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'But We Took You to Stately Homes'...a thread for adult children of abusive families

(1002 Posts)
therealsmithfield Mon 11-Jan-10 14:10:27

Welcome to the Stately Homes Thread.

This is a long running thread which was originally started up by 'pages' see original thread here

So this thread originates from that thread and has become a safe haven for Adult children of abusive families.

One thing you will never hear on this thread is that your abuse or experience was not that bad. You will never have your feelings minimised the way they were when you were a child, or now that you are an adult. To coin the phrase of a much respected past poster Ally90;

'Nobody can judge how sad your childhood made you, even if you wrote a novel on it, only you know that. I can well imagine any of us saying some of the seemingly trivial things our parents/siblings did to us to many of our real life acquaintances and them not understanding why we were upset/angry/hurt etc. And that is why this thread is here. It's a safe place to vent our true feelings, validate our childhood/lifetime experiences of being hurt/angry etc by our parent?s behaviour and to get support for dealing with family in the here and now.'

Most new posters generally start off their posts by saying; but it wasn't that bad for me or my experience wasn't as awful as x,y or z's.

Some on here have been emotional abused and/or physically abused. Some are not sure what category (there doesnt have to be any) they fall into.

NONE of that matters. What matters is how 'YOU' felt growing how 'YOU' feel now and a chance to talk about how and why those childhood experiences and/or current parental contact has left you feeling damaged falling apart from the inside out and stumbling around trying to find your sense of self worth.

You might also find the following links and information useful if you have come this far and are still not sure wether you belong here or not.

'Toxic Parents' by Susan Forward

I started with this book and found it really useful.

Here are some excerpts;.

"Once you get going, most toxic parents will counterattack. After all, if they had the capacity to listen, to hear, to be reasonable, to respect you feelings, and to promote your independence, they wouldn't be toxic parents. They will probably perceive your words as treacherous personal assaults. They will tend to fall back on the same tactics and defenses that they have always used, only more so.

Remember, the important thing is not their reaction but your response. If you can stand fast in the face of your parents' fury, accusations, threats and guilt-peddling, you will experience your finest hour.

Here are some typical parental reactions to confrontation:

"It never happened". Parents who have used denial to avoid their own feelings of inadequacy or anxiety will undoubtedly us it during confrontation to promote their version of reality. They'll insist that your allegations never happened, or that you're exaggerating. They won't remember, or they will accuse you of lying.

YOUR RESPONSE: Just because you don't remember, doesn't mean it didn't happen".

"It was your fault." Toxic parents are almost never willing to accept responsibility for their destructive behavior. Instead, they will blame you. They will say that you were bad, or that you were difficult. They will claim that they did the best that they could but that you always created problems for them. They will say that you drove them crazy. They will offer as proof the fact that everybody in the family knew what a problem you were. They will offer up a laundry list of your alleged offenses against them.

YOUR RESPONSE: "You can keep trying to make this my fault, but I'm not going to accept the responsibility for what you did to me when I was a child".

"I said I was sorry what more do you want?" Some parents may acknowledge a few of the things that you say but be unwilling to do anything about it.

YOUR RESPONSE: "I appreciate your apology, but that is just a beginning. If you're truly sorry, you'll work through this with me to make a better relationship."

"We did the best we could." Some parents will remind you of how tough they had it while you were growing up and how hard they struggled. They will say such things as "You'll never understand what I was going through," or "I did the best I could". This particular style of response will often stir up a lot of sympathy and compassion for your parents. This is understandable, but it makes it difficult for you to remain focused on what you need to say in your confrontation. The temptation is for you once again to put their needs ahead of your own. It is important that you be able to acknowledge their difficulties without invalidating your own.

YOUR RESPONSE: "I understand that you had a hard time, and I'm sure that you didn't hurt me on purpose, but I need you to understand that the way you dealt with your problems really did hurt me"

"Look what we did for you." Many parents will attempt to counter your assertions by recalling the wonderful times you had as a child and the loving moments you and they shared. By focusing on the good things, they can avoid looking at the darker side of their behavior. Parents will typically remind you of gifts they gave you, places they took you, sacrifices they made for you, and thoughtful things they did. They will say things like, "this is the thanks we get," or "nothing was ever enough for you."

