A Mothers Guilt

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by Terryforvols, Apr 14, 2014.

  1. Terryforvols

    Terryforvols Member

    I was reading another thread when Cedar said something that absolutely tears me up and I am just taking tiny baby steps toward....my guilt.

    difficult child cant hurt me more at times than I hurt myself. My guilt at not being the mother I thought I was still racks me. To me, and only me, not husband, easy child or difficult child, I am a gigantic failure. A "good" mom doesnt have a drug addicted difficult child. A "good" mom doesnt enable, doesnt try to control the situation, bc it never gets to that point. A "good" mom doesnt get so involved that she loses sight of being a mother and becomes a friend in hopes of turning things around.

    Knowing in my head what I know now, I know I was not a bad mom. Intellectually, I know that. My heart, on the other hand, hasnt gotten the message. Its filled with a lot of what I didnt do, what I didnt see, that I must not have loved a lot, on and on. A lot of the rage I felt at difficult child when she was here in Jan came from not only things she did, but what I must not have done. It felt like it came from the deepest part of my soul. And it is ugly.

    I want to be a happier person with ME, not difficult child. I am slowly learning how to accept and love her as she is, how do I do it for me?

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  2. Albatross

    Albatross Well-Known Member

    I don't know, Terry. I struggle with a lot of guilt myself. I think most of us do, because the moms who post here are a pretty conscientious bunch, or we wouldn't be here. And I think guilt is something that gets entwined with caring. Somehow we have to find a way to keep those things separate. I'll let you know if I ever find one! I could have done every single thing right as a parent and I would still feel guilty. As you said, it's in my soul. No logical "proof" elsewhere is going to alleviate my guilt.

    One thing that did help me to a degree was a thread I saw here, "No Amount of Guilt Can Change the Past. No Amount of Worry Can Change the Future." So if the guilt is not useful, why go there?

    I know lots of good moms who did all of these things. I know some TRULY bad moms by any standard, and they don't have difficult children. And I know I would have been (and was) a friend, a mother, a stern taskmaster... a dancing purple chicken...whatever it might have taken in the hopes of turning things around. But I couldn't. We can't change other people. We can only change ourselves. What changes can we make in our own lives, to be more at peace with ourselves?
  3. Childofmine

    Childofmine trying to do this thing one day at a time Staff Member

    Oh Terry.

    I don't know how to address what you said, but I wanted to post anyway and let you know that I am reading along.

    I DO understand how we can intellectually get something, and still can't own it or practice it (read: me and radical acceptance).

    Guilt. I hear so many people talk about it. I am not aware of having guilt about difficult child. Maybe I do and I just don't see it.

    I have felt shame. Shame when everybody else talks about how great their adult kids are doing. I try to take up all of the time talking about easy child and trail off about difficult child, hoping nobody will notice.

    I have felt anger, fear, despair, hopelessness, resentment, deep pain, hope, a separateness, an emptiness....what else?

    I don't know if it's because I already knew a lot about addiction from living with and divorcing a recovering alcoholic. I used to stay up at night, sometimes all night long, reading and reading and reading about addiction. If I could just understand it. Then I could do something about it. So I thought.

    I did that for about 2 years before I asked my ex-husband, who had at that time been in recovery for year, for a separation.

    I get the physiology of addiction. I get the brain chemistry part. It's not something anybody did or caused or triggered by their inaction or action.

    Oh, Terry, if we were that powerful? If something we did or didn't do would have made this happen, then we could unmake it. We are not that powerful. It's not in our realm to have that kind of power.

    It also may be that my brother who is 50 years old, and an alcoholic, is also parented by the two great people who raised me. Have they enabled him? Yes they have. Has that contributed to the fact that he today lives at home with them and is not the fully functioning person they and I would hope he would be. Yes, possibly. Did they cause this or in some way make it happen? No. Absolutely not. If they had stopped enabling a long time ago, would things be different? Ah, now THAT is the $64,000 question.

    Terry, there is just no way to know.

