Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by elizabrary, Mar 20, 2011.

  1. elizabrary

    elizabrary Member

    I'm sure many of you have been through this and have some good advice for me. Lately I have been overwhelmed with guilt for what I did or didn't do as a mother which made Kat end up where she is right now. It's not like I was a drug addict or running around with men all the time during her childhood. It's just the basic I should have been harder on her, I shouldn't have ignored some problem behaviors, I should have been more strict... I could go on and on with the "should haves." I know this is in no way productive, as I can't go back into the past and change things, but I'm really stuck in this way of thinking right now. Any ideas about how to let this go and focus on the present and the future?
  2. dashcat

    dashcat Member

    Serenity prayer, my friend. You did your best. Most likely, you did more and better than most. Your difficult child has a mind of her own and she has the free will to choose what to do with that mind. Believe me, I struggle with this all the time. Our kids rarely respond to conventional punishment and consequences. Thinking back and wondering if taking another course of action would have made a difference is not going to do you - or her- any good. In your heart of hearts you know that a different approach probably would have delivered very little in the way of different results.

    Be at peace with yourself. You are a good mom, a good mom who did and continues to do her best.
  3. shellyd67

    shellyd67 Active Member

    I do the same thing almost on a daily basis. I have often gone to bed after a day from h*ll and wished I could start all over again. I wish that difficult child was a baby again and I would do this or that differently. But somehow I come to the realization that things would be the same no matter what. Don't be too hard on yourself. I know it hurts ... HUGS
  4. Star*

    Star* call 911

    I will share a small bit of advice an excellent $250 an hr. therapist shared with us during couples therapy - and I mean excellent, regarding parental guilt.

    Should is a word you should remove from your vocabulary. With regards to guilt over what you 'should' have done in raising your children think of it like this and see if should still fits, then ask yourself if you can claim guilt still.

    a.) When I was raising my daughter I made my parenting decisions based on the absolute worst choices I could possibly make at the time so she would fail.

    b.) When I was raising my daughter I made my parenting decisions based on the best choices I knew how to make at the time based on what I knew.

    If you chose statement a. then yes - you are a bad parent. Then the word 'should' applies to you and you 'should' feel guilt for your choices throughout your child's life and your are largely responsible for poor parenting which may or may not have led to your child growing up to make poor choices in his or her life. Keep in mind we all are responsible for making our own choices as we grow older.

    If you chose statement b. then wow, you made the best choices you could at the time, based on what you knew at that time, and did not purposely make poor choices for your child. You did what you did because you thought it was a good thing. Granted as you grew older, you learned there were better choices, and learned from your mistakes and possibly repeated them, even with raising your children. It doesn't mean you were a bad parent, it just means you were human. However continuing to say "I should have XX with my child" is futile - you can't fix anything you did years ago, you did what you did back then because you though it was the right thing to do, not the wrong thing to do, and you moved on from there, and gave your child the ability to grow up - and make choices of their own - which again - as they grow up - are theirs to make.

    You do what you do when you do it because you think it's the right thing to do; or I SHOULD do this - - not because you think it's the wrong thing to do. Or I should NOT do that. You do know the difference -

    Otherwise everytime you left the house - you'd run smack into cars, up trees, into mail boxes - over curbs. You'd buy pants that were 3 times too large, or 4 times too small, you'd buy six meals at the Burger King window instead of one happy meal, you'd pay for everyones groceries in the supermarket - and get cigarettes when you don't smoke - you'd shave your head, buy mens shoes, get a jock strap and wear it for a hat to work - and walk in and quit your job - I mean think about it - those are all things you think - WOW I should NOT do - and every day you don't - right? But every day you did the things that you THOUGHT were the RIGHT thing to do with your daughter - and DID those.

    It's a little bit of a stretch - but if you truly DID WRONG things and WRONG choices for your child? Sit and imagine just WHAT she would be like now? Imagine her.......WITHOUT the help that you DID give ------now THAT to me is the nightmare.

    Once this therapist sat and asked and told my family that he couldn't even begin to think of my child without the actual help that I DID give my son? Nor would he want to even IMAGINE what he would be like without our intervention - it sent shivers down his spine literally - it made all my guilt disappear - so try to imagine that. Imagine a world in where all the help you have given your daughters for naught. Then ask yourselves - NOW - How bad of a Mother was I really? -----Pales in comarison doesn't it?