YOUR RESPONSE: I appreciate those things very much, but they didn't make up for ....

"How can you do this to me?" Some parents act like martyrs. They'll collapse into tears, wring their hands, and express shock and disbelief at your "cruelty". They will act as if your confrontation has victimized them. They will accuse you of hurting them, or disappointing them. They will complain that they don't need this, they have enough problems. They will tell you that they are not strong enough or healthy enough to take this, that the heartache will kill them. Some of their sadness will, of course, be genuine. It is sad for parents to face their own shortcomings, to realize that they have caused their children significant pain. But their sadness can also be manipulative and controlling. It is their way of using guilt to try to make you back down from the confrontation.

YOUR RESPONSE: I'm sorry you're upset. I'm sorry you're hurt. But I'm not willing to give up on this. I've been hurting for a long time, too."

Helpful Websites

Alice Miller

Personality Disorders definition

follow up to pages first thread

Im sure the other posters will be along shortly to add anything they feel I have left out grin. I personally dont claim to be sorted but I will say my head has become a helluva lot straighter since I started posting here. You will recieve a lot of wisdom but above all else the insights and advice given will 'always' be delivered with warmth and support.

Happy Posting (smithfield posting as therealsmithfield)

ItsGraceAgain Wed 28-Apr-10 21:11:21

Yup, Smithfield, you don't need to protect Mr Jellyfish! Copy the person who requested the meeting into your memo, with a proactive suggestion about a replacement. Heh, maybe Jelly can learn something from you wink

Re: Assertiveness - courses are the way to go, imo. Both assertiveness courses and NLP training are very helpful. Also ... Have you read the very first 'self-help' book, "How To Win Friends & Influence People"? It was written in the Fifties, I think, so you'll have to ignore a bit of guff about dinner-jackets and how to treat a lady (!) but it's an easy read and still very relevant. It helps de-mystify the whole communication thing.

I didn't know what I wanted until my mid-40s! I was always told "I want doesn't get" ... I think this was supposed to mean "ask politely" but, in my parents' house, it meant "We don't care; you'll want what you're given." My first homework, when I started therapy, was to write 15 good things about myself. It took me 3 weeks. Next, I had to write a page describing what I want. That took a month. In truth, I still have to remind myself to think about what I want - but I can tell you it's really great to know!

Mum came round this evening. The bio isn't going to happen. She's gone straight back into denial mode and, with it, the full parental secrecy/cover-up routine. I feel sad for her but, if I decide to explore the relationship dynamic through writing, I shall have to fictionalise it.

Still, that issue's out of the way now. And I have learned something new about what I want!

therealsmithfield Wed 28-Apr-10 21:07:33

refreshers no it doesn't sound trite at all tis helpful advice actually, because I think I am just needing practical advice in being assertive, without being aggressive. Or acting out certain projections.
I think HO person is being difficult actually, digging her heels in whilst Boss is being useless and jelly like. I feel like they're making me a flipping moving target.
She wants to meet clients but has made it all on her terms i.e I must come on this date etc.
It is a bank holiday Friday FFS, most clients will be away. I could probably call in some favours and give in, but part of me thinks why the hell should I?
Yes I am still working for the company but I agree I dont think its appropriate especially when I have 'said' I am going to a competitor.
I'm torn between a)lying and saying Ive got personal commitments that day, b)just doing it and grin and bare it but get it out of the way, or doing just as you just said.
Yet it is that final option that feels me with dread though. It also feels very grown up. I guess I still dont feel grown up inside. It feels like they're the adults and so have all the power and Im back to being the small child who has no choice or say.
As I said confrontation (I suck at it).

Bagofrefreshers Wed 28-Apr-10 19:06:07

Smithfield, is there any reason someone else can't see this HO person? Would you have anything to lose in sending an email to boss and copying in HO and HR saying something along the lines of "As discussed today, in the light of my resignation on X date, the HO visit is not appropriate and should be rescheduled with somebody else/Xperson" - just make it clear all round what the position is. If you are going anyway, then what power does your boss have over you? He sounds like a useless git and there's every chance HO won't want to see you anyway once they know you're leaving.

