Is my mother always going to make me feel like I'm 12 years old?

If no one responds to this, I understand. I just have to vent.

Please, take it for granted that I had bad parents. I realize it could have been worse, and I realize I had a lot of things other people wanted, but the sad fact is I had Toxic Parents, just like in the book. I don’t wish to go through all the things they did, I’ve rehashed that all my life.

I contacted my mother last October and we have been e-mailing tentatively ever since. I kind of hoped after all these years she would try to understand me as an adult but from her latest e-mail it’s evident she doesn’t. She’s still trying to pressure me into marrying because the “family will talk”, still trying to tell me my SO will never marry me because “why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free”, and still trying to tell me my life is a failure because I’m not a Super-Duper Executive making oodles of money and married with 3 kids now.

I’m beginning to understand that she will never understand that I have different values than her. If my family wants to break with me because they don’t approve of me, then I feel that’s their loss. As for marriage, her marriage is miserable as are most of the marriages in my family - that’s supposed to be my example?

I’m an intelligent confident 29-year female. Yet I still keep trying to forgive her, and move past it. I’ve heard tell that if you can’t make up with your parents then you are a failure as a person. But it’s so hard when your parents are so judgemental.

And to make matters worse, every time she says these things, even as I’m defending myself I feel guilty. I feel like a kid again. Will it ever stop? Will I ever grow out of wanting my parents’ approval? :frowning:

sounds rough.

but it also sounds like you’re doing the most you can and nothing is going to change until someone changes on her end; keep a slow steady effort on it, though, in case it does change on her end - be a shame to miss the opportunity if she were to ever allow it to popup.

What the hell?! :confused:
Who said that?

That just doesn’t make any damn sense whatsoever.

I’ve been trying to figure out something more insightful to say about it, but… geh. Totally nonsensical, in my opinion.

elfbabe, it was a MOTHER who said that :rolleyes:

And it’s totally bogus. Just because they are family doesn’t mean that you have to like them or respect them.

You will only grow out of wanting your parents approval if you stop wanting their approval. Live your life for yourself.


Sure sorry to hear about it, Anaamika - the only two concepts I can offer you, for your own peace of mind, are:

  1. Acceptance. It sounds like your parents are not accepting of who you are, so you will simply have to accept them for themselves, and that means all of their negative aspects, too. Through acceptance comes learning, also: if you do become a parent, take their lessons (hard learnt by you) and promise yourself that you’ll never teach them, you’ll never pass them on.
  2. The ability to let go. This doesn’t mean simply stating “I’m never going to speak to them again,” or breaking away in anger or frustration. Just simply leave them to themselves, and you do what you need to do. Keep contact, if that gives you a small amount of comfort, but don’t give them the ability to touch you, on an emotional level.

Pretty banal stuff, I know.


[quoet]Will it ever stop? Will I ever grow out of wanting my parents’ approval?

If you havent by age 29 I doubt you ever will. To want someones approval means you value them in some way. I dont know you or your story but you do not give the impression that you value your parents, well not as parents anyway. So what do you care if they approve of you or not?

Or it is possible that while you say your 29 and confident, your not really. Your not a confident person and might be looking for approval from your parents because if you did get it, it would greatly increase your confidence.

I didn’t have toxic parents, so that part I have no experience with.

I can say that my mother was generally supportive, but at times when I was an adult, she’d forget that I was out of the house and supporting myself, and I was still a kid in her mind. It ended pretty much about the time I had a kid of my own. (late 20’s) My son is a high school senior, and I still catch myself thinking he’s not that old.

I do vividly recall one time that I totalled my car while working my first job out of college, and needed a new one. I didn’t need her help or approval to get a replacement, but I did consult with her none the less on what I was going to do.

As others have suggested, it’s more the opposite: you succeed as a person when you are able to recognise your own success and feel accomplished and content *without * your parents approval. If your parents happen to approve, then props to them - but this has more to do with *their * state of accomplishment than yours. :wink:

I know I need to stop caring about her opinion and grow up, right? A part of me is hopelessly naive and idealistic and will be forever it seems. I don’t always like that part but I also realize if I am to kill that part it would change me a great deal. I do need to really separate my own idealism from her. I think I’ve begun to realize it’s not going to work, that I’ve done all I could. This is the third time I’ve tried to make things better and tried to make up. I think I will just need to quietly withdraw.

Your reaction is very reassuring. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who had that reaction.

I doubt that. What I’ve heard tell is that your parents can push your buttons so easily because they installed them. :smiley:

I hear you on the “my mother doesn’t ‘get’ me” bit. I’m 38 years old, married to a prince with whom I am blissfully in love and vice versa, have a fulfilling and good-paying career (at least enough to keep us in beer & skittles), and yet my mom looks down her nose at my life (not overtly, oh no, just in little digs here and there).

