Please, don’t let them grow up like me…
I have three vivid memories of growing up:
The first is of my mother when I was five or six years old. I was getting ready for school and had difficulty putting my shoes on the correct feet (being slightly dyslexic), and my mother went ballistic. She hit me, over and over, all while yelling at me how stupid I was for not having it figured out by now.
The second is of my father when I was ten or eleven. We were driving back from a stage production rehearsal, and my sister told him how I got in trouble for kicking a boy standing next to me (because by this age, I had become rather angry and aggressive). My father turned to me and said, “Wow, you really are a little bitch, aren’t you?”
The third memory is simply of being alone. I know I did things with my family. We have pictures of us – at Disneyland, in Yellowstone Park, traveling all over the world. Some scenes I remember happening, but many I have no recollection of at all. I was with them, but I can’t think of a single conversation or a moment of laughter. Sometimes I feel my entire childhood was completely disconnected from anyone.
I don’t want that for my children.
When I became pregnant with my first son, I read everything I could find about being a parent. I was immediately drawn to the Dr. Sears books about attachment parenting. Everything he said about closeness, establishing a bond, and listening to your loving instincts as a parent resonated with me. That was what I wanted with my children. I wanted to show them as much love as I could.
I already planned a natural birth and to breastfeed, and the babywearing and co-sleeping followed easily. Terminology aside, I loved it. I decided not to return to work and enjoyed the hours at home with my son – playing with him, cuddling with him, and just loving him. There were many, many times when I was exhausted, but I willed myself to be patient with him, even when he was screaming. I was determined not to be like my mother.
When my first son was nine months old, I became pregnant again. When my second son was born, I did what I did the first time around: breastfeeding, co-sleeping, babywearing. I was secretly relieved my younger one preferred to sleep in a bassinet beside my bed instead of in it, and thankful he enjoyed playing by himself on the floor. Still, I felt guilty that he wasn’t getting the attention his older brother had enjoyed.
Finally, the nighttimes caught up with me when at six months my younger son began waking every two hours to breastfeed, and my older son refused to sleep without me next to him. It was too much, and the strain of sleep deprivation took its toll on my ability to cope during the day. I yelled more, turned on the television more, and finally in a frustrated rage smacked my son on his backside.
I needed to change.
Through my blog I was led to Lisa Sunbury, and then to Janet. Learning about RIE changed my life.
While I love the building blocks of attachment parenting, it can become all-consuming for someone who is not good at establishing boundaries (a common trait of abuse survivors). RIE helps me understand how respect includes implementing and enforcing appropriate limits – not just for my children, but for me.
We’ve started a more structured sleep routine and independent play time, both of which have been met with predictable resistance. But even with the transition hurdles, it has taken immense pressure off me. It’s allowed me to step back and look at how I handle my connections to my children, and make changes to improve them.
I’ve learned that our bond is a relationship: one based not just on love, but trust, respect and mutual give-and-take. By recognizing my children as individuals who need to learn and grow on their own, I’ve learned to re-route my sometimes overwhelming emotions by saying, “this is too much, I’m frustrated,” or “I need to be alone now” – and then take time without feeling guilty about their reactions. I’ve also learned that I don’t need to respond immediately. When I see my older son hit his brother, I can step back to understand what just happened before I decide what to do.
I am a work in progress. I know this, and I occasionally fall back on harmful habits (frustration and yelling – not hitting) that shaped my childhood. But I can see my relationships changing. I’m confident the respect I’ve cultivated will continue to grow so my children will be attached to me. My hope is their childhoods won’t be marred by the unmoored loneliness of mine, and instead be filled with security, love and joy.
(Photo “Thoughtful” is by clairity on Flickr)
I know Suchada would appreciate hearing your thoughts…
Wow! What a brave, honest, and inspiring post. Thank you, Suchada, for being REAL with us readers, and thank you, Janet, for giving a voice to HONEST parenting experiences and approaches.
Suchada says it so beautifully yet simply: “I’ve learned that our bond is a relationship: one based not just on love, but trust, respect and mutual give-and-take.”
I too, had a similar experience with AP, feeling that it can become overwhelming – and therefore unhealthy – without proper boundaries. That’s why I’m loving RIE – it feels like a true blend and balance of the best we want to give our children.
Thank you Dena, I couldn’t agree more with your thoughts about RIE.
Thank you! This article makes me feel that i am ok. It comes at a time where I need it most. I just recently experience that loss of empathy towards my kids (3y & 6m old) for that moment when i ‘want’ to be abusive. It takes everything to rise above, let it pass and respond positive and understanding. I am every day challenged.
