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Did anyone have parents who didn't teach them basic life skills?

(160 Posts)
ControlledAdultChild Mon 27-Feb-17 16:14:11

I didn't know how to title this thread. I was brought up by parents who wanted me to be academically successful, and education was everything. At the same time I was discouraged from thinking for myself so I have very poor critical thinking and analytical skills.

One thing that has come to light recently is that I was never taught to cook or clean. I had never thought about it before, or even noticed that this is something most people learn in the home. I figured out how to do things by myself but I went through many years of very low confidence with cooking and would never be able to entertain or anything like that.

My parents both worked full time but at home my mother did all the cooking and cleaning and my dad did diy/car stuff, so very gender stereotyped. They are both very critical of women without careers, but also women who don't cook. I never hear any criticism of men.

It has come as a shock to me to realise what a pair of misogynists they are, as they were always trying to force me into having a high flying career and as a child I took that to mean they weren't sexist. My mother was always telling me I was useless. I remember her once telling me everyone was laughing at me because they could tell I had never washed up before when I was washing up at a club I was in as a teenager. I never went to the club again after that as I took her at her word. Obviously as an adult I can see that nobody was laughing and she was deliberately destroying my confidence.

I think now they/my mother deliberately didn't teach me these basic life skills to keep me dependent. They are very critical of people who cannot cook but a lot of these people they are talking about did not grow up in homes where cooking was the norm.

I was going to invite a relative round for a meal recently but my mum told her she wouldn't be able to eat anything cooked by me so that never happened.

This sounds very far fetched to anyone with a normal upbringing. Mine would have looked normal from the outside but from the inside it wasn't really. I also wasn't made to brush my teeth.

They are very controlling in lots of ways. I get my DC to do lots of things in the house, even if they make a complete hash of it because I don't want them to feel helpless like I did. My mum says this is neglect.

I now think not teaching me this stuff was deliberate. Has this happened to anyone else and what is your relationship with your parents now?

MilkTwoSugarsThanks Mon 27-Feb-17 16:20:15

Kind of. Like you I was never taught to cook... and then my mother expressed surprise when I got to my mid twenties still not able to cook. In her defence she genuinely thought I was being taught at school, whereas I was actually microwaving jacket potatoes and writing about the food chain.

I was expected to aim for a high flying academic career too, but I was never put down by my parents like you were. My relationship with them has always been very good.

allowlsthinkalot Mon 27-Feb-17 16:25:57

My parents never taught me to cook or clean, do basic DIY, discouraged learning to drive.... I picked these things up apart from driving.

Somehowsomewhere Mon 27-Feb-17 16:32:23

Mine didn't teach me to cook or clean or anything, but I picked it all up pretty easily when I left home.
This sounds like more than just not teaching you though. It's deliberately destroying your confidence.

HumpMeBogart Mon 27-Feb-17 16:36:42

My mum was very like yours, OP. She would knock my confidence in exactly the same ways as yours - instead of teaching me to cook, I'd be laughed at for not being able to. I was never taught to cook or clean, to do basic DIY, was never encouraged to take care of my skin or brush my teeth or shower more than once a week. I was lucky that I had good friends as a teenager who helped fill those gaps, but there are still gaps - cooking for me is associated with failure.

cansu Mon 27-Feb-17 16:40:38

I think most people can look back at some aspect of their childhood or upbringing that they think is less than ideal. I was never taught to cook although I actually think it was because my mother had no real interest in it. It was simply something she had to do as it was expected. I am still not v good but tbh I can follow a recipe as can anyone really. I don't blame my parents and to waste time dwelling on something so minor seems a bit strange. Teach yourself. If your mother often makes jokes that are at your expense, pull her up on it. You can't change the past but you can change the way you respond to it now.

Kikikaakaa Mon 27-Feb-17 16:43:52

I was actively forbidden from doing anything that could cause a mess. It was not just 'not taught' things it was a very controlled environment.

I also left home unable to cook and actually scared to use appliances and make food, didn't know anything about money.

I've learnt them all now so feels like I don't want to dwell on it so much now

ControlledAdultChild Mon 27-Feb-17 16:45:41

Yes, it was a deliberate attempt to destroy my confidence, I believe, and it worked. I didn't have a hot meal at all at university because I was too embarrassed to cook in front of my flatmates. Not that my flatmates would have laughed in reality but having been brought up to believe that everyone found my attempts at cooking laughable, I thought they would.

I did two degrees back to back so that was years of hiding food in my room. I could only eat things that didn't need to be refrigerated.

This was all 20+ years ago but I think having children of my own has brought it all to the surface.

bizarrelyjubilant Mon 27-Feb-17 16:47:54

I understand OP.

This is embarrassing but with me it was personal hygiene. I was brought up believing a once a week hair wash and bath and hands and face washed once a day were fine hmm and also I didn't know how to wipe my bottom properly <cringe>

The 'tampax lady' at school made me realise I'd been doing it wrong for years.

highinthesky Mon 27-Feb-17 16:48:19

You might have been a child then OP, but your an adult now. There's little that you can't find practical instruction for on the internet.

Stay respectful, but don't let your mum pull this sh*t with you any more. Tell her you don't appreciate being put down by her and there will be consequences if she continues to do so.

