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Adult daughter, dysfunction, function, teary morning.(12 Posts)
I'm 5 ish months pregnant with my first baby, so bear with any hormonal impacts, please. Not sure if this below will make sense, but I need to express this.
I'm what you'd call a high achieving 30 year old, settled in the UK after leaving my country of origin in Asia (let's call this country - X) about a decade ago, to pursue higher education. I'm married to a wonderful British man, have a lovely house and a beautiful little pup. Baby on the way. I'm on a progressive career path in the HE sector. Everything perfect.
Now my parents. They live back in X. They - individually very highly qualified in very satisfying careers - were two unwilling parties in an arranged marriage (the norm in X) and after 18 years of absolutely horrific scenes of severe marital dysfunction, they split up, in a country where divorce do separation are such abnormal and extraordinary events that they come attached to a sea load of stigma. You simply cannot imagine how unusual this is in X.
My entire childhood was spent (an only child) witnessing the best of times (when mum and dad were not speaking to each other) and the worst of times (when mum was howling, screaming, walking out of the house, and dad was angry, distant and unavailable). Between my ages of say 11-15 was the worst - Dad hardly there, always away on work, and mum absolutely, never, ever, ever emotionally attuned to the growing adolescent and frequently trying to or threatening to kill herself and me spending my adolescence trying to play the part of joker, fainter, winner of multiple achievement awards to somehow stitch things up. This didn't end when mum finally left - 15 years ago, when I was 15. She smashed her ornaments from her wedding in front of my eyes, into little bits, packed her stuff and took our dog with her. I refused to go with her, because I didn't want to leave my home, and requested that she leave the dog behind. She slapped me (something which happened multiple times over my child that she cannot remember) - and went. Dad was always busy so I moved in with my beloved grandmother (cannot speak of her sorry, she was my gem, she died the week before I completed my PhD). The next two years (I was 15-17) saw my mum making manic phonecalls to Dad in the middle of the night threatening to dance naked outside his office or slash her wrists, if he didn't immediately bring me to her. I pleaded with him not to, but he always took me, upon which she ranted raved, accused me of all sorts of things.
I finished the 17th year of my life winning 4 major awards, topping the end of school exams and getting selected into 7 leading universities in my country. I don't really know how. I had been warned not to speak of all this happening because of the stigma and in country X you don't speak of this. I did however confide in a couple of high school teachers, who were absolutely lovely.
Fast forward 15 years. I left the country 10 years ago. Mum and Dad are now long separated, single and Professors waiting to retire. They are happy, settled, chilled out, successful. Not a day has passed where I haven't had their support. Be it money when I needed it, gifts not loans, be it pride when I completed degree after degree abroad, be it warm welcomes home with tons of food every year. They have an extensive network each of colleagues, students, friends and siblings. They own their own properties, separately and have left everything they own - all savings, multiple properties, to me, their only heir.
They have also no memories and when informed, no acknowledgment of the horrifying impact my childhood and teenage left on me. My mother doesn't believe she hit me more than once. My father thinks I make a mountain out of a molehill. They do not speak to each other unless at a wedding (mine, for e.g.) or a funeral.
When Mum visited within three days we had a meltdown. Absolute meltdown. I confess, from where they stand they see me going into fits of rage with them, for very little. But I cannot stand her sometimes. Dad's visit this time was going spectacularly. Really really well. Yesterday we had a giant blow up at Zizzi, over a political difference, and I lost it at him. Since then, despite us both agreeing to put it behind us, and my many efforts to please him, he has been sulking, stony faced and I feel like I am 13 again, I can almost smell the air of our apartment in Country X, when I was hiding in my room trying to hear their arguments and decide if one of them would kill themselves.
I am not sure what I am looking for here. Obviously right now, with sulking dad and his one word answers after yesterday's blow up, I feel awful that a lovely visit, ending soon on Saturday was ruined. It as going so so well. I'd cooked so much, DH had taken leave to spend time with him.
I'm having a baby. I'm thankfully not having my deeply desired daughter, for I know now, that my reasons for wanting a daughter were all confused. But even so, I'm having a baby son, and there's all of this with my parents.
I don't know why I am writing. I am in tears now over yesterday's event and how it's ruined a great visit. My dad is also a repeat heart patient with multiple stress related heart surgeries and he has steel stents inside his heart valves and arteries. I don't feel very good. He is firmly a capitalist, and I am the reverse, so while I do avoid politics with him, yesterday when I lashed out, and said some pretty horrific things, I realise it wasn't simply market driven capitalism I lashed out against, somewhere the 15 year old came alive.
What am I going to do? What is this that is? They love me dearly. I do too. There's absolutely nothing they wouldn't do for me. I don't understand what's happening. Why I cannot spend time with them without wanting to burst.
I'm having a baby. Does my baby even deserve me? I really don't know what I am saying here.
Your childhood was horrific for want of a better term and I would also suggest you read and post on the "Well we took you to Stately Homes" thread on these Relationships pages.
You perhaps feel a mix of fear, obligation and guilt towards both parents here but both of them have and still fail you really. They have both not fundamentally changed and you still play that child like role around them as well. You still seek their approval, you really do not need their approval any more (not that they'd ever freely give it anyway). They will also not say a heartfelt sorry because neither of them are built that way.