    It is what it is. They are doing the best they can and that is what they have always done. They are in no way to blame for this situation, I don't believe. My brother has the genetic makeup of an alcoholic and at some point, a long, long time ago, the trigger that started his disease was tripped. Never to be untripped again.

    How can you deal with your guilt? I think dealing with it may come with working your own program of recovery, of hearing all of the experience, strength and hope of so many people who are living the same lives we are living. Did they cause it either? I think not.

    We aren't perfect. We weren't perfect moms. We made mistakes. But we didn't cause this.

    Hugs and prayers and blessings that you find peace this week. It's not your fault.
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  4. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    You are wrong. A wonderful mother can have a drug addicted child because we can not control our children and as they get older, their peers become more important than us. Also, there are genetics to think about. More than anything else, do you have another child? Is he/she a drug addict? I can only tell you my story and why I do not feel like I was a bad mother even though one of my children was a drug addict.

    I raised four children. One was a drug addict. One. None of the others took that path. All of my kids were raised the same. All of them had challenges. All of them did not choose drugs.

    Genetics, personality that is inborn, heredity, and the way one child perceives life as opposed to another is paramount. The fact that you may hve divorced (just guessing) or maybe bio. dad ran off and never came back or you were too lenient or too tough or his sibling was favored (in his mind) or he had an Learning Disability (LD)...none of that matters. Half the kids in this country suffer divorce. Many are sexually abused. Very sadly, three of mine were, yet only one used drugs and she is doing well now. The others got a lot of help and were/are well adjusted young people who obey the law and have bright futures and my drug using daughter chose a good life in the end too. My one bio. child who had it all....brains, looks, adoration in the family....he is my biggest problem with a negative personality. Why? I think heredity. Many people in our family tree suffer from depression and sour personalities and I do believe he inherited his negativity. \\

    None of my children are related genetically. 36 is my bio. kid and the rest are adopted and have seperate DNA. Again, they were all raised the same yet they all turned out differently. One used drugs and quit. One is a huge mental health mess (biological son). The kids, other than 36, are really good kids. So am I bad mother or a good mother?

    Many factors enter into why our children choose drugs. Addiction or a predisposition to addiction is very much inherited. Not everyone who experiments with drugs becomes addicted. Some are more prone. Not all kids who live through divorce (the millions of them) decide to bum out on life, use drugs, do illegal things, and abuse us and blame us for their troubles.

    Your guilt is unhelpful to your child and probably not even true. At any rate, how does it help you or your child? It doesn't. Your child is an adult now and he makes his own decisions and choices.

    Did you ever read "A Child Called It?" by David Pelzer. If not, you should. It is a story about the more horrificly abused child you ever heard of yet he turned out to be a fine young man who does all he can to help others.
    His mother WAS awful. She almost killed him many times. Yet he is a good man. No drugs. No jail. How so?

    Guilt is a useless emotion. I suggest you maybe go to an Al-Anon meeting or find a private therapist who can help you work on your own life and realize that your guilt is pointless and crippling. You are a good mom or you wouldn't care about your child, just as Dave Pelzer's mother did not care a wit about her child, and you would not be here trying to sort out your feelings and figure out what to do next.

    Only good, caring, loving parents post here. Now it's time for you, in my opinion, to focus on yourself and drop the "what ifs." Many of us have raised more than one child and most do well and one doesn't. There are not real answers. It is useless to guess. I hope you learn to enjoy your own life and realize your son is making poor choices and sacrificing your life to angst over him helps nobody, especially your son. It is normal to be angry at a disrespectful, drug using adult child just as that same child would be angry at you if you came home spitting hate at her and staggering from alcohol or drugs. It would be hard to feel warm and fuzzy, don't you think?

    You did your best. We all did. Your child is NOT trying to do his best and that is on his shoulders, not yours. Please think about it and try to find peace and serenity tonight, at least for a little while.

    We care and are paying attention to your hurting mommy heart. We understand it.
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  5. nlj

    nlj Well-Known Member

    I shouldn't have married my first husband.
    I shouldn't have had children with him.
    I shouldn't have stayed with him.