Sorry if that sounds trite and in no way am I trying to ignore your obvious distress at this effing idiot's behaviour. Nor, I acknowledge, do I really know what your work situation is or the reason for the HO visit. But if it is a "nothing to lose" situation, and in a few weeks you need have nothing to do with these people again, then perhaps this is a good exercise in taking back your power.

I hope things work out for you.

therealsmithfield Wed 28-Apr-10 18:45:06

Oh and colleague just told me he made call in earshot of whole office. Can I continue to stand my ground or do I crumble to appease them.
Maybe you have to tow the line at work in order to get on. Seperate from the emotion of it, but I just feel beaten up and defeated right now.

therealsmithfield Wed 28-Apr-10 18:42:23

exotic I dont know but I may have to look into it. Its so hard isnt it when you dont know what your own needs are and can barely express them.
I think this is also why I stayed in this job for so long because I was putting DHs needs before mine. I thought I should be looking after the family emotionally and financially as well.
Sorry I cant offer much help feeling a bit blue at them moment.
Sometimes I think I should just tow the line more. If I'd towed the line at home maybe I wouldnt have been scapegoated.

therealsmithfield Wed 28-Apr-10 18:36:53

see but now Ive gone back to gibbering wreck sad. Am I being unreasonable?
Boss just rang and said 'Why cant you do it? left on phone message'. I am being bullied and feel powerless. sad You would think with just a few weeks to go....

exotictraveller Wed 28-Apr-10 18:09:11

Smithfield, what you said here "...my inability to assert my needs..." sums me up in all areas of my life. Not work because I don't go out to work, but in everything else. I am too scared to assert my needs and sometimes I don't even know what my needs are. No doubt because I grew up learning to ignore my needs and put everyone else's needs first, to the point where I felt I didn't actually have any of my own needs.

I am realising more and more what my needs are but am having trouble asserting myself in getting them met. I don't know how to communicate in a manner that means the other person will be willing to meet my needs. Like you, I wrongly anticipate what the other person's response will be, based on my childhood experience, and react to that even before it's happened. eg when asking DH for something, I automatically think he will say no to whatever it is that I want and I ask him defensively and aggressively which means he does sometimes say no, but only because of how I have approached him. But I don't know any other way to communicate. sad. Is there somewhere I can go to learn how to assert myself and communicate non-aggressively when I want something from someone?

Bagofrefreshers Wed 28-Apr-10 16:14:58

WOW Smithfield your lightbulb moment has just set off the national grid in my head. My ex male boss was just like your boss. And his female equivalent....definitely NPD thinking back. My two department heads were like mum and dad all over again! You've given me a lot to think about, thank you. And congrats for being strong and not taking the blame for his being crap this time.

Grace I'm sorry you're not feeling good. Take good care of yourself.

ItsGraceAgain Wed 28-Apr-10 15:33:13

God, Smithfield, I identify with every single word you just wrote! And well done

Before I became so isolated, I was practising handing other people's responsibility back to them - everything from asking the shop person to check my change again, to fighting for better social support. I still needed a little hiatus while I 'balanced' myself, but was doing OK. I'm not sure how I'll be now - but intend to keep on keeping on. I appreciate your reminder!

I've been feeling awful the last few days. This may be due to a change in my HRT, and I also think it's connected with my thinking about Mum's life story. I still haven't asked her, so it might come to nothing. But I do want to do it. I'm (understandably) fascinated by how abusive relationships work, and how women like my mother manage to retain that duality of experience. I'd like to do a proper, researched, bio of her - and also to introduce my perspective. Even if she agrees, there's a strong chance she'll try to control my content. I'm willing to risk it, if she is.

