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Odd, but not combative, relationship with my mum. Anyone else?

(12 Posts)
GivingHeadsUp Tue 17-May-16 11:15:09

I have an odd relationship with my mum that I struggle to make sense of.

I'm an only child and my mum was (is) a single parent. When I was a teenager we were really very close and got on great.

My mum always pushed me to go far, do well and don't look back. I did. I moved out at 19. I got a good education. I traveled. I worked abroad. Through these experiences I've become a different person and very different from my mum. We have very little in common. We hardly share any of the same views about anything in the world.

With regards to 'big' questions my mum is very traditional in terms of family, quite racist, very homophobic and has absolutely no interest in or knowledge about politics. I'm a very outspoken feminist, my partner is mixed race, I don't have an issue with gay people, I have lots of gay and lesbian friends and I'm really interested in politics.

So, we have conversations where she talks at me for an hour about, what I perceived to be, completely mundane bullshit and some 'big' questions that I largely completely disagree with. I don't see the point in calling her out on some of the stuff she says and does because (a) she doesn't listen to a word I say, (b) she just brushes it off that I'm wrong because I'm only young- I'm 30 and (c) her sisters, who she speaks to daily, constantly reinforce her perspectives anyway.

We've never fallen out as such. There hasn't been a big argument. So, my mum is convinced that we're still the best of friends as we were when I was a teenager but I don't agree. From my perspective we're very distant. Perhaps it's because she uses me as a sounding board and I know everything about her life but, because I can never get a word in, she knows very little about me and isn't particularly interested.

Does anyone else have an odd but not necessarily combative relationship with their mum?

Felco Tue 17-May-16 11:42:26

Yes!! Me. Definitely.

Mine is different though - mum had me very young, parents split up 9 years later, but lived with my dad as it seemed my mum was just not up to it. I don't know if that's psychological. She tried for years to say that my dad prevented her from seeing us as much as she wanted to but this is patently bullshit.

We were very close when I was a teenager and she always encouraged me and in some ways was a very comforting presence (when I saw her) as life with my dad was quite lacking in a few important ways. (I can see now he was dog tired from being a single parent to two children, but anyway there was not a lot of nurturing around.)

Then as I grew up more and moved on/away in life I felt less and less inclined to give her the benefit of any doubt. She's racist and ignorant, petty, probably an alcoholic, doesn't look after her health, she makes appalling decisions in life, her politics are abhorrent (UKIP voter) and any conversation we have is just trying to make the best of the fact that we have to spend time together, whilst I'm trying not to accidentally insult her - and I'm sure it's not great from her point of view either.

The drama that she tries to wring out of situations is appalling. As an example, she had a session of verbally abusing my son (I fully stood up to her about this, and it was frankly the very end of me caring about them having any sort of relationship) and within minutes managed to turn it into a soap opera-style "Can you ever forgive me?" event with tears and clasped hands and promises to leave the house and never come back until I was ready to forgive her...bollocks to that, frankly. We now have an arm's length ho hum news chat every couple of months and see each other once a year if that.

It's a really strange feeling, isn't it? You have a mother, she gave birth to you, in my case I have a son I adore and a strong, happy marriage and I can't understand how she can have got to this point with her children (the other one is NC) and her life, or how we can be related.

I don't know about you but I feel it is such a waste somehow. Can't even really explain that!

GivingHeadsUp Tue 17-May-16 12:05:41

Thanks Felco

That does sound difficult.

You have a mother, she gave birth to you

This is what I find very challenging. She seems to be of the opinion that we should be close just because she's my mum but I don't see it that way. Conscious of sounding like a stroppy teenager but I didn't ask to be born!

If me and my mum met somehow, which we absolutely wouldn't because our worlds are so different, we'd never swap numbers or be friends. She'd say I'm boring and snooty. I'd say she's dumb and offensive.

The thing I find difficult is that she always encouraged me to be different from her, to have a better job, to have more money, to learn more about the world, to not get stuck somewhere. And I did. And that's why we're so different. So when she makes a remark about how I've got 'funny' ideas (like that fact I didn't get completely grossed out when I went to a lesbian wedding and the brides kissed when they were told to 'kiss the bride' hmm), I want to scream that her encouraging me to move away, travel, get educated and be someone different is what got me those 'funny' ideas.

Felco Tue 17-May-16 12:21:31

I really do sympathise. You move away, onwards and upwards, and then get flak for having done what you were encouraged to do.

I just let her get on with her life with no comment from me, and I get on with mine and invite no comment from her - it took quite a while to get to that point where there's no anger any more. I think age has a lot to do with it too. On one level, my mother and I have one of those very 'adult' relationships where we don't like each other very much but we stay civil and occasionally find some common ground. The alternative is a lot of drama and ill feeling, but it's not worth it (in my case).

I find with the people I've met who are homophobic or racist (again, family members...) that they've just been left behind in life in one way or another. Cooped up or isolated by geography or illness or their own tricky personalities. Does your mum get out and have a fulfilling life?

