Jump to content

Tell Me the Truth: Am I a Terrible Mother?


Recommended Posts

Last night my daughter poured out her heart to me, basically expressing her (sincerely) heartbroken feelings over the break-up of our family and all that came with it six years ago (she is now 20). She directed a lot of the problem at me, saying that she has always felt like the "third wheel" because of my bf (we do not live together and for the first three years, he lived in another city, but we did have daily phone contact) and that my first priority has been my bf, not her. She has a bedroom in the finished basement of our house which has wall-to-wall carpeting, a big tv, and a fireplace-- it's like a little studio apartment-- but she said, "We don't have a relationship. I'm just somebody who lives in your basement." (ouch, stab me in the heart.) Then she said she has felt like all I want her to do is grow up fast so she can leave the house and I can get on with my life with my bf.


Although I listened and tried not to debate every point, I tried to tell her that I have consciously waited before marrying my bf so her life would not be disrupted, that I have enjoyed having her home and look forward to her visits from college, and I wouldn't want it any other way.


Last night, I could not sleep at all, rehashing the past, and wondering where I could have possibly gone wrong. I mean, I have worked my butt off to provide a nice home and give her the things she needs, I have nursed her through illnesses, supported her financially, let her borrow my car, pay for her memberships, buy her all the diet food she asks for.................




I tried to get her to be more specific. For ex., she said that we don't eat dinner together and it seems like I just wait for my bf to come over to eat. She said when we went to the mall together last weekend (I was taking her to a movie), it was like being on pins and needs. That she's always worried she's going to say something wrong.


I am crushed by all of this. It reminds me of the lack of regard her father had for me. Nothing I did was acknowledged or appreciated. He just kept beating me down.


She was really, really said (genuinely), saying it was too late to fix anything and now all she can do is look forward to being on her own.




If I thought she was just b.s.-ing me, I wouldn't worry about it, but this was DEEP.


I told her maybe we could take a little trip before she goes back to school, just the two of us.


It's so disheartening. If any of you younger people have thoughts on this, please, please tell me..........

Link to comment

I don't think you're a terrible mother, but I do think that she may have a point. You point out all of the amentities she has, all of the things you have bought for her, the things she "needs", yet you don't point out the quality time you have spent together, the things you've shared, the memories you have of teaching her to ride a bike, letting her pour her heart out to you about her first break up, things like that.


Buying her things doesn't equal a relationship. I say this b/c I have the same issues with my father--he thinks as long as he has provided financially that he is all set. He's completely emotionally unavailable. I'd rather have him to give me good advice that I ask for and help me through a rough time in my life, hug me when I'm crying, congratulate me when I do something I'm proud of, than to write me another check or for me to watch a show on the TV he bought me.


So I can understand why she'd feel like that, just based on those things, but I do not think it makes you terrible. If you didn't abuse her, put her down, criticize everything she does, talk to her if she needs it, then you did just fine, and perhaps one day she will feel like you were better than she thought and she will appreciate you more. Or to be honest, she may need therapy to help her see it. Whatever happens, just listen to her and be there for her and try to build up the relationship she doesn't think you have with her. Give her time and space and she will come to you.

Link to comment

Given your previous thread, it seems like your daughter is indeed a brat and likes pushing your buttons..on the other hand...I also think it is time for you to do some good, long, hard thinking about yourself and your own actions given what your daughter has said. I know plenty of divorced people with children who spend more of their time focusing on finding a new partner than on their children. Giving them material possesions is not good enough...that is buying off their silence. Have you been a "mother" to her in the sense of being there to listen to her...not just take her places and give her medicine when she is sick. When you were doing things for her, were you totally engaged with her or was your mind with your boyfriend and what you and your boyfriend would be doing later on. She said it was like being on pins and needles when going to the mall with you...that is a clear indication that she is not comfortable with you. You may have been around in body going through the motions of parenting...but were you with her in mind during those times. It sounds like she got the sense that you were performing your duties as a mother but your mind was not on her but on your boyfriend. Even from your post, it sounds like you are congratulating yourself for doing all the standard duties of motherhood...but what about the emotional aspect...could your daughter confide in you when she had problems. Saying that you enjoyed having her at home sounds very cold and distant...like you are indeed talking about a house guest rather than a daughter. So while your daughter may be a brat, I can indeed understand where she is coming from and why she has some resentment regarding your boyfriend.

Link to comment

Thanks. A lot to think about. I am rehashing everything she has said, and I'm trying to be open minded. In all honesty, my daughter was hard for me to hang out with a lot because she was strong willed and demanding (to the point of being nasty) as a teenager. Other people (like my brother and parents) would be appalled at her treatment of me. It felt impossible to connect with her at times, so I think I backed off to a degree, but I would always come through for her whenever she needed me. It usually felt that anything I said was stupid or wrong. When she went away to college, she called me every day. She also told her professor (who was talking about how kids don't like their parents) how much she loved me and how great I am. So I imagine she has mixed feelings. I don't know. I felt it was getting a lot better, but hearing that she felt uncomfortable with me at the mall was heartbreaking.