    You've done a good job. You know that. You really don't need me, or anyone else to tell you that - but I thought it may help to be put into perspective like this.

    by the way if it's any help? Our therapist is the prison therapist to the prisioners who are housed within the prisons here in SC. - I didn't know that for a long time. Try having a man that treats those kinds of people tell you he wouldn't want to know your son at 12 years old without your (what I thought was 'little bit') of help. Puts quiet a new light on what we really have done as Mothers for our children - even if it does seem like we want a do-over - the end result and choices they have ARE theirs. No shame or guilt in that whatsoever. Fear for their futures - sure, but no guilt.

    Hugs & Love -
  5. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    Someone else had brought this up not too long ago. Then the other night I found myself in the odd position of having this conversation with my own mom.

    My mom has recently decided that I'm the "perfect" mother. :rofl: :rofl: You'd have to understand our relationship to get the irony of that.

    My mom is schizophrenic, functions pretty well much of the time, it's all the rest of the times that were hades on earth for us kids. But at this point in life......I see her mental illness as only complicating things rather than causing a lot of it. She had her kids in the 50's and 60's. By the time she was preggers with me she was divorcing my bio dad. So poof she was a single mom of 5 in a time when that was mostly unheard of and there were no support systems at all in place. Four out of those 5 kids were difficult children.......and the one that wasn't has enough issues to keep her on the boarderline. Mom suffers from paranoia........which means what other people think of her can literally drive her over the edge. So she was determined to have the perfect family......especially since she was a single parent. The house rules were overbearing, the punishments for breaking them severe.....and trust me there was no issue with consistancy. She didn't believe in grounding.

    Now with all that you've got to add in the time period. The 70's were the "all about me" time. So while she worked her fanny off supporting 5 kids on min wage......she also dated constantly, married several times........divorced several times........we were all about drama to the nth degree. Add in religious fanaticism for flavor........

    My 2 bros and eldest sis are messed up, with good reason. Some is genetics, mental illness is a tad rampant in our family on the maternal side. But the bulk is evironmental. My neices and nephews by those 3 are even more messed up.....and I shudder when I think of my great neices and nephews. Sort of perpetuates itself. The sis that has always been on the not so bad. She has issues "feeling" anything for another person.......but at least she did her best to fake it big time with her kids.......and they do have issues but haven't turned out half bad.

    Me? I was saved by my grandmother. Since I was the unwanted child......I was my mom's target child for abuse. Grandma stepped in and I spent the vast majority of my childhood with her. By that time she had raising difficult children down to an art form (she had 5 of her own out of 7 kids) and I turned out pretty ok.

    So the other night my Mom out of the blue asks what did she do that was so terribly wrong? She wasn't looking for sympathy. She really needed to understand. We'd been talking about the 3 difficult child kids and their kids.........and well she just sort of slipped it in there on me. She was crying.

    Now there was a point in my life where I truly hated my mother with good reason. With the help of a good therapist and the love/wisdom/guidance of my grandma growing up.....I healed from that. But it's only been the last several years we've been developing a very close loving relationship. And over the years I've learned to view my mother as a person, not just my mother.

    In those days, she believed she was doing the right things. She worked her fanny off to keep food on the table and pay the bills. She had rules and kept them enforced.....she was so strict because she knew she couldn't always be there....and the whole mom/dad role of single parenting was fairly new. She took us to church and did her best to reinforce that at home.

    Unfortunately what she saw as strict punishment was severe abuse.....and if it was a bad time for the schizo part to kick in it really went off the deep end. The religious fanaticism pretty much killed the religion part, think cult brainwashing techniques. The multitude of boyfriends, husbands, and divorces only made for an extremely unstable environment. And even the "all about me" part played a huge role as unless the religious fanaticism had a firm hold (it tended to waver with her mental stability) she'd be out having a grand time and we'd rarely see her. Which of course meant that she had little or not clue what 4 difficult children were up to unless the crud hit the fan in some way.

    But even with all that? She didn't set out to destroy her kids. She parented as best she could with what she knew at that time. Hindsight is 20/20. It's easy to look back years later (when you're at a different point in life) and say oh I should've, would've, could've and beat yourself up. Over about the past 15 years I've watched my Mom attempt to make up for some of the mistakes she made in the past. Usually in the wrong way.....but again it's what you know at the time. The past like 2 or so, she's been working much harder at making the right choices, and yes she still makes mistakes.

    And honestly? My parenting style is totally different from hers. But while that is the case......much of the reason for that is due to the fact that I saw where her techniques went wrong and I learned from it. So it's not really fair for her to compare my parenting with hers......or even the results of that parenting. And for that matter I didn't have my own mental illness mucking up the waters even more. I've done a lot of educating her over the years too.

    The point is she tried her best. Ok, so it didn't turn out so hot. No one is perfect. The point is that she tried. And as she learned and grew as a person........she continued to try her best. She still does.