Ultimately I think you will have to grieve for the relationship you should have had but through no fault of your own did not. That will be a long and difficult process.
Your parents utterly failed you and only stayed together out of societal convention. They destroyed themselves by doing that and you were caught in their fallout. It was not your fault this happened, you were but a child caught up in the maelstrom. Their marriage should have ended far sooner than it did.
They have given you all the material trappings associated with their success but absolutely nothing with regards to your emotional wellbeing and still do not. Like many such inadequate people they have both brushed all this under the carpet (which is very very lumpy) , have not apologised and have never also accepted any real responsibility for their actions. Their reactions therefore are not untypical. I think your dad certainly remembers all that went on but has chosen denial instead because its far easier for him for you to deal with his guilt. He got away from it by working all hours and leaving you with your grandmother. Your mother did not also seek or receive the necessary help either and their staying together for as long as they did harmed you immensely. You likely became a high achiever also to escape your rotten life at home.
I am only glad that there was one positive influence in your life in the shape of your late grandmother; she helped you immensely.
I would suggest you read "Toxic Parents" by Susan Forward as a starting point and seek out a good therapist to talk this through as well. Such people though are like shoes, you need to find someone who fits in with your approach so the first person you see may well not be the right one. BACP are good and do not charge the earth.
You will not behave in the same ways as your parents did to you when you parent your child; the cycle will stop with you. What your parents did was utterly wrong and they failed you. Your baby does deserve you, he truly does.
Thanks very much, will look that book up.
The issue is though, they genuinely support me in pretty much every way an ageing parent can for an adult child. They left no stone unturned for my wedding, they make themselves available halfway across the world whenever a need might arise, they don't, since about 2005 - ever say or do anything that I might list under offensive, intrusive, unkind, etc. They largely lead their lives and manage their own ailments and have till date not had even one expectation of me. Multiple illnesses, surgeries etc, I haven't even been anticipated to visit country X.
The issue however is with the pre 2005 period. From which they seem to have recovered fine, but I feel like a giant slice of the 30 year old me is still 15.
Aso have contacted a a BACP therapist. I don't drive and live very remote to skype sessions are the way to go. Let's see what happens with this one. I'd tried some previously also BACP but it didnt work, I never went back.
It sounds a bit hippy-dippy but basically what happened in your childhood made you create an inner self that is low in self esteem and harmed by what she experienced. Some people call it the inner child. It's how your brain wired itself to cope with the events in your childhood that were harmful and left you feeling unsafe.
What happens in a childhood like yours, where your mother is unstable and needs you to act the joker/carer and your father stonewalls, alongside the physical abuse being slapped, is that you create an inner self that tries to self-preserve at all costs. When someone attacks that core (with another ideaology or verbally) you will go into defensive mode instinctively. It can be very frightening and make you feel extremely vulnerable, causing all sorts of anxieties.
The only way to work through this is with a therapist. It will not make you a bad mother or daughter. Don't feel guilty. Your parents obv hold high regard for achievement and attainment, but were both unable to show you love in a physical/spiritual way. This is more important to the inner self than praise for achievements.
It is not always possible to confront parents about how they treated you, as they will have convinced themselves they did their best (which they did, but it wasn't good enough for a child's needs). It is better to seek professional help to work through the issue and then discuss with your counsellor whether or not you want to discuss it with your parents later on, once you understand what happened to your psyche and how this affects how you behave now.
The very fact that you recognise this issue and what has probably caused it is the first step in your recovery. But recovery will be a long process which you need to take slowly. You are going to have to learn how to rewire your core instincts, because now your parents are (mostly) out of your life, you no longer need the inner child to self-preserve and be on high alert as you are now safe. It's learning that you are now safe that is the key.
First, congratulations on your forthcoming DS. You're going to be a fantastic mother. You may not know what to do, but you certainly know what NOT to do.
You've been unlucky with your parents. Their material support has actually made things worse by guilt tripping you into "bad daughter" thoughts, which in your birth culture is a MUCH bigger deal than here. The word with 2 Zs, I take it?
All I can say is be yourself, the self you're rebuilding, don't repeat old mistakes and when your DPs go, don't tell yourself lies about them. This place is a very great help.
The inner child matter makes total sense, I've often considered that. Thanks very much for your responses, everyone.
And nah my country of origin has two I-s not any Z-s
The word I meant is used next door, as it were, for a great deal of misogynistic bollocks.
Please get therapy. You need this to sort out all of the problems that occurred during your childhood.
Often we think we are fine but the older we get the chances increase of that problem coming back to haunt us.
Having children is certainly a trigger for many people.
It is also possible you have inherited some of your parents behavioural traits hence you losing it at the restaurant.
It looks like your parents could not deal with family life and now that they don't have it they are testing to make up for their bad ways.
I'm sure they do remember but are too ashamed to admit their behaviour to you but instead wonder why you can't just accept the love and money the offer you.
Some of their actions may have been cultural and not familiar to posters on here.
Therapy would be great for you, I think.
Yeah culture is instrumental here. I have largely found western therapists who don't entirely understand what was happening. And the infrastructure within which I grew up etc...
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