Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Parenting is a hard and thankless job

And you can do everything perfectly and be the best parent anyone could ever wish for, and your kids will still dislike you and be ungrateful.

At least those were the implicit messages I got and the conclusions I drew.

When I was three, I hugged my father and told him: "You're the best daddy in the universe!" He chuckled bitterly and said "You won't always think that. When you're older, you'll say you hate me".

Actually, I never did. But I remember being shocked to be accused of something that I was to do in a decade or more from the moment I expressed adoration of my father.

Later, though, I did believe him. I never told them I hated them and was a polite child and teenager, but I never actually truly loved my parents and never felt close to them or shared anything with them. And I thought how cruel that was to them - they were such wonderful, involved parents, whose only crime was spoiling me so much, and this is their thanks. I concluded that being a parent is horrible and all you can hope for is distance and contempt from your children.

I had PPD after my first child and saw the whole thing as a hard duty I must go through the motions of, but would rather be dead.

Having a good relationship with my husband's parents and, I hope, developing a real one with my own kids, I'm slowly starting to change my ingrained irrational thoughts on this.

How did you approach parenting after being raised by narcissistic parents? Did you have problems? Did you decide not to have kids at all? What surprised you in your own parenting and relationship with your kids?


  1. I did have problems with my first child. Parenting is not something I saw as a hard and thankless job, but without experience and with only the role model I had, it has been tough not to "revert" to some of the undesirable things my parent did. When I saw the behaviors in my child that my mother used to criticize, I found myself doing the same (even though there is nothing actually wrong with the behaviors in question).

    Now that I am healing from the past, I find parenting both more and less stressful. Because I am becoming more consciously aware of that wonderful heritage (sarcasm) I am taking to the table, I do wonder if my kids will be damaged and will hurt. I am also extremely protective of their safety.

    For instance, this friend I have :) was telling me about leaving her children with a male older neighbor. The moral of the story was that she was touched someone who wasn't even related could enjoy her kids, when her parent couldn't. Perhaps irrationally, I thought – I could never leave my kids in the care of a random MALE.

    So that's hard. I want to keep the kids safe, and that also means safe from rape and sexual abuse, but I don't want to be overly paranoid and allow my past to take chances away from them either. Finding a balance is tough.

    Your dad was nasty for accusing you of something you hadn't even done yet, but perhaps that sentence shows that he knew he was doing something wrong?

  2. Yes, I guess so, but I have an almost constant fear that my kids will realize just how evil I really am and will rightfully hate me - that they don't hate me now is just proof of how good, innocent, and trusting little kids are.

  3. Yes, I understand how you feel. I guess the only difference between you and me is that I trust the world outside of our small family even less than I trust myself. I do have those feelings, but the drive to protect my kids is more dominant.

  4. I always wanted a family of my own ... As a teenager, I felt like I had so much love to give, but I had nowhere to put all that love, you know? I couldn't trust my parents. I despaired that I'd never find someone to love me enough to have kids with me (especially since my parents were pretty blunt that I was unlovable), but I did.

    Gibson (my husband) and I read a LOT of books about parenting before we had children. I read and read, then shared, and we discussed our views. We also had very good friends who had many children, so we talked about our friends a lot (to see if we'd treat our kids the same way, what we thought, etc.)

    We do mostly the opposite of what we were raised to do. And there are some slivers of things that I was taught in my childhood (the love of music, the love of art, etc.) that I share. Just not, you know, 98% of what I was taught.

    What has surprised me most about parenting is the sheer amount of love in my house. My parents always seemed like it was a big fucking deal to do the basic things. I felt like I was in the way for most of my childhood. But I know realize that most of the "big deals" were not a big deal at all. And I love being with the kids. I am surprised at how much I enjoy being with them, and I am surprised at how much they seem to want to be with me.

    I've always heard about how hard it is being a parent, what a sacrifice, but ... I didn't know how much joy it would bring.

  5. I think you're doing something truly fantastic: trying to break this cycle. It's funny that we both wrote posts about parenting withing the same 15 minutes in time! I noticed that when I asked myself "how could this be done differently" I immediately thought of what my parents did. I think that's probably how it plays out in-the-moment until you become aware of where you're getting your parenting methods.

    you're doing great, keep going! it's not about perfect, it's about better. I believe in you, PA. I see your heart, I see it so clearly - you can do this!!

    xoxox a million

  6. NLR, I understand. Sometimes I trust everyone more than myself.

    Kiki and upsi, thank you for the comments and the input! I guess a big part of my problem is that I only realized my parents weren't better than perfect AFTER having had kids. I read books and articles and took early psychology courses, but all the while thought "This is (or must be!?) EXACTLY what my perfect parents did with me, although I don't remember it"; and then I hated myself for not being as perfect and felt desperate and depressed for not measuring up; if THEY raised such an ungrateful daughter who didn't exactly love them, what chance have I got? That's what I thought. I think I still need to let myself believe I'm NOT a cold, evil narcissist. Sometimes I'm not there yet. When I let myself see I actually AM a Good Enough Mom the vast majority of the time, then I am, and better.


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