    I am in no way the perfect parent. And I have to laugh every time she says it. I've made so many many mistakes along the way. No one is perfect. I learned from my mistakes and sought out new knowledge and help. Which is all anyone can do. As for my difficult children........honestly? They did most of the work themselves. If they didn't want to do well, I could work myself into the grave and it would make no difference. We have to remember to place responsibility where it belongs, most especially once our children become adults.

    I grew up in an extremely abusive/neglectful environment. I wouldn't wish it on any child. Yet as an adult I chose not to live that way. And even though I was a difficult child.......I worked hard not to repeat that life with my own kids. That part my mother, my grandmother, and all the people I used as examples had nothing to do with. That part rested solely on my shoulders.

  6. toughlovin

    toughlovin Guest

    I totally relate to the "guilt" you feel. I have at times when I intensley wished I could start over with my difficult child. I can't tell you exactly what I would do differently but if I could start over with what I know now about him as an almost adult man I am sure I would be a better parent. When I am at that place of wishing a do-over, it hurts and it makes me sad and I feel guilt and get hung up on the shoulds. None of that ever did me any good. One of the things I have heard in al-anon which has really helped me is you didn't cause it, you can't cure it, and you can't control it. This is so true.

    And I realize when I really sit and think about it, yes there are things I could have done differently or better but I really don't know if those things would have made any difference. Really I don't. My son has his issues and he turned to drugs to cope with them. Could I have somehow prevented that? I really don't know, I kind of think not. But it doesn't matter. It really doesn't matter at all how he got to the place he is now.. It is what it is!!!

    I do know, like Star mentioned, that I did the absolute best I could at the time with what I knew then. And that is what I need to continue to do now, be the best mom I can be, love him, be there for him in ways that are appropriate for him now (without enabling him). That is all I can do.

    It is time to find a way to let go of the guilty. It does not serve you or serve your child.
  7. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    A skilled, if unorthodox therapist, who once mediated in a meeting between my (neglectful, verbally and emotionally abusive, etc, father) gave me a rather unconventional take on this, which I have often thought of since. At one point, my father said to me "I did my best". The therapist turned to him and said, "No, whatever you did, it was not your best..."
    And I think this is right. Sometimes in life we do not do our best and we know it. There is a very particular sadness that comes with that and with it a kind of determination not to repeat the mistake. Blame and guilt are, ultimately, and as we all recognise, futile and irrelevant feelings - but sometimes there is just a "seeing" that we have failed ourselves and others. And I honestly and truly do think that this guilt is part of the human condition and that without it we would not be fully human...
    So I for my part understand your sorrow. I do not say you should not feel it. In meeting the present as wholly as one can, the past can lose some, maybe even all, of its sting...
  8. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    I'll have to keep an eye on others' advice. My son is spending the majority of his teen years in juvie prison and the guilt I feel is more than a little consuming sometimes. I just don't know what specifically I did wrong.
  9. toughlovin

    toughlovin Guest


    You may have done nothing wrong! Really!! I think we as parents live under this fallacy that if we are good parents our kids will be good and responsible kids. That just is not always true. I think kids are affected by both nature and nurture. We have no control over what genetics they were born with, what their temperament was they were born with. As parents we can only work with what we have... and all kids are different and there is no manual to tell us what to do when things for whatever reason do not go well. I wish parents out in the real world talked about their struggles more easily.... I think it is often something people don't talk about because most people want other people to think their kids are wonderful and of course that means the parents are wonderful. The truth is sometimes good parents have troubled kids.... and sometimes bad parents have really good kids. Society draws a correlation between the behavior of parents and kids but there isn't always one.
  10. Estherfromjerusalem

    Estherfromjerusalem Well-Known Member

    I do feel guilt over one specific thing, and that is that I didn't find the correct treatment for my difficult child's encopresis immediately, and in the end it carried on for nine years and ruined his life for all those nine years, and in my opinion made his difficult child-ness much more severe. With hindsight I now know what I should have done, but at the time I truly did the best I could.

    As for all the rest -- because of the encopresis, and because of a lovely small support group through the e-mail that I joined for parents of kids with encopresis (before I found this wonderful support group), I learned that the true bottom bottom line of dealing with any child, but especially with difficult children, is to let them know that they are loved. I know that once I was able to express this to my child (and I'm not the sort of mother who tells her children "I love you"), somehow the guilt took on a different proportion and was no longer as disturbing as before. And funnily enough, today with eight children, my difficult child is the only one who says to me "I love you" and to whom I can also say that.

