Childhood with distant parents - how can I be "normal'? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 7 Old 05-29-2013, 12:45 PM - Thread Starter
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Since having my son, I feel like i have gone through significant emotional changes.  I am a older mom 37.  I waited because I had a very difficult time growing up. My mother had MS, was a alcoholic and depressed and my father was distant, alcoholic and explosive.  Living with my own parents was chaotic.  Emotionally they battled and involved their children. I had doubts that I would ever have children.  I couldn't imagine risk of damaging a child.  I spent a few years going to a psychiatrist working my issues out.  I still long internally for a normal childhood.  It is a great sadness that sits in me.  After a few years in therapy, I decided that I could live differently then how my parents lived.  I have been married for 16 yrs, we had bought a house and I was starting to advance in my career.  I work in the IT field and have strived to not be held back by my past.  So, I felt I had reached a certain level of security - which is and will always be very important to me.  My way of dealing with the disorder of my past is to try have control over what my life is now.  I felt a great deal of hope.  Hope that I could be a good mom and give a child some of the things I missed. The first year of my son's life was exhausting.  I was tired most of the time (not unusual).  My son had cholic and didn't sleep more then a few hours at a time over extended periods of time. My husband was completely hands off.  I would beg for him to get up in the middle of the night but he would sleep through. That was when my depression resurfaced,  I crashed after the first year without sleep, started shutting down, becoming overly emotional. I went on medication for a about 5 months and felt better.  I came off medication but my relationship is not the same.  While I was healing, my husband started taking over most of the parenting with my son.  In most ways, I let him because i was exhausted. For the past 4-5mths, I have forcefully resurfaced and feel like I must constantly assert my role as mom. Lately I resent my husband.  He overrides what I have to say and passive-aggressively interrupts my parenting.  My son is 21 months and clings to his father.  This is probably just a phase and not a reflection on my parenting.  I try to objectively to see the situation but at times I do feel like a outsider and consequently a bad mother.  It feels like everyday is a uphill battle but I sticking to it.  I am struggling and I think it might help to hear from other mothers.  Be honest but sensitive, I need support but I value the truth.

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#2 of 7 Old 05-29-2013, 01:56 PM
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I feel like at 21 months that is the age where they are really into fathers pretty much anyway. Don't be so hard on yourself. Maybe you and your husband can go to a couples therapy to kind of help each other understand each others parenting expectations. Your husband was hands off for a year which had a deep effect on you and you had a hard time which is totally understandable. He now has spent time with your DS while you heal. There is nothing wrong with that except that he did not help you the first time around. As your son gets bigger it will get less intense and he grows. Those first few years are hard. <3

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#3 of 7 Old 05-30-2013, 12:22 AM
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Is there any way you could start spending some time on your own with your son?  You work outside of the home right?  When you come home, can you take him for a little walk?  Maybe an after dinner stroll?  You need to be with your son on your own.  It will give you a chance to see that your relationship with him is probably normal and nothing to be concerned about.  This also means you get away from your husband's interference.  This way, you can grow and nurture your connection with your son.  I think it is just a question of you two finding your groove again, you know what I mean?  


As for your husband, parents who have been in the position of primary caretakers generally think they know better.  Moms do it to dads all the time.  Since he has been parenting him more, he probably (and not consciously) thinks he knows how your son works better.  It is a knee jerk reaction to your resurgence.  If you establish those one on one times with your son and things still don't improve (i.e your perception and insecurities of your own parenting, how your son relates to you, your husband's knee-jerk-know-it-all reaction), then it is time to have a talk with your husband and ask him to back off with the passive aggressive comments.  My hope is that things reach a comfortable equilibrium on their own.

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#4 of 7 Old 05-30-2013, 08:06 PM
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Hi Lori,


My advice is very direct and onionated.  Normal doesn't exist.  My mom and dad are both hot, selfish, dysfunctional messes and I figured out that the best way to not be like them is to be around people who have some semblance of a stable, connected, loving relationship with their fam (or who didn't but got over it and are great people) to learn from them what my parents were supposed to teach me.  And I am still learning! The only thing you absolutely need to know is how to feel love and the rest will follow if your heart is open to it.  You will be amazed at how abnormal normal people are.  I actually saw that I don't want to be normal, just my best version of me.  


Your main need right now is a supportive husband and that can be an uphill battle.  If he is not going to be that person, join a meetup and find moms you can look up to, moms who set an example you want to follow. Or an adult survivors support group.  You need peeps hon.