Were your parents immigrants, out of interest?

ControlledAdultChild Mon 27-Feb-17 16:48:39

I am trying not to dwell on it now but their controlling behaviour has escalated now and I can look back and see things differently from how I saw it then. It all seems very calculated, looking back.

bizarrelyjubilant Mon 27-Feb-17 16:49:39


Don't let anyone tell you you're 'dwelling'

What people don't realise is that you have to 'dwell' or, as I prefer to say, process, understand, and move forwards.

ControlledAdultChild Mon 27-Feb-17 16:54:42

Oh no, I can do all this now! I taught myself pre-internet. In fact I applied recently to volunteer teach young adults to cook on a scheme to help people gain life skills. They were care leavers though, so not coming from the same type of environment as me, but with the same end result in effect. In the even my mum didn't want me to do it and said she would phone up to tell the organisers I couldn't cook so I ended up not doing it.

They're not immigrants.

Oh, yes, I was taught to wipe my bum in the wrong direction. blush

Lowdoorinthewal1 Mon 27-Feb-17 16:55:27

I never cooked or cleaned at home. I did a sport at a high level and went to a very selective school that expected a lot of work, so my mother did EVERYTHING for me right up to the point where I went on my gap year.

I have been able to pick all the essential self-help skills up, however, I would say I am still not the most domesticated adult. I don't really cook (DH does) and we have a cleaner.

Different to your situation though OP, as there was no negativity in it. My parents were just trying to help me achieve in the areas they valued- which I do not regret. I would say my Oxbridge degree has probably been more useful to me than a natural commitment to a cleaning routine. grin

bizarrelyjubilant Mon 27-Feb-17 16:56:27

Me too, Controlled blush flowers

womanwithoutasong Mon 27-Feb-17 16:56:54

Come over to the 'Stately Homes' board OP (but we took you to stately homes). It's full of people with parents who neglected ( benign or deliberate) or abused them. You'll receive good support their and help in how to handle your mother.

HerOtherHalf Mon 27-Feb-17 16:58:13

We (my siblings and I) learnt through on the job training you might say. We were all expected to help out in some way and usually as a team. So if mum was cooking dinner one of us would be peeling the spuds whilst another was chopping the veg and somebody else was prepping the meat. We always laid the table, shared out the washing up (one washing, one drying one putting away). We did the gardening, washed the car, hung out the washing and helped with the ironing. All from a very early age (like as soon as we could walk) I might add.
I remember when we moved house to what you might call a fixer upper. We all decorated our own rooms. Stripping the old paper and paint, polly-filling the cracks, wallpapering, painting, laying the carpet etc. I was 9 then. It was a whole different generation though. Nowadays some people might get all clutchy and consider it some kind of child neglect but there's not much I couldn't do practically or domestically by the time I was in secondary school.

Dumdedumdedum Mon 27-Feb-17 16:58:58

How odd that they encouraged you to succeed academically, which you clearly did, but not in other more "mundane" or practical aspects of life. I'm sorry, I've nothing helpful to add, but I don't think you're dwelling on it, as a PP says, to be able to move on, you need to have processed it first.

DrDreReturns Mon 27-Feb-17 16:59:07

I left home unable to cook. I had to teach myself when I went to University. I am going to try and teach my kids basic cooking!

228agreenend Mon 27-Feb-17 17:00:48

Eek, worried I'm not wiping my bottom properly now!

I remember going to,university and being surprised when a friend brushed her hair in the middle,of,the day. I presume once you had brushed and styled,it in the morning, that was it.

Still feel,very ignorant about all the different alcoholic drinks you can have, and stick,to a safe few (dad was a teetotaller, so we didn't really have alcohol,in the house).

Don't know anything about DIY.

(Mid-ish 40s)

Dumdedumdedum Mon 27-Feb-17 17:01:36

Hang on, just read that bit about your mother threatening to ring the group you were going to volunteer for to tell them you weren't capable of doing it - WTAF? That is so wrong! Why is she interfering to this extent?

Kikikaakaa Mon 27-Feb-17 17:06:22

I never said OP shouldn't dwell on it, apologies if that read like that when I said

'I don't dwell on it'

Is a perfect example of taken out of context

I choose not to; OP can do so as she wishes

Soubriquet Mon 27-Feb-17 17:08:01


I can't cook, I'm not brilliant with cleaning, and I'm atrocious with money

I'm having to learn it all one step at a time

GoingAWOL Mon 27-Feb-17 17:08:19

I never cooked or cleaned or helped fix anything when I was a child as my parents didn't believe in children having to do chores. Nothing whatsoever about money either except enjoy it while you have it and don't save it for a rainy day.

But they were different from your parents I think in that mine were kind and well meaning and I grew up independent in a different way. I soon picked up the basics when I left home and never felt disadvantaged by it.

I remember a thread like this a while back and lots of posters said they were not taught basic hygiene. I said I remembered lessons at school on hygiene as far back as the 70s/80s but a lot of people didn't.

bizarrelyjubilant Mon 27-Feb-17 17:10:02

You don't choose to dwell on things.

No one goes home after a day at work and thinks 'I know! I am going to think about bad things from being a little girl/teenager that make me sad!'

It is subliminal. It shapes who we are and what we do. Thinking about that from time to time is healthy.

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