Now since I have been parenting the same way as you did with breastfeeding at night and so on, i am curious what steps you took towards having a better night sleep? What other changes did you make to have such success. I am reading all of Janet’s books and podcasts, but i am still not super duper. I wonder what the most memorable actions or changes where that you might be able to share.
Thank you for letting others inside your most vulnerable world.
Excellent job recognizing that there is only so much a person can ‘give’ before a little ‘take’ is necessary. I too find myself yelling when I attempt to do it all . I have four kids, 8, 7, 4, and 15 months, and the ‘take’ that I require is often 5 minutes hiding in the bathroom waiting to decide how to respond to the constant “mom”, “he pushed me”, “she make a mean face at me”…etc….as our kids get older they need to be taught to ‘give’ us extra love and respect so that we can give it right back.
Jodi, it’s so nice to hear encouraging words from more experienced mothers and hear that I’m on the right track.
Wow. Suchada, This brought tears to my eyes. How beautiful, and brave, and honest. My heart breaks for the little girl who was so alone growing up. My spirit soars with hope and joy for you as you create a different path and future for yourself and your family.
By learning to step back a little, and by being honest about your feelings and needs, you are ensuring that you will have more love than ever to share with your children. You are also acting as a wonderful role model for healthy ways to be in relationship. I am confident that the mutual respect you are cultivating will both bind you and at the same time, leave you all free in your love for each other.
Thank you for your trust, and for sharing your experiences and journey with us.
Thank you Lisa. I wouldn’t be on this path if it weren’t for the encouragement and mentorship of others. I feel very, very blessed to have found such a wonderful community to support me, because it’s making such a difference in my life.
Wow. Suchada, you are an amazing and inspiring woman. Your children are so lucky. Thank you for sharing with us.
Thank you, MLR.
Wow, Suchada. What inspiring and beautiful work on altering your course in life and the transmission of abusive patterns for the next generation. I had a similar experience of RIE providing reliable, sane boundaries, within which I could be human and fallible, find a voice. There are a lot of dangerous landmines to hit when we try to be everything and all-giving, and you show how it can come out of the strongest intention NOT to repeat harmful patterns. I do think that anytime a parent notices him or herself feeling resentful for all that they give, it is a chance to take that step back and evaluate. Pause, reflect, react.
Miven, I love your phrase: pause, reflect, react. I’m going to use it as my mantra when things start getting out of hand. It’s amazing what taking a bit of time (without taking action) can do to remedy a situation.
Thank you for writing this. At times the rest of us abuse survivors still need to hear that we aren’t the only ones. I’m one of them. We’ve raised our children so well i still have days where i step back, breath, realize this is NOTHING like i had growing up (which is amazing), maybe indulge in a happy tear, and then jump right back into my role as mommy. We’ve made it to their teen years, yet it hasn’t been without the times when “Mommy needs to be alone for a bit” or me simply going for a walk (once they were older or DH was/is home). We love our children best of all, but we should never lose sight of our humanity. Taking it a day at a time sometimes look like it will last forever even though i can tell you, eightteen is here so quickly, it feels as though only a heartbeat has passed. Good luck. I know you will do well!
Thank you, thank you, thank you. It’s such a big sigh of relief to hear from someone who’s gone through a similar situation and had things turn out ok. There are many days when I feel overwhelmed and I think I will never be able to do anything right, so I appreciate the encouragement so much.
Suchada, I experienced some abusive behaviors as a child as well. It took me so many years to get the guts to become a mom. I was terrified of repeating the patterns. I read everything I could too, although attachment parenting was too triggering for me as an adoptive mom who wasn’t able to give birth or easily breastfeed so I was thrilled when I found RIE).
I have certainly not been a perfect mom, but I do have deep compassion for the part of me that gets triggered by my daughter’s rage. I think that triggered feeling may run deeper for those of us that experienced physical and emotional abuse. When my preschooler is screaming and hitting me, I feel it like a little kid. I need to care for the little girl inside of me at the end of the day after my daughter is asleep. I’m sending you compassion and appreciation for sharing your truth publicly. It helps us all heal. It’s a kind of “me too”
Movement. As Janet says after each podcast, “We can do this!”
I´m really touched with your story. I have been going through a similar process, though I cannot say it´s my parents fault. It´s just I thought I was going to be a “perfect mother” and tried the AP method as good as I could. But having three little boys this practice was a really exhausting and I felt guilt and frustration. Time and love (my babies and my husband´s love) helped me to come back to myself and to common sense. Still I had many questions about parenting. That´s why I was so exultant when I discovered RIE, Magda Gerber and Pikler.