    But then I wouldn't have my kids.

    My head goes around in circles with this guilt.
  6. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I have also had some degree of guilt about my difficult child. He got his genetic make up from mostly my side of the family, he has physical disabilities that stemmed from birth defects that most likely occurred because I had xrays before I knew I was pregnant. He is also a lot like me but stupider and he does things I would have never done.

    I am trying to get rid of the guilt. One thing I do know is if I am guilty about his actions then I have to also take some of the credit for how my other two are doing. That sorta keeps the guilt away now.
  7. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Terry, guilt is a powerful emotion made all the more dramatic when we feel it around our children, who for whatever reason, we often believe we have complete responsibility for, even when they are adults. Added to that are societal beliefs which place much of the burden of our kids choices squarely on the shoulders of mothers. I remember reading years ago an article by Erma Bombeck where she said, "guilt is the gift that keeps on giving." And, it is.

    For some of us, I think there is more going on then guilt, guilt is the emotion one feels when you believe you did something wrong, however, shame is the sense that YOU ARE inherently wrong, that there is something wrong with YOU. Shame is a deep feeling often brought on by our own belief in our unworthiness. If you are interested, Brene Brown has TED talks on Youtube on shame and vulnerability which are wonderful. Also, any of her books, including Daring Greatly, are terrific to learn more about shame. She is a researcher, a social worker and a great lecturer who hits the nails right on the head. You may find her helpful in your quest to to rid yourself of the guilt and love and accept yourself.

    My journey with my difficult child has prompted me to deal with my own issues, to put myself first and make ME the priority. It's certainly easy to put all of our focus on our difficult child's because generally speaking, they use up all the air in the room with their dramatic lives..........leaving little room for us and our needs. After awhile that becomes our life, and little by little, over a long period of time, we lose track of who we are and what brings us joy. For me, the way to get through all of that was to get as much support as I possibly could so I could learn how to do exactly what you are asking about, to love and accept myself. Therapy and a therapist run support group helped me a lot. Attending CoDa 12 steps groups and posting here on this forum helped me to begin to see that what was happening was NOT my fault. And, to learn how to forgive myself for all real and imagined wrongdoings, to let go of guilt, to detach not only from my daughter's choices and lifestyle, but to learn to see what my attachments were in the rest of my life so I could address them and learn how to detach from them. I had to walk out of the FOG which is created by conflicting thoughts and beliefs about enabling versus loving kindness when dealing with my difficult child.

    For me it was steps which lead to a deeper understanding of what having compassion for myself really means. It's been a long journey for me, it didn't start with my difficult child, my connection with my difficult child pushed me into a greater recognition of the places within me which required work to learn how to love and accept myself. I believe loving oneself is the most important lesson we can learn because out of loving ourself, we are in a much better position within ourselves to make healthy choices about acceptance of the things we can't control which then frees us up to feel a deep and peaceful joy in living.

    Make an intention to love and accept yourself. Make that your priority. When you do, you'll find, as I did, that opportunities to learn, to grow, to change and to heal will be available to you. Take them. Get support for the changes. Read books. Every single day, do kind and loving things for yourself, put all that focus you once had on your daughter, onto you. Ask yourself what it is you need and want and then go after those things. You matter and you deserve to have the life you've imagined. You deserve to have peace and to live joyfully. Remember, whatever we settle for is what we end up living. Don't settle. Grab that life you want. Start today. I'm right there with you supporting you...........
  8. Childofmine

    Childofmine trying to do this thing one day at a time Staff Member

    I agree with everything MWM said on the above thread. I started thinking about this thread this morning after I posted, on the way back from exercise.

    I started wondering why I used to be a huge worrywart, and finally stopped. But I don't recognize any guilt about my parenting.
    Are there similarities with these two things?

    Here is some interesting reading about guilt:


    And then some about worrying:


    "People who can't tolerate uncertainty--and who
    insist that the world be the way they want it to be--are likely to be
    worriers." Wow, that definitely used to be me.

