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When your parents presence makes you feel horrendous - how did I get to this point?(44 Posts)
My reaction to my parents is making me feel scared and so alone.
I will give a bit of background as it might help. I had an ok childhood (little sister was seen as the favourite as she had certain talents I didn't have, parents have apologised about their treatment towards me... I was pushed out a lot and left on my own when my parents devoted time to my sister's particular talent. They didn't apologise voluntarily, I mentioned it to them and then they gave some form of apology). There's other things that went on, that shock me to think back on, but I did feel loved by them even if I didn't always feel secure.
Anyway, I've always been described as difficult. The difficult one. Hard to bring up. Tricky. All these things. I'm 30 now and have settled into a good career, and have been on speaking terms with all my family (best relationship of the lot is with my sister, though we are not hugely close).
Over the last few years I began to question my parents treatment towards me. Not just as a child but as an adult. Examples - they will only meet for lunch if I drive to see them, or 80 percent of they journey. They never meet halfway. When I moved to a new city, to a new flat with 300(!!) stairs and no lift, they said they couldn't help me move that day because they had friends over for lunch (I couldn't alter the day as I was in a tenancy, and so I told them not to worry). The most recent thing was organising a holiday with my sister and her husband and not telling me until the last minute... When they asked if I could go obviously I had to say no, I couldn't get the afternoon off to drive down on the same day!!!! They didn't seem to see that it was hurtful they had arranged a holiday without me, and said they'd done it because they thought I wouldn't have wanted to go...
Anyway, most recent occasion two weeks ago was similar. They invited me to join them over bank holiday in their holiday home. It was 500 miles a away so they said we would all go in one car. 2 days before we leave they tell me they can no longer have me in the car as they are taking extra things to their house to finish furnishing it. This was the last straw for me. I had booked time off work, and didn't have much money so they knew the petrol for a 1000 mile round trip would be too expensive. I didn't argue with them, I just text and said I couldn't go and then blocked their numbers. I couldn't deal with any more emotional mind fucks. They eventually called on a withheld number a week later and I answered. Mum said she had been texting all week (which is what I knew they would do and make me feel guilty and so on).
Anuway... To get to the point. It's my sisters birthday on Saturday and I know they will want to organise things. But the week I blocked their numbers I was SO happy (it makes me feel sad to type that but it's true). I was very calm and I didn't even miss them... They make me feel incredibly anxious when I speak to either of them. It always feels like they are against me. I don't know what to do... Cutting them off seems drastic when they haven't done anything too bad but then I have felt so good without hearing from them.
While I'm asking for advice... Do any parents automatically not have their kids back? By that I mean would they be automatically dismissive of their child's story of a teacher being mean to them, for instance? And automatically assume it was the kids problem not the teachers? I ask because I notice my friends with kids always listen seriously to their kids but mine never seemed to... It was as if they were always suspicious of me! When I genuinely was a quiet and shy child.
Rant over. Feel so down tonight.
Urgh I don't have much to do with my parents anymore, I just couldn't handle how they made me feel. Not sure if that helps or not but they have never been there for me so needed to walk away for my own sanity.
Some people are arses. Some of them have children. They are still arses, childbirth doesn't cure you of being an arse.
If you are happy after cutting them off, then that tells you everything you need to know for now.
Maybe use the breathing space to start a bit of counselling, ideally with a therapist who has experience of dysfunctional families, especially golden child / scapegoat scenarios.
My DM rarely has my back. She's far too interested in maintaining a facade. If reality messes with that, she denies reality. Some people are just selfish arses.
It sounds awful but, I have been nc with DM for 12 years and do not regret it. My DM is incredibly difficult and I can really sympathise with you OP. It used to take me a good week to recover after any communication with her. It was too draining. Go with your gut feelings...
Thanks posters. I can't sleep tonight. Thinking about it all.
Any contact with my parents usually makes me feel shit in some way. The of them keeping up a pretence is very true I think... It was always about how something looked rather than how it felt.
Any contact with them is filled with emotional turmoil and if you read the messages or heard what they said, you'd think they were lovely to start with. It's confusing.
Runrabbit is right Some parents will indeed put the very real needs of their child far below the impression that they are making on a complete stranger. It's often to do with them thinking of their children as extensions of themselves rather than real people.
What is it about your sisters birthday that is bothering you? Or is it just generalised dread?
Well done for blocking them, that week has probably been an important turning point for you. Agree with pp, take more time off from them and work on it with a counsellor. They will help explain pattens of behaviour. From what you have said, you only say they have not done anything too serious because they have committed thousands of small painful acts instead, which must have been really hurtful for you then and now.
Really admire you for blocking them. Put yourself first.
What RunRabbit wrote earlier.
It is not your fault your parents are like this, you did not make them this way. Their own families of origin did that lot of damage to them, toxic stuff can and does go down the generations.
