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How to be a good mum when you didn't have one?

(29 Posts)
WhatAGoat Thu 29-Nov-12 05:14:27

I have been having serious trouble sleeping since my beautiful dd was born 3 months ago not because she doesn't sleep because I worry so much about damaging her like mother did to me.

During my parents divorce I decided to live with my father because I didn't want him to be alone. Both my siblings went with mother so it seemed the right thing to do.

After I made this decision she disowned me and refuse to speak to me. At 13 I was confused and angry.

We have had very little contact since then and the contact we have had has made me feel miserable and confused. Both my siblings have mental health issues which stem from living with mother. Luckily I dont have issues to the same level as them.

Mother did try contact during my pregnancy but it just raised my anxiety levels so I stopped seeing her. I also didn't understand why she didn't want contact with me until she found out about dd.

After my baby was born mother turned up uninvited to my home. I let her in to see dd but then polite said she shouldn't turn up unannounced. She raised her voice at me and told me I was selfish and she needed to see my dd. I was so shocked at her talking about what she needed when I had just had a baby ffs.

I obviously have abandonment issues and also have a very negative view on mothers in general as I don't really know any but my own.

I don't want to be anything like mother or for my dd to ever feel unloved like I did. This is resulting in me feeling guilty when leaving her even when she is asleep I don't like to leave the room. I do leave her with dp and df but I feel so terrible.

I know I am an amazing mother dd is chatty and smiley. Everyone says I am brilliant with her and I know she thinks I'm the best thing since sliced bread but I'm sure I thought that about mother at one stage.

Forgot to mention my grandmother disowned one of her children to so it seems like a pattern. I want to make sure I stop it in this generation but how?

Longtalljosie Thu 29-Nov-12 06:58:31

I wouldn't worry about disowning children running in the family - you have a choice there - you can just decide you won't ever disown your children!

You say your siblings have mental health issues as a result of living with your mother - well, that to me would imply you made a shrewd decision at the age of 13.

What sort of a parent was your father?

WhatAGoat Thu 29-Nov-12 08:54:18

You're right about that its simple when someone else says it.

My df tried his best but had 2 work away a lot in the earlier days which meant I was often alone. We still have an amazing relationship. Me and dp live with him.

If I really think about it I am very lucky I had one parent who cared I can choose to be like him

Longtalljosie Thu 29-Nov-12 09:09:18

Yes. And you'll have learned how to parent from him too, you know. Have you discussed this with him?

dreamingbohemian Thu 29-Nov-12 09:23:59

I think that's a good idea, focus on your dad. The fact that you are so determined to be a good mum means that it's very unlikely you will turn out to be like your own.

My mum is a nightmare and I understand where you're coming from.

I remember at 3 months it was indeed very fraught, you are still sort of molding yourself into the kind of mum you want to be. But with time it will probably get easier.

You need to find a way, when doubts and worries creep in, to sort of acknowledge them but dismiss them. Like tell yourself: Okay, it's fine for me to worry given my upbringing, but I am not my mum and I am not going to worry about this anymore right now. (Or shorten it to a mantra: I am not my mum, I am not my mum.) Over time it will keep the worries from popping up in the first place.

You should not at all feel guilty to leave your DD with others, especially family -- this is a normal thing to do. It's not the same as what your mum did.

I know it's hard, I sometimes end up on the opposite extreme of what my mum did -- but that's not necessarily good either. I keep reminding myself to shoot for the middle.

Has your mum ever been diagnosed with anything? Or your siblings? I've figured out more recently that my mum has some kind of BPD and it helps massively in that I understand more how it affects her thinking -- and reassures me that indeed I am not like her at all.

imaginethat Thu 29-Nov-12 09:26:14

Congratulations on your lovely baby and commiserations for your difficulties with your mother.

I was quite panic stricken when my first child was born because I wanted to be a good mum but had no idea how as my mother was abusive. The fear consumed me, pervading every aspect of my mothering; feeding, changing, holding...everything felt terrifying.

Some years on now I feel mostly confident and can see that my dc are thriving. What worked for me was counselling (for ages, years), minimising contact with my mother and watching nice people interact with their dc. I looked up things like value of one to one time, listening, boundaries etc... things that to many people are obvious but when you haven't experienced them you just don't know. i know of others who have taught themselves nursery rhymes and games as adults having never known them as children.