You see, my husband has held several jobs. The horror! Don’t you know you’re supposed to work for the same faceless corporation for fifty years and retire with a gold watch? There’s something wrong with someone who changes jobs so much. (Yes, she told me this.) Never mind that he changed jobs for the better or for family reasons each time. Not only that, he was downsized a few years ago; he finally managed to get a job, but much lower paying, and I’m basically supporting us! Not only that, but we live in an unfinished house (less so every year, but still), we have “weird” hobbies and interests and friends, eat “weird” food, don’t have kids, don’t care what our cars look like as long as they run, do not keep an absolutely spotless house, and on and on. Oh, and when we were discussing my sister’s upcoming divorce, I said to my mom, “Well, you don’t have to worry about me – my husband worships the ground I walk on” (pretty much true). Her response: “Well . . . I’ve seen him get testy with you.” TESTY?? I didn’t tell her that the reason she sometimes sees him testy is because he gets annoyed when he’s around HER. For the same reasons that I get annoyed around her.

Meanwhile she bitches daily about my dad, over the same damn things she’s been bitching about for 40 years. Neither of them will ever change. I don’t know why they haven’t been a murder-suicide – they should have been divorced long ago (if never married in the first place). Yet the way they do things is always the “right” way and anything else is too foreign to contemplate. :rolleyes:

I don’t know how I did it, but somehow over the years (perhaps under Mr. S’s calming influence) I’ve managed to develop quite a laissez-faire attitude about them (and her specifically – I rarely interact with my dad, and never on a personal level). I’ll never be what she thinks I should be so fuck it. It’s my life, not hers. I visit her and invite her to visit me, take her to lunch, bring flowers on Mother’s Day and her birthday, because all those little things please her and are easy to do, and let her asinine comments and opinions just roll right off me. And then go home and laugh over them with Mr. S. Let them do their thing – they are grownups just like me and entitled to live their lives however stupidly they want.

Yes, it would be nice if just once my mother would admit that she can see that I have a wonderful husband and a happy life, but I’m not holding my breath. In the meantime what’s important is how I feel about my life.

Scarlett67, thank you for a beautiful post. Considering how far I’ve come since I was 19-29, I have high hopes that by the time I’m *39 * things will be even better. I just have to keep faith in myself and believe that I don’t need her opinion.

How true is this. :slight_smile:

Anaamika, my mother finally changed when I was about 45. That’s when she looked around and noticed she had no friends left, and had alienated her entire family save for one daughter who will never stop seeking her approval. My father never did change and we had been estranged for years when he died.

Sadly, it’s a little too late - my mother and I are strangers because of her effectively pushing me away all her life through her actions. We have little in common and little to talk about. God, all the “if onlys”.

I hope your relationship with your mother resolves when y’all are both still fairly young. I’ll be praying for you.

But, if it doesn’t, please don’t beat yourself up. The problem is hers, not yours. I know that sounds so simple, but if I had learned that at age, say, 17, instead of about 30 my life would have been worlds different than what it is.

Gotta agree that this was first said by a parent who was not much of a parent. You can’t make up with a person who refuses to make up. And that is not your fault.

I like your pet. It’s one of my peeves. In fact, most city dwellers I know have the same complaint. Their suburbanite relatives seem to think that there is only one acceptable lifestyle, and that any deviation from that lifestyke is wrong and needs to be fixed. If you aren’t married, don’t have 2-4 children, and don’t own a house by the time you’re 30, you’ve screwed up your life somehow. I get that attitude from my entire family. They always feel sorry for me, being stuck in this horrible crime-ridden city, with no children to see off to school. Or they did. I think I’ve successfully communicated to them by now that I’d rather die than adopt their boring and antiseptic lifestyles. They may have finally accepted that I can be happy, even though I don’t own a white picket fence.

Some friends of a friend were not so lucky, though. They were married with no kids, living a happy life in a city apartment. But they caved in to family pressure. They got pregnant (twice) and took out a huge mortgage on a house in the country. And were miserable. But at least they were happy in the eyes of their families, and that’s what’s really important. :rolleyes:

Just what I was thinking.

When I was 18 I dropped out of college much to my fathers great dismay.

When I was 28 I stopped hoping of ever winning his approval in any career decision I made. If I didn’t have a degree, in his mind, nothing else mattered.

Now that I’m 38, he grudgingly admits that I have a pretty good career, solid plans for the future, and we’re more alike than he ever thought.

So add my advice to the other dopers… Live a great life. Be happy with whatever you do. If you think your sucessfull, then eventually your parents will too. … and don’t be suprised when they eventually brag to their friends that you learned it all from them… :smiley:

Short answer: Only if you let her…

Longer (sort of) answer: Accept that the problem is with your mother. She is the one who won’t realize that over 15 years have passed, and her “baby” is not such a baby anymore.
And if she can’t, or won’t, accept that… just let it slide off of you, like water off a duck’s back. You don’t have to be mean to her… just ignore her. Let her talk, and just go ahead and do your own thing. Without guilt, fear or shame.

Live the good life, fight the good fight, don’t let anyone tie you down!