I think you were not a so called "difficult" child either; a charge often levelled at adult children of toxic parents. It was they who made their own lives difficult for them through their own bad choices but they took it all out on you. They never did listen to you as a child either. You became the scapegoat for their inherent ills. You are likely nowadays also mired in FOG as well (fear, obligation, guilt)
People from dysfunctional families end up playing roles; yours is likely the scapegoat one here whilst your sister (the golden child) was and is more favoured. You've had a lifetime of being exploited and the fact that you do not miss them after blocking them speaks volumes.
I would read "Toxic Parents" written by Susan Forward and find a good therapist, preferably one highly skilled in the workings of toxic and narcissistic family structures.
The thing is they do very kind things as well. They are generous and thoughtful. It's pretty much practical things where they seem to have zero consideration for me. It's difficult to explain, but the main thing is that for whatever reason, I feel anxious and sad around them.
If they knew this, I'd be called a drama queen, a brat and so on. Then I feel guilty and I end up not knowing what to think!
I think things were very different when you were at school. Children were expected to be much more resilient, teachers knew best, respect adults....etcetc.
But when I moved out of home, mum gave me all her old pots and pans, helped me look for something suitable, repainted the shitty old kitchen, and helped me pack and unpack. She wasn't particularly emotional or super loving, but she always always had my back. She was always on my side.
When I moved to a new city she'd visit me. When I moved to the other side of the world, she'd visit me. When I had my babies she'd clean my house and fill my freezer. I don't think any of these things are particularly exceptional. It's what I'd do for my kids in a heartbeat.
Not all abusive people are nasty all the time; if they were no-one would want to be with them at all. The problem here is that the nice/nasty cycle is a continuous one.
I would also think that their past generosity and thoughtfulness has happened because it benefits them more (oh aren't we good parents) rather than you. Its all been conditional and very much loaded with obligation.
You feel anxious and sad around them because over the years they have contrived to make you both anxious and sad. All very typical of how adult children feel at the hands of toxic parents.
You blocked your mother recently yet she still tried to contact you via text on another number afterwards. Did she actually ask what the problem was, she probably did not.
The charges they could well level against you are typical of those thrown at their now adult offspring by such disordered of thinking parents too.
Think about the roles your parents play here; which parent really is the instigator here and which one enables that behaviour?. I would think your mother is the main driving force and your dad goes along with it out of self preservation and want of a quiet life.
Did you post about them before, when you were staying with them whilst waiting for your new place to be ready?
Their behaviour to you isn't that of normal parents, no. Carry on trying to have no contact. It doesn't do you any good having them around. Don't be pressured about your sister's birthday. You can do something for it independently. Or not. It doesn't matter.
Make yourself your number one priority. You are not the problem, they are. Even if you were "difficult", difficult children are loved and made a priority by their parents. This is their issue. They're just not good or nice people by the sounds of it.
"It's difficult to explain, but the main thing is that for whatever reason, I feel anxious and sad around them."
"If they knew this, I'd be called a drama queen, a brat and so on. Then I feel guilty and I end up not knowing what to think!"
See, that's the problem, right there. Most halfway decent parents would be mortified if their presence was making their adult child anxious and sad, and would be doing some serious soul-searching to work out what had gone wrong and how they could change things. Calling a child a 'brat' and a 'drama queen' for having feelings is a horrible thing to do, and shows very clearly that the problem is them, not you.
I'm really interested in one comment that's been made that 'I bet your parents didn't ask what the problem was.' They didn't... When I answered on the withheld number, my mum was laughing and chatty and seemed to want to give the impression there wasn't a problem at all. For the first time I ever, i didn't even say I was upset. I had a brief chat with her and gave very little information and then we said goodbye. I find this particularly hurtful. If I had said something, it would have turned into an argument as she would say things like 'oh itsnitmycoat you're so draining, can't we just have a chat.' Or 'itsnitmycoat I'm very tired I've had a long day I don't want to spend my time being lectured to.' Which is ironic because I don't lecture... Any time it's been mentioned I actually ask if we can discuss it because I feel upset. I've said in the past that it feels like a fake relationship because I feel angry and hurt and as if she doesn't care, so ignoring that and trying to have nice chats is even more upsetting.
There's always a little voice inside saying that I'm being a drama queen, and maybe I am. I can get into a lively debate down the pub!! But I don't seek out conflict with my parents and would love a relay ago with them where I felt respected. Perhaps I'm too emotional about it.
I really appreciate all the comments, it's helping me think all this through. And yes I've posted before about them, twice I think.
What counsel did you receive last time, was it similar to what you are reading today?.
I did not think your mother asked you what the problem was. She indeed carried on like nothing had happened.
No you are not a drama queen and no you are not being too emotional about this. Not a bit of it.
I think you could be at the start of a realisation that your childhood was not good or ideal at all. They are still very much dismissive of your own feelings and they make it all about them instead. Your opinion does not really matter to them.
Do read the book I recommended and consider finding a therapist you can work with as well. Such people are however, likes shoes. You need to find someone that fits.
