All women become like their mothers, so says Ocscar Wilde
June 13, 2012 10:48 AM Subscribe
How can I have a better relationship with my daughter than I had with my mother?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (10 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I am the mother. My own mother and I have semi-strained relationship. We are fine if I keep things limited to phone calls and the occasional weekend visit, but anything longer than a few days, and I become stressed and unable to deal with her.
My mother has always been prone to drama and she had undiagnosed post-partum depression after having my youngest sibling and serious anxiety issues. Both of these have only grown in intensity as her children have all grown.
For example, when I was a child, she would constantly threaten to leave and she never did. I knew how messed up this was even as it happened and eventually had to help my younger siblings process this. She also yelled. All the time. About everything. She was an incredibly angry person when I was younger, and I know it's because she felt trapped being home alone and outnumbered by small children and absolutely no help (my dad was completely useless as a parent when we were small, and my parents had 1950s gender role things going on with domestic work where my other did 90% of that in addition to 90% of the child rearing until we were all in elementary school). I suppose I could go so far as to say my childhood was an emotionally abusive one.
My mother is also incredibly needy and emotionally unavailable to me in the ways I need her to be. I have always had to somewhat mother her., which makes a sort of twisted sense considering when she was a child, she had to mother her younger siblings because my grandparents were shift workers. My grandfather would leave for his job in the afternoon before my grandmother would be home from her job, so my mother would have to cook dinner and babysit her younger siblings from an incredibly young age. My grandfather was also an alcoholic, and my grandmother had anxiety to the point she never learned to drive because it made her too nervous to do so. So my mother's own upbringing was at best a moderately neglectful situation where she never truly got to be a kid. And I have a lot of sympathy for that.
But she passed all those on to me. And in some ways she still very much behaves like a child that I use the same techniques to calm her down that I use for my older child. I acknowledge and appreciate that she was sick, in the sense that she had depression and anxiety that greatly impacted her life and she never sought treatment for either (stigma at the time she had them). But I also feel robbed of a good relationship with her because of it. And whenever I try to get something from her by way of emotional support I am met with, "I don't know what you want me to do about it," "I don't know what to tell you," and, "I can't fix it," and this complete sense of helplessness on her part --- not in the sense that she can do something about it, but in the sense that she doesn't understand I need her to tell me, "It will be okay," or "You're doing the best you can." She issues no emotional support and turns everything back on herself. She never asks me how I am doing but will go on for thirty minutes about my brother's relationship troubles or my sister's job troubles or her own problems with other family members. I long ago gave up trying to expect she will give those things to me. And it makes me sad. I just want my mother to be, well, my mother. And I know she won't be. With my younger siblings, it is different. My brother drives her crazy because he is so much like her and she is always worried for him. One of my sisters is so incredibly close to her that she had my mother attend the birth of her own child whereas when I had my mother come for two days after the birth of my daughter, I would have been better off if she had never come. So I know my siblings have a different experience of her as a mother that some of the things I say to her has them saying, "What?" I just don't think they remember, or that I did such a good job looking out for them that they were protected from a lot of what I went through.
I don't want this for my own daughter. I want her to be able to count on me, and I want to support her and love her and be helpful to her. I want her to be able to feel she can always come to me, no matter how old she gets. And I don't want her to have to mother me until I am an incredibly old woman.
But I'm worried that I will turn into my mother, and I really don't want to. How can I avoid this? Is it really inevitable that it will just happen? What steps do I take to keep myself from repeating this pattern? I am a reader, so any good books on this I would appreciate in addition to advice.