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Feeling so anxious about seeing parents that you stop(34 Posts)
I'm 30 and recently have looked back on my childhood and started to see it for what I think it really was. I was always under the impression I had a good childhood - went to an expensive school that my parents reference frequently as I've got older about the sacrifice they made for it, I had every opportunity under the sun (dance lessons, horse riding, whatever I wanted really). My parents were always present in the sense that they never missed a sports day at school and always checked how I was doing at school and made sure I had everything I needed.
However, as I've got older, I've noticed how emotionally unavailable my parents are. I can't talk to my mum about anything, without feeling like she's speaking to me as if I'm a child. What's odd too is that I actually think I behave more child like around them. I don't know how to be an adult properly in their company as I don't feel free to express myself. I never have. What I always craved as a child was for my mum in particular to listen properly, and be willing to give me time. A good example of this was if i ever wanted to talk to her about anything, it would be fitted in among other things. Mum would always watch emmerdale, for instance, and as soon as it was time for that to start, any conversation we could were having would be cut short and she'd be desperate for me to snap out of whatever was upsetting or worrying me, and to join her downstairs with my dad. If I didn't want to, she'd go anyway. This sort of thing has continued ever since, to the point where I don't bother to share anything much with my parents except general basic generic stuff. The other week I had had a horrible day at work and was reluctant to tell my mum over the phone, and she asked a few questions and I just burst into tears... ten minutes later she wanted to get off the phone because Corrie had started!! I can see the funny side but it also makes me feel so sad. I'm sure she wouldn't do that to a friend.
I've also started thinking more about how my dad would drag me upstairs by my hair if I didn't go up to bed or was shouting and screaming (usually because I was very anxious about school). Even as an adult they will mention this and say I was hard to bring up. Now I am at the age I am, I am quite astonished that they think that is a good reason to have literally pulled clumps of hair from a 7 year olds head. Why didn't they sit sis with me and talk and have patience?
I suppose I'm posting because I have reached a point where I don't feel particularly interested in even seeing my parents much. They make me feel sad more often than not. Although we do have some nice times now and then where I genuinely enjoy their company. It's as if all this stuff has suddenly come to the forefront of my mind, when in my early twenties I barely thought of it. It makes me feel a bit sick now though. They're not at all bad people but I'm struggling with a proper relationship with them.
You need to stop trying to have a 'proper' relationship with them and either continue with the one they are capable of (distant with little emotion) or slowly moved away.
Nothing wrong with either option. My mum is not interested in anything I do or my child so I have nothing to do with her. I too was a hard child apparently.
The hurt will come when you try and get them to be like everyone else's parents. They won't ever be. They won't suddenly realise and change. It's a hard thought and incredibly unfair but it is the what it is.
I think that's what I'm finding hard, the sudden realisation of how it wasn't right. I can't imagine blaming a 7 year old for being difficult to bring up...there's so much more that went on as well.
Now I'm an adult I know it's up to me not to carry this hurt around with me, but it's hard. Especially when even now they give me barely any respect. I think I'm a better person away from them and that makes me feel so sad and so alone.
Try reading the 'stately home' threads. Your post reminded me of this. There are pages of support from people with similar stories.
Love, you need to start seeking your support elsewhere- a partner, friends, a therapist. I have a similar dynamic with my parents- once I lowered my expectations of them I felt much more adult and able myself.
I can understand that. I also went through an angry stage. Which might be on its way for you.
Eventually I kind of came to the conclusion that I was sick of being angry and sick of this effecting my life. THat helped me let it go.
I now have a fab hubby, accepting in laws and my relationship with my bros isn't close, (mother saw to that) but supportive.
Go check the stately homes thread. That really helped me along my path.
OP I'm in a similar process -realising my childhood wasn't what I thought. For months it's been really hard to even tolerate being with them. I've been distraught, enraged...I think it's necessary to go through all these intense emotions while processing it all.
I've realised a big part of it is grieving. ..coming to terms with loss.
And that they cannot give what they never received from their own parents, without a lot of work, anyway.
I want an adult to adult relationship with them and have unilaterally been changing the rules of engagement. It's been painful for me and also for them but I couldn't face going on in the old dynamic.
Thankfully I do have good support around me. I hope you can find that too.
I have parents like this too OP. They were emotionally unavailable and often aggressive, still are today. You do go through a grieving process for the supportive family you should have had but didn't. It was particularly hard when I had my first child. I was really angry about how they treated me. All you can do is build a support network and perhaps seek counselling so that you can work through your feelings with someone neutral. You sound much more emotionally clued in than your parents - it's not your fault.
Thank you for all the posts. I feel very conflicted in my anger and frustration with them.
