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Never "good enough" for Mom

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
I am so embarassed to post this, but I'd love some advice. My mother is a wonderful and generous person, but she also has a habit of being very judgemental about my life and has no problems voicing her opinions on it. For example, my one and a half year old is "too old to nurse". I am "done" having babies. Being a SAHM is a "waste" of my talents. I need to find more work for my WAHM design biz. Cloth diapers are stupid, as is organic food, delaying vaxs, holding my babies, etc. I should be teaching my four year old to read. It just goes on and on.

I am 30 years old and I know I should just not care what she thinks. I try to live my life apart from her judgements but when I'm making decisions I often hear her voice running through my head. Like a third baby, we're talking about it but I know my mother would be so disappointed in me and that is definitely coloring the discussion.

And I'm a "non-practicing" artist. I really, really want to find more time to do my art, but every time I mention it to my mother she shoots me down telling me how stupid it is, that I'm not a "real" artist, that I should spend that time making money instead. And I haven't talked to her about it in a long time because of this but every time I start to move forward getting back into it I hear her voice in the back of my head about what a waste of time it is.

Sigh, so how do I as a grown woman let go of her opinions to try and live my life in a way that is fulfilling to me instead of trying to live up to her expectations? I know no matter what I do I will never be "good enough" but I can't let go of trying. Ack, this was hard to post so please don't laugh too hard at me.

TIA for any words of wisdom!
post #2 of 17
im having the same problem.

i suppose the best advice is to do what you know in your heart is right for you....

but, i understand it is hard.
post #3 of 17
You have written about my mom (except for the "wonderful" and "generous" part).

You have different priorities. Don't let her push hers on you.

I tried so hard to please my mom for such a long time, and it got to the point that the only way to please her was to go against my principles. And I finally drew the line. It was hard. She hasn't talked to me in 3 and a half years.

post #4 of 17

I think one of the most challenging things we do as adults it heal the wounds of our childhood and re-invent ourselves and our relationship with our parents. My Mom and I have been working on this for probably... 15 years now (I'm 44). I think we did a pretty good job of treating each other with respect as adults when I lived close by. But, I think Mom has backslid a bit in the past 3 years since I moved farther away & she doesn't have to deal with me so often anymore. PLUS I have all these new things for her to pick on - like a DH, DD, house, etc. AND I've become more liberal (or maybe just more confident & vocal about it) in the past few years, too (which bothers her). So, what I'm trying to get at is that it's a process... a LONG process that is never quite done. I've learned that some things are worth arguing about wih her & other things are not. I just dismiss those things that don't matter to me - I refuse to get too involved in every little thing she wants to worry about & "be sure" that I'm doing it "right" (ie, her way). It's hard to work it out - esp. if you don't wanna just blow up and blow her off. For me it's been a balancing act - not a stone wall. I still love my Mama in spite of herself, so we keep learning more about how to talk to each other & respect each other in a different way than just mother & child.
post #5 of 17
My mother just visited and it is really tough. I can set boundaries, but she doesn't adhere to them. She spanked my dd who has never been spanked (we are against it)- just to show dd what a spanking WAS. I have worked really hard to forge a relationship with my mother, but she is unpredictable and critical.

Enough about me! I was especially concerned about your mother discounting your art. You are a real artist. A real artist is someone who makes art. I has nothing do with degrees, money or fame, etc.- your art has value. Who knows, maybe in time your art will bring in money- far more than if you were working some job you hated.

I hope you can get support for your art or build a safe place in your life to make art separate from your mother's views. Have you done "The Artist's Way?" There's a lot in there about overcoming the critical voice- internal or external. Wishing you the best (from a fellow artist)
post #6 of 17
I totally have a mom who is the same way... and am about to spend three days with sis and her "perfect" family and parents... and plan to nurse my 18 mo when he wants, and I am bringing my drums and bells for the kids to dance and sing and make a racket of fun!

