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To think we're really terrible at recognising that our parents are also the product of their own difficult childhoods?

113 replies

FineDamBeaver · 10/07/2015 14:36

I think we (culturally, and on MN) tend to be very good at blaming our parents. Saying, for example, "I'm an anxious parent because my mum was always worrying"; "I get depressed because my mum was so critical".
Much less good at realising that (in many cases) parents were then in exactly the same position as we are now, equally products of their own families and pasts, trying (and to some extent failing) to do their best in the context of their own flawed characters and mental health problems.

AIBU to think we should all read that Philip Larkin poem (This Be The Verse) daily to remind us not to be twats about our mums and dads?

OP posts:

VerityWaves · 10/07/2015 14:37

Yes I really agree with you


pregnantpause · 10/07/2015 14:42

My mum is a twat. I don't really care what made her that way tbh.

I'm great- not through any success of hers. I certainly don't hold her responsible for any of my achievements. I succeed in spite of her.

And I certainly won't be modelling any of my parenting on her.

But I don't hold her responsible for any of my failings either. So perhaps this doesn't apply to me.


cailindana · 10/07/2015 14:43

I think you have a point but I also think that once you are a parent you are duty bound to at least try to address those aspects of your upbringing that may affect your children. My mother was good on the general maintenance side of parenting but let me down massively in other ways. I see that some of that was due to her own upbringing, however I had to distance myself from her as her inability to address or even acknowledge the problems in her parenting was harming me.


Lurkedforever1 · 10/07/2015 14:47

Yanbu in that within reason, in the nicest way possible people need to move on as best they can for the sake of their own well being. But yabu too because as a parent you have a duty to learn from rhe mistakes in your childhood, not inflict them on your own children


Sallystyle · 10/07/2015 14:49

My dad is an abusive sociopath and I am pretty sure he can't help that, but it doesn't change anything for me.

I don't blame him for everything but I can't deny he left me some huge bloody scars which fucked up a lot of my young adult life. Yes, I believe he caused me a lot of the problems I had but that doesn't mean I don't try every day to better myself, which I have done quite well.

So I won't hold my hands up and say it is his fault when things go wrong, but he sure as hell did a number on me which lead to me feeling a certain way about myself for a number of years, which made life much more difficult.

My mum was great but of course not perfect. I don't blame her for anything, but she never purposefully left me or abused me or told me I was unloveable.


MewlingQuim · 10/07/2015 14:52

I recognise that my mum's upbringing contributed to the neglect and abuse that I suffered, but understanding why it happened doesn't excuse her behaviour.

Would it be ok for me to neglect and abuse my child because that was my upbringing? Of course not! It is my responsibility to learn to be a better parent than she was.


RainbowFlutterby · 10/07/2015 14:53

I agree OP, although I do realise that there will always be some cases that go beyond that.

Lurked - although what you say about learning from mistakes is true, you have to realise that they were mistakes in the first place. We have so much more understanding of issues and counselling available to us now to help us see that things were wrong that just wasn't available when our parents were young.


Seriouslyffs · 10/07/2015 14:54

Yes, it's good to recognise that, but that doesn't mean it's easy, or even possible in many cases.


MrsTerryPratchett · 10/07/2015 14:55

I was stunned to find out that my DM didn't completely idolize my GM like I did. Amazed that she hadn't had the idyllic childhood I thought she had. She was also not supposed to talk about things, there wasn't counselling, she just had to get on with it.

Having said that, I think she did the very best she could. Which is not the case with a lot of families.


BrianButterfield · 10/07/2015 14:56

I sometimes read people here criticising parents for isolated incidents and wonder whether they would be quite so quick to beat themselves up for making the same mistake. For example people holding grudges about getting wrongly told off from years ago - sometimes the tone is lighthearted but sometimes you feel people really still blame their parents for a simple mistake.


RandomMess · 10/07/2015 15:00

My parents behaviour has screwed me up. I know their deficiencies are due to their own childhood's however as a parent it breaks my heart when my dc are sad/unhappy etc. and I reach out to support them. My parents never did this and my failings as a daughter is "nothing to do with the way they brought me up"

Yes they are completely blinkered, no they are not prepared to reign in their behaviour even now - so I think they are not absolved of all responsibility.


getinthesea · 10/07/2015 15:01

My mother was enormously damaged by her own very dysfunctional childhood, and that in turn has had an enormous effect on me.

But I sometimes think I understand what happened to her too well, and it stops me from being angry and upset. Which I probably need to be at some point.