Meanwhile I need to try and keep myself out of the abyss - apologies to everyone on the last few pages; you really deserve long, thoughtful replies! Exotic, I'm glad you made that decision about the money. Queen, did you get a response from your sister?

therealsmithfield Wed 28-Apr-10 14:36:00

I feel like Ive had a bit of a lightbulb moment today. So apologies for offloading some thoughts about it here.
I handed in my notice at work as some of you know and I almost fell apart before doing so and I realise now it is because I have a fear of upsetting and/or confronting people.
If I rocked the boat with my mother or stood up to her I would feel her wrath and I think I project that on to other people. In other words if I try and assert myself I fear/imagine the other person will go crazy and verbally attack me. The anticipation of this makes me so anxious I feel paralysed by the fear and dread of it.
So it is often an irrational fear of standing up to others, even on a small scale of saying 'no. I dont want to do that'. Even this would have set my mum off.
This has often made me very unhappy in the workplace because I will often put up with things or run away from things or even assume responsibility for things when I dont need to, all rather than upset people.
The fact is I am afraid of upsetting people who really shouldn't be of any consequence to me. I shouldn't care less what they think about me, and rationally I know I should say to myself 'who cares what they think, its none of my business'. My primary task should be to look after myself and my little family's needs.
Conversely what happens is my little family bacome an outlet and get the backlash from my stress and unhappyness as a result of me being able to get my basic needs met outside of these four walls.
When I say basic needs I am speaking in the context of work. So my need to be respected, to have achievable goals set and to get the right support from colleagues and bosses.
It has dawned on me I have never had any of that (or very little of it) because of my inability to assert my needs driven by this irrational fear about the backlash that will follow as a result.
Even if I manage to go 'so' far in asking for things...I far too easily back down at the first sniff of conflict or resistance from the other person. This makes me a dreadful negotiator of my own needs, which never works well in the corporate world, where things are a bit dog eat dog.
My boss has been in effect a rubbish boss. I now refer to him as 'the jellyfish'. He is totally spineless and only reacts when something affects him. Then he starts to shake. I think this is more borne out of laziness for him than lack of self confidence as it is for me. But who knows perhaps he has similar reasoning.
He will not do anything to support or champion you because this would mean him having to 'do' something.
I think I have been projecting on to him because this behaviour reminds me of my father. My father was half the time invisible and the other half the time spineless. He never stood up to my mother on my behalf. Why? because he didnt want the aggravation or the bother from my mum.
So I see a similar pattern with my boss and react emotionally to it.
The other thing is I often absorb others issues as my own. So for example, I never saw my bosses issues before. I always saw it as my fault that he behaved the way he did. That something in me made him behave that way, specifically toward me (which isnt true, he is just generally like this and has lost many team members for that reason).
So, scapegoating myself and seeing 'me' as the problem. I guess this still comes back to low self esteem because deep down I am too quick to believe I am crap or rubbish. So I am easy pickings as anyone's sacpegoat because I dont take much convincing at all.
The thing is I have to change my own perception of myself before I am able to change others perception of me. Otherwise this same dance will keep playing out in the workplace.
Today I did seem to suddenly see the light. One of our head office people had asked to spend the day with me on Friday. She had asked just before I resigned (by email).
I did not respond because I resigned shortly after and spoke to my boss the other day asking him to make sure head office people knew.
The point is my boss should have sorted this out with said HO person but didnt. He could have said 'look, not appropriate in light of..,.blah blah blah' Done deal.
He clearly hadnt and so to day it lands back in my lap.
Today said boss texted me (yes 'text', no phonecall)and says something along the lines of please call and arrange this visit with HO person (might as well of said there's a good girl) thanks the jellyfish.
I would normally a) just do it, for quiet life (but feel angry and resentful about it) b) ring in sick (so run away...but making myself look incompetent, so making me wrong and left feeling bad about myself).....
Today though I opted for C) assert 'my' needs and refuse to take blame for others crapness.
I still feel wobbly, as am waiting for the sky to fall in as somewhere deep down I believe it well. Im guessing it wont.
I still think this is progress for me.
I text my boss back; Hi Boss, sorry no this wont be possible so please let head office person know asap so as to make alternative arrangements. Many Thanks Smithfield.
I just wrote a whole other lot of text in this post here justifying my response to boss to you guys hmm But have deleted it again. grin
Its progress but it would be so much easier if I just had the healthy self eateem in the first place sad
Ok end of rant.