I can certainly sympathize. I wish my mother would treat me as if I were 12. That would be an improvement. I am 57 years old, but nearly every time I visit my mother, I wind up feeling as if I’m 5.7 years old. Almost nothing about me pleases her. This has always been the case. You’d think that after all these years she’d have gotten used to the fact that I am not what she hoped for, and I never will be.

First off, in case you haven’t picked up on it yet: you are FAR from alone with this phenomenon !

“Is my mother always going to make me feel like I’m 12 years old ?”
Maybe. It all depends on what your mother takes as her criteria for accepting you as an adult. It may be marriage, it may be having children (her grandchildren), it may be age. What make it worse is that she can’t really tell you because she is likely not aware that she even has this criteria or threshold that’s she holding you to. Or there may not be any criteria, and she will always treat you as a child. Sad, but you do have to consider that a possibility.
At 46 years of age, I have come to the realization that I have not met my mom’s criteria, and I likely never will (and I have no clue what that criteria is). What is important is that I came to this realization that my mom will ALWAYS treat me like a child - to the point of being rude, embarassing or what not. And that complaining and arguing about it will neither help the situation, nor affect any future dealings. This may sound like kind of a defeatist attitude, but after all these years, it’s the best I have come up with (she’s as stubborn as they get).

What has been fascinating to me is noticing how my mom’s siblings, my aunts and uncles, have altered how they deal with me as I’ve grown up, but how my mom never has changed. I am pretty sure it was graduating college and entering the working world that did it for my aunts and uncles. But it was a very dramatic change, and I noticed it. Just studying what I did in college gave me “points”, but once I started pulling in a living wage, they really started to give me respect. This really struck me - these were the same aunts and uncles that changed my diapers and tossed me up in the air at one time. And now they were treating me like an adult - not asking questions like the Gestapo expecting an answer, respecting that I was capable of making important decisions for myself, etc… Of course, my mom was oblivious to this change in her siblings.

What you need to recognize for yourself is 1) whether you really need your mother/parent’s approval for validation and 2) if so, why ? It may be a painful phase to finally recognize that parents aren’t always right and make bad decisions and mistakes just like the rest of humanity. And that you don’t always agree with their point of view. So along those same lines, you need to recognize that you have a mind/will of your own. You are entitled to your beliefs and opinions JUST as much as they are - and they can be JUST as valid as their beliefs and opinions even though they may be conflicting. That is, you have a mind of your own that deserves the same respect you’ve shown your parents’.

Having come to that realization, then, it will be easier to not give so much weight to your mom’s arguments. You can “agree to disagree”. She may not let it drop that easily (insisting on “correcting her child”), but you don’t have to let it make you feel like the ungrateful, disobedient child for disagreeing with her. It will take some time, but you will be much happier once you get there. The pain comes from the conflict between sticking to your guns at the cost of disagreeing with your mom (and being a “bad child”).

I don’t have any kids, nor ever plan to. But in my observations of life I have concluded that the best parents raise their kids to become responsible adults, and then “let them go” - acknowledge that they ARE adults and capable of living their own lives. Including letting them make mistakes from which they will learn. As cliched as the analogy is, those nature documentaries where the mother bird kicks out their young when they learn to fly really does apply to humans. The job of the parents is to prepare the kids for life ON THEIR OWN - not continue to shield/protect them for their entire life. Those birds know this, but many humans (particularly mothers) can’t seem to “get” this.

I was in therapy for a while a few years ago. One day I had spent my whole hour trying to understand why I call my mother to share news when I know with absolute certainty that she will find a way to take it as an affront to her. I still do it. I still don’t know why. But when I went back to work and was babbling about what had gone on in therapy the wisest colleague I ever had (who was also one of the quietest) said, “Don’t go to the hardware store looking for apples.”

So now, I just remember that before I call my mother and it’s easier to keep from letting her make me feel 12. I don’t think however, she’ll ever stop trying.

Oh! Today while I was thinking of this thread I remembered a song that I’ve played for nearly all my girlfriends, and they all identified with it as much as I did. It’s Christine Kane’s “All the Relatives” (full lyrics and audio sample available here). Boy oh boy, is this song ever about me. And everyone in this thread, I think.

Sample lyrics:

“And all the relatives
They say she’s always been crazy with her radical ways
Well, you know, that might be so
But she guesses she’s okay”

Yyyyeah, that’s… pretty much crap.

I haven’t spoken to my father in fifteen years. Didn’t even invite him to my wedding. And I don’t miss him or feel bad about it at all, because he’s a USDA prime-cut asshole.

In reading this, I thought my emailed response in your situation would look pretty much like this:

“If you don’t stop harping on this I’ll cut off contact again.”

“If you don’t stop harping on this I’ll cut off contact again.”

“If you don’t stop harping on this I’ll cut off contact again.”
Harsh? Yes. And maybe not your style. But goddammit, life is too short to put up with kind of ridiculous, manipulative, controlling bullshit.