Treats · 10/07/2015 15:01

It's been very important to my relationship with my mum to recognise that she was hopelessly parented as a child. Some of the things she's mentioned about her childhood (just in passing, quite matter of factly) have made me cry. On a good day, I'm so proud of her for how she's overcome her background and had a happy marriage, three happy children and a fulfilling career.

On a bad day, she drives me completely NUTS! She can be completely childish and self-centred. I have to remind myself that when she feels a bit threatened, she regresses, emotionally, to being five years old again.

I have her and my dad to thank for the fact that I have much better mental health and emotional stability than she does, so I reckon that she's bought the right for me to be a bit patient with her when she's being annoyed.


Lurkedforever1 · 10/07/2015 15:02

rainbow fair point but counselling isn't consistently reaching it's targets, my generation certainly haven't had it as standard to resolve childhood issues.


Sportinginjustice · 10/07/2015 15:02

Agree with most of the above posters. Plus, there are always exceptions and sometimes twats are just born, not bred.

My mother was brought up by pioneering charity workers who worked all their lives to make a difference to those who were less fortunate. They campaigned to change laws to allow equal opportunities for all. That didn't stop my mother deciding to be embarrassed by her do-gooder parents because she personally believed it was a lost cause and running off with a bigoted alcoholic idiot (my dad) whom she idolised as a "real man".

The fact I grew up in a house full of emotional abuse does not stem from her own loving upbringing. Perhaps my dad can trace his problems back to his childhood and, if so, that's very sad but as far as I am concerned, when he became an adult, and, more so, a father, he make the choice to take responsibility for his actions and decide what kind of person/parent he could be.


Lurkedforever1 · 10/07/2015 15:04

And to add to that some of us have parents that didn't have bad childhoods themselves but still inflicted it on their own kids


Treats · 10/07/2015 15:05

annoying - not annoyed


FineDamBeaver · 10/07/2015 15:07

I agree that must be limits for extreme cases, otherwise you completely lose the notion of personal accountability (a classic example is being sexually abused as a child and subsequently becoming a perpetrator yourself. Few would want the latter excused because of the former).

There's probably no clear line to draw, and many many "grey area" cases.

I just think that on the whole we're much too quick to judge our parents, given that the majority really were trying to do their best.
rainbow, I think it's a really good point that people are often only ever minimally aware of the ways in which they're "messing up" their kids. Some of the most potentially messing-up behaviours are completely ingrained. And you're right - perhaps even more so for previous generations.

OP posts:

RainbowFlutterby · 10/07/2015 15:08

Oh no Lurked, I know counselling is no where near as good as it should be. I still think it's more readily available to us now than when my parents were my age. There's no doubt now that my mum suffered from undiagnosed PND and she admits that it she was told it was "baby blues" and to "pull herself together". That was 40+ years ago though. My DS is now 11 and when I admitted to feeling tearful to the HV when he was 2 weeks old, out came the forms, the questionnaires, the follow-up questionnaires and the offer of Drs appointments.


tumbletumble · 10/07/2015 15:08

My mum had a difficult childhood in some ways and a tricky relationship with her own mother - for example, she was sent to boarding school age 5 Sad. I adored my Grandma, but I can see she was a better grandmother than a mother. She just wasn't very maternal. She also had a difficult childhood herself for lots of reasons (emigrating to England when she was young, then her parents split and her mother never learnt to speak English well so was very reliant on her).

My mother worked hard to break the cycle and was an amazing mum to me. So it can be done. I hope and believe that I'm a good mum too.

I think at some point you have to stop blaming your parents (or their parents!) and take responsibility for yourself as a person and as a parent.


FineDamBeaver · 10/07/2015 15:10

Surely a person can characterise their parents' upbringing as "fine" without ever really knowing? It doesn't have to be obvious abuse or anything. It's often too complex for that.

OP posts:

sunbathe · 10/07/2015 15:10

I agree, op. I realised this when I had my first child.

But I don't think it makes it any easier to deal with her.


TTWK · 10/07/2015 15:11

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.

-Philip Larkin (1922-1985)


ShirleySmears · 10/07/2015 15:11

Society generally is terrible at this.

I work in a school in a very deprived area and we have several truly awful parents. They can't see it however because in most cases they are doing a far better job than their own parents did, even though it's woefully inadequate.

They cycle can be broken but it's really not easy. I mean, how many times do you hear yourself saying things to Dc that are exactly what yours said to you?


FineDamBeaver · 10/07/2015 15:12

That's the one, TTWK Smile

OP posts:
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