A Terrible Relationship With My Mom Taught Me to be a Better Parent

My mother and I don’t have a good relationship. We haven’t since I was a teenager, and at forty-eight, I’m well aware that isn’t going to change.

I could go on about all the reasons why: She didn’t protect me from someone when I was a child as she should have; she only asked me questions about my life that would lead to her being able to share something about herself. She can be incredibly manipulative. She makes passive-aggressive comments about me to my sisters — something they’ve told her to stop doing. And I recently found out she’s started doing the same thing to my kids.

woman thinking
My relationship with my mom has taught me who I don’t want to be. (Twenty20 @musiena)

I often think that I should keep my kids from my mom

I’ve gone back and forth a million times about whether I should keep my kids from her, but the truth is that their relationship with her is entirely different than mine.

As they age, they start seeing her for who she truly is. My daughter recently asked me why me and my mom were so different — it was all I could do not to tell her that I do everything in my power not to be the kind of mother my mother is. I realize that we all have flaws and that parenting is full of failures.

Where my mother didn’t care where I went during my teenage years, so long as I was out of her way, I can be a bit overprotective. Where my mom prioritized her own social life after her divorce, my kids come first. I cancel plans with friends when my kids decide to stay home.

My mother didn’t care about what was going on in my life

When I talk about my personal life, my mother’s eyes glaze over, and each time I hear her say “Mmm hmmm” as she looks through me, it sounds manufactured, and I wonder when I will learn my lesson and stop sharing with her. She doesn’t care. My mom left us with strangers when we were young to do whatever she was doing. When my kids were young, I rarely went out unless one of my sisters could come and watch them.

I know that sometimes I overcompensated in an attempt to make up for the childhood I didn’t have through my kids. I wanted and still want them to feel safe and secure and know that they were and are always my first priority because I have never felt that way. I know that my parenting has made them feel suffocated at times, and they don’t hesitate to tell me.

But my kids and I have a wonderful relationship. Not perfect, but wonderful. They tell me things and feel comfortable talking to me. They know they can count on me to listen and help them. They trust me. I know these things because they show me and I’ve asked them. I want to ensure my love for them is translated the right way.

My mom taught me what kind of parent I didn’t want to be

My relationship with my mom has taught me who I don’t want to be. It’s been the most trying relationship of my life, and I’ve gone months where I need space. I always limit how much time I spend with her when I see her because I can feel my mental health plummeting and my mood taking a hit. And it doesn’t just affect me — it affects my kids when I’m not at my best.

She’s the person who gave me life, and she brings out the worst in me. I’ve wrestled with that my whole life, wondering if there was something I could do to mend the relationship. And each time I’d tried, I’d end up disappointed. So, I stopped. My mom has shown me how important it is to protect your peace. Certain people aren’t good to be around, and just because someone gave birth to you doesn’t mean they have your best interest in mind.

I want to be consistent and present for my kids

I want to be sturdy for my kids. I want to be consistent. I want them to know that when I ask them something small, like how their day was, or their relationship is going, I genuinely want to know.

I want them to feel my availability and trust that I will always have their back, even if we disagree. And talking about them behind their back isn’t something I will ever do. EVER.

My mother showed me that I could do everything I wanted and be all I wanted to be by being the complete opposite of her. Our relationship has left its scars, but I know it’s also made me a better mother.

And if I had to live it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.

The author of this post wishes to remain anonymous.

More Great Reading:

I Can’t Rely On My Parents to Help With My Kids

About Grown and Flown

Mary Dell Harrington and Lisa (Endlich) Heffernan are the co-founders of Grown and Flown the #1 site for parents of teens, college students and young adults, reaching millions of parents every month. They are writers (Lisa is a New York Times bestselling author), moms, wives and friends. They started the Grown and Flown Parents Facebook Group and are co-authors of Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults (Flatiron Books) now in paperback.

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