    According to the authors here, there is a common thread with worry and guilt and that common thread is perfectionism. The authors say that some guilt and some worry is normal and even healthy. These emotions alert us to problems that we need to recognize and correct.

    Guilt over eating too much candy. We knew we shouldn't eat it, but we did anyway, and now our system is giving us a warning---guilt. They say the same with normal worrying.

    But then there is the abnormal worrying and the abnormal guilt, and that is rooted in perfectionism. I think this is worth thinking about.

    I believe I used to be right there with worry. In fact, one time my dear mother gave me a small embroidered pillow and a brass stand to sit it on: "Worry is a fast getaway on a wooden horse." That is how much I used to worry. I had that pillow and stand for a long, long time.

    My worrying was rooted in my perfectionism. And the fact that I couldn't live with life on life's terms. I couldn't accept things the way they are. I couldn't accept uncertainty. I wanted things to be perfect. I wanted the Ozzie and Harriet life. And by Golly, I was going to force it, dragging everybody kicking and screaming into perfection. I wanted the Cinderella story. (lol).

    I still can't accept a lot of those things and I am working hard on them. I don't worry anymore and I don't feel guilt about my parenting. I am a very good mother. I have been a very good mother. My biggest faults have been trying to overcontrol, manage, fix and having very high expectations of people---myself and my children and other people that i love. Perhaps they feel they will never please me. Perhaps they feel like there's no point in even trying. I am wrong about those feelings, actions and behaviors.

    I want to let it all go. I am working hard on letting everything go. Letting all of that just float away. Accepting. That is what I am working toward.

    I did those things, but I still didn't cause this. I am just not that powerful. That rings true for me, accepting my own limits and as RE says on another thread, loving myself anyway. Having compassion for myself. I have that today.

    I have made progress, but there is still more to be made with me. Thank you all for this discussion. It has helped me.
  9. Echolette

    Echolette Well-Known Member

    I feel guilty because eventually I didn't like him anymore. I feel guilty because he was frustrating when he was little and I was short with him. I feel guilty because even now if I spend a few hours with him I eventually get snappy. I feel guilty because unlike a lot of the other mothers on this board I am not sure I can say I love him like I love the others.
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  10. Childofmine

    Childofmine trying to do this thing one day at a time Staff Member

    How can we like anyone Echo who lies and steals and hurts themselves and other people? Who is completely self absorbed, a user and discounts the feelings of others? Who does not give, just takes and takes? Who manipulates, who wants no responsibility even for himself? Who follows no rules and either blames everybody else for what goes wrong or is a helpless victim?

    This is unlike able behavior. I do not like my son either.

    And I get snappy too. I do not want to be around this type of person at all. I only want to see him for very small amounts of time. Even from a distance would be okay.

    My love is tired Echo. It is still there but there is evidently a limit on tolerance even with my own children when the ugliness never ends.

    Loving somebody who behaves like my difficult child is behaving right now is possible at a distance. I can do it much much better there.

    I don't think there is any guilt to be had with this attitude. This is real. This is the truth.

    There will be guilt if I lash out right now with my thoughts and feelings as I will be wrong if I do that. I know that and so I am waiting on my feelings to subside. Feelings aren't facts I am taught in alanon. I need to leave him alone while I am I active feeling mode and work out my anger elsewhere.

    I am only human and I have limits. He has pushed me to the end of those right now.
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  11. Terryforvols

    Terryforvols Member

    Thanks you all! Am at work, have some thoughts abt me later!

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  12. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    I love this.

    This is true for me, too. As I began to heal (and after I read MWM's abuse posting), it became imperative for me to confront my son, my daughter, my mother ~ anyone who was abusing me. The essential difference between that mom I am always talking about, that mom who speaks her truth, enjoys her kids, hates them to their faces when they are doing wrong and holds them to her heart whether they are wrong or right is that she can teach them without identifying with the outcome. What they do is what THEY do. That so strong mom I am always wishing I was is able to separate herself from her child in a way, until recently, I could not.