So hard to feel like we are doing the right thing when those old tapes begin to play, and beleive me, I still have my share. I was doing some really hard processing last week, and doing my best to deal, my mom got all seroius on the phone and asked me to do her a favor for c-mas "don't yell at your kids, you are just continuing your own patterns" hello! who PUT those patterns there in the first place? HER and my DAD (verbally abusive and a drinker...but my mom says he's gotten better - ya cuz now he's too sick to drink, just sleeps and forgets things)

Anyway, I had to pull back and realize that at least I KNOW and am AWARE of my own process and dammit, I am healing ALOT of abuse (ex dh was just like dad, but worse...) and my kids don't get yelled at or hit on a regular basis, I may raise an octave or two as I repeat myself, but its not like my family - spank first, and no discussion after.

I am a writer, and have tried to be a "real" artist for years in my folks eyes. The Artist's Way is a great tool for nurturing my creative self, and I have used it more than once through the years. I don't have a Pulitzer or a published book - yet I highly suggest reading it, and just recognizing when you play those tapes is a HUGE step!! If you know when you hear them, you can work to replace them with positive affirmations!!!

So when you have issues with dear old mom, you can come here to vent!! And do as I do, try to hold thy tongue. My grandma used to say "kill 'em with kindness" you can set boundaries and still keep the peace.

good luck, and hugs to you
post #7 of 17
Originally Posted by momtokay
I know no matter what I do I will never be "good enough" but I can't let go of trying. Ack, this was hard to post so please don't laugh too hard at me.

TIA for any words of wisdom!

Then why try? You only set yourself up for failure. My mother is very critical and I have never been able to please her and she freely admits I will never please her because I am not her and I would not want to be. Its caused me a lot of pain in my life trying to get her to be proud of me but since nothing I do is 100% perfect that will never happen. I have come to accept that I will never make her happy but that's her shortfall, not mine. I am living my life for ME, I have lived my life as she wanted and I was miserable. You cant live to please someone else, its time to start pleasing yourself and if that means making your mom unhappy, well, she's already unhappy at what she considers her failure of a daughter. My mother is the say way, everyone around me is astounded by my life and what I have done and overcome both as a woman and a single mother but my mother can only see my life in a negative light because I did not do it her way. To me my mother is a failure herself and heaven knows we dont want anyone to surpass us so we discourage them from living there dreams because we didn't. I have a Tony Robbins seminar around here some where that discusses this issue that I found very helpful. I'd be happy to share it
post #8 of 17
My mom is never satisfied with me, either. Even when I do the things that she thinks she wants me to do, her anxiety is never quelled. Oh my goodness, if only you had a graduate degree! Oh, now you have a PhD by the age of 30, well, why don't you get a job. Oh you got a job, but it's the wrong kind. But what if you don't get married? If you marry a non-Jew I'll put my head in the oven. What's the matter with your Jewish boyfriend that you aren't married yet? Oh now you are getting married, but why aren't you letting me plan the wedding, your wedding is going to be too weird, etc. etc. etc.

Instead of being able to set my own priorities and goals, I feel the same anxieties. Why aren't I thin? Why haven't I succeeded in establishing myself in a career? Why haven't we made enough money to buy a house, all her friends' children have bought houses! I can't believe I'm 38 and jobless and living in an apartment I can barely afford.

What if she's right and I'm parenting all wrong? (Okay but the last one has been pretty easy to fight, because my ds is quite obviously the most stupendous wonderful guy ever in the world.)

I figure that my mom will never stop being anxious and will never stop pushing. So I'm plunging on ahead and hoping that what I'm doing is really enough for me, that I can figure out what would be a good goal for me.

Now it took me until my 30th birthday to even understand that my mom was so critical and mean because of her anxieties, so you are way ahead of me! I recommend that you plunge on ahead and make some beautiful artwork and raise your beautiful girls. If you want to have a baby, have a baby. Don't ask for your mom's approval, especially not about the art. My dh still hasn't told his mom that he got a grant from the local arts council for his poetry, because she is so negative about his artistic ambitions. (By the way, a grant from your local arts council could give you enough to rent a small studio space. ) My dh explained to me that letting my mom in on the decision making process was where I got hamstrung. I always feel like I have to let my mom know that I am working on whatever is making her anxious, and that's when she gets me. So you have to have something else to talk about with your mom.

(I'll let you know when that works for me! :LOL)
post #9 of 17
Originally Posted by captain optimism
I always feel like I have to let my mom know that I am working on whatever is making her anxious, and that's when she gets me. So you have to have something else to talk about with your mom.