I feel always comforted when I find others are sharing my same struggles and difficulties. This helps me realize that breaking my own vicious circles won´t be impossible because I´m not alone in this search of love. Thank you so much.
Thanks so much Fernanda! One of the things that drew me to AP was that it seemed so common sense, but past the infant stage I felt really lost. Perhaps there are just some personalities that it becomes overwhelming for? Knowing *I’m* not the only one is comforting to me to 🙂
Just want to mention that Suchada is sharing her experiences with “doing less, enjoying more” on the playground in her latest blog post, “How I’m Learning To Let Go”: http://mamaeve.com/index.php/effective-discipline/254
Thanks for sharing that post, Janet, and for providing me an outlet for this one. The responses have meant the world to me. <3
Your post is a beautiful gift for all of us. I’m sorry for the suffering you’ve had and so admire you for bravely sharing it! And nothing makes me happier than knowing you have a supportive community here.
I can’t get this link to work…
Oh, thanks, Jo… Here it is: http://www.mamaeve.com/effective-discipline/254-how-im-learning-to-let-my-children-go/
Neither link is working for me for some reason.
What an incredibly brave and open post. I didn’t come from an abusive household but I too have been having to take a step back sometimes at the end of the day and question my reactions with my highly energetic 2 yrs old who won’t listen when she is about to run into something I feel is unsafe (yes, that old chestnut). No spanking or yelling, but perhaps picking her up with a little too much emotion that I know is not appropriate.
It happened yesterday and I did apologise using my words carefully but I was still upset by it later. RIE has helped a lot with my patience and tone and has probably helped preempt a lot of possibly drama so this I am grateful. Parenting is definitely a work in progress and I am grateful to this website, and people’s responses, in helping me along the way.
It is so comforting to hear from others that I’m not the only one who lets my emotions get to me. At the playground, or in any other setting, I look at other mothers and think they must have it all together and I’m the only one who loses it.
But we’re works in progress, and it makes my heart swell to think how we’re all growing together. Thank you for your words.
I LOVE your blog btw. So so so good to hear you write from the heart and as it comes with honesty that I can really relate to and in turn get comfort from. Thank you Janet too for connecting us all to Mama Eve.
My friend just posted a quote the other day on her facebook page: “There is no way to be a perfect mother, and a million ways to be a good one.” ~Jill Churchill
Thank you so much for this post. I also grew up in a home where there was a lot of abuse going on, mostly emotional and mental abuse. I am still working all the time on boundaries. My own parents still have none, and still sometimes fail to respect mine. Even following RIE, it is a challenge for me to “put myself into the equation”. I want to love and nurture my son to the very best of my ability, and always feel free to express his needs and emotions, and know that he is being heard and accepted. At the same time, I want him to learn the resilience, respect for others, self-respect, and independence that I never learned growing up. So I work at it every day. Thank you for putting into words why AP doesn’t work best for people like us, while RIE is a godsend. There are many similarities between the two approaches, but I love that RIE does stress the importance of boundaries, independence, self-care for parents, and self-reliance for our children!
Ruby, I find your comment fascinating. You’ve captured exactly how I feel that I need to work on myself to be an example to my son, and the on-going struggle it still is with our parents.
It’s interesting though — I still consider myself an AP mother. I think AP and RIE come from the same place with their basis in respect, but the interpretation and how they’re discussed is very different. I’m going back now to re-read some books from the Sears Parenting Library, and I find them less extreme than many people have interpreted them in AP forums and blogs. And I have to admit that I love Janet’s interpretation and explanation of RIE’s philosophy, when there are actually many things about Your Self-Confident Baby that I didn’t feel comfortable with.
I am definitely still working to find my way . . . thank you so much for your comment and best of luck to you too!
Thank you for your comments. I just re-read the “What Attachment Parenting Is” article on Dr. Sears’ website. And it certainly is so much more reasonable and moderate than what I have seen in forums, blogs and in face-to-face interactions with some AP parents. Sadly, it’s that extreme interpretation that I think ends up dividing mothers from one another, and creating a more competitive and judgmental environment, when in truth we so desperately need mutual support, connection and community. I really believe that mothers right now are under a tremendous amount of pressure to be perfect.
I don’t agree with everything Magda Gerber or Dr. Sears wrote verbatim. But that’s the beauty of parenting– we get to forge our own path as we believe best suits our individual child and family– taking from the “experts” where it makes sense.
