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Breaking the chain of bad mother-daughter relationships

(16 Posts)
BosieDufflecoat Tue 01-Apr-14 23:26:45

If you have a crap relationship with your mother, how do you have a good one with your daughter?

I want to break a chain of several awful mother/daughter relationships in my family and I know others on here do too. I don't feel it's that easy, though.

I am NC with my mother after years and years of her EA, gaslighting, narcissism, stonewalling, mockery, threats, golden child/scapegoating, and just plain mentally-ill fucked-up nastiness, so it's the only option I can trust. I am sad that I do not have a good relationship with her. It's not the first, second or third time we've been NC – she's usually been the one to cut contact – but although it's hardly a new issue and I'm used to it, it makes me sad, deep inside.

I was such a happy, fun, smiling, eye-contact mother to DD when I was getting on with my own mother. I am just bloody sad all the time now. I never smile. It worries my daughter. She wants to see me smiling all the time.

I feel a lack of warmth from my heart, a wall around it, a fakeness in my voice. I am sad when I look at her because I am not the happy mother she wants and that I used to be.

Basically, I feel I don't have enough reserves of mother-daughter love to give.

My daughter is so lovely. She deserves better. My sadness isn't her fault or anything she can fix.

She is only 6 so there IS time to fix things and I want to but I don't know how. I am starting here.

I'm writing this because I read so many threads here in which people struggle with mothers who sound like me 30 years down the line. Mothers who they struggle to please. Mothers who they can't make happy. Mothers who say nice things that come across as insincere. I have to fix this. I don't want to end up the kind of miserable old mother that women write about on Mumsnet.

I don't know how to be a happy mother when I'm not a happy daughter.

What do I repeat to myself? What books should I read? I can't afford counselling otherwise I'd be knocking down their door.

Sorry this was long.

FolkGirl Wed 02-Apr-14 00:15:26

I just decided that my daughter was never going to feel the way I feel because of what her mother had said/done to her.

So I looked at what my mother did that was good and I do that.
I looked at what she does that was shit, and I do the opposite, and I hope I will continue to do so.

Mummyoftwobeautifulpoppets Wed 02-Apr-14 00:42:36

Didn't want to read and run. I'm in the midst of going NC with my mum so can appreciate.

You sound like a great mum, just one that's feeling a bit sad at the moment. Like folk girl, I take the good bits of my mums parenting style on board and forget the bad bits.

There is counselling available on the NHS if you go through your GP and simple things like writing your thoughts and emotions down help greatly. It's shit and its hard. But the future with your DD is bright thanks

MrsCakesPremonition Wed 02-Apr-14 00:47:58

I'm going to dig out another thread that I saw recently from poster who wanted improve her relationship With her young daughter.
The background is obviously different from your situation, but I found it very hopeful and positive.
She decided to seek counselling for herself and to spend time and cuddles with her DD in the meantime.

Here you are, I hope you find it useful.

wyrdyBird Wed 02-Apr-14 01:11:00

You sound depressed more than anything, OP. That sensation of a wall, a lack of warmth, and feeling sad.

So don't rule out a visit to the GP, to see what options there might be to help with that.

It's not possible for you to 'turn into' your mum, if she really has subjected you to the full gamut of EA, as you describe. You aren't that kind of person. You have too much humanity and self awareness. So try not to focus on that fear, because if you care for your daughter as you describe here, it simply won't happen.

I do understand that crushing sadness when a family relationship breaks down, though. Perhaps dealing with this sadness is the best first step. brew

BosieDufflecoat Wed 02-Apr-14 01:27:36

Wyrdy, I have days when I feel properly depressed, but they aren't every day. More like two out of every 28. The rest of the time I'm just preoccupied: I tend to internalise things. I know I've been a happy, good, parent before, and I can get back there again. I've started taking daily St John's Wort and iron to pick myself up a bit.

Thank you for the words 'It's not possible for you to 'turn into' your mum.' You have no idea - or maybe you do - how it warms my heart to read them.

MrsCakes, thank you so much for the link. I thought I probably wouldn't be the first to post on here about these worries: I will read the whole thread in the morning when I'm not falling over sideways from tiredness. Thank you.

Mummyoftwo, sorry to hear you've had to go NC as well. Not sorry you've taken the step, but sorry it was necessary. It does allow for clearer thinking and freedom to just live and be, but there are hard bits.

I will write things down. I started to cry writing my opening post but actually did feel better by the end: it stops these thoughts going around and around. I'll write an honest letter to my daughter and just keep or shred it. She's too young to understand and I don't want her to have to try to, but getting it all out on paper will help hugely, I know. I should have done it before now.