Link to comment

She was a teenager. Of course she's going to hate you then...they all hate their parents then. The only reason I didn't hate my mom then was that she bought me pot and beer, and now 10 years later I hate her for that. There's a difference between being your daughter's friend and being your daughter's mother, ya know?


So why was she demanding and awful as a teenager? Partly b/c she was a horomonal adolescent and partly b/c you let her be that way (not blaming you, but all children are products of their parents and what their parents instill in them). You can't beat yourself up over it, but you also can't say that you did an amazing job...she's your only child and your child didn't come with a handbook. You did the best you could, and leave it at that.


I suggest now do not think that the materials you buy her measures how good of a mother you are. Do many more things for her, connect with her on an emotional level. Taking her on a trip with just the 2 of you will not miraculously fix things--it will just tell her when she's upset, she gets a gift, but your problems will still be there.

Link to comment

Thanks, Mudders. When you say, "do more things for her" -- can you be more specific? I mean, let's take yesterday for example. I drove 20 miles to take her to work (her first day), even though it was hard for me because I had to get to work myself, but I did not complain, and we got something to eat on the way. We had a nice talk and I was trying to give her some confidence about starting the new job. I made her breakfast and we ate together. I washed her clothes and we spent time looking for concert tickets on line. I let her borrow my car in the evening to go visit a friend. Seriously, I don't know what more I can do, but I am very open to suggestions!!!!

Link to comment

I should mention that I have a son, too (age 22), and he is completely the opposite. He is much more helpful and caring and easy going, and I didn't raise him much differently. Some of these characteristics are innate, I think. I realize that most teenage (girls, esp, I'm sorry to say) are wicked at times, so I'm not naive when it comes to that. Even my son thinks my daughter is a brat. I always stick up for her!!!!! Because of course I love her... even tho it isn't always easy!

Link to comment

I agree with hersmudders. Teenagers can be awful to their parents...but that is when a parent has to put their foot down and discipline the teen and not accept mouthing off. It is the parents who have to train the child from an early age how to treat them. Lots of toddlers mouth off to their parents and if not corrected it turns into teens mouthing off. While your daughter may have acted up, it was your responsibility to put her in her place...deep down that is what children want...they want the guidance.

Link to comment
Thanks, Mudders. When you say, "do more things for her" -- can you be more specific? I mean, let's take yesterday for example. I drove 20 miles to take her to work (her first day), even though it was hard for me because I had to get to work myself, but I did not complain, and we got something to eat on the way. We had a nice talk and I was trying to give her some confidence about starting the new job. I made her breakfast and we ate together. I washed her clothes and we spent time looking for concert tickets on line. I let her borrow my car in the evening to go visit a friend. Seriously, I don't know what more I can do, but I am very open to suggestions!!!!


I mean listen to her when she's upset, laugh with her, have inside jokes with her, talk to her about personal things, know what her interests are and support them, give her a hug when she's having a bad day, confide in each other, let her know that you support her 100% in what she does even if you don't like her choices (don't tell her you don't like the choices unless she asks).


Again, letting her borrow your car, washing her clothes, buying her concert tix, those are all things that yes a mother will do, but they are all material things and you can't measure your abilities as a mother this way.


I have an awful relationship with my mother b/c she always wanted to be my friend instead of my mom, and I can't stand her now. Instead of talking to me about what can happen if you have sex too early, she gave me condoms and birth control at 15. Instead of making sure I knew of consequences of drinking and drugs, she did them with me. Instead of listening to me cry when I thought my dog was dying a couple years ago, she said "It's just a dog, you can get another". She's also an alcoholic who failed to protect me when I was a child.


When you don't have the emotinal support of your mother, resentment and anger grows fierce, and it's hard to go back. My mother tried to hug me in the airport the other day (I had just landed in my city and she was on layover from a different plane in that airport, and I ran into her), I told her I couldn't do it b/c I need her to be more of a mom than thinking she can just hug me and take all the problems away.


You can't make the problems disappear.


But I want to add that washing her clothes is keeping her in that bratty teenage stage. Letting her borrow the car is as well. make her stand on her own two feet and maybe she'll appreciate you more. Right now she thinks she can walk all over you. It's partly her doing too, but again, we are all products of what our parents mold us to be.

Link to comment

I think you sound like a good mother. It sounds like your daughter is just jealous of your BF and trying to put a guilt-trip on you.

I mean, you were divorced - what did she expect you to do, never date again?

Did she expect you to just "be a mother" and not have a life of your own?

Frankly, she sounds a little entitled.

We can all be better than we have been, and it's easy for look back and see mistakes --- but you did the best you could.

At 20, she needs to move on with her own life and stop blaming you for not being perfect.