And that’s another challenge for abuse survivors as we parent: developing and modeling self-trust. At some point, we each have to say to ourselves, “I’m the mommy. I will do my best, and nobody knows me or my child better than we know ourselves.”
Ruby, yes! We so definitely need support, connection and community for parenting. Perfectionism looms for many of us for all different reasons and trusting ourselves is not only better for us, it’s the model our children need. I’m so glad to be able to help provide support and encouragement to parents.
Far more important than the specific choices we make (most of which will end up being just fine in the end) is our overall feeling of confidence in the way we are parenting. One of my favorite things about RIE, and the reason I am forever indebted to Magda Gerber, is that this approach made parenting exciting, made me really proud of the job I am doing. That is the way all parents deserve to feel, no matter where they find their inspiration.
Ruby, I couldn’t agree more!
Dear Suchada, I enjoyed this and your most recent post about the playground! Question: how did you establish your sleep routine. Thank you. Jilly
Hi Jill —
Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed the posts. Well, our sleep routine was a long time coming and evolves as our children get bigger.
First, we decided that as a family we were ready for a change. Co-sleeping worked for us for a long time, but we came to a point where we were all exhausted and needed to do something different.
Second, my husband and I talked about what we wanted to accomplish and what our roles would be. We decided on what was a realistic bedtime routine and who would do what. (I nurse our younger son and put him to bed while my husband takes our older son to the bath, and then we read stories together and go to bed. We also decided what we were comfortable with (crying as they settled themselves) and what we weren’t (closing the door and walking away).
Third, we talked to the boys about what we were going to do, starting a few days before it happened. We just let them know that we wanted a better routine to help everyone sleep better at night and be happier during the day. (They’re 10 months and 2 years, but we figured they’d understand some of it).
Then we started it. My younger son adjusted very easily (he was 8 months at the time), and within a few days was sleeping 10 hours plus another 2 after a feeding. Our older son took longer (probably 3 weeks before it really became a routine), but we just kept at it. We just did what we could and what we felt comfortable with, and some nights that meant he cried for a while by himself before falling asleep, and some nights it meant one of us went in with him, and some nights he crawled into bed with us. I don’t know if any of this is the “right” way to do it, but it’s what worked for us, and we’re all *much* happier for it.
Oh, my…the things we learn about our friends! And, how this makes me love and admire you more than I already did! I love to read stories about those who have broken the cycle of their abuse, and then go on to parent with love, respect, and compassion. Lukas & Otto are so blessed to have You as their Mama! Thank you so much for sharing.
Thank you Jeanie … that means so much to me. Your mentorship and understanding when I have tough days has been invaluable — and it is because of people like you in my life that I’m able to overcome. <3
Thank you for sharing such a personal story, Suchada.
I have had to make some hard decisions in the course of my parenting life, too. For me, the decision to leave an abusive relationship was based on one realisation:
MY CHILD NEEDED A SANE, HAPPY MOTHER more than anything else.
This ‘aha!’ moment was enough to break the cycle of abuse for me and allow myself to honour my own needs. Only a sane, happy mother can be attuned to her baby.
Wow this post brought me to tears. I was raised with emotional And verbal abuse as well as spanking. When I became pregnant with my twins, I swore I would never make the same mistakes my mom made. She was never around. We basically raised ourselves. No emotions were allowed and if you exposed emotions, you were ridiculed. I read a lot of AP books during my pregnancy and it seemed like the perfect, loving way to raise a child. I had twins and agonized over how long I held them and who I held more. I was riddled with guilt, my son had/has a lot of health issues and woke up 30 times a night til he was 1.5. I was exhausted, a shell of my former self. I didn’t know it was possible to be so tired. We have no family nearby so I was alone with them all day. I did not even enjoy their infancy very much. My son had a tonic therapy and dr appts and I beat myself up bc my daughter had tobe dragged along on all of them and all that time in a stroller didn’t seem very AP to me. I made myself into such a martyr. My son gave up naps at two months. If they were awake I held them or entertained them constantly. I read to them for hours a day (which i loved, but I never let them entertain themselves). I never wanted them to feel ignored and insignificant the way I always did growing up.
Suchadas post really resonates with me. I have a hard time with boundaries and I felt like their needs always come first. I rarely ate or slept or showered unless my husband was home or they were asleep.