Sal7369 Wed 28-Apr-10 08:31:34

Hi Robin, I felt exactly like you are expressing. They werent really that bad, maybe Im not remembering all the good times and only focusing on the bad times. Then I read possibly in Toxic Parents that it is not your parents motivation or their actions but how it made you feel that is important. They can have had the best motives in the world for their behaviour but if their behsviour caused you hurt of distress this is the important factor.

I have only been going to couselling for 6 weeks after actively avoiding it but I can honestly say it is helping to talk to someone who is not involved. I was very careful in choosing a counsellor, not least because my institution trains counsellors who are active in the area, and found a male cousellor with qualifications I respected. He has been wonderful and is really helping me see things in perspective. Even just someone saying "no being hit with a wooden spoon at age 3 is not good parenting!"

Not sure if this helps. Good luck with the book. Remember you can always say to the library you need the book for an essay- old favourite excuse!

Robbin Tue 27-Apr-10 22:58:39

Roseability I missed your post because it took me so long to write the last one.
I've not had any counselling or spoken to anyone about anything to do with my childhood. I posted this today and that's it. I hardly talk to my siblings and the one time I tried to talk to my mum about it she assured me that it was normal. She thought I used to start fights to try to get out of helping at home with things like clearing up. I don't think she knew or knows now how much I used to hate it all, and I think she genuinely believes that it's all normal.
I could probably find counselling fairly easily but I'm not really sure I want to. I'm quite embarrassed even writing under a name change on page 40 of a random thread in an out of the way part of mn. I keep reading through what I've written, thinking it sounds pathetic and deleting it. I really don't think I'd be able to say anything if there was a real person here. I'm going to get hold of the Toxic Parents book tomorrow. I feel a bit guilty having reserved it on my library card (how long do they keep a record of which books you've had?) because I feel a bit like this isn't a real picture of the last 20 years. I've clearly only remembered the extreme bits, and only written down the worst of those. There were some really good times too.

Robbin Tue 27-Apr-10 22:42:08

Thank you for all the lovely messages. Having read some of the stories on here which are much worse I was worried that I'd get comments about being an (almost) teenage emotional-hypochondriac. Obviously there were good times too, and anyone's, life if you pick out the worst bits, sounds pretty bad, so it's nice to know that these things aren't within the normal range. I feel much more justified in being so defensive about it.
I think I haven't helped myself by allowing dp and most of my UK friends to think that the reason I don't have contact with my parents is because they shunned me for being a teenage pregnancy statistic. It was an easy thing to let people believe, and it meant that everyone could see a reason why I didn't have any parental support, which made my life easier because then everyone who was around helped so much. I've never actually lied about it, and my parents have acted in a way which could be interpreted as rejecting me because they're ashamed of me, if you only know the story from moving back to the UK. But it does now mean that if I ever want to talk to dp about this then I need to "come out" about it. I feel a bit guilty about all the help that I had from everyone I know because it was technically given under false pretences too.
I've just reserved the Toxic Parents book in the library so I'll pick that up tomorrow and hopefully have a chance to read through it soon. Is reading it likely to make me cry do you think?
It's also really nice to be reassured that I'm not depriving my dcs or behaving unreasonably to not let my mum have them alone. I want to put it behind me before my dcs are old enough to remember. I worry about how much my reactions will impact on them. I know that the main motivating factor for keeping up bfing was some weird twisted idea that not doing what the WHO said is best is the start on a slippery slope to becoming my mum. (I hope that doesn't offend anyone who is / was ffing - it's not a criticism of the choice just a reflection of my really messed up approach to parenting.)
Sorry I've written another essay again. It's the law rubbing off on me - never say in 1 word what you can say in 15!

