't there. And even if it isn't, she can still lead a happy and fulfilled life using the many other talents she possesses.

You sound like a good, committed, self-aware mother. Please don't beat yourself up.

Countingthegreyhairs Mon 15-Sep-08 10:35:19

You're highly intelligent Feelhorriblyguilty... you are aware of the problem .... so you ARE dealing with it by being aware of it (if that makes sense)

We're all screwing up our children in one way or another ... as a parent ... it's a given grin

It's taken me a while to get my head around the fact that Him Upstairs has blessed me with a child who is different to me in many ways, so I know where you are coming from! (I'm fairly introverted/bookish and hopeless at sport. My 5 yr old dd on the other hand is outgoing, socially very confident, very coordinated, and loves dance, sport and music.)

It's not always easy but the way I'm trying to tackle it is by trying to think of it in a different way; ie instead of it being a "problem" I'm trying to focus on the benefits it can bring to both of us.

She's challenging many of my rather rigid and pre-conceived ideas that I have about life and in turn I've had to look at myself a lot harder (this is one of the greatest gifts dc give us I think - without sounding too saccharine). She is leading me down lots of different routes that I wouldn't normally be treading. (I've started exercising for example!!)

Also, it's good for her that I have different skills. My dd may come to appreciate books and reading later in life and if I was sporty and the same as her she wouldn't have that extra string to her bow.
(Eg, my parents loved gardening but I showed NO interest in it as a child! Thirty years on I am as green-fingered as they come!! Things rub off!!)

A person much wiser than me once told me that as long as you follow the three main rules of child-rearing you can't go too far wrong:

Rule No. 1

Love your child = most important of all
Show your child love
Love them for who they are as an individual

Rule No. 2

Stimulate your child
Stimulate your child to develop in the way that it wants to develop

Rule No. 3

You are the parent
Be clear (and feel comfortable) about the boundaries/limits within which you allow your child to develop

I think you need to take a step back perhaps and just try and think of the long term view. She's only 7! She has all the time in the world to develop other interests and some of your academic prowess may well rub off on to her. Think how great it will be if she is sporty AND has a good academic grounding.

If you don't mind me being frank, I think you may have hit the nail on the head when you raise the issue of her being an only child. I think this may be more of an issue than her current lack of interest in books/academia. I know myself - it's not always good for dc to have the bright white heat of a concerned, mother (however loving) focusing solely on them.

So BE a bit more selfish. Concentrate on your own interests a bit. Take some time for YOURSELF!! Be a bit more "neglectful" of her (iykwim).

On the patience issue - I sympathise - I have turned out to be a loss less patient than I thought I was. I'm still struggling with this one but my overall advice would be :

Relax! Step back! Follow her! She will lead you in the direction she needs to go.

She sounds terrific! AND you are doing great! You really are!

cory Mon 15-Sep-08 10:40:05

Lots of good sensible posts here.

Basically, I think you need to work on ways in which you can enjoy dd's strengths and turn them into a treat for yourself, rather than yearning for something else.

Does she go to dance or drama classes? Will she be in a show? (great fun watching your lo on stage, particularly if you're clumpy and academic like me).

Can she teach you to paint perhaps? My Dad took his youngest (clever with his hands but not very bookish) to a course in silversmithery when he was a little older- it was a great success.

I can understand your feeling of hmm if your dd's interests seem to verge towards looks and clothes and other things which may be at odds with your values, but my own experience has taught me that that sort of instinct also has some very positive sides to it.

Also, I think you should take a
long hard look at yourself. Are you satisfied with what you have achieved? For yourself? Is there anything more that you would like to do in life? If so- why not do it, for yourself, rather than wait for your dd? Write that book, do that piece of research, whatever. You are still young, it's not too late!

I shall now go off and take my own advice! blush

Bridie3 Mon 15-Sep-08 10:45:10

The best thing you can do is acknowledge you've had these thoughts (which you've already done) and relax. She's very young.

Fast forward twenty years. You want her to be doing something she really loves, don't you? Something she finds rewarding and fulfilling. Because that's what education's really for--setting us up for a rewarding life.

But don't feel bad about caring about her education--you're the person best placed to do this, but let her show you where her strengths are, as others have advised.

The people who point out that 'She' is not 'you' are exactly right.

Acinonyx Mon 15-Sep-08 10:49:58

Secret confession: I'm disappointed that dd is not musical. I didn't realise how much I wanted to share that with her until now - and boy does she take after her father in that regard. Oh well....

TotalChaos Mon 15-Sep-08 10:51:43

My first thoughts on OP were exactly the same as Cory's last point - do you have unfinished business in your own life, feel you should have achieve more, and are projecting this into your desire for your DD to be more academic.

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