If I am to be very candid, they seem to me to be very self involved, constantly thinking about what they are doing next, and for some reason believe my life is perfect and I have nothing at all to be unhappy about. (My life is good mostly but we all have our off days - I just never seem to be allowed to have them!).
Whenever I mention anything to my mum - if I snap because she's completely cut me off when I've tried to explain how she's hurt me - she will suddenly list lots of things I did wrong growing up.
I don't have dc so I can't tell really if I'm even right. Maybe I WAS a terrible child. When I see kids now, I just can't imagine how an adult can ever blame a child for their behaviour. My instinct would be to talk to the child, no matter how lengthy or time consuming it was, I would want to know what was wrong. I would want to listen. Don't get me wrong, I know that's easier said than done and huge patience is required, and maybe the child will still be difficult, but I certainly wouldn't cut off an upset 8 year old because I wanted to get back to watching emmerdale with my husband. My mum isn't a bad person, so why did she do this? Why didn't she give me her time to let me talk and work through my anxieties? Did she just think it was better to ignore it perhaps?
I've also started thinking more about how my dad would drag me upstairs by my hair if I didn't go up to bed or was shouting and screaming (usually because I was very anxious about school).
Does this strike you as the behaviour of a "terrible child" OP? It doesn't me.
It doesn't matter how you behaved when you were a child, it would never be appropriate for your parents to drag you up the stairs by your hair. There is NOTHING that my children could have done which would have made me torture them like that.
Also, they're the parents here, not you. They should have been taking care of you, showing you how to do better, be better. Not causing you pain and misery like they did.
My parents were abusive to me and I did all sorts to try to get them to understand, to listen, to change. In the end I realised that was who they were. When they started in on my children I realised I had to stop them, and the only way to do that was to cut contact. It's been over three and a half years since I saw my parents, and our lives are all so much easier. Therapy has helped too. But the biggest thing was recognising my parents were completely to blame for their own actions, and that my children and I deserved much, much better.
OP, your parents sound like mine. I was the only 19yo with a 10pm bedtime/curfew. Even now when I visit, they expect me to fit around their schedule (lunch while a certain programme is on, that kind of thing).
I choose to live over three hours away, so I only see them a couple of times a year. I speak to them on the phone once a week, and it really is a courtesy call that doesn't go into how I'm actually feeling, just what each person has done that week. I don't feel like I can open up to them without them being judgmental, I've always felt that way.
When you say it like that - there's nothing your children could do to cause you to drag them by the hair, it makes me see how terrible my parents treatment of me was. I'm not saying I was easygoing or a laid back child - they tell me often I was difficult to bring up!! But what I do know is that throughout my childhood I just wanted to be understood.
I used to beg my mum not to go into my bedroom during my teens, when I went to school. She'd promise she wouldn't, but often when I got home things would have been moved and she'd deny having been in there and it caused so much upset. When I was older and could drive, I kept all my things in the boot of my car. When I think about that now, I feel so sad and angry about it. It's only a small thing but why didn't she want me to have my own space? A colleague said recently of her teenage daughter that she liked how her daughter would invite friends over because it showed her daughter felt the house was somewhere she could bring her own friends and have her own life. That is SO far away from my parents attitude. I was allowed friends round but not without lots of planning and on their terms. Obviously these things matter less than the hair pulling and hitting, but they all served to create a feeling that I was not my own person.
Why do all these things bother me more and more rather than less and less?
OP, my parents are and were similar - emotionally unavailable, defensive, judgemental, blaming. It really hurts - you want and need and deserve so much more from your parents and that doesn't automatically stop when you become an adult.
I am very low contact with my parents now (see them about once a year, text contact maybe once a month) and so much better for it but it has been gruelling. I have been actively grieving my relationship with them for the past few years and am slowly accepting that they will never be the parents I need them to be. I had professional support from a psychotherapist which I would really recommend very highly.
I guess what I'm saying is that you are entitled to feel hurt and sad and lonely and anything else that comes up for you. Your parents let you down very badly. The physical abuse you describe is horrendous and totally unacceptable, as is their attempt to somehow blame it on you. You don't have to accept their treatment of you. Becoming a parent doesn't magically make you a caring person. Some people fail very badly at being loving parents and you don't need to make excuses for them. Keep sharing on here if it helps
Eggsy - that's totally how it is, fitting in with their schedule. They just do not get that any life may be just as busy, if not busier than theirs.
Whenever I meet them, they are pretty much always late, up to over an hour. Everything runs on their schedule.
Last summer they invited me to Scotland with them for a week (they have a new place there which I hadn't yet been to), and I booked the week off work. Id been through a horrible break up a few weeks before and was looking forward to it. The day before we were meant to leave my mum sent me a photo of the back of the car to show that it was too full of stuff they were taking up, so I could not longer fit in the car. I didn't have any idea how to respond to it.