roseability Tue 27-Apr-10 22:09:36

robbin sad

I feel you are starting the journey of recovery from what was an abusive and dysfunctional childhood. Have you received counselling at all? It can help you on this journey and of course posting on here. I also found reading lots of literature on the subject of toxic parenting and abuse helped

therealsmithfield Tue 27-Apr-10 21:17:50

robbin sad I almost cried when I read your account of your childhood.
I think Grace's expression was spot on desolate.
The most chilling part for me was the way your mother would 'explain' what she was about to do.
It is so sad how normalised this has become for you. They missed your 18th shock, didnt know when you had returned to the UK sad, and made a joke of the fact they only knew the name of the country you were in angry. I just want to shout FFS...why do these kind of people have children!
But they do and your parents did and in a way thank god..because what an amazing person you turned out to be despite and *in spite of* your crap parents.
You feel guilty spilling this out now beacuse you're still tuned in to the FOG (fear/obligation and Guilt) its the buttons your parents (most toxic parents do) installed to ensure you were easily controlled. Think of it as part of their control panel that still exists within you.
In answer to your question, No I would not trust this woman anywhere near my kids, your instincts serve you well. Just as they served you well when you saved up all your money and got the hell out of there.
I think you have found the right place for support Robbin. So glad you decided to post.

exotictraveller Tue 27-Apr-10 21:09:28

Sal, I think you are right. I think my exhaustion is due to having finally made a decision about what to do about this money and acting on it. Probably my being unable to sleep recently was due to anxiety about what I should do. Now the decision has been made, I feel completely drained. But thank you for your help and advice, I really appreciate it. It feels a bit scary to be doing 'financial' things on my own without my dad being involved, but I know now that that is only because he made me dependent on him by telling me I could not trust anybody else. I will take your advice when I look for an IFA. Thank you.

exotictraveller Tue 27-Apr-10 21:05:39

Robbin, you poor thing. It breaks my heart to think of an innocent, vulnerable little girl being treated like that. I am so sorry you went through all of that. It is brilliant that you have posted on here, you will get so much support on this thread.

I will have to come back tomorrow, I am exhausted and need to get to bed. Have hardly slept the last few nights.

Take care all. x

Sal7369 Tue 27-Apr-10 20:23:04

Hi Exotic well done. I am sure you feel lighter for making this decision and knowing it is right for you- dont mean this patronisingly but after 3 attamots it still sounds it. Please feel free to ignore me if you know this but H is a Financial Advisor so please make sure you find someone who is qualified to a minimum of Diploma level, preferably a Chartered Financial Planner and not tied to any banking institution so you have a full range of products. You should get all this from the Financial Services Athority website.

roseability Tue 27-Apr-10 20:17:19

Grace - dissolving the need to protect the myth of a happy childhood indeed. Now that I have opened the can of worms and told my ILs, close friends and dh exactly what went on I feel scared and lonely. I expected to feel validated and not alone in this. The people I have told have been brilliant but I just feel uneasy and out of sorts and yes ashamed.

roseability Tue 27-Apr-10 20:13:52

Bagofrefreshers - your line about how you put on a facade for your ILs and dh really rung true. I did exactly the same and like you it all fell apart when I had ds. I too feel ashamed, not worthy of them and like a burden.

Bagofrefreshers Tue 27-Apr-10 19:37:48

Robbin your experiences were/are appalling and not remotely normal. You are not being "over-dramatic" - that label is, I believe, often used by abusers to diminish their victims pain (pain that is real and visceral). I got that label all the time from my abusive parents.

You sound like a remarkably strong and together individual. Sometimes I think that the fact that we didn't completely fall to pieces under the strain of such treatment makes us kid ourselves into thinking "it can't have been that bad" and only third parties can see how awful it truly was. Nobody will read your account and think this treatment was normal.

You will get lots of support here, I'm just starting on the journey of working out my childhood, just like you, so can't offer much except general support. I recently read Toxic Parents. So much of that book resonated and helped me make sense of things, I can't recommend it enough.

FWIW, I do not want my parents to have any real input into my DCs. My father has started his abusive ways with my nephews, resulting in my sis not letting him take care of them. There's nothing physical/sexual I fear from my father vis a vis my DCs just the drip drip drip of emotional abuse, divide and rule tactics, scapegoating, his scaring them with his paranoia and the like. You know what's best for your DCs and have every right to be cautious of your mother having them given your experiences.

Good luck, I hope posting here helps you.

ItsGraceAgain Tue 27-Apr-10 19:34:14

What a sad, desolate story Robbin. Your parents sound very odd indeed - almost as if they have no connection with what it's like to be human. You did incredibly well to get yourself away to school. You must have been a very sparky, resourceful kid in spite of the lack of interest at home! Lack of interest except in punishment, that is. I can empathise with that: my father spoke about "training" children, and that is pretty much how he saw it as far as I can tell. It is horrible to grow up with a spotlight permanently on your perceived failings.

