It used to be really hard for me when my friends who had kids would say things like, “My mom is coming over and bringing dinner tonight,” or “My parents are coming to stay with the kids” or “I miss my mom, I can’t wait for her to get here.”
My parents divorced when I was a teenager. They got really involved in their own lives, and I took over as the stand-in parent when I was about thirteen. Many nights I made dinner for my three siblings, gave my younger sisters a bath, packed their lunch for school, and put them to bed.
My dad hung out at the bar after work most nights and would leave me a chore list when we were with him. My mom had a few different boyfriends. She got married and had kids so young that she seemed to be trying to recapture her youth.
I didn’t mind being a caretaker for my siblings
I didn’t mind though. I loved my siblings very much, and caring for them didn’t feel like a burden; it felt natural. But, I always knew that when I grew up and had kids I would be a very different kind of parent and do things differently than my parents had.
Deep down, I thought that having grandkids would change my parents. Sadly, it did not.
When I had my kids my parents were there and they have been a part of their lives even if it’s not in the traditional, grandparental way I was hoping for. But, I realized when my kids were very young that I couldn’t ask or rely on my parents for help. They had no interest in babysitting, didn’t check in with me to see if we needed anything, and when I went through my own divorce they offered no comfort. My mom cried a lot and told me over and over how sad it made her.
My father makes no effort to see his grandkids
Even as an adult, I needed my parents to tell me they were available. When I had kids I needed their emotional support. I wanted to be able to go to them when I was burned out. It would have been nice if they had occasionally asked, “What can we do to help?”
The few times I asked them to babysit they told me they were too busy. Everything involving their grandkids had to be on their terms. My father doesn’t even acknowledge the holidays or their birthdays and hasn’t made any effort to see them for a few years even though he lives a few minutes down the road, and is retired and healthy.
For a really long time, I tried to “make” my parents the kind of grandparents I wanted for my kids. I would take my kids to visit them and I made every effort to stay connected. I would help them with things they needed help with even though I had three kids very close in age.
I got tired of putting in all the effort in my relationship with my parents
Then, I got really tired. I didn’t have the energy to try anymore. It was easier for me to ask other people for help or simply do things myself. I accepted the fact they were never going to be the type of grandparents who would stop over with needed groceries, offer to watch the kids, or call to check in on us.
I tried to stop being sad when I saw the relationships my friends had with their parents. I lowered my expectations and my resentment and anger began to fade.
It took some time but I was finally able to let go of my disappointment.
Now that my kids are older they have a very clear picture of who my parents are they don’t care to have a close relationship with them. My parents are missing out on a lot and my kids are too. That continues to make me sad
Not everyone has parents they can go to for help
Not everyone has parents they can go to for help. I’m not even talking about a lot of help. I am talking about the kind of help I see many people get from their parents. Basic things like remembering birthdays, wanting to spend time with their grandkids, and making sure their children are doing all right when they go through life’s inevitable challenges.
It can feel really lonely to be a mother and not have parents you can go to. But, it has been another life lesson for me. Just like when I was younger and I saw how my parents treated us, I knew I didn’t want to be like them now I’m watching them as grandparents and, once again, I don’t want to be like them.
I promise to always be involved in my kids’ lives
I will be involved in my kids’ lives regardless of their age. If they have kids I will be there to help; I will babysit, I will make sure they are okay, and I will never, ever forget a birthday or a holiday.
I am someone they can and do depend on now and that will never change. I refuse to feel sorry for myself because I am breaking the cycle and showing my kids what it feels like to have a parent they can turn to, no matter what.
The author of this post wishes to remain anonymous.
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I’ve Broken the Cycle of Toxic Parenting But My Demons Remain