Wednesday, April 26, 2006

If it's not one thing, it's your mother

Maybe this is going to sound like a big, self-indulgent whine fest, but I need to complain about it.

I’ve always had issues with my mother. She’s incapable of giving me a compliment or telling me I’ve done a good job at anything. I thought maybe this was just me, being hyper-sensitive and weird, but I got an email from a friend yesterday that justified my feelings. He said he’d be happy to come to the housewarming we’re going to have “Just so long as your mother doesn't go on pontificating and noting how you do a lot of things wrong.”

So, it’s not just me. I was really starting to feel like I had this complex left over from my childhood or something, like I was reading into things.

Last night was the capper, though. She was telling me how her friend was over the other night, admiring A’s graduation picture my mother has on the mantelpiece. The friend thought A was a handsome kid (he is – you’ll just have to believe me). My mother agrees with her friend. After relating this to me, she says, “Well, it stands to reason he’d be handsome, doesn’t it? I mean, after all, his dad is a very good-looking guy.” I’m waiting for the “and you’re very pretty, too,” or some such thing, but no. She just starts talking about knitting or quilting or something. I can’t even remember, I was so stunned.

I mean, even if you think I’m a troll, lie. Is it THAT difficult to pay me a compliment? To tell me that my child looks like me and how handsome he is?

I used to think there was something wrong with me, that I was fundamentally flawed and a failure because she never, ever thought I did anything well. I’m constantly held up to my sister and step-sister and found wanting. “Your wedding was nice, but K’s (the step-sister) was just SO classy.” “It always made me chuckle to hear your high school chorus attempting to sing the Hallelujah Chorus. That high A was so brutal.” “Well, yes, that’s nice, but did you see the piece of art that your sister did?”

And she wonders why I have zero self-confidence.

This is why I praise my kids to the sky when they do things. Yes, O’s soccer team has yet to win a game, but I always, always, always tell her how great they played, how much they’ve improved, how hard it is because they have no subs. I play up her strengths. If she talks about weaknesses, we strategize how best to overcome them. When A’s show choir took second place in a competition, I was thrilled for him. I always tell him how great I think he’s doing with that stuff. I get interested in the stuff he’s doing and I tell him how proud I am of him when he improves his grades in a class he’s had trouble with. I try really, really hard to be there for my kids, to be supportive and kind. I don’t want to stand by and watch as they fall and then tell them what they did wrong; I want to be their safety net, the person they come to when the world kicks them in the shins.

My mother is incapable of that. Nothing is ever good enough. She finds fault in everything I do. Everything. It’s a suck ass way to go thru your childhood, feeling like you’re a big, fat disappointment to your parents. It’s not a fun way to live as an adult, either.


Jamie said...

Julia - for what it's worth, I think you are a very intelligent woman - and from the pictures you've posted in the past, you are very pretty as well.

It would definately SUCK ASS to grow up with a Mom who fails to see all your special attributes, but there is something you need to see here. YOU are smart enough to see that this is not something that you have done - it's obviously a problem that your mom has.

I am glad that you praise your children for all their accomplishments - it builds confidence. Please don't let your Mom's comments tear you down. It's not fair for her to judge you against your sisters or anyone for that matter. You are you. Plain and simple.

I'm sorry that you have to deal with this - but know that not everyone out there thinks the same way she does!

Vent anytime you need to (you read my blog LOL - it's a venting festival over there right now).

Big Hugs coming your way.

Michko said...

I hear you on the constant praise. Fortunately, I have a great relationship with my mom, but have lost quite a bit of self-confidence over the years for one reason or another. I CONSTANTLY praise my children for the littlest things. And the big things, too.

Juliabohemian said...

My Mother is the SAME way. Incapable of giving a compliment that doesn't have some kind of cruel punch line. My little sister just got into a private University and already my Mom has started in about how much more superior it is to my pathetic STATE University.

Josi said...

When she says stuff like the father comment, you could pop back with and Thank God he doesn't look like our side of the family. But that won't help anything, might make you feel better seeing her gasp at the rudeness.
I'm sorry your mom is like this. I would go crazy if any of my parents were and in all honesty, I think you have turned out amazing considering what she gave you.
O, I, and A and A are and will be very lucky kids to have a mother who is aware of how damaging bad critism or ignorance can be to children.
Kudos to you for making sure they know they are above the bar in everything they do, not just adequate or even lacking.

