Tuesday, August 3, 2010

This is not a pity party

When you're raised in a family where the parents are a narcissistic alcoholic and bipolar who never had a childhood, you learn to take care of yourself.

Scratch that. You learn to take care of everyone else BUT yourself.

You tiptoe around the house trying not to set off the alarms. You roll along under the radar behaving yourself but for your back talk, which, for some reason, is mostly tolerated in this family. You may even scream and scream, literally, to be heard, but you wont be. But you don't learn that taking care of yourself is of prime importance. Because the whole family is about taking care of your sick mom.

And when your brother dies, and your mom falls apart - more - you grow up fast and take on more responsibility. And more. You collect friends around you who are dependent upon you. You attract needy people like flies and wonder why you're so tired all the time. And why you're depressed too.

And then you have a family of your own. You frantically run around (figuratively more than literally) trying to be everything to everyone. Sure, you get a massage now and then. And you do sit on your butt after everyone's asleep instead of doing laundry or cleaning the house. And you make your children crap for dinner instead of real meals, but in your mind you are constantly on guard. You don't know how to let them take care of themselves. Not even your grown husband. You are afraid to sleep train the baby, even though you did ok with the triplets. You are concerned you're messing them up for not having dinner with them at a table every night instead of eating later when it's quiet. There's always something you could be doing.

In theory, you have to run out of energy at some point. But in 38 years I haven't. I do take care of myself in certain ways. I am pretty good at fighting for a few minutes to myself even if it's at the expense of couple time. But I am afraid. Am I going to go so far in the other direction from my parents that I actually create narcissists in my own children? Will they learn that they have to take care of each other, me, their dad or grandparents and themselves in fair amounts? Will they turn into the opposite of me like I did my parents? Is it possible, in the first generation, to create a different story?

And when things come out of my mouth that sound just like my mom and dad like "what is wrong with you?" can they forgive me? Because nothing is wrong with them. They're just being 2. My mom watches them and shakes her head with the honest belief that something is wrong with them. I merely have a momentary thought of 'what has gotten into you' and I can see the difference, but can they? Will they think I think poorly of them because I do too much for them? Will they think I think they're stupid because I help them do things?

How do you parent well when you have not been parented well? How do you not go so far off the other end and create a whole different set of traps? Therapy is helpful, but when those kids have driven you to the edge of your sanity and you haven't slept in weeks and you just want to sit down and eat some damned lunch if they would just nap like they're supposed to......how do you not yell the things you grew up hearing at them? "Why are you doing this to me?" "I'll give you something to cry about" "Don't talk back to me missy!"

I know no one is the perfect parent but I'd like to be middle of the road. Is it possible?


  1. Take it from someone who knows when I say that just by breathing you are a better parent than you were parented. Seriously. You are also in an incredibly high stress parenting situation. Huge difference between age 2 and age 3 and I can't even imagine having triplets.

    I've found that my social circle has contracted with parenthood. I'm particular about who I spend time with and around. Specifically after about a year I figured out that staying home was better than spending time with moms and kids who weren't positive forces in my life. I realized that by listening to how awful other mamas husbands/kids/lives were, I just kept getting more and more dissatisfied with my life.

    I pretty much only spend time with positive parents whom I admire and think I can learn something from. That isn't to say there aren't bad days and that we don't share those tough times but it just isn't the beginning, middle and end of every playdate.

    Hang in there. You are an awesome mama!

  2. Oh, you will, eventually. You'll say something that your mom said to you, or you'll yell at the kids and you'll totally lose it.

    And a few minutes later, you'll regret it and make it up to them.

    A week later, they won't remember.


    You, the conscientious mom, can't possibly screw up your kids. That takes years of work. A few seconds of lunacy won't do it.

    Take a deep breath and remember WHY you have a large family. Because you love them. That's enough.

  3. Hi-
    I agree with 'The Mother.' It does take years to screw up your kids. One momentary lapse won't do it.

    It sounds like you know who you don't want to be. I can relate to this and just because we feel this way, it doesn't mean that we don't love our parents.

    Yes, there are times I hear myself saying things to my son that I wish I hadn't, and most of the time, I say things with intention and love. I let my little boy have the space to make mistakes, which I never had as the child of an overprotective mother. Overall, I am the mother and wife that I want to be.

    The title of your post is interesting. When I read the article, I thought "this woman has so much on her plate, she deserves a little pity party." Have the pity party after the kids go to bed. When you're done and you've gotten it all out, celebrate yourself and all you've accomplished!

    Being part of the Sandwich Generation is no picnic. It adds even more to our plate and it sounds as though writing is great therapy for you! I really enjoyed your post!

  4. Wow. You do have a lot on your plate, and I agree with the other commenters - it's enough that you love your kids and want to do a good job being their mom.

    And I'm really excited to hear that you ARE spending time on you, because as I see it, that's an absolute necessity.

    My kids are 12 and 9, and I do my best as a mom. Part of my best is that I make mistakes. Now that they're older, I can point out my mistakes with them later (i.e, "I shouldn't have yelled like that...")and they are getting it. I am modeling imperfect parenting and being OK with it and owning up to my mistakes.

    When my kids were your kids' ages, it was really, really hard to stay sane. And I don't have multiples. Breathe, trust that you're doing a good job even when it doesn't feel like it, and take care of yourself well.

    Being in the sandwich generation is very challenging, as Pamela said. Your blog is helping other people out there who are in a similar situation and are struggling, too. Thanks for writing!