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We were never enough for DM. Why?

(10 Posts)
lateexpectations Sat 26-Mar-16 19:55:50

After a series of disappointments in adult life I've been exploring elements of my childhood with a counsellor. However, I don't feel like we're getting to the bottom of the impact of the relationship I have and had with DM.
DF was an emotionally abusive alcoholic so I put most of my issues down to him, but I've discovered that although DM appeared the better parent, there are issues which relate back to her parenting too.
As a child and even now, she takes more interest in other people's children than her own. I remember her jumping in for photographs with my cousins and spending hours playing with them at family functions whilst ignoring us as we sat in the background. She always seemed so much nicer to her friends children than she ever did to us too. Even at my brother's recent wedding she spent the evening with cousins from my DFs side of the family whilst I sat with my grand-parents very heavily pregnant for most of the evening. She then left to move 200 miles away the following day.

I remember one of her friends calling me a 'spoilt little bitch' as a 10 year old during a party and me telling DM in tears in the kitchen, her shrugging and then carrying on with the party.
20 years on I have my own DC and cannot comprehend treating her the way DM treated both me and my DB. She is always my priority I wouldn't dream of leaving her out to join in the merriment of family functions with other nieces and nephews as if she wasn't there.
Also, DM has taken the roll of stepmother with her DPs family over the last 3 years and again appears to spend a lot more time enjoying family days out with his children and GCs than she does her own.
Now and then, it will hit her and she will claim her unfaltering love for us and GC on Facebook (which I find cringeworthy), visit us and take us out for the day like any great gran would and then disappear into the background again, rejoining her DPs family.
I really don't understand why she behaves like this and know that feelings of inadequacy have been caused by thinking DB and I were never enough. DB feels even more strongly about it than I do and has an almost NC relationship with DM as a result. I can't understand why DM has treated us this way and continues to reappear as wonder gran before she then disappears again to play mum and gran to another family. Can anyone shed some light?

pippistrelle Sun 27-Mar-16 08:31:20

I don't know, OP. The reason is probably buried in your mother's own past and upbringing. I understand the urge to get answers but really, in many ways, the reason for her behaviour doesn't matter. Whatever the reasons, it doesn't sound like she's capable of sustaining a normal familial relationship, and I am really sorry that you had to -and are still having to - put up with this. And make no mistake, this blowing hot and cold from a parent is a form of emotional abuse. And whatever the reason for her behaviour, she is a grown-up and responsible for it.

I imagine that having your own children now makes it very clear how her parenting has fallen short. I have great sympathy for the low contact position your brother has adopted - it makes a lot of sense to me, but I understand that this is something that you have to find your own way to deal with. I hope, with help from your counsellor perhaps, you can somehow make your peace with this.

TalkingintheDark Sun 27-Mar-16 12:57:26

Sorry to hear, OP. It's true that ultimately understanding her is not the key to your own happiness but of course those questions are always there.

I agree that the reasons will be in her own childhood; something clearly went wrong and she sounds like someone who isn't very happy with herself - sounds like she's projecting a lot of inner stuff of her own onto you, and for that reason she can't show you and your DB the love you deserve from her. People who aren't her own children presumably don't trigger that self loathing or whatever it is, so she can be nicer to them - but it must be horrible for you to witness.

I think you need to start focusing more on protecting yourself and your DC from this behaviour. As pippistrelle says, this is a form of emotional abuse and it's clearly hurting you.

The main thing you need to know - as do all of us who've experienced anything like this do - is that it's not you, it's her. You could have been a Nobel prize winning scientist or a Hollywood A-lister and you wouldn't have been "enough" for her, because the void is within her so it's not something you can ever fill.

Do you feel you're not exploring this with your counsellor because you're skirting round it yourself or because your counsellor is resistant to hearing it? If the latter, then think seriously about changing your counsellor. Sometimes it can take a few goes to find the right person in that sense; all counsellors are not created equal, and you need someone who will recognise the impact this had and has on you.