    And I mention that, because although I knew my parents loved me and my sisters, I do not remember once being told that they loved me, and I don't remember once being hugged, or stroked, hardly even being touched. I know, they had their own problems, but I think that was a real lack as parents. It was only when my fifth child was being looked after a carer when I went out to work, and that carer and I became very close friends, that she showed me how to touch and hug my children. That is the honest truth. My oldest was seven years old then, and to this day her relationship with me is cooler than that of the others. However hard I try, there's a barrier there that doesn't exist with most of the other children. But honestly, I don't feel guilty about it because I just didn't know any better at the time.

    I don't think it is possible to bring up even "perfect children" without there being things one regrets. It is impossible to get everything right all the time with children. And how much more so with difficult children. But what Star wrote is spot on: As long as one is trying to do the best one can for one's child -- well, that's all that can be expected. And while bringing up children, one is constantly confronted with dilemmas and having to make decisions, and we just try hard to make the right decisions for our children and for ourselves.

    Well, look who's talking! I shouldn't really talk about guilt. Do you know how many jokes there are about Jewish mothers and guilt!!! You can start with the lightbulb jokes and carry on from there, so I'll shut up now.

    Hope you feel better about things soon.

    Love, Esther
  11. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    I should add something to my earlier post. And that is that the people who feel the most guilt are often the ones who least deserve to do so - meanwhile, the people who have committed all sorts of horrors and mayhem sit happily with themselves, denying responsibility and blaming others... in other words, the fact that you feel this guilt already marks you out as a feeling, sensitive person who wants and wanted to do the right thing...
    My words about not necessarily doing our best is just a response to the kind of knee-jerk cliché that says "I did the best I could at the time". I'm just saying that that isn't always the case. And what I was also wanting to say is that if one does feel genuine remorse, that is a real feeling that can drive one to redeem things in a really positive, beautiful way - knowing one cannot change the past but that one can affect the present...
  12. Nomad

    Nomad Guest

    No one here can know your entire situation. Chances are very high that you did the best you could all along. That statement...the best I could at the time, applies!
    Sure, in retrospect, you recall times you wish you did things differently. No one is perfect. No one has a crystal ball. Few, and I'm not sure anyone, has difficult child parenting experience. This comes as a bomb shell to us parents. I always recommend, if at all possible financially and otherwise, to make the offer of counseling for your difficult child. This is especially important if you feel that you missed the mark along the way. Life can have bumps in the road for us parents. Divorce, inexperience, illness...etc. Perhaps there were times that were bumpier than others. We can always apologize to our difficult children for the times that we struggled and offer counseling. However, I think it is important to hold your head up high and make it clear that you tried your very best and do not assume responsibility for this. It's a fine line and one a difficult child is likely to step all over. For difficult children over 18, it is their responsibility to live life in a healthy manner. No matter what you did or did not do (and again, chances are you did not do ANYTHING) it is up to them to make a choice to live life respecfully and to push forward like everyone else. There is NO guilt here. But if you want to ease any remnants of concern, offer to pay for counseling for your difficult child as best as you are able. Tell him or her that you love them and want them to enjoy life in a healthy way and then set the example yourself by moving forward yourself. Do not fall into the guilt trap. You didn't cause this and you can't cure it. If your difficult child wants help, you can provide a little bit of an assist by paying for counseling and setting an example. That's about it. It's in difficult children hands now. I at peace with yourself.
  13. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I have always felt some guilt over stuff with the boys not only because of faulty genetics but also Cory's birth defects and how the doctor pretty much advocated for me to abort him and I refused. Now I tend to feel guilty for his physical issues. I also know that I made a ton of mistakes when they were young because I had no clue about my own issues and I did repeat some of my mothers horrible screaming threats. I said some downright horrible things to my kids. I also loved them like crazy but I always felt like I was a terrible mother and my kids would leave me as soon as they hit 18. Ha..we see how that

    I do know that if I had it to over again I would be a better mom. I can tell because I am a much better grandma. I know what the important stuff is. Of course, grandparenting is a whole different ball of wax. We are the ones who get to take them to the beach and search for seashells and look at each and every one. We get to stop and smell all the flowers. We get to go sit outside and watch the moon and stars or rainbows. I am the one who takes her dance class. I get her giggles and special grins saved just for me. I get to do all the fun stuff. I dont have to enforce homework or chores. I get to let her have ice cream for dinner or waffles for lunch. She has her special Princess cup at my house. Not that I dont make her mind me but its just a whole different relationship. We are more best buddies than parents. She wants to live with
  14. 4timmy

    4timmy New Member

    I too plead guilty for having guilt. I think probably the majority of the folks here do. I am the mom who has just always thought loving my child was the answer to everything..... but with difficult child, I've gone too far by spoiling him and not always enforcing rules. I've learned a lot though and I'm changing.

