How My Childhood Tainted My View Of Parenthood
Whether or not I want to have kids is a hot topic these days. And I get it—I’m in my thirties, I’m in a committed relationship, and (if I do say so myself) I mostly have my life together. I believe that most people close to me would call me emotionally well-adjusted, responsible, and compassionate. Those are pretty good traits for a mother to have, right? I also have a long-term partner who is also those things. You certainly don’t have to have a partner to be a parent, but you can see how outsiders believe all the pieces are in place for me to procreate. After having a cocktail or two recently, I surprised myself by really divulging my biggest fears about parenthood. I unlocked something in my brain. I didn’t even really know it before, but I stated what I worried about and I saw a lot of confusion on the faces around me. “Oh. This is just me—these are my neuroses.” And I realized that it was my childhood—my parents—that created those.
I fear it’s either motherhood or work
It was for my mom. She gave up her career entirely to have a family. She never looked back. But she also…didn’t have to do that. We had a live-in nanny and a housekeeper. I guess I worry that, like my mom, I’ll become complacent not working and just give up my aspirations when I have kids.
And it’s either motherhood or a personal life
Overall, I felt that my own mother didn’t really cultivate a life that was hers. My dad had specific demands of her as a mother and a wife—that she be home when he get home, that she be available to travel on weekends with him…and she abided. I’ve always had negative feelings about that, I guess. Perhaps I’ve feared that if I became a wife and mother that I’d let myself be bullied into submissiveness, too. But…I’m me. My partner is my partner. We’re different people from my parents.
I fear it causes a rift in a marriage
I saw how parenting perhaps drove my parents apart a bit. They had different ideas on how to raise kids. Rather than doing things with us together we had time with mom, and time with dad, and those rarely intersected. I wouldn’t want children to drive a wedge into my relationship.
I worry about being too judgmental
My mom is very judgmental of my sister and me. Our apartments are never good enough. Our jobs are never good enough. Our partners are never good enough. She focuses on how these things could be better—on the negatives—rather than praising us for paying our rent and finding men who treat us well.
And not even realize I’m being judgmental
I’d never want to make my child feel constantly judged and criticized, but I worry that maybe, as a mom, you do it without even knowing it. I fear that my mom doesn’t even know how she makes us feel—that her love just mutated into this other thing that always feels critical.
Will I prioritize the wrong things in my kids?
I get frustrated almost every time that I speak to my mother because, while judging and criticizing much of what I do, she’s failed to notice something pretty great: I am happy and I am kind. I am always smiling and laughing. I am loving to people. It upsets me that rather than see that, she sees that I don’t yet own a house or that my partner doesn’t make a lot of money.
Will I fail to get to know them?
My mom doesn’t really know me. Not really. I can’t explain why, exactly. I think it’s perhaps because she focuses so much on how I’m not the person she wants me to be, that she doesn’t pay attention to who I am. It would make me so sad to not know my children and…not even realize I didn’t know them.
I fear they’ll pull away
I pull away from my mom for all of the reasons listed above. I put time limits on phone calls with her. I put time limits on visits. Interactions are things I get over with rather than really enjoy. Oh god. It devastates me to think my children would do that with me.
I fear they won’t tell me about their lives
I don’t tell her about major developments in my life, for fear that she’ll just pick them apart, and put a negative spin on them. I have to keep these things from her to protect myself. What if my own kids did that to me?
Will I resist learning about them?
Maybe because she is so focused on how my life isn’t what she wanted, my mom doesn’t take the opportunity to learn about the way it is. I’ll offer to introduce her to my close friends when she’s in town, but she’ll say she just wants it to be us. I’ll ask to take her to some of the places I like to hang out, but she’d rather go to the places in which she’s interested. She doesn’t realize: it’s not about whether or not she likes the bar or she’d hang out with this friend of mine. It’s about just getting a look into her daughter’s life.
I fear they’ll blame me for their problems
I’ve stopped now, but for a long time, I blamed my mother for my problems. I thought that the reason I wasn’t more successful was that I didn’t have a fierce female role model, and things like that. What if my kids blamed me for their problems?
And talk amongst themselves about me
My sister and I vent to each other about our mother a lot. My sister has many of the same feelings I do. I hate to think that my kids would complain to each other about me (though it is one of the perks of having siblings).
Will they fear introducing me to their partners?
My sister and I have always worried about introducing our partners to our mother. We just knew she’d call us, after the meeting, to bring her up concerns. And we know she’s not as welcoming and warm as we want her to be when meeting our partners. It’s hard for her to hide the fact that she’s assessing them. We don’t want to subject them to that.
I fear I’ll hover too much
I worry I’ll be a helicopter parent, too. I don’t worry about it so much in the early years, but the later years—like the way my mom now has a lot to say about my apartment and the way I dress.
Or, just be self-involved
Honestly, my mom has often fallen on one extreme end of the paying-attention-spectrum: she’s either hovering, or she’s so self-involved in her kitchen renovation to really pay attention to my big developments.