6 months ago I discovered Janets blog and it changed my life. My older two were 22 mos so I had my work cut out for m getting them unglued but things are so much better. I have a newborn also and I am so different this time around already. AP is wonderful but with preemie twins and a child with health problems, I wish I had asked for help. I wish I didn’t feel so guilty and so much pressure (from me) to be perfect and perfectly patient. I never spanked but I did yell out of pure frustration and two years of not sleeping. I am so thankful to RIE. The books and this blog have opened my eyes that a parent child relationship doesn’t have to be me giving everything and taking poor care of myself so that my child feels loved. Our relationships are wonderful and they are such sweet toddlers but I wish I had discovered all of the RIE stuff sooner. It’s nice to have my bed back and my son sleeps so much better alone in his room than he did in two years in with us. Maybe it would have helped a while back if I had given in sooner and admitted co sleeping didn’t work for us. (obv it works very well for some)
My newborn spends tons of time playing on the floor. I use a carrier when we go out and occasionally at home so I can chase the other two but I don’t feel sick with guilt if I have a child awake and not being held. I am enjoying my children so much more, instead of bottling up my frustration and taking it out on my husband or beating myself up for ot being patient 100 percent of the time. I am learning that I need to have compassion and love for myself too or how can I givemy children real, unconditional love?
Sorry for the long long comment. This post obviously struck a chord so thank you Suchada!!!!!
Wow! Thank you so much for sharing this story. I’m honored to be able to have offered you a perspective that made your life easier and helped you enjoy parenting more. One of the things I appreciate about Magda Gerber is that she believed in acknowledging the adult’s needs too. Parenting is about a relationship between two unique and whole people. Yes, of course, there are many sacrifices on our end, but often what relieves a little bit of pressure for the parent is also best for the baby. Infants and toddlers are so easily underestimated!
I’m sure Suchada will be honored, too, when I notify her of your comment. (And don’t ever worry about long comments here!)
Thanks Janet! Sorry for a few autocorrect weird typos in there. I cannot thank you enough for your blog. It has changed and improved my life in a million ways. I spent an hour or two every night poring through your blog and catching up on previous posts since i just started reading regularly in April. My marriage is better. My toddlers entertain themselves now and tv went from 30 min a day to zero which did wonders for their attention span. Of course life is not perfect but I don’t beat myself up over it as much or spend so much time feeling guilty if they are not happy all the time. So thanks!!! My husband has read a lot of your posts too and he always says “it’s so logical”. Totally agree!
Thanks for this post.
I was raised in a physically, sexually, and emotionally abusive home. My childhood memories are marred with terror, and my early adulthood was not much better. I have C-PTSD as a result.
Rage is a part of C-PTSD and for me, I have had to learn to always put myself first in the parenting equation. Not that I neglect my child– no– but that I have had to make choices to make sure that he is safe that don’t always involve me being the primary caregiver. That’s a hard pill to swallow. My husband has been a lot more involved in his care than most men, I think, because of this. And I call on friends and my inlaws more because of this.
There is no room for me to ALLOW myself to get over-tired, unsupported, etc. None. I have to, for the benefit of my child, put myself first and stay on top of my own needs. To be honest, having a child was the first time I really did this, because suddenly, it was vitally important in a way it never was before. His safety and well-being depends on my health.
I discovered RIE when my son was a very young infant. It was so refreshing, because the AP strategy was not going to work for me and the pressure of the AP movement online and in real life was making me feel like a terrible failure as a mother. Would my son be damaged because I could not live up to those standards? It was so upsetting. People in public would comment on how I was poisoning my baby with formula, when they had no idea that breastfeeding was giving me flashbacks and making me crazy. People would tell me I was hurting my baby when he was put to sleep swaddled in his own room, because I could not bedshare because my psychiatrist absolutely vetoed it because I had night terrors, especially in the immediate PP. He and my OB also insisted I get 6 hours of continuous sleep a night, because the risk of PP psychosis was high for me. (I avoided this, thank goodness). But I was a new mother and I just wanted to do right by my child and all the messages I was getting from my peer group and the Internet was that I was not! And they weren’t true.
RIE gave me some very important tools. By using gentle, attachment-focused sleep-training techniques early on, I got sleep. By encouraging my son to play independently (which, at 11MOs old now, he is able to play for an hour at a time in self-directed play), I get well-needed down-time during the day to deal with my own feelings and my own issues. By teaching me how to talk to my son in a caring way, I have learned to communicate better with everyone around me, including MYSELF! By teaching me to become very attuned to what my own feelings are going into a high-stress situation, I have been able to provide a safe environment for my baby. I refer constantly to things Janet, Lisa, Teacher Tom, and Aunt Annie have written and I watch the videos Janet posts and practice the things that are said outloud, so that they become second-nature to me. My husband thought I was nuts when I started this when my son was just a wee babe. “He can’t understand you,” he say. And I would say, “But I CAN and I am practicing. And soon he will.” I knew I would need A LOT of practice so I didn’t fall back on the words of my dysfunctional, cruel parents. I had to replace that tape with something else, so the first words out of my mouth weren’t abusive or demeaning. And, lastly, I think an awful lot about what my own feelings are at any given time. Every time I enter an interaction with my son, I ask myself how I am first. Because I am also re-parenting me in raising my son.