FolkGirl sorry you've had to write your own parenting manual, too. I've read of a few people doing the opposite to what their mothers did, but it still leaves me with blanks. What is the opposite of not speaking to someone for a fortnight when they're the only other person in the house? Obviously it's speaking to them, but saying ... what? What is the opposite of throwing someone out of the house? Sometimes my mother would keep me shut in the house, and that was even worse. That kind of thing. I wish I had positive examples to follow, not just negative ones to polarise.

I'm really, really grateful to all of you for reading and responding. I hope I can be helpful to you on MN one day. thanks

FolkGirl Wed 02-Apr-14 06:27:54

Bosie I realise this morning that my post last night probably wasn't very helpful!

My mother was very good at being reliable. I'm not! I'm afraid to say that my children do sometimes have to bring home and extra school trip letter because I haven't yet returned mine, and I do sometimes find myself ironing school uniform at 6am because I don't have a laundry routine... So I do try to follow her example in that respect because I know that I could always rely on her to get those practical things done.

I suppose what I meant about doing the opposite is... My mother smacked, I don't; my mother shouted, I talk (and more importantly, I listen!); when my children are concerned about something, I show them that I'm concerned, I don't mock them or sneer at them; I tell them that I love them and I hug them; I touch them; I don't punish them for things that have gone wrong in my life; I don't take any pleasure in their unhappines; I'm not jealous of them, they amaze me every single day and so I tell them I'm proud of them; I tell them that I love them, I tell/show them that my love in unconditional and isn't dependent on them doing/being/looking a certain way, but I also tell them what I like about them; I know that they will always have a home with me, and so do they.

I think counselling would really help you to deal with this. I've started counselling about 4 times over the years, but I was always too in the thick of it for it to be useful. I've now been going for 10 weeks and I can see such a difference in how I feel about myself, and how I see myself, you might find that useful.

I also agree with what wyrdy said. You can't turn into her, you care about your daughter for a start, you want to be different to the way she was. My mother was all the things you describe and eventually her self centredness and inability to consider the needs of others led to behaviour that raised a safeguarding alert regarding my children. I am also NC. I can't say it was an easy decision. I tried so hard over the years to be the daughter that she wanted, to try and make her love me. I even married someone because I thought that if she thought someone else loved me, then she might look for what it was they saw in me and love me too. Funnily enough, it didn't work!

But I refuse to let her ruin the rest of my life too. She isn't worth it. It's hard though...

MexicanSpringtime Wed 02-Apr-14 06:35:12

Sorry no concrete advice, just that some of the best mothers I know had horrible mothers themselves, so it is certainly not inevitable that you would reproduce your mother's behaviour and I think you have taken the first and most important step.

HoneyandRum Wed 02-Apr-14 09:00:42

Although I have not had the same experience OP I would just like to add another voice saying you are not your mother and you are not destined to have a bad relationship with your DD. My dad was very EA to me and my brother and ended up locking me out of the house at 16 - my mum had died a few years earlier. I have had struggles and times of depression but I have not repeated my dad's bahaviour. Although now my eldest dd is 13 (the age I lost my mum) I do find I am starting to feel I don't know how to connect with her as my dad was just ignoring me most of the time at that age.

I think it helps to really try and understand who you are and what you would need to achieve emotional balance. For me I have some very close friends who although don't have all the answers for me at least I can be honest with about how I feel and that helps, it's a big stress reliever in fact. Is there anyone in RL you can be honest with about your struggles? I find talking about them at least shrinks them down to a realistic size - while ruminating can make them seem that they dominate everything you do - when it fact that's not the case.

Just do small simple things each day, show affection to your DD ask her questions and listen to her, share activities, tell her the things you always wanted to hear when you were a child. If you make a mistake apologize. That alone shows you that you are not your mum.

BosieDufflecoat Wed 02-Apr-14 09:29:38

Honey, thank you. Your dad sounds like my mum: I was regularly locked out. I'm so sorry to you. 'I don't know how to connect with her as my dad was just ignoring me most of the time at that age' really strikes a chord with me.

I have DP in real life to talk to and that's it. DP is amazing at listening and understanding and helping, but it would be good to have someone else, just to spare him all of it. I have lovely friends but no one I can offload to. I'm the one that other people offload to: I've always been the friend I wished I could have.

I do at least do all the things you list. I am a very very good listener to DD. I encourage her in her hobbies and praise her, share activities, tell her she's the loveliest daughter anyone could have, every day. And I always, always apologise. My mother never has, and I make it a hard and fast rule of parenting for both DP and I that we apologise to the kids if we've wronged them. So important.

FolkGirl your reply was helpful, of course it was. Every reply is. I look at the way my daughter feels sometimes and I worry she is on a road to feeling like me. It's hard not to project, and it's hard not to fear the worst, whenever things aren't rosy.