Also sticking with kind people and steering clear of critical, complaining people. In general, building a cocoon in which to raise my children.

I still have moments of feeling inadequate and unsure, but I think that is quite normal.

So try to believe that you can and will be different to your mum, you just might need some practical support along the way.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 29-Nov-12 09:50:42

"I want to make sure I stop it in this generation but how? "

Find a role model parents that you admire and emulate their approach. In my own family the maternal line has been, putting it mildly, unstable for several generations but there are some really lovely mums in the mix in spite of their heritage, not because of it. They've opted to take the best examples available rather than the worst. Doesn't mean they always get it right - no such thing as a perfect mother, is there? - but at least they know what to avoid.

Model your parenting on your Dad and I don't think you'd go too far wrong.

lynniep Thu 29-Nov-12 09:54:52

Congratulations on your new baby. You are right. You are an amazing mother, and the feelings will pass the longer you spend with your DD.

I had many wobbly moments when DS1 was born nearly 6 years ago now. Long story short - mother disappeared when I was 2, DF had to take me to live with my gran as he was in RAF and couldnt take care of me himself. She was great but not 'affectionate' so I grew up without that tactile thing I'm determined to have with my boys now.
D(?)M visited occasionally but with very long gaps, and then wasnt particularly great at taking care of me when I did stay with her (ignored me basically) DF awarded custody when I was about 5/6 (after initially losing his case - he appealled and won - pretty rare in the late 70's) DF married briefly again when I was about 6 but she was a beaatch and he figured that out quite soon. He married again to my lovely DStepM when I was 10. I didnt think she was lovely then. I do now.
My DM had no contact with me following a birthday present she sent when I was 10. I have seen here three times since (she lives in USA - me UK)
She was ENRAGED that I didnt invite her to my wedding. Booked a plane ticket to be at DS1s birth without checking that was ok with me ( I told her no, she rescheduled and came when he was 3 months instead) She stopped contact again when he turned 1. I have given up on her. Shes not a bad person but she can't be bothered with me or her (only) grandchildren.

I worried myself to distraction with DS1 - firstly I didnt bond with him and I wondered if that was hereditory and why she left (which is b**locks obviously - I had PND after traumatic birth) Later, when I started to 'feel' for him, I got upset because I just couldnt fathom how she could leave me/choose a bloke/different life over me.

Fast forward and it no longer bothers me. At all. I don't bother with her because I dont need her and I will never make the effort again. What she did in her life is completely irrelevant -she may have given birth to me but we are completely different - I inherited her physical features and nothing else.

What happened in the past with your gran is co-incedence and nothing more. You have already stopped any 'pattern' because of the fact you DO worry. You love your DD and you want what is best for her and that is all that is relevant.

My dad sadly died nearly three years ago but he was there for me my whole life and he was the only one that mattered. You are right - children love their mothers no matter what, but being a good mum is instinctive for you - if anything NOT being a good mum (as in your mother not being one) has taught you what you need to get it RIGHT.

So go with it. Try not to stress too much. If your mother is still causing you angst then cut her out. Dont let her bully you. Whats great is that you KNOW she was wrong to try and tell you that you are selfish. She has no right to your DD and you know this (and I dont mean legally) If she is trying to make amends then she's going about it the wrong way.

Basically you have all the tools to be a great mum and you don't need to have had one to use them. Sounds like you are doing brilliantly x

janelikesjam Thu 29-Nov-12 10:03:25

Yes, and I also believe the mothering instinct/nature can be a pretty strong help, especially if its given free reign it can be very supporitve (ignore negative or critical people or 'experts').

I hope you get to enjoy, relax and rest as much as you can during this special time :-)

dreamingbohemian Thu 29-Nov-12 10:08:11

I think imaginethat makes a great point about building a kind and positive cocoon -- that's a great way to stop things in this generation.

I do feel sympathy for my mum because I can see now that a lot of her problems stem from always being in a wide circle of family and friends who are all pretty dysfunctional and often really horrible people.

So I do consciously try not to repeat that aspect.

WhatAGoat Thu 29-Nov-12 10:29:53

Thank you all for replying and for your lovely words.