(I'll let you know when that works for me! :LOL)

Yep, and thats why I dont tell my mom everything anymore
post #10 of 17
You know, so much of your ideas are right on! and though I KNOW these things in my head, my heart goes and falls into patterns that I have to watch out for!

I agree about not telling everything to a mom who never wants to see you succeed,( no matter how much she says it) After spending three days woith my mom and sister in her STERILE home (two kids, she is so not fun with them, militant practically about crumbs on the face!...they will have the same need for therapy in their adult years, im sure) : -and I came home and started cleaning and freaking out and seeing my home as not good enough...

THEN I stopped the nonsense tape in my head, took a bath and relaxed!
I realized that even if I don't have bathroom floors you can eat off of, my home is HAPPY - and that's why I left the abusive husband and patterns that I grew up with!!! my ex was JUST like my dad, and I was becoming my mom, repressed and not in touch with reality!

my mom is so whipped by my dad, he has a degenerative disease and she is letting him dictate the shots and still drive even though he is getting lost and swerving! they will share a destiny, no matter what i say about reality...

I realize that I have made my reality and forged forward regardless of the negativity anyway - since I was a child! I find that reminding myself of who i was before they really "broke" me helps me stay creative and stay in touch with ME - I can then fulfill my purpose on a larger scale, and thank my mom for playing a role in making me the rebel I need to be in order to make my mark on the planet!

does that make sense? lots of bigger picture stuff, but it still helps in the small trials too...
post #11 of 17
Momtokay, Oh, how I feel for you. And with you. I can't get my mom's voice out of my head, either, no matter how invalid I consider her opinions on the stupidity of organic food to be. Sigh.

I had a few very good years, relatively free from that voice, for a few years, thanks to a counselor, so I'll share his words in the hopes that they might help someone else. I have had some backsliding episodes since then, but they were because I broke my own rules, and so I really have no one to blame but myself for any suffering I have done of late. Anyway, the first thing the counselor said to me was: "If you don't have her approval yet, you aren't ever going to get it. Not having her approval will stop hurting so much when you stop needing her approval." Easier said than done, for sure, but the first half of that, knowing that I was never going to get her approval, made it so much easier to stop needing it. It took a while for it to sink in, but it did eventually.

The second thing he said, and probably even more important, was: "If it's only safe to talk to your mother about paint chips (insert other non-personal subject here as needed); only talk to your mother about paint chips." Once I stopped sharing personal information with my mother, it took away so much of her power over me. She couldn't disapprove or advise on what she didn't know. It is a very sad thing, not being able to be close to one's mother, but I couldn't be - it was causing me to suffer and it was harming my marriage. It was harming my marriage because she constantly had little suggestions for the way my husband should be, and I couldn't get them out of my head afterward. Sigh, poor husband during that time.

It's good to remind myself of my rules - they worked so beautifully until I was so happy I forgot I needed them. :P

Best of luck.
post #12 of 17
Originally Posted by Satori
Yep, and thats why I dont tell my mom everything anymore

Amen. What an excellent plan. Boy, I've been screwing up this year. Boy, did I pay over Christmas.
post #13 of 17
Wow, I am glad to not be the only one, but sad that I'm not...and kind of scared that I may do this to my kids someday. :LOL I know my mom loves me, and I know she is harder on herself than on me(she is a perfectionist...and has really high expectations for people, that I believe she passed on to me ), but it is so hard. She says things about dh and I all the time, about how we are bad for each other(co-dependant about our eating habits...we are fat ), about how it *did* take her 8 years to leave my dad(who was an alcohic and abusive...which my dh is neither), she puts all this stuff in my head about how my dh *should* be(btw my mom is still single...almost 20 years later), I feel like I have to hide so much from her so that she won't make me feel bad about decisions I make. Yesterday I finally said something to her. I was telling her that we are getting an account(to help us get back into the real world of bank accounts, andcredit repair), and that for the first few months we won't have a atm card so we can get used to having the account...she said you guys should probably *never* get one...she said it, and it stung. We have made some poor choices in teh past, but are working on repairing those choices and learning about spending money(ummm...where was she when I should have been learning about that?!). So I finally just said, mom...that was really mean. and there was this weird akward silence, and then she said, yeah...it was. I'm sorry!!! Wow! That felt good to stand up for myself(I have been doing it more and more, but usually let stuff about money slide because she does help us so much, and it's awkward). I think I am finally ready to grow up the rest of the way though. I still respect much of her knowledge, and I love talking with her about worldly things(politics, society), but she just can't have that much control anymore. I want to move on from that, and have a different kind of relationship with her now.