My parents are almost identical to yours OP. It hurts. So badly. I hear you. I spent years in therapy because of how they made me feel about myself. My relationship with them now is like an extended version of the phone call you described with your mother - minimal information, wary, guarded, keep it short. It will never be enough but I have to protect myself.
Not all parents have their children's back - it's a myth that parents will do anything for their children. some do, but some can't see past themselves and their own needs. It does absolutely huge damage to the child's sense of self. You describe having a little voice in your head that wonders whether you really are too dramatic and unreasonable - that's part of the legacy of your parents' treatment of you.
It IS a fake relationship. It's based on them acting in a abusive way and you swallowing all your hurt and sad feeling and acting out your given role .
Please do what everyone has said - take a break from them - try 6 month to start -and get some counselling .
You don't need to tell them that you don't want to see them ( if that's too hard ). Just start making excuses for each time they ask you. You know exactly how do to this - just copy what they woudl do if you asked for their help .
That's my day at the hairdressers
I'm looking after my neighbours cat
It's my friends second counsins flat mates mothers funeral
As well as more normal ones eg
I've got a tummy bug/ migraine,
I Cant get the time off work
a colleague is sick and I have to cover for them
my central heating is out of order and I need to wait in for the engineer
Stop answering texts - say you are having trouble with your phone and it's best to email you. Then don't check your emails .
OP its quite normal for people to realise their parents are dysfunctional in their late 20s or early 30s. With my family the excuse that I was just a difficult teenager ran out in my late 20s. I snapped aged 28 after my wedding, surrounding which my mother's vile behaviour reached fever pitch.
You also mentioned your friends have recently started having children and that that had been a wake up call. I have also found seeing my friends just get on with having children and parenting without exhibiting hysterical martyrish behaviour a painful but welcome reality check.
It made me realise that her behaviour wasn't due to motherhood being difficult. It was because she is a bit of a dick!
Your post really called out to me as I have been having psychoanalytic therapy for a year and had the 'best' trip to see them last weekend. And it was still shit.
And I'm very sad about the fact that that is as good as it is going to get.
I'm low contact and very grateful for my therapy group and MN as the people with normal families are surprisingly judgemental and unsympathetic.
It's so helpful to read all these posts, thank you so much.
I want to agree and say they just didn't parent well, but then it's like I'm blaming it all on them, and I can be quite an intense person.
When they behave like they do, it makes me think back to when I was a child and I become resentful. One thing that made me question all this was that a colleague has a 14 year old who has always had a parent in the house (or 90 percent of the time anyway!), when it's been the summer holidays. When I was 14, my parents used to take my sister to dancing shows and leave me in the house alone for up to 9 days at a time. Maybe this colleague is too much the other way... But it just shocks me that they did this when I look back. When it comes up now they say that I was difficult and refused to go. I know I didn't want to go and made a fuss, but I was 14 ffs.
The thing is that whatever sort of family you grow up in, its 'normal' to you because it's all you've ever known. Even if you know deep down that things aren't right, it's very hard to challenge it because they're your parents and you rely on them in so many ways. It's only when you get older and more independent, and start looking at other peoples experiences that you start to question what happened to you. That's a healthy thing but it can also be very unsettling.
When you start questioning yourself, remember that they have trained you well to second guess yourself and not to question their judgement. And remember that you were, and still are, the child in the relationship. That means that you are the one who needs the nurturing, not them. And they left you home alone for 9 days, when you were still a child. That's just not right. Think how you would react if a friend told you that story. We're often a lot kinder and more sympathetic with others than we are with ourselves
Thanks Lottapianos. I think I struggle to 'blame' them because I can't believe they really would do that to hurt me. I think it was reckless rather than intentional. And maybe they said horrible things about me to make their decisions easier. I don't know. All I know is if a 14 year old was left on their own all week when the rest of a family went somewhere I would think the parents had really fucked up and I would think they were almost stupid with zero emotional intelligence...
OP why didn't one of your parents go with your sister and one of them stay home with you?
When I was 14, my parents used to take my sister to dancing shows and leave me in the house alone for up to 9 days at a time. Maybe this colleague is too much the other way... But it just shocks me that they did this when I look back. When it comes up now they say that I was difficult and refused to go
No . That's not normal or acceptable now and it wasn't 20 years ago either. In normal caring families , one parent woudl stay home with the other child. Or the other child might go to stay with relatives .
Leaving your 14yo home alone for 9 days is neglect. Someone could have reported them to social services.
Its OK for you to be upset remembering this. They were wrong .
I have one child who does a lot of sport, like your sister. We jiggle things to minimise the impact on the other children.so do other families we know. It's just part of being a good parent .
Your parents are " really fucked up , stupid and with zero emotional intelligence "
I don't know many 30 year olds who would expect their parents to help them move house. You seem very dependent on them despite the fact they make you feel anxious (lift to the holiday house, driving halfway to meet you) perhaps they find that difficult to relate to if they were much more independent by your age. The blocking of their phone numbers ... seems a little immature? Maybe?
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