    Most moms (and dads) get to live through their kids. We don't ~ not and be healthy ourselves, anyway. When our kids, especially the drug addled ones, reflect toxicity? We take that in, bask and reflect in that poisoned mirror they show us as though they had done something good.

    They do what they do because they do what they do. They blame us because based on the outcome we blame ourselves.

    Based on the outcome.

    We need to stop allowing the kids to reflect that back to us.

    We are no more the cause of their failures than other parents are the cause of their children's successes.

    We are learning to be more discriminate, here.

    When our kids are doing wrong, we have to be able to tell them so. We have to be able to know so clearly, to know from the heart out, that the kids did not learn to do what they are doing to themselves from us.

    Remember that there was a time homosexuality was blamed on the mother.

    A time when autism was called "feral child" and was blamed on poor mothering, too.

    Remember that mysogyny is rife in our society, and that you were raised to believe everything was your fault or could be traced back to you.

    Our children are different. They see everything differently. It is a hurtful, poisoned reality they reflect back to us. As Recovering posted, learning compassion for ourselves is the key, there. But we also need to learn that it is our job as the mothers to do what that good mother I am always wondering about does. She pulls no bones with the kids about what they are doing, about what she thinks about that. She hates what they are doing, not in secret, but to their faces.

    And she holds them in her heart.

    Our guilt (and you all know how old my "kids" are) has never changed a thing. My guilt, my unending search for what I did, for how to help, for what to try next? Never changed anything for any of us. Maybe, it made me feel that I had left no stone unturned. Maybe that is where I took the ego strength I needed to just get through the days, I don't know.

    But I do know, because it happened to me, that none of that helped my kids.

    So, I am jettisoning the guilt wherever I become aware of it.

    I am trying to have compassion for myself, for once, just as Recovering suggests.

    And oh, the anger under there! Under all that wonderfulness I was displaying toward my kids there is: so. much. rage.

    I am practicing seeing what the kids do and being judgmental and disapproving. Which is what I should have done to start with.

    What I did instead did not work.

    My son disrespects and hates me because I taught him to blame anyone in the world but himself.

    He blamed...his mother.

    And he was right to do so.

    I did not stand up, did not demand better. I tried to help him. The time wasted trying to help enrages me, too.


    And he is the only one who can change his situation.

    I cannot do it for him. I have decided I will accept no less from him. How are our kids going to get it that what they are doing is obscenely wrong unless we tell them that?

    We are their mothers. We are not like the other moms. We don't get to pat ourselves on the back and take it as it comes. The fighting we've done for them through not judging, through believing in them, through beating and berating ourselves ~ none of that worked.

    For me, it is about confronting the kids with what they are doing. Not even in a bad way. Simply stating the facts as I see them.

    I see that as my responsibility, now.

    Guilt did not help my kids; it did not help me.

    Let the rest of the world judge me however they want to. This has nothing to do with them. Something is very wrong in my family and guilt contributed nothing to curing that.

  13. Albatross

    Albatross Well-Known Member


    And ditto. I think guilt in this setting is not a reasonable emotion to feel; we didn't come easily to the point we are at now in our relationship with our difficult children. I can see these things so clearly for you Echo, for so many of the moms in this place. Still have trouble seeing it in myself though.

    This is a great thread.
  14. Echolette

    Echolette Well-Known Member

    Thank you Child, Cedar, Albatross. I had a bad hour after I posted that.
  15. nlj

    nlj Well-Known Member

    But is it about not liking your child?
    Or not liking their behaviour?

    Is there a difference?

    I can say "I don't like your behaviour" to my child, but I can't say "I don't like you".
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2014
  16. Childofmine

    Childofmine trying to do this thing one day at a time Staff Member

    Yes Lucy I agree. I can love someone and not like their behavior at all.

    For the past four years, in my son's case, I have had just a very few brief glimpses of the person he still is, buried under his very toxic and entrenched addiction.

    There were some glimpses of the real precious person he once was sitting in the car with him on those Fridays at the day shelter.

    I saw some of the real him that afternoon at my house when he helped SO dig the bush out.