The phrase that comes to mind is " A child of convenience" they wanted a child, but only on their terms, as it was convenient to them. Not a real person with real messy and unpredictable needs but a child designed to fill a child shaped hole in their ideal family and social status.
Variation from that would naturally be met with attrition.
They could "switch off" parenting when they wanted to, because they were not actually parenting, they were acting. ( That's a crude way to express it but it's a good shorthand) and when the scene had been played out to their satisfaction they move back to their next scene, and you are put back in your box until your next line as a bit part in their life is appropriate.
It's abuse, emotional neglect, all sorts of wrong.
I also expect the littany of your wrong doings is a whole steaming pile of unreasonable expectation, combined with the the idea that you would have been so much better ...If only you had been someone else.
It's a strange thing to realise your "normal" isn't and wasn't, and your world can tilt on its axis a bit as you readjust, I think it's one of the really good reasons to enlist help at this point. Therapy, support groups or some well informed books may help as you go through. "really!".
Check the website / book list at the start of the stately homes thread.
My children have their own rooms. We always knock and wait for them to say it's ok before we go in. If I need something from their rooms and they're not here, I will either wait or text for their permission. I am probably a bit too careful with this, but that's perhaps because my parents didn't give me any privacy at all growing up. Instead they treated me like something they had absolute control over, and insisted I had no right to even my own feelings. They were wrong.
If your parents still tell you what a difficult child you were, they are now blaming you for their own failures. My children have their moments but so long as we respect them and treat them with love and kindness, they're wonderful. When they were little they'd kick off because they were bored, so I'd help them find something to do rather than shouting at them and telling them they were being naughty. Now they're bigger the worst that happens is they don't put the clean dishes away, or bring their dirty clothes down to the washing machine. We are very lucky with them and I would NEVER keep reminding them of the blips we've had over the years. It's no big deal when they're stroppy. They get over it, and there's always a reason behind it, which we talk about and sort out.
When your parents tell you how awful you were as a child, try to reframe it in your mind. Remind yourself that the failings were theirs, not yours. That they were the parents and they let you down very badly. That you did a wonderful job by just surviving under those circumstances.
I would seriously advise you to get some sort of therapy to help sort things out now. And whatever else you do, stop blaming yourself and thinking you were bad as a child. You weren't.
If you can't access therapy just yet, go online. Look for self compassion guided meditations. There are lots of free downloads, and many take only five or ten minutes to do. They can be brilliantly helpful.
Thanks. I feel so conflicted.
Even today they are so so so self involved. Out of everything, the part that hurts most is the strict time frames of talking. In between emmerdale, after mum had called her friend, once she'd had a shower or cooked and so on. It's not that I expect a parent to drop everything for a child all the time, it's that at ny lowest as a very small child, and then throughout my teens, there was not one occasion where time was given freely and as priority. It would also be the case today, which is why I don't ever tell them anything of importantance as I can't keep up with the time frames.
Thank you for the guidance. I am starting to see how wrong it was. They will never admit it, ever. They think I had a perfect upbringing but ruined things by being such a handful.
I think it would be helpful to speak to a therapist. Can this be done on the NHS?
Thanks so much for the replies.
It can but NHS resources for such things are very limited (six sessions) as well as having very long waiting lists.
I would read "Children of the Self Absorbed" written by Nina W Brown.
BACP are good and do not charge the earth either.
Oh OP you are not alone. The anger is the realisation than you were short changed in the parents department, release of years of built up resentment but not knowing why, and that there is no point in confronting your parents because they will deny everything and/ or deflect blame onto you.
I found just reading the stately homes thread very therapeutic (as well as upsetting). And make the decision to go low contact. As others have said, seek comfort and support elsewhere.
Wow Dineout seriously? With the car thing I would have stopped. just stopped. Changed my numbers, stopped communicating FFS.
It won't have occurred to them but if you were hard to brig up it was likely because of their treatment of you. You were supposed to like being treated that way presumably. Honestly I would cut ties now and as for why you are realising it all now? It's normal to think harder about this stuff as you get older and you have had more life experience yourself.
The car incident is so cruel OP. You must have been so hurt by that. It sounds like they don't make you feel important or special or any kind of priority of theirs. These are the people that are supposed to make you feel loved, secure, important, treasured.
I really like 665's analogy of being taken out of a box, used for whatever purpose and then put away again. That really strikes a chord with me. It sounds like your parents relationship with you has always been on their terms - that's destructive and harmful and hurts like hell..
In my experience OP, this stuff is just too dark and painful to work through on your own. Professional support is absolutely invaluable. I second the advice to Google BACP and look for psychotherapists in your area. Many have a sliding scale of fees where you pay according to how much you earn
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