Lyrehca said...

Julia, would you ever point all that out to your mother in a strong way? "So, Mom, you're saying I'm not attractive, huh? Why would you ever imply something like that to your kid?" And see how she responds.

I'm sorry you have to deal with it.

But of course you're awesome and attractive and hysterical. You're Julia.

Enough said.

Angewl said...

Not much I can add to what the previous posters have commented. I agree with them.

You are an amzing, funny, generous, beautiful woman! I know you did not write that to fish for compliments.

I praise my children. My mom ALWAYS makes me feel bad. I know you remembet the fights and months I ahve gone wothout talking to her.

One major thing with her is my weight. I can no stand it and she is now doing it w/ B. Comments like "oh you'll be able to wear this (or fit in that) by summer once you lose some weight." She still says comments like this. I am fat. Get over it already woman! shesh...

also makes comments about how i ignore oldest son and thats why he acts out. if I just paid more attention to him...


I think you are great. You are a terrific friend and I am so happy we met through the baby board.

Joke said...

This makes me SO VERY HAPPY to have been so self-absorbed as a kid that I never heard anything my parents said.

See? There are advantages to being shallow.


Kerri. said...

I'm with Lyrehca on this one. I've met you. You are fantastic. And even if your mother doesn't tell you, we will. As often as you need to hear it.

Vivian said...

Julia- I think you are awesome!! My stepmonster is the same way, she was always great with the others but I took all the flack. I did call her on it a while back and her explanation was this, "I have always pushed you harder because I expected more from you." This of course is such crap. So the moral of this story is don't look for logical reasoning if you do confront her. I know it is important to have your mom's stamp of approval but it is much better to have your own. As an added bonus you definitely have all of ours. =)

Carolyn said...


I have only known you a very short time on here and I find you an amazing person who is so giving of your time and information.

I always appreciate your comments of support and of advice, etc.

It is sad to hear that your relationship with your Mum is not a strong one, but I applaud you in what you are doing for your children and I hope that the love and respect that they give in return to you and also the love and respect that you have from everyone here gives you a boost in some small way.

Anonymous said...

My mom is the same way--my brother is praised to the skies for hte most mediocre thing he does (he got a c on his math test! hurrah!) and I don't get a single positive comment.

In fact, I tried to point it out to her once--how she'd never ever once said she was proud of me for anything, and then mentioned how I always got straight As and she never said anything but Matthew brought home Bs and Cs and got money for them--and she said, 'why would I? you were supposed to get As.'

Totally clueless.

Shannon said...

Julia, I know it's so hard to see past your mother's comments and how you crave her approval. There may never be a difference made between how she speaks to you.

But, what you're doing for Olivia's self-esteem is going to make all the difference in the world when she's older. Take comfort in knowing that Olivia's self-esteem will be healthy all because of you and no one else.

You're extremely bright, intelligent, pretty, strong, a great mom, I could go on and on.

Your mom developed a bad habit by deflecting your accomplishments and bringing up everyone elses. It's just that...a bad habit and it's not a reflection of who you really are.

We all love you here, girl :)

Joke said...

Besides, WHO ELSE would have merited a free Italian cookbook?

Not your mom,


Poppy Buxom said...


My mother is exactly the same way. She couldn't even tell me I looked nice on my wedding day.

I have therefore concluded that our mother had a secret life, and you are actually my half-sister. All that time she was pretending to do volunteer work? She was raising her second family.

Personally, I think my/your/our mother should stop acting like such a big know-it-all smartypants, since she's obviously a bigamist OR WORSE.

Major Bedhead said...

Y'know, my mother DID spend an inordinate amount of time out inflicting herself upon the unsuspecting public...I mean, doing volunteer stuff. I think you may be on to something, Poppy.

Andrea said...


I just wanted to say that I really think you are an awesome person. Yeah, I haven't known you long either, but my instincts tell me this and I usually find that my instincts are pretty reliable.

From reading your posts and your comments on mine, there's really a lot I admire a lot about you. You always crack me up with your sense of humor, intelligence, and personality and I think those qualities are the really important things to possess. You have a lot going for you!

I know that family has that secret power of building us up or breaking us down and I'm not sure why that is...But I think even if your Mom doesn't always show it, I'm positivie that she's proud of you and loves you very much.