    But the addicted him seems to be in charge most of the time and I don't like that person at all.

    But I still love him. Of course I do.
  17. toughlovin

    toughlovin Well-Known Member

    Interesting thread. I have been thinking about this a lot today too.

    For me I think mothers guilt is partly rooted in the idea that our children are a reflection of us... of who we are, what we are like as people. I realized when my son was small, and his behavior was already kind of out there... that he was not really a reflection of me... he was his own person and in many ways not like me and did not always follow my guidance or direction but followed his own thinking... even as a young child this was true.

    It was even more true as he grew older.

    Yet the messages we get from society is that how are kids are is due to our parenting... and if they are screwed up then we must be screwed up. The kid are a reflection of who we are, what we believe, and what we are like as people.

    I have had to continue to remind myself that this in fact is NOT true. My daughter, who is very much a easy child is her own person. In some ways she is like me, in many ways she is not. She is her own person and I cant really take total credit for that either because she is who she is in her own right.

    And my son and all his bad choices are not a reflection of me either. He is who he is and he is where he is because of his own choices. They were not my choices, and in fact many times he totally disregarded my advice and guidance. I cant do anything about that.

    Sometimes I go to the woulda coulda shouldas.... and it gets m nowhere. Sure I have made mistakes but really I cant do anything about the past, all I can do is figure out how to do things now and in the future. When I go to that place I just have to stop myself because it is pointless.

    I am sure many of us have known people where we did not like their parents.... in that case are those people a reflection of their parents. No. People grow up and develop and they may or may not be like their parents, may or may not take their guidance and in many cases they turn out to be great people in spite of their parents.

    I think ultimately it is about accepting that we dont have that much control over how our kids turn out.


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  18. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Their behavior, their demeaner, their attitude toward life, toward us, IS who they are. We can dislike our child yet still love our child. I often dislike 36. Then sometimes he surprises me and says or does something nice. Most of the time he is a miserable person who I would not want to know if he were not my child. Is that a bad thing to admit in this group? It shouldn't be. Like and love are not the same.
  19. nlj

    nlj Well-Known Member

    Yes, I don't like my mother, my brother hasn't spoken to her for ten years, she's not a nice person.
    It's made me more determined to be nothing like her, and to ensure that my relationship with my own children never reaches the depths of my dreadful relationship with her.
  20. CrazyinVA

    CrazyinVA Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I've come to the conclusion that guilt is a worthless emotion, especially when it comes to our adult difficult children. Oh we all feel guilt at one time or another, but really, it's pointless. It accomplishes nothing except to make us feel bad (it certainly doesn't make our difficult children feel bad!) . Dwelling on that stuff doesn't change anything. We've all made mistakes, we all have some regrets and wonder "what if." But no matter what mistakes we made, whatever we did or didn't do for them in the past, our children are adults now. They are responsible for their own choices. If they make bad choices, that's on them, not us. They also have to choice to change. Yes, sometimes alcohol/drugs/mental illness make that choice difficult and fuzzy, but when it comes to my kids it's still their choice, today, and has nothing to do with anything I did or didn't do 20 or 10 or 2 years ago. When my Youngest moved herself and her kids to FL with a guy that turned out to be a nightmare, and subsequently lost almost everything she owned, it wasn't because I wasn't home enough when she was young or didn't try hard enough to make her go to therapy, or didn't set a good enough example. It was because she made a foolish choice despite everyone telling her it was a mistake.

    It took me a long time to get that, and to stop blaming myself -- but once I did, I was able to let go of a lot of the guilt. I just refuse to let it have power over me, ya know? When I feel the old guilt feelings creeping in .. I smash them right back down and remind myself that it changes nothing. A lot of this comes from my therapist -- who is quick to remind me of this when I start talking about regret.

    I hope that doesn't sound too harsh, but it's how I deal with things these days (and why I don't post often, I'm afraid you all will find me heartless!) Please know that you are all good moms (and dads) who love your difficult children - you wouldn't be here if you weren't. What you did before doesn't matter. What you do now, does.
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