Rage as a consequence of being treated with rage is such a terrible and unfair consequence. The thought that the abuse I endured would mean that I would abuse others just seems like the most unfair thing in the world: not only was it done to me, but now I must struggle to make sure I don’t do it to others! And then to know what the consequences are, because you live them every day… the hollowness inside you that, let’s face it, is difficult to ever fill… You know very well that you cannot allow rage into your relationships with your children, because you, yourself, know how terribly painful the consequences are. Those are things that cannot be undone. Sure, I have learned earned secure attachment and have a good marriage now. Sure. But I will never be who I could’ve been without the incest and the domestic violence. Let’s face it. That’s why it’s a crime. I am a less of who I could’ve been. I want my son to be all of who he can be.
I have yelled at my baby twice in frustration and then promptly put him down and left the room. This was recently, as he is becoming more willful and stronger, physically. I was shocked at the things coming out of my mouth. Old tape playing. And that is not something I am proud of, but something I own– it was because I was not following my own boundaries and put myself in a risky situation, when I was already emotionally unstable. Help was available to me (husband was home), alternatives were available, but I wanted to do it myself, and did not want to admit that I could not do it. Both incidences occurred during breastfeeding, something that is already difficult because of my issues, and I was having a particularly difficult week, with a lot of triggers during the holidays. It underscored to me how important it is to be absolutely attuned to your own emotional state. Period. After those two incidents, which came two days apart, I had to really look at what was going on in my life, and make changes right then. I decided that the breastfeeding wasn’t worth it in those circumstances– I would just give him formula those feedings and skip the whole thing if I was feeling poorly, and so I did– for awhile, we skipped high-risk nursing sessions (early mornings) for formula. It was a hard choice to make, because I really love nursing and think it is important. But it’s not worth yelling at my child over. Ever.
I suspect that it will be like this, throughout my parenting journey: when the reality of who I am and what my limits are comes up against the idealized version of what I would LOVE to be. I know this is true for most mothers, even those who do not have my history. But, in my case, it’s critical that the former must win, for safety’s sake, and the sake of my child and mine, too. I would’ve loved to be that Earth Mama, nursing her babe exclusively. I felt enormous pressure from my peer group to be THAT mother. But that’s not what is appropriate for my life. So goes with many other things. And actually, sometimes I am grateful, because I think that my son has benefited from his extra close relationship with his dad, and his time with his paternal Grandmother. Perhaps these two very intense attachments would not have happened to same had I been healthy. It was very important for me to know that my son had other attachment figures in his life besides me, safe people he could always count on if I was not able to be the parent he needed. And for me and him, I am so proud of how our relationship is developing, that I am not recreating the abuse in my past. I know I am a good mother, an adequate mother, and my son is well-attached to me too. I worried a lot about that. I know I have the skills and support to keep going that way. And that is confidence boosting.
Unfortunately, when you’ve been subjected to extreme abuse, you’ve got special challenges to overcome. For me, it’s the rage that I carry with me every day. Managing this rage (and other symptoms of C-PTSD, like night terrors, panic attacks and vivid flashbacks) means not allowing myself to get physically dysregulated (sticking to my own sleep/eat routine!), and for me, taking appropriate medications when needed, staying on top of talk-therapy, and inviting constructive criticism from trusted people in my life on how to improve my behaviour… because I AM NOT DOING THIS TO MY CHILD! My family is marred with generations of incest, domestic violence, drug addiction, etc.
Not this time.
Thanks for this amazing post. It’s something I wish was talked about more openly. I think many of us are afraid that people will not think we are good mothers if we admit that we struggle with the consequences of abuse. Me, I would rather talk about it, because I know silence on the subject is dangerous and the only way to get through is humbling, painful honesty.
This was longer than I intended, so thanks to anyone who made it through it. It feels good to share my story, and thank you for making a place where I could! And maybe it will help someone, too, like this post helped me.
Sophia, you’re my hero. I don’t think I’ve ever known someone so insightful and aware… I cannot thank you enough for taking the time to share your story. Peace to you and your lucky boy.