And holy crap, is your mother my mother? I know she can't be, but wow. Thank you so much for writing that follow-up post. I'm so sorry you know what this is like.

I was actually given free counselling through work once. I started crying within seconds of sitting down. I realised how much I have to let go of: I don't feel I can subject anyone on this earth to it all. So I pretended the reason I was crying was something trivial and I didn't go back. So stupid. That job is long gone now and counsellors around here are £70 an hour. I'll start writing it out of my system.

Mexican, thank you: I hope it is a first step. I really want to be what no one in my family has been for generations, which is a good parent. I really do.

FolkGirl Wed 02-Apr-14 09:44:53

Ha Bosie sadly, I just think there are many, many more people than either of us, or anyone else on here, ever realised who are like our mothers and, more importantly, us.

I've broken the chain with my children, you can, and you will, break the cycle with yours. Because you want to. Because you want her to feel loved and wanted and special. And so she will.

You've had some good practical approaches/solutions/starting points on here. Good luck to you. x

HoneyandRum Wed 02-Apr-14 16:57:56

Bosie it's a fallacy that everyone offloads to us and we have no one to offload to. This is how I often use to think but over time I have realised this is wrong. In comes from two internal concepts (at least it did for me)

1) I am the strong one, I am stoic, I can handle anything, I am mature and wise in a sea of immaturity. This is really an unconscious coverup for the fact that adults in your family have not played their role and you have had to parent yourself. You therefore find you can easily be the strong parentified friend to others.

2) You don't offload not because there is noone else in the world that you could offload to, it is because you don't trust anyone with your innermost self. You have learnt that you can't trust the people you should naturally offload to - parents. If you can't trust them, rely on them, confide in them and instead they often expect you to look after them emotionally and even rescue them then how can you believe you'll ever have a reciprocal friendship?

Bottom line is you have to slowly learn to take intelligent risks. What if a friend does let you down and doesn't live up to your fantasy friend "that I wished I had"? (Is this truly a friend or really the friendship of your mother?) Will you really be destroyed? No. You can see this fear is all tied up with the realtionship with your mother - you are afraid of intimacy, probably especially with women in case they stick the knife in. In reality this is highly unlikely. Just like you are not your mother neither are your friends. If they do you won't collapse and die - you are not a dependent little girl any longer.

mummytime Wed 02-Apr-14 17:27:36

Go and see your GP and try to get referred to counselling. You really do need to talk this out and get help.

There was a thread on here at one point about from a Mum who felt she favoured her son over her DD. She worked on it, and was really turning that relationship around. From what I remember she made sure she gave the unfavoured child time, and did things with her they both enjoyed. By going through the motions it helped her really begin to build a bond.

Having children can really cause issues from the past to resurface. You really do need to deal with them.

The biggest difference to your mother is that you want to not be like her, and want to give your DD the love she deserves.

BosieDufflecoat Wed 02-Apr-14 23:24:39

Mummytime I will. I've drafted an email to a counsellor this evening.

Honey I understand what you're saying. I do trust my friends with my innermost self but on a practical level, they don't have time to hear about it. Their lives are already full of their own stresses, like marriages falling to bits or IVF failure or demented parents or just working all the hours there are. I'm in London, where people don't have enough time for each other anyway.

When I even think about seeing or contacting a counsellor I start to cry. I won't be able to speak without absolutely falling to pieces. I have a lot more to get out of my system than just this. I can't inflict it on anyone I know: they'd be terrified.

I will contact a counsellor tomorrow. I will have to stick it on the credit card. It takes three weeks to even see a GP where I live and they aren't very sympathetic.

Thank you all very very much. This is a start. thanks

mummytime Wed 02-Apr-14 23:34:14

Something someone else I know has done, is take something written incase they can't speak.

But for an initial session you need to see if they are someone you can work with and trust.

Dutch1e Sat 05-Apr-14 17:15:38

I am NC with my own mother for many of the same reasons.

I messed up my own daughter because of my conditioning. She is now grown and we are very close - there is hope. One thing she said to me that stuck in my chest "So often you pushed me away because you were afraid of being your mum. Why didn't you just tell me that? I was just a little girl who wanted to love her mother. I knew you were struggling - to hear it from you would have been a relief."

Tell her. Tell her you are afraid of doing all the wrong things. You might be surprised how well she takes it. All a little one needs to hear is "it's not your fault."

And another thing that sticks in my chest (for good reasons) is when she told me "Every time I walked in the room, you smiled at me. It's ok, mum, you made heaps of mistakes but I always felt loved."

I suppose it's the little things that bring us through it all.

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