About parenting:  I have an innate ability to completely disconnect, to shut off, emotionally, that I learned from my not so great mom. It is sometimes an uphill battle to not do that when I get overwhelmed, and if nobody is standing by your side 100%, it can be the hardest thing in the world to feel good about being a mom, but that is the air you need to breathe.   I have not been in as difficult a situation as you since having my son, but almost. And just on those days when I have become truly physically and emotionally exhausted, I have lost that connection with him, that closeness, that magical energy that gets me up and going and smiling because of him.  And all the joy that comes from it is lost even tho it's my life.  It's not that he needs you. Right now and going forward, you need him just as much.  Find that bond by starting out playing with him, reading to him, and sleeping as close to him as you can get.  Bottle feed him if he will let you. Be patient with you and him. Try not to make the parenting choices until your husband changes or your son is bonded back to you where he belongs. You can do this, slowly. Nurture and love as if it's the last day you can.  This difficult phase will pass. Nurture it and it will get stronger.  I think it will also make your husband feel better.  But right now you need to still nurture you before you can focus on your marriage.  Remember that everything you do out of love is also loving yourself.


Feel free to pm me anytime!

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#5 of 7 Old 05-31-2013, 12:20 AM
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My parents were distant, too. Extremely emotionally neglectful, my dad was an alcoholic, would sometimes rage, my mother has severe mental health issues. I had a really horrible childhood, to say the least. The only thing that has kept me sane is maintaining some sense of control in my life, it sounds like you operate similarly. When it comes to raising kids, it will stir up old pain and conditioning no matter how much work you've done on yourself. Having to cooperate and collaborate with your partner can be difficult for people with bad childhoods since we didn't have proper role models. We have to figure it all out from scratch. It has been hard for me, too, and what's helped is not taking myself so seriously. We all make mistakes and need to ask for help sometimes, its normal. You tried doing everything for your son the first year of his life, I had a similar experience with my daughter. Now you've taken a breather and want to exert your authority, thats understandable. Its going to take time, though, it sounds like you need to be more open to working with your husband rather than assuming he's against you. There's a good possibility he's not trying to undermine you, he simply has gotten used to doing things a certain way with your son. He very well could be acting aggressively, which needs to be addressed, one way or another. Someone suggested couple's therapy, i agree that thats a great idea. Keeping the lines of communication open is key, too, make sure you're expressing yourself fully and non-violently in order to get your opinions heard. If he still wont listen to you then you might need to resort to more drastic measures, like putting your foot down about what you will and will not tolerate.
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#6 of 7 Old 05-31-2013, 12:10 PM
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It took me a long time to finally go, but my childhood was far from 'normal' (although I'm learning that 'normal' is really an ideal that barely any family lives up to) and a few people had suggested Al-Anon. I didn't want to go and make my abnormality so public. Nor did I believe that I had been THAT affected by alcoholism because I wasn't the alcoholic or the rage-aholic. But one of my closest friends had been going for a few years and she kept gently prodding me to go. I finally went a year ago and the very first meeting changed me. They say you should try 6 meetings before deciding if you want to continue or not, but it only took one meeting for me. It was a whole paradigm shift - changed how I saw life and the world and my place in it. Change sure doesn't happen over night, but Al-Anon was the beginning of a new life for me. I learned that alcoholism is a disease that affects entire families, whether you drink or not. You learn patterns of behaviour, patterns of understanding as a way of coping and dealing, but those tactics and perspectives are usually not so helpful in other contexts. And, even if you don't drink, alcoholism is easily passed down through the generations - ie. those debilitating patterns that allowed you to survive but that are now causing so much trouble. 


Ok, I may be rambling and sounding a little preachy. I'm sorry. If you google Al-Anon, you'll be able to locate a meeting near you. Give them a call or just show up. Every meeting starts by welcoming new members. It's scary to think about going but once you're there everyone is so gentle, kind, caring - absolutely not pretentious. And you get to hear about others' problems, others' stories of healing, of improving their lives, of becoming happy, of becoming better friends, of becoming better parents, of loving more, etc. 


Ok, there I go again with the preaching. Sorry. It has just helped me so much I can't help but share my enthusiasm :)


Your son loves you. What he is going through is normal. Hold him, love him, smile at him, acknowledge all his wonderfulness. xo

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#7 of 7 Old 05-31-2013, 12:39 PM
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AL-Anon is a great suggestion - so is ACOA  Adult Children Of Alcoholics.  You are likely to have meetings of one or both groups in your area.  It helps to know you are not alone - there are many of us who have had our childhoods taken away from us.

Happy at Home Mama to DD 4/95 DS 4/98 and DS#2 8/10  femalesling.GIF        h20homebirth.gif       sewmachine.gif

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