Peg Streep's book "Mean Mothers" really speaks to me -- because I can't stand my own mom. She didn't beat me or lock me in a closet. I just genuinely do not like her -- and people find this hard to accept.
Guest blogger Gina: I am not close with my mother, and this is a concept that people are unable and unwilling to accept. They say things like, "Well, she's your mother, so you have to love her." I always think, you know there are jerks who have kids every day. And I'm sorry that it's uncomfortable, but every now and then you are going to run into the child of one of those jerks. It was always so difficult because it was so unacceptable for me to not like my mom. People (mostly adults) stuck up for her and -- by doing that -- made me seem like I was the crazy one. It was incredibly frustrating, and when you think about it, really stupid.
We asked momlogic contributor and psychotherapist Jill Spivack if it's okay to hate your mom. Here's what she said:
As the saying goes, we don't choose our family. We are all born into a set of circumstances where we don't necessarily have much control. We are born with a particular temperament, and our parents have both their own temperament as well as their own life experience which, combined, made them who they were to be as people as well as our parents. For some lucky kids, their parents can be nurturing, supportive, non-judgmental, loving limit-setters who are consistent and present in their lives. For others, parents can be less than perfect, and sometimes really abusive, abrasive, and disabling.
While there is no such thing as a "perfect parent," we are all hoping for a good enough parent. But unfortunately, for some, this isn't even impossible. Their own lives and experiences have often crippled them beyond a point of return where they cannot be the kind of parent we need. Do we need to empathize with their history? Maybe. There's some degree of "anger reduction" when we understand that maybe our parents' experience was as difficult for them as they were to us.
Should we continue to allow ourselves to be treated hurtfully or abused once we are adults? NO! It's very important for adult children of "not good enough" parents to come to terms with the cards they were dealt. If they feel that an ongoing relationship with that parent will cause them ongoing damage, they need to set boundaries with that parent.
If it is impossible to set enough boundaries or the parent is especially toxic, it is sometimes necessary to disengage completely. Before this, I would ask: Is there any way to remedy/repair the situation? Does their parent have the ability to take in their needs if well explained, or maybe with support from a counselor? Has the parent who made the mistakes been in therapy, or are they trying to change or repair what they've done wrong? You really need to know who you're dealing with and the extent to which that parent is "disabled." Just like you wouldn't ask a paraplegic person in a wheelchair to get up and walk over to you, you sometimes may not be able to get a very emotionally damaged parent to change and treat you the way they should have as a child. If your parent has disappointed you beyond repair, abused you emotionally or physically, you're lucky to realize as an adult that they treated you badly, and that you're going to learn to be a better parent to your own children.
Go see a therapist if you need guidance and support. Deal with your anger and disappointment and try to make conscious decisions about the way you'll be with your own children. Consciousness will save your children from experiencing a negative relationship with you. And for adult children of "not good enough parents," be sure to recognize when you're taking the pendulum too far in the opposite direction with your own kids. If your mother was, for example, emotionally neglectful, the natural tendency would be for you to overly coddle and overstimulate your own child for fear of her experiencing the same neglect you felt. However, if you aren't careful, you can overdo that nurturing stuff -- robbing your child of normal independence and competence.
What if one of your children's friends doesn't like his/her parents? Unfortunately, that child is still under their parents' care until he's 18 years old. I would empathize and listen to the child's feelings if they are trying to talk to you about it, but this is not territory you can necessarily get involved in, unless there is extreme emotional or physical abuse. Doctors and teachers are mandated to report abuse, so if you suspect something very serious, talk to the child's doctor or teacher anonymously and let them look into the situation.
|Jill Spivack, MSW, author of "The Sleepeasy Solution" and co-founder of Sleepy Planet Inc., is a psychotherapist and mother of two.|