GoldfishCrackers Sun 27-Mar-16 13:04:51

That's a tough realisation, OP. thanks

It seems to me she's all about appearances: Facebook, being lovely to others at public events, being involved with 'new'/less familiar people, but not really able to sustain it long-term or behind closed doors. God knows what she's actually like in private with her step-family.

Quite why she's incapable of normal, loving, sustained relationships is another question, but it's her issue.

GoldfishCrackers Sun 27-Mar-16 13:07:30

I just need to clarify the realisation I'm referring to is not that you're inadequate; it's that she's failed you.

Cabrinha Sun 27-Mar-16 13:33:45

I think part of it is a fairly simple explanation...
You don't get praise and attention for being a good mother to your own kids - because that's a fundamental - you should be.
But being a great auntie or stepmother? Far more visible and likely to get noticed and praised for that.

Parenting your own child is hard - it's not all fun stuff, it's boundaries, tantrums, discipline, mind numbing mundanity at times. A lot of people are no good at it. Few people want to admit they're a crap mother. By throwing herself into other families, she can keep up the myth to herself that she's a good parent long enough not to admit that she's really not.

My mother was a brown owl, helped out at swimming club, volunteered to read at school, was all over other people's kids... shit with her own. Her own mother died when she was 8 and she was one of 7 kids brought up by older sisters - I don't think she had a clue. She liked the attention but not the practise!

I'm sounding sympathetic towards your mum - I'm not, actually. I'm not towards mine, but I'm not bitter either. I tend to think - sometimes it goes wrong, being a parent is hard and you can't change your mind. I actually feel for previous generations of SAHM's who didn't naturally fit that. If my mum could have had the attention she craved by performing in a job, she would probably have been a better mother.

I find theorising quite helpful, but I know I'll never have an answer - and I don't much care anymore. I will choose my future, not her.

Bee182814 Sun 27-Mar-16 20:31:55

I don't have the answers but just wanted to say that my stepmother was exactly the same as this and to a child it is really quite bewildering. She would talk down to us/about us in front of people even to the point where she would 'make a joke' about having to beat us up (it wasn't a joke at all it was a reality) had no I retest in anything we said or did. DF who ran his own business had to step in as even though she was a sahm she couldn't get us to school on time (couldnt be bothered to get up) with the lunch and kit that we needed and we started to get letters home from school about it! I am now NC with her, have been for nearly 2 years and I've spent a lot of time reflecting on why she would do this and honestly am none the wiser. It must be as others have said rooted in her own childhood somewhere. I think you and your DC 's deserve better. Going NC was the best decision I ever made.

lateexpectations Sun 27-Mar-16 20:32:33

THanks for the insight everyone.
Cabrinha: what you have said makes a LOT of sense. My mum always likes to be seen to be doing good, although I find her actual intentions absent a lot of the time.
I think k that because I always labelled Dad as the outwardly disappointing patent, I always had DM in my min as the 'good one' but yes... I guess she has been emotionally abusive by blowing hot and cold all my life. Do you think it's possible to ever be able to have any form of relationship with her?

lateexpectations Sun 27-Mar-16 20:48:46

*disappointing parent
*in my mind as the good one

pippistrelle Sun 27-Mar-16 23:17:18

It is. But the form of that relationship very much depends on how prepared you are to accept her limitations and how able you are to adjust your hopes and expectations. For me, personally, I don't think I could accept it and would probably go down the limited contact route your brother has taken. But someone I'm close to has parents a lot like yours, and he has opted to forgive them (not that they've ever acknowledged how badly they treated him and his siblings) as he thinks that thanks to their own upbringings, they're not capable of behaving differently. I admire the compassion of his stance but, like I say, I don't think I could do it.

I suppose the key thing for you to consider is how to protect your own children from the lack of constancy your mother shows, as you know only too well of the negative impact it can have.

Good luck, whatever you decide.

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