Thank you so much for sharing your story. I too was a victim of abuse, though you suffered much more than I did. Your explanation of how you manage your abuse recovery while parenting was extremely helpful for me, I will make use of your techniques. You are a hero, and you are showing your child selfless love by taking care of yourself. Thank you!!!
Thank you for sharing your story. It has taken me 5 years to get anywhere near your insights. I have 2 biological children now (2&4months) and there is nothing more sobering than seeing yourself through their eyes. I am the beginning of working it out, but your many coping strategies are something I naturally found myself doing. It is unfair, I feel this statement deeply. I read a book years ago that started out with “I always wanted the best for my children, it didn’t necessarily have to come from me” and that was when I knew that with the right partner and support I could do this. I am far from adequate some days but they have a wonderful father who is an inspiration to me and I’m working on the professional support I need so one day I can hope to reach the level you are on. You have inspired me to keep on going. Thank you.
Your expression of your insight is extraordinary. You have written so powerfully the truths that live on with us as mothers with C-PTSD and dissociation disorders. I am grateful to Sucharda for opening a door to let your words come through and be seen by other mothers, other survivors and family cycle breakers.
You have explained so well the importance of self care in a way that resonates more than anything on this topic before. My therapist and I have been working on this a lot but you have explained it from a survivors point of view in a way that finally ‘clicks’.
The reality that you have presented of the close bond our children have with other care givers relieves a an area of guilt a mile wide in me. I can see how the things I fear most can actually have benefits I would not have seen so clearly otherwise.
The process of ensuring our legacy’s end with us and that a new generational inheritance can be born with our birth as mothers is almost impossible to convey, but you have done so. I feel I need to get all of my close allies in this battle for a new family narrative to read your post and Sucharda’s to explain to them the things I have been struggling to explain to myself.
I am in awe of your courage in the work you have undertaken to do and know I will refer back to this post and your words when I need to gather Mother self and my younger selves together to take care of my new family. Your words about what we could have been and recognising the re-parenting that we undertake are remarkable. To have someone else who understands the situation I am in so perfectly and who can say how vital taking care of ourselves is to be able to benefit our family feels like the permission I needed to let those younger parts of me heal.
Thankful beyond measure.
I totally relate to your post and could have written it myself nearly word for word. Except my parents were extremely religious to add to the confusion yet lack of family joy and harmony. I would literally be sick at my stomach every day coming home from school, afraid of what mess my mother may have found in my bedroom while i was gone, or what she may have found to be mad at me. All I knew about parenting was that I was determined to be different than my parents and I found AP.
Thank you for posting! There are more of us out there than you may realize. 🙂 Hugs to you!
Reading this brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for giving such beautiful voice to this. It is helpful to all of us who want to parent differently than we were to know that we’re not alone, that we can make mistakes, learn and evolve. Wonderful to hear all the comments too. Gives me a lot of hope as I do know that our children are getting something very different — and that is parents who are awake enough to examine ourselves, admit our mistakes, learn to take care of ourselves and keep giving it our best. Very grateful for it all.
Oh thank the lord i am not the only one. I often remember the hitting and mainly yelling my mother did. I do not hit but i have pushed my oldest away when she is physically biting me for attention or out of frustration. i try talking withh her first. Recently realize that if i ask her why she is biting me or attempting tothen she stops quickly. I have yelled but that is on days when i am tired. Quickly i apologize but i try not to lose my head. i realize that i do take this personally when she acts out of her norm but that is because i am so concrned with not being like my mom. Having two just 2 years apart is crazy. They ador one another thankfully. I just need new ways to help the eldest entrrtain herself comfortably and give more attention to the 7 month old. Any suggestions are super welcomed. amd thanks for writing this post. Super digging your blog janet. Really been a lifesaver. want to takr the class but im on boob lock down as my kid wont take a bottle…i didnt eithor lol.
Thank you for being so vulnerable! I identified with the description of your childhood so strongly that I had to read how you overcame some of your own patterns of behavior to better love your children. I have a 2.5-year-old and am 6 months pregnant with our second. In the tiredness of pregnancy, I’ve found myself sliding into some of the patterns I promised to never perpetuate. Can you recommend an “Intro to RIE” book that really helped you given your background and desires?
Yet again another article on your site Janet that obviously misunderstands Attachment Parenting. There is a “B” in Dr Sears “Baby B’s” that is BALANCE. This include setting limits and enforcing boundaries, and respecting your own needs as a mom as well. AP doesn’t say you can’t say no or enforce boundaries! Where does she even get that from?! AP is about respecting your children, yet you continue to allow these misconceptions be published on your site.