Your mother sounds extremely deficient in relationship skills, and seems to have no nurturing abilities whatsoever. I wouldn't leave children with her. The disloyalty you feel is normal and, I think, is shared by all of us here. One of the great benefits of writing, here, is that it helps to dissolve that feeling of having to protect the myth of a happy childhood.

Robbin Tue 27-Apr-10 18:59:09

Sorry that's so long! I didn't realise how much I ahd written.

Robbin Tue 27-Apr-10 18:57:52

On the off chance that someone does recognise me / my normal mn name, please don’t out me as I have some real life mn friends. I don't really know what I want to achieve by posting - mostly a chance to vent and ask others how they have handled things.
I’m a student-mum to 6 month old twins. I’ve have loads of support from my dp, uni, friends, other student-mums etc in parent things but I never talk about my parents / childhood. There’s never been a right time and it’s never come up. Most people have no idea how volatile my home life always was because I always hid it.
When I was very little I think my relationship with my parents was ok, although I remember desperately wanting to go to boarding school from age 7. The only things I remember are quite violent things but I think that might be that I only remember the extreme bits. I also wonder if anyone from a “normal” family would sound like they had an awful childhood if they could only remember the worst bits, so I sort of wonder if I make it sound worse than it was.
My brother was labelled with ADHD and to help the school set up a diary thing to report home. If the report was bad, my sister and I used to be shut in the garden while my mum held my brother and my dad hit him I still remember the sound of him screaming. I’m not sure what they hit him with, but he was in year 5 when this started (about 10) so holding him down to hit him with anything was wrong.
We moved house when I was 5 and my only memory of the old house is hiding from my mum under my bed with my duvet because I'd done something and I thought she was going to hit me. I took my duvet with me because I thought it would hurt less if I had that to protect myself.
If I'd done something wrong my mum used to really cold-ly tell me to leave the room, come with me to another room, lecture me on what I'd done wrong, and then hit me with a slipper. It was the ritual and build up which made it scary. This started before I can remember and went on until I started secondary school. I remember being terrified and too scared to breathe properly although she is now adamant that that I wasn't because I didn't act scared and I used to hug her after and tell her I was sorry.
Things went downhill when I started secondary school. I don’t think I was particularly difficult to be around (although I accept I’m pretty biased). I decided I wanted to study law when I was about 14 so I worked really hard at school, I have never smoked or tried drugs, I was 17 before I had my first boy friend, I never stayed out later than I was allowed to (lived in a small village so had to be driven). My dad worked away quite a lot so he was hardly involved. I’ve often wondered if my mum was depressed but I don’t know if she was or not.
My mum was always very angry. She slapped me and shouted at me that she hated me more times than I can remember. When I was about 13 we had had an argument and I was told I was no longer welcome in the house and dragged out by my hair. I can't remember what I did or what the argument was about. I was also thrown out (not physically) twice over night. Both the times my dad was away and my mum knew I didn’t have anywhere in our village to go. I ended up walking about 2 miles to my best friend’s house in the next village.
I was driven away and left in places sometimes too. I don’t exactly know why or how it came about. Possibly the first time it happened we had had an argument somewhere away from home and I was dropped off on the side of the road and left to walk home and my mum thought it was a good way of dealing with things. I was abandoned on the way to or from places a few times that I remember, and specifically driven away from home to be dropped off twice, again both times in the evening so I walked home in the dark (it was usually a couple of hours walk). I have absolutely no sense of direction - I can’t give directions because I can’t remember where to go until I there, and when I’m there I just have to hope I’ll remember the way. I still carry an A-Z of the small city I’ve lived in for the last 2 years. Being abandoned somewhere within walking distance was actually pretty scary. Also, we lived in a very isolated rural area so there are no street lights or pavements, and most of the roads go through woods and aren’t really wide enough for 2 cars etc so it wasn’t like it was very safe either. My mum knew how much it used to scare me because I cried until I was sick when she told me what she was doing the first time.
When I was 16 I went to school in abroad. Getting away from home was defiantly a factor in that decision. I didn’t actually tell my parents that I’d applied until I knew I could go (I paid for everything from savings from my part time job and money I inherited at 16) They weren’t bothered when I told them I was leaving. They never asked about where I was going, and only found out which country it was through my sister. According to my sister they used to tell it as a funny anecdote that they didn’t actually know where I was more specifically than the country. I never contacted home, but I told my siblings my address so my parents could have contacted me if they’d wanted to. I didn’t come back to the UK, we didn’t phone / text / email at all, they heard nothing from my school, for 2 years. They missed my 18th, my school graduation and 2 Christmases without contact. They got some news back about me through my siblings though.
I came back to the UK to study but I didn’t tell them so it was a month before they found out and visited. My mum wanted to act as if everything was normal. I haven’t been back to their house since I left when I was 16 but I have met up with my mum since then. She came to the city I study in we went on a touristy day / shopping trip together which was really strange. I asked her about some things that had upset me and led to me leaving and she just said that these were normal and I was over emotional about it. She said she thought I had another year of school, that’s why they hadn’t contacted me to find out what I was going to do after leaving school.
When I had my dc I made an effort to contact my parents. They didn’t see them until they were 2 months old and didn’t come to their naming ceremony. They have now met my dcs about 6 or 7 times in parks or cafes but not at my house, and my mum always asks to have them stay overnight with her. When I refused to let her she told me I'm not capable of looking after them and that they should be taken in to care, although she did apologise for saying that. I don’t really know why she wants them. When she does see them she doesn’t seem interested in them, or in speaking to me really either. Apparently she wants to see them because “that’s what grandparents do”. I really don’t know if she has noticed or not that our mother-daughter relationship isn’t normal.
I look at these things as a mum and think I would never do that, I never ever want my dc to be as scared of me / as angry at me as I was at my parents, but I still feel a bit guilty even writing this because I’m not sure it wasn’t normal and I’m being overdramatic. Those of you who are still in contact with your parents, have you talked about your past with them? When I tried my mum just brushed it off. Would you / do you let them look after your dcs? I have never let my parents see my dcs alone because I don’t trust them. Atm I still have the excuse that my dcs are exclusively bfing too. They got annoyed that I refused to give my now 6 month old dc easter eggs this year ( ), but I don't doubt that she would shout at them or smack them or just leave them to cry if she were ever left alone with them.