I have never discussed this with df because I don't want him to feel he wasn't enough or didn't do a good job plus he still holds a lot of resent towards her. She ruined his life in many ways.

None of them have been diagnosed but my eldest sibling has anger problems possibly personality disorder and my younger sibling has such high anxiety they cry at anything.

I don't know about mother but I know her and my grandmother have control issues, anger issues and had very difficult relationships with everyone in their lives.

There is no contact with either of them since turning up at my home. My younger sibling is forever pushing for me to change this but I don't want or need them in my life.

It's nice to discuss it. Feel a bit relieve that I'm not the only one who felt like this

BewitchedBotheredandBewildered Thu 29-Nov-12 10:31:42

Agree with what everyone else said, and just want to address a specific point in your OP.
Encouraging your baby to be content and happy with your DH and DF is a very positive thing and will be of huge benefit all to her. Don't feel guilty leaving her with them. And remember that all mothers feel inadequate sometimes, it's not just your history that does that.
It sounds like you're doing brilliantly.
And congratulations smile

calypso2008 Thu 29-Nov-12 10:42:55

OP you sound so lovely and you are doing a brilliant job. smile
I also get 'the fear' of being like my mother - I am going to do the mantra of 'I am not my mother' like dreaming suggested!

It does get easier - my DD is now 4 and I feel competant and like I am doing a good job grin You will too. Early days are worrying for everyone.

One step at a time...

Junebugjr Thu 29-Nov-12 10:50:44

You sound like you are doing brilliantly OP. the fact that you are worrying about it, demonstrates you are not like your own mum.

My abusive childhood has shaped my life, from the partner I chose - kind, to the job I have, involving DV and child protection. I remember feeling nervous when pregnant, especially of having a boy which I feared would be very triggering for me. I had no need to worry, my mothering instincts took over, and if anything I became less understanding of my parents, as I couldn't imagine putting my DC through what I had been through.

Just go with your instincts of nurturing your dd, and you will be fine.

QuickLookBusy Thu 29-Nov-12 10:55:29

WhatAGoat no of course you aren't the only one. You have had some fantastic advice on here and I think it's amazing that you are so self aware that you've identified your feelings so early on. That means these thoughts aren't just swimming around in amongst everything else, you can focus on thinking about the fact you are not your mum, and you ARE A GOOD mum.

I have a very simialar upbringing, except my mum left when I was 3. DSister stayed with our mum, and despite feeling very angry towards my mum, I know I had a lucky escape, as my sister has many more issues than me.

When I had dd1 I really didn't bond with her, I had no connection and almost felt she wasn't mine. But I felt the guilt thing you mentioned. I just couldn't leave her with anyone, I felt I didn't know how to be a mum, I was going to be rubbish at it.
I taked a lot to Dh, he was very supportive and made me realise I was not my mum, I was a different person. Think about how your mum behaved when she came to see you, would you ever talk to someone like that? No, you wouldn't. You are NOT your mum.
If you dont want her in your family, you have every right to protect your family. You really don't owe her anything. Concentrate on you and your own little family.

dreamingbohemian Thu 29-Nov-12 10:56:50

There are so many women who feel this way, I reckon!

It is really helpful to share with others. I don't know if anyone else has this but -- even though my mum is a nightmare, I feel so disloyal badmouthing her to anyone I know. So it's been really helpful to come across other women on MN with similar issues.

I think you are doing the right thing by not being in contact. That will help a lot.

You might also find your worries diminish as your DD becomes a bit more independent -- walking, talking a bit, feeding herself. It's sort of like physical evidence that you're doing a good job smile

ProcrastinatingPanda Thu 29-Nov-12 11:03:30

I picture the mother I wished would replace mine when I was a child and try and be like that, if that makes much sense? It's hard to fill a parenting role when you're only experience is of such a terrible person but the fact that you're trying to be a good parent already means you're 100x the mother yours was.

HotDAMNlifeisgood Thu 29-Nov-12 11:03:48

I would recommend that you sit and think, and consciously decide which behaviours your mother displayed towards you that you absolutely do not want to pass on to DD. Then think of alternative things you can do instead (if the answers do not seem obvious to you, you can read parenting books, attend parenting class, observe other parents ).