Momtokay~please don't be embarrassed...I bet more of us than not have moms that are in our lives a bit too much. Please do your art, you deserve to do something you love.
post #14 of 17
Hmmm... what qualifies someone as a "real" artist...? Making money? Because that would likely be the response of a NON-artist. I can't imagine a "real" artist being driven by anything other than their spirit...!

I had two people like this: my dad and my MIL. HAD being the key word because both have been cut out of our lives. With the birth of our son, we've found the strength to remove ALL toxic people from our lives. Unfortunately, that really just came down to ALL of the parents!

My MIL... who was very generous to us out of a weird sense of obligation... absolutely hates me. I will never be good enough and she'd find every way to make it known. I would hear her voice with EVERY DECISION I MADE--including the color of my bed sheets. No kidding.

My dad went on until he had me so upset with my life--feeling like I was so worthless and completely disrespectful of any boudary I ever set that I had to completely cut him out of my life for 18 months. After that, it got better... but gradually got back to being bad. Not as bad as before--but headed there if I didn't stop it. Now we go in waves of getting along and not communicating at all. It's been this way for about 9 years. I have a feeling that one of us will eventually get sick of the roller coaster and not allow the other one back "in".

And this has rubbed off onto other relationships... DH is now also doing the same thing. Our family are me, DH, baby and pets... and they are sacred. Anyone that consistently contributes pain or negativity--especially the kind that are destroying our self-esteems--are cut off. And we have FINALLY found peace!! It's occasionally sad because currently, we don't speak to any of the 4 parents; but truly, we are so much happier. I'm not saying it's the answer for you... but it's an option. Not ideal, but it may be what you need at some point.

post #15 of 17
I hate to admit it, but I limit my time with my own mom. It is sad that I feel I have to, but it preserves my sanity.
post #16 of 17
Pretty much the same here. My mom is sweet and generous to other people and monetarily is more generous to us that I'd like. However she gets upset that there are no soft drinks in our house when she comes, no chemical cleaners, the house is too hot in the summer, she openly admitted that she laughed at my ideals of parenting with her coworkers while I was pregnant and I'm proud to say that we lived up to every one of those except not giving her a pacifier and for that one she wasn't any the worser for it.

She is judgemental as well. I know that she talks about me because I hear her talk about the way other parents raised their children and if you listened to her talk she's the only perfect parent out there. I happen to disagree with her parenting methods a lot and see nothing wrong with the "bad" parents she points out.

As a side not she was visiting the last few days and dd (who's just over 2 years old) hit her and spit in her face. I saw the lightning flash in mom's eyes and she got the same look she used to get as she spanked us. I swear if dd had been her child she would have hit my poor child. We are working with her on the spitting and hitting in our own way. We've also found that hitting and spitting in her case is either done for attention (ieart of a tantrum) or it is because she is too tired and actually needs a nap.
post #17 of 17
I am another that can totally sympathize with you. However my situation is a little different. I can never and will never please my mother. She believes in her heart that she has been victimized by me over and over again. I was an awful teenager, I am not giving, I am selfish. I nurse my DD too long, nursing ins't important (I want to become an LC one day). Blah, blah, blah!

Here's the sick little twist to MY story............ My sister is almost 17. My mother has molded her to be HER. They have similair interest, they like the same foods, my sister is sooo smart and is going to do things, so talented and is going to write, so good and does things the way my mother wants them done......................


I had to distance myself from her for awhile, and now I don't discuss my personal life. I take everything she says like a grain of sand, and she STILL stresses me out!

Take it one day at a time, only discuss things that wont' upset you. If she starts to pry or discredit who you are GET OFF THE PHONE, or LEAVE. That has been what has saved me. As soon as my mother goes to far I immidately tell her, "oh, the kids need me, gotta go". If we are at her home, we leave IMMEDIATELY. I have left on holidays before the food was served!! I know the relationship I have with my mother isnt' healthy, but letting her talk down to me, like she did through my entire childhood is much worse. So when things get bad, I just get out of there.
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