(Not that you are responsible for fixing her but it might be that some of her comments about your life are a symptom of her being 'lost' somehow.)

squishee Tue 17-May-16 12:50:11

If me and my mum met somehow, which we absolutely wouldn't because our worlds are so different, we'd never swap numbers or be friends. She'd say I'm boring and snooty. I'd say she's dumb and offensive.

This is perfectly normal isn't it? You're mother and daughter, from different generations. It's not your role to be best mates. I'd just tell her what you've said here, but calmly (no screaming).

Lemond1fficult Tue 17-May-16 13:40:21

You've described my relationship with my mum down to a tee - especially the 'getting a word in' bit.

Like you, she's encouraged me to do everything she hasn't had the chance to do, and in every way been a supportive and loving mum. But in so doing, our opinions, politics, experiences of the world are so different, one or other of us (usually me) has to suppress our true personality just to avoid fighting.

It doesn't help that she is extrovert, and is compelled to talk continuously, even if she's repeating herself, or raking up something morbid from the past. I'm introverted and like to sit quietly with people, so I find her very tiring. Another factor is my dad - they split a few years ago after a disastrous marriage, and I've yet to have any conversation with her that doesn't end in her taking the mick out of him or dredging up some injustice from 20 years ago. I know there's two sides to every story but he says nothing bad about her ever. It makes me shut down straight away because he's still my pa, and I just don't want to hear what a crap husband he was.

I know it's a massive disappointment to her that we're not truly close - I want to make her happy but she knows I find her difficult. I'm motivated mostly by duty and a strange kind of abstract, default love for her. It's one of the reasons I'll never have dc of my own - I'd hate to go through the joys and struggles of raising a child to have them feel so conflicted about me.

Sorry - turned into a lengthy post, but just wanted you to know you're not alone. wine

GivingHeadsUp Tue 17-May-16 15:55:41

Thanks for all sharing your personal experiences. It makes me feel loads better about it all.

Felco I would say not but she would say that she does. She's retired. She spends most of her time at home watching TV, pottering around, shopping, visiting her sisters etc. She enjoys all of this but I think there's more she could do but, again, I think that's different personality types. She's never been adventurous or out-going.

squishee I totally agree. I guess what I can't get my head around is that she'll often say things about us being close or will tell other people that we're close and I think 'Really?' My discomfort with this is two-fold. Firstly, I do worry that people will think I'm like her (traditional, racist, homophobic, stuck in quite a small world) if we're so close. Secondly, I don't think this narrative (that we're close) does justice to my identity, my politics, my experiences and my opinion. It's basically a representation of her perception that we are close.
The other thing is that her closest friend is actually only a couple of years older than me. So my mum thinks that if her and her friend can be friends then so can we. In fact, so should we because I am, after all, her daughter.

My dad died when I was about 12. My mum has very rose-tinted view of my childhood as a happy, wonderful period with two devoted and engaged parents in a house full of laughter and joy. I remember it very differently.
I think she does the same thing with our relationship that she does with her recollection of my childhood; she sets in her mind what she wants/wanted it to be like then tries to convince herself/me/everyone that this is the way it is/was.

Viewofhedges Tue 17-May-16 16:06:05

Totally. Mine is very different to me and I hand on heart couldn't tell you what interests her. I struggle with ideas for presents (what does she LIKE?) and also to spend more than an hour or so in her company because we have nothing but family to talk about (and that bores me rigid). She has never been unkind or unpleasant - we simply don't 'gel' like mothers and daughters are 'supposed' to. Also, I think she thinks I am exactly who I was when I was 16 which means her ideas about me are very fixed. So I can't talk to her about a lot of things because she simply doesn't equate certain aspects of life with me. I don't think we'll ever be close. I sometimes wish I did have a maternal, owl-like mother, but it's not to be!

springydaffs Tue 17-May-16 17:21:00

It's awkward isn't it.

Part of forging our own identify. There is very little I can talk to my mum about. I search for topics we can chatter away about. And yes I do that bcs she's my mum. We are two very different people. She did her job well in that she encouraged me in all the right ways so in that sense she is a good mum and perhaps I owe all I've achieved to her great parenting. She encouraged me to fly.

It is frustrating she can't/won't see who I am and perhaps in part I am grieving for the lost relationship.

springydaffs Tue 17-May-16 17:23:27

In a way it is a role reversal - we start doing the 'parenting', the biting our tongue at obvious mistakes, the encouraging even when things don't look very promising.

Despite all, I am grateful I have someone on the planet who obviously loves me.

GivingHeadsUp Thu 19-May-16 09:27:10

springydaffs Despite all, I am grateful I have someone on the planet who obviously loves me
That's a really lovely way to look at it, thank you. That's really made me smile smile

Felco Thu 19-May-16 12:05:10

I agree, that is a nice way to look at it.

I read somewhere yesterday on here a post telling someone off for feeling it was their right to have their mother understand them. It;s been playing on my mind. It's true in a way, isn't it? Nobody has any real right to expect a good relationship with a parent. It's clearly a very good thing when it happens. Maybe 'odd but not combative' is actually ok, given the many alternatives that are worse.

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