    So, here are some hugs from another Mom who is doing her best and trying to leave guilt behind.
  15. Star*

    Star* call 911


    READ THIS - It's a little less complicated than I wrote - and read it all.

    Here - read this -

    Every day we tell our kids - "Oh honey you have a choice - good or bad behavior." Uh huh....So do you with your guilt. My thoughts on going to therapy and ridding myself of negative, guilt-ridden feelings were this. It would be a lot easier for my children to see me as a positive person telling him he has choices in life smiling, happy, and cheerful. Trying to telling him from a dark room, frowning, crying, angry through tears that he should be happy and make better choices while I was an emotional wreck didn't seem to me that it would be such a great example for him. It did not send a message of strength, positivity nor did it say no matter what life hands you - you do the best you can and overcome any obstacle.

    True, I had days where I was sad, cried, got angry, was depressed, but how my son saw me deal with those times is largely a reflection of how he would handle those exact same moments as he grew to be an adult. NOT how he would handle them as a child - because he didn't have the same coping skills at that time, but hopefully as he grows older - what he saw as a child he'd remember. I wanted those memories to be as positive as they could be. You can't fake guilt maked with a smile - you've either dealt with it or you haven't, because those feelings will come out somewhere. And somewhere? Where is that? Taking up time that you COULD be having fun - if you had only dealt with guilt and let it go.

    Personally? I'm a once and done kinda person - I like having time for fun things - and the times that guilt took from me? It doesn't get any more. Because those times were my sons young childhood, and I can't get those days back - but I can have his future, and I do - and I'm enjoying what I can, detaching from what I don't have - and doing the best I can every day to live life without regrets. I wish those same minutes for all of you who are hurting. I really, really do. Guilt is an anchor you'd be a lot better off draging around - kinda like Jacob Marleys chain links. I'd way rather be Ebenezer Scrooge after the ghosts of Christmas past visit..and live every day as best I can.

    Hope this makes sense to someone.

    Hugs & Love
  16. PatriotsGirl

    PatriotsGirl Guest

    Star, you are awesome. That's all. :)
  17. toughlovin

    toughlovin Guest

    You know I was thinking about this yesterday. I think I have dealt pretty well with my guilt around the issues with my son although sometimes those feelings come back and bite me.... but man I can get myself in a stupid state over stupid things I did years ago. Yesterday I remembered a way I had behaved not so great and I started to feel awful about it again.... it took me a few minutes but I reminded myself of the serenity prayer. I need to keep in mind that the past is one of those things I cannot change.... time to let it go!!!
  18. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I think it is much easier to keep things in the past when someone isnt constantly throwing them up at us. Does anyone else have stuff brought up that you dont even remember doing?
  19. HereWeGoAgain

    HereWeGoAgain Grandpa

    A couple of thoughts -

    First, some empirical evidence that even if you had done things differently, things may very well have turned out the same - in other words, your actions were not to blame. Our two oldest kids are about the closest thing you can get to a "controlled experiment" on outcomes. They lived with the same mother and father, went through the same abandonment by their dad, had the same stepfather (me). Their environment and upbringing was exactly the same - and yet their adulthood is totally different. difficult child is an addict, living with whoever she can get to lend her a bed for a night or two, doing who knows what for drug money and food; while easy child son is very successful in his career and has a solid marriage, expecting their first child soon (wife and I will get to have a grandson that we can truly be grandparents to, without having to be parents as well! Yay!). So you see, doing things differently wouldn't have changed the outcome - they are who they are, in spite of everything.

    Second, your guilt becomes a very effective tool in difficult child's hands, for manipulation. If she can get you to take blame for her, she excuses her self - then turn that into you enabling her further, trying to compensate.
  20. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    From the outside, situations look neat and simple. From the inside, they almost never are, though. Everyone has their story, that is what I know... and stories have their own power and reality. I do not think the feeling of guilt is amenable to logic... the trouble is we take it personally, think it is "wrong" to feel guilty about anything as if that implies we are bad people - yet good people can do mistaken things, harmful things, out of ignorance, fear, whatever. I think the point is to redeem whatever it is one feels one has done wrong by addressing the present in the best way possible. There is a scene in a film that I like a lot (American!), "Magnolia", in which character is dying, filled with remorse for having repeatedly cheated on a wife he had loved. He cries out "People say you mustn't feel guilt. You feel guilt about any damned thing you want - and use it. Use it."
    Sometimes I feel our psychologising society obscures deeper human wisdom.