Link to comment

I agree with everyone else. Her being a nasty teenager is a result of her testing your boundaries and you letting her be nasty (no offense). You have to stick your ground, and not bend to her mouthiness and tantrums and she will respect you. But, with that said, I don't think you're a horrible mother at all.


As for things you can do for her now, think of things that don't necessarily involve money or convenience necessarily. She says she wants to eat dinner together. Make home-cooked meals and have dinner with her, or if you don't cook maybe order Chinese or whatever and sit and eat and talk. Maybe you can...do each other's nails if you're into that (I know it sounds cheesy) or get a manicure together. Go for a walk. Whatever. The key is doing things together that you both in joy and that will allow you time to talk and enjoy each other's company. And it may take a few times for it to work, but if you make a habit of just spending time with your daughter, I think things will turn around.

Link to comment
  • 2 weeks later...

Getting in late here, but am going to post in this thread rather than opening a new one. Hope that's OK.



You know, it's no crime if you two just don't click. There's a huge taboo about mother relationships. Heaven forbid a woman cop to not really being all that fond of her own kid.


A therapist once laid it out for me that I'd be nearly impossible for most mothers to love. (Thanks, b!tch. She also claimed I only didn't want a child out of rebellion against my mother. Um, no, I don't want a child w/ your client, who's a big baby himself and came in here trying to get you to manipulate me into having one.) Since then, I kinda get it about my mother. I'd known previously that it was rough on her to have me, the total opposite of everything she'd have wanted in a kid. But I hadn't thought of letting go of hopes that she become the mother I need now and expectations she'd make amends for never being the mother I needed as an infant, a toddler, a kid, a teen, a college student. It's not going to happen. She just couldn't. No hard feelings necessary.


(NB: I don't let her off the hook for the invalidating ways she's treated my easier-to-love sibs. But I can still let go of the expectation that she treat them well and resign the role of cleaning up her mistakes.)


The cultural onus of the mythical mother is one of the most anti-feminist rackets out there. Sux to be the offspring - as a kid, and as long as you believe the cultural garbagolagoo. I disagree w/ the therapist's saying =I= was the issue per se; I think there are mothers who would have delighted in me and found inspiration in my quirks.


But the idea of non-fit in general is an important one. People are probably afraid that if the discussion is permitted, people will start returning newborns to hospitals. I don't think that's a significant danger.


I read an article in which a well-known writer (sorry, not sure of name) said it would have been so much easier on her if her mother had just told her she wasn't able to mother her. That's true for me, too. Instead she took out on me her frustration over trying to mother me. Instead of frankly admitting she was neither interested in nor able to meet my basic emotional needs, I've always caught a lot of blame.


My mother probably won't ever let go of her expectations that I morph into her ideal, easy-to-love daughter. Nor will she relax her insistence that being a good mother is of utmost importance, which makes it crucial to her self-esteem that I coddle her. Our situation is different to yours - in ways that make the situation healthiest for me if there's no contact.


She only feels love and connection if she's being bought stuff. A few years ago, she gleefully reported she'd read a book on "love languages" and that my "love language" was gift-giving. Obviously, b/c I gave such great gifts. Um, no, that was survival. She'd demanded that. When I didn't perform, produce, my father chided me for not doing enough for her. After I stopped giving her things and money, she started writing letters describing how much she loved things I'd given her previously, that hadn't warranted mention until the supply dried up.


ALL THAT SAID the idea of love languages came to mind as I read how you express your mothering, and how your daughter doesn't feel loved. No idea if the book is any good - sounds like blarney to me in a lot of ways. One aspect of my "love language" would be sharing and developing ideas. But my mother has consistently refused to read articles I've shared or discuss current events. She's hermetically sealed off to my life, no matter how I've expressed it. From her view, I'm the one who's not letting her in. All I see are the pile of invitations she's used to wipe her feet.


Maybe as part of working toward an annulment, it would be enlightening for you to find out when your daughter feels loved. I'm guessing that if you stop striving to be a great mom to her, you'll make a pretty decent ex-mother.

Link to comment

Well I can tell you that i have a mother who does the exact same thing that you do. All she would do is worry abouth her stupid boyfriend and everytime I try to come front her about it all she would say is the same things that you say.. "look at everything that i do for you and as usual... Nothing is ever good enough for you"... Well now that i havent been with my mom for almost a year now i can honestly say that she is right... She has done a lot for me and I never acknowledged it. YOU HAVE YOUR OWN LIFE AND HAPPINESS...


its not that your daughter doesnt care for you or love you its just that shes feeling left out. Shes feels excluded from you and shes worried that your gonna run off with this guy and leave her ( as my mother has done to me). She may be feeling insecure about this guy and she isnt used to sharing you with another man. And yes i know exactly how that feels and it hurts so bad...


Maybe something that will help you is to do things together... i mean the three of you and let them get familiar with eachother... Reassure her that you are being the best mother that you know how to be and you just want to be happy too...

Link to comment


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...