Chances are you will be unconsciously emulating a number of your mother's (and father's) parenting behaviours. So decide ahead of time which are the negative ones, and you will be able to stop yourself, and replace them with a pre-determined alternative.

You will probably find yourself unconsciously emulating other parenting behaviours of your mother's that weren't negative, and that's OK : it doesn't mean you are turning into your mother. It just means that you learned a lot from her, and perhaps not all of it was bad. You don't need to throw out the good along with the bad, iyswim.

Just decide ahead of time which were the things that hurt you and that you don't want to do, and find your own alternatives.

Congratulations on having a happy DD, and on your intention to be the best mother you can be.

ProcrastinatingPanda Thu 29-Nov-12 11:13:25

You should have a look at the stately homes thread in relationships, it's sadly full of people who had awful upbringings from toxic parents, but sharing experiences might be good for you. I had to go to counselling to discuss my fears too when I had DS. I think the fact that he was a boy helped a lot though as my mother didn't have any sons, just daughters, so it was new territory. I'm pregnant again though and am terrified of having a girl incase I repeat history, never experiencing a healthy mother/daughter relationship has left me not very confident in being able to have a healthy positive relationship if I had a daughter.

ellargh Thu 29-Nov-12 11:16:05

Focus on the good in your life. It must be awful living with the memories you have but you have a choice not to be the mother your mother was. You have the choice to be like the father you have and more.

I haven't read the entire thread so I apologise if you've answered this but have you ever been to counselling?

QuickLookBusy Thu 29-Nov-12 11:20:06

I think it isn't actually acknowledged(apart from MN of course) that having a bad role of a mum or indeed the mum being absent, has a huge affect on a woman. Society talks a lot about absent or "bad" fathers, but the same can not be said for mothers.

I think that's why it hits you like a brick when you have your own dc, you think you are alone, when in fact it is not a rare thing.

Chrysanthemum5 Thu 29-Nov-12 11:42:38

I agree with the others, that this is a larger issue than people think. I don't want to go in to the background, but I had a very abusive childhood, mum died when I was young. So, when I had the DCs I was quite overcome by the fear of not being a good parent. I made a conscious decision to note examples of what I felt was good parenting, and build up my own internal 'database' of ideas. For example, my ILs raised three very conifdent, happy children so I aksed DH what his childhood was like; I watched friends with their children; I read loads of stuff in books etc.

I am quite tough on myself, and if I end up shouting at the DCs, I will feel terrible that I'm a bad mum. But I remind myself that really I don't shout much, and the DCs know they are loved. Overall, I think I'm a pretty good parent now!

GladbagsGold Thu 29-Nov-12 11:51:03

I agree with using your dad as a role model for how you want to parent.

FWIW I think this is harder to deal with when you have a DD than a DS. My mother died when I was small. Like you I have a great dad. My first child is a boy, and it wasn't until I had my daughter a couple of years later that I had the sort of worries you do now.

We don't expect ourselves to know how to have a mother/son relationship until we are the mother. But having a girl child, and realising that this should be your second successful mother/daughter relationship can be very difficult. However, your mother's behaviour is completely not your fault and you are totally capable of being a great mum to your daughter. You already are! xx

JuliaScurr Thu 29-Nov-12 11:54:47

it is very hard for those of us whose mothers couldn't/wouldn't/didn't do it very well. But the mere fact that you are aware of the issues gives you a massive advantage. Agree with the others, you're doing fine smile

DharmaBumpkin Thu 29-Nov-12 12:56:40

Hi thought I'd give another perspective... My Mum was the one who had a shit childhood. Parents abusive alcoholics who finally split when she was a preteen then put all three kids in an orphanage because they didn't want to keep them. All the angry smilies in the world wouldn't be enough.

My Mum is a GREAT Mum. She is kind, understanding, caring and only occasionally slightly nutty and pretty normal considering!

She said when I asked her as an adult how she did it, that it was very much a conscious decision, and she used to watch other families and see how they treated their kids, and model the best parts of what they did.

I would never claim she's perfect, she understandably has security & attachment issues, but she was a brilliant Mum and we are a very close knit family even now.

So I think if you are aware of the negative influences in your upbringing and are conciously trying to alter them for the better, you'll do just fine smile

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