Bagofrefreshers Tue 27-Apr-10 18:30:19

Exotic I forgot to say, IMO I think you should take that money, feel no guilt about it, and take it only on your terms. You deserve it and then some, their money will never make up for what they put you through, but at least you can do something for you with it.

Grace many thanks for that link, it never ceases to amaze me that behavioural traits I think must be peculiar to my parents are actually common and there's a name for them. The link describes my father to a T. As usual, I feel a mixture of relief that I'm not imagining it, validation for thinking the behaviour wrong, and depression that I live with it.

Very nice of you to say I'm sane blush I wish I felt sane and I'm sure I don't act it half the time!

Re a doula, that would be the logical source of help for me, although if I have to do it alone, I will. But it's DH I really feel for, he will be gutted if he can't see his DC being born or look after me while it's happening.

I guess my failings are the reflected failings of my family and general shame I feel. Logically, I know I had no control over my upbringing or what my family are like. But emotionally, I haven't really got past the thought that there's a key that I hold that could cure all my family's ills. Stupid to think that but hard to shake off. So I feel I've failed in not making them "right". I could/should make more effort to resolve things with my bro and older sis, but I don't know where to start to be honest.

DH has presented me with the gift of his lovely family and they have really loved me and cared for me in ways I never got from my parents. I feel like I'm substandard and not worthy of any of it. And that I'm a burden to them, when I should be this perfect wife and mum to their DS and DGD. The carefully constructed facade I presented to them and DH about me and my family has fallen apart ever since I had DD. I feel exposed and ashamed by my neediness and hopelessness, which they, not my family, try to compensate for. They must worry terribly about my DH who has suffered great stress over the last couple of years because of me.

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