Tuesday, 1 September 2009


When my mother moved out, I was left to deal with the mess that she left behind. My father turned even further towards alcohol to try to deal with his loss. He was never physically abusive to me but he was very difficult. He would come home late, drunk, and then keep me awake until all hours by playing loud music. He knew it upset me and I think he did it deliberately in the end. I was so like my mother. In looks, behaviour and ease of winding up.

With a husband and children of my own, I seem to have turned myself into a buffer. My husband didn't want to deal with some of the unpleasantnesses that are incumbent upon being a parent so I circumvented him and dealt with most of the difficult issues myself. It started with the condom talk and the birds and the bees discussions. At the first mention of a controversial subject, he would leave the room smartly. These days, with the children being older teenagers, those subjects have a habit of smacking you full in the face. But he adopts the tried and trusted ostrich approach of burying his head in the sand. And I allow him to do so.

I try to protect the people I love from awkward situations/telephone calls/confrontations and take it on myself.

I bend over backwards to try to anticipate their every need and satisfy their whims. I run around like a sheepdog: sorting, clearing, cleaning, tidying. Making sure everyone is where they should be with all the equipment that they need. I submerge my needs and put theirs first, spinning plates for all I'm worth. However, there comes a point where I feel that I am being taken for granted if nothing seems to flow back in the opposite direction and I become very resentful.

I suggested to my Counsellor that I wanted to leave the family home but return to do the chores and be paid for it. To earn my maintenance but still be doing the things I class as 'being a mother'. When I say that he was not keen on the whole idea, it would be an understatement.

He said: "You have submerged yourself in doing everything for these people and they dont appreciate you. By leaving, they will learn how much you did do because they will suddenly have to do it for themselves. If you go back and do those things anyway, what are you achieving?"

This has to stop.

I have to become a passenger, rather than always trying to be the driver. By organising and controlling their lives so they never want for anything, I am doing us all a disservice.


Karl said...

Good Morning Joanna,

I have to deal with with quite a few young people, the ones that are taught personal responsibility tend to excel. The ones that can't pickup after themselves and think someone should take care of them don't.

Teaching them to fend for themselves is so important.

Uncle Norman said...

I think you are in a difficult position, but I believe you need to start being selfish so that you can a) look after yourself and b) they can start to learn to look after themselves.

Sadly, people never appreciate what they have until its gone.

Nolens Volens said...

You got it exactly right - "Has to stop". So, STOP.

Ms Scarlett said...

Let those spinning plates fall Joanna - it's time they learned to do for themselves!

They may not ever truly appreciate all that you did, but at some point they will have to acknowledge it. It's hard to let go of that control, I know, but for your own sanity, you must.

Plus, if they never learn to fend for themselves, what happens when they have to?


Transylvanian Miss said...

Hi, I have never left a comment before so I do feel a bit awkward :) However, I think from the sounds of things you have done an excellent job but now it is time for you to spend some of this hard won time on YOU. Life is too short to constantly run around after others and never look out for yourself. Look after you, after all you only get one you and one chance. :)
BTW I think your blog is fabulous! An inspiration, thank you.

Ro said...

It's all well and good to want to protect and support those you care about ... but you have to care about yourself enough to protect and support yourself too.

Time to start re-prioritising?

Anonymous said...

This time, the counselor has it right. We started our children with the feeling that they need to have responsibilities from baby-hood upwards. First, it was just to nap at nap time. As they grew, the responsibilities grew. And now they recognize that they are empowered, unlike their friends who were always catered to. Keep up the good work.

Lady in red said...

This post reaffirms what I was trying to say in mine yesterday but from a different angle.

we must all learn to let go and let them muddle through without expecting us (their mothers) to be there all the time making sure everything goes smoothly.

Joanna Cake said...

Karl - Hello! Thanks for the encouragement x

Uncle N - It is so very hard to do. When I love, I want to help and cherish but I have to work out a second option.

NV - The plan atm is that I will clean, wash and iron but nothing more. No tidying or looking for washing. If it's not in the basket, I cant do it.

Ms S - I let the plates fall when I went away for a fortnight's holiday with Brum and left their father in charge. I go back to the house tomorrow to see what's been happening. From what I can make out through conversations with the children, he seems to be making sure that he copes so that he cant be beholden to me. I guess, in some ways, that makes it easier :)

Joanna Cake said...

Transylvanian Miss - Hello and thanks for both plucking up the courage and the advice :)

Ro - Yup, re-prioritising. I will report more in a couple of weeks. It's like having a seismic shift in personality tho :P

Ben - I know and I just wish I could make their father understand. The counsellor kept talking about how he was disempowering all of us with his behaviour.

nitebyrd said...

Very true, Cake. Your therapist is wise, take his advice. Enjoy the ride for a change.

Joanna Cake said...

LiR - LMAO Really interesting to read your post after mine. It's not that we mollycoddle them so much as they know that if they act ignorant, we will often do it for them because it is easier/faster than the 'pulling teeth' exercise of showing an unwilling person what needs to be done.

If we refuse to make that time, then they have to cope on their own. In many cultures, the young men are taken off by other non-family members to learn how to be adults. In our own, this function used to be performed by the Scouts or National Service. Our own soft pampered offspring will have to learn for themselves and Im sure it wont be such a hardship. We just worry too much x

Anonymous said...

I recognize myself so much in what you wrote. I was prioritizing the needs of others because I felt that if they were happy, then I was going to be happy. Thank you for giving us the word "buffer" to describe it, it's really what it was like!

It took a while, but I finally was able to understand that I take care of myself and it is their responsability to take care of themselves. A big part of this realization for me was reading the book Passionate Marriage. I recommend it to everyone.


Joanna Cake said...

Nitebyrd - Im not seeing him anymore so I have to remember all the things he said and taught me. I do have the option to go back later in the year if I need to.

Fruit Taster - I think we all need to have a look at that website!