I can totally relate to your childhood and parenting experiences! Thank you for sharing!
I spent my entire first year in a home for unwanted, abandoned and orphaned babies; my mother – only 18 – was only allowed to visit once a week for two hours!
I was abandoned by both parents – Dad left before I was born, Mom when I was 4 -; raised by an emotionally absent grandmother, remember getting slapped across the face – “only” once, but leaving a powerful impression – by my adored first-grade teacher; getting hit once with a yellow plastic carpet beater – with devastating consequences; and spending all my teenage years “obsessively” longing for my father – whom I had never met – wishing every day that he would just show up and take me away!
Loneliness and despair were constant in my entire childhood!
When I first got pregnant (more than 27 years ago), I began to see some very disturbing patterns in my family history, as my husband and I began to experience serious difficulties and talk about divorce for the first time! I began to think a lot about the kind of different life I wanted for my child(ren).
But it wasn’t until three years later, after our second daughter was born, that it really HIT me HARD that I needed HELP! My then three-year old did something (no idea what) and I felt some of the most intense RAGE I had ever experienced! In my mind I “saw” myself beating my little girl “to a pulp”! I was TERRIFIED by this “vision” and practically ran to the library to find anything I could on raising three year olds! There wasn’t much, but this one book almost “jumped” off the shelf at me: “Holding Time”, by Dr Martha Welch! This book SAVED us!
It is a controversial and very powerful “method” of Direct Synchronous Bonding, achieved through INTENSE holding! Our first “session” lasted 45 minutes and would have been longer, if her father hadn’t interrupted it and taken her out of my arms and out of the room! Clearly he was not supportive, but even just this one incomplete “holding time” was enough for me to NEVER again feel afraid of hurting my daughter!
After that I read other books, and parenting became not exactly easier, but more purposeful and more and more AWARE and CONSCIOUS!
A few years later I still needed help for myself and went into therapy!
My third (a boy) was born into a new marriage, including my step-daughter – whose mother had committed suicide when M. was only six!
Blending families with a husband who is VASTLY different from me – and has his own unresolved completely denied childhood pain – proved to be too much for us and our son was only four when the marriage ended! Dad insisted ALL four children stay with him! There was no way I could have gone to court or even supported the children, not only financially, but mostly emotionally! I felt RELIEVED that he wanted the children; but it also meant in a way “abandoning” them! I didn’t know then what I know now: this phase of SEEMINGLY abandoning my own children was PART of me HEALING my own abandonment – as paradoxical as that may sound!
We ARE ALL “works in progress” and sometimes we just can’t see the “bigger picture”!
My children are now 26, 23, and 16 and they are doing well – all having their challenges and “issues” – and most importantly we are all CONNECTED and have very good relationships with each other! I wasn’t able to give them everything I did not have as a child, but it has been a great “improvement”!
This is rather long! Thank you for “listening”!
Wow, what a beautiful post! So intelligent, articulate and inspired! Thank you for sharing and inspiring us. Through your childhood you stayed connected to that which knows that love is what’s real… it’s the stuff we’re made of, it’s who we really are. Your determination and commitment to find a way to live that shows a strong and beautiful soul!
Hi Ive only just found your site through reading articles on janet Lansbury’s site. I didn’t grow up in an abusive household but my dad was very fearful and strict and my mother never stood up for us and was cold and detached. I too said I would never be like them. I found attachment parenting and loved it, though I couldn’t breastfeed and so thought it safer not to bedshare but did cosleep. The thought of you as a little girl being hit repeated over not being able to tie your shoe brought me to tears. I don’t know how anyone could do that.
I too have found since my son was born 16 weeks ago, that I have less patience, am easy angered and left feeling I am depriving my oldest child of valuable developmental play with me as I have such little time. Attachment parenting advocates responding to your children as soon as possible but in a way I feel this has made it harder for me when my baby is crying and my daughter desperately needs me. I feel I am damaging him by making him wait even slightly for me if he is crying. I feel torn.
Reading Janet Lansbury has been such a relief. Knowing children can just play without me or at least without me constantly there is so reassuring. Im trying to step back and realise that if I am so torn that I cant cope, my baby’s crying wouldn’t be the only thing damamging him. I need to think of myself, breath and know he will be ok if I tend to my daughter (or even, shock, go to the toilet when I really really need to).
Great post! Made me cry a little for the lonely brave girl. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you. I needed to hear this. I have been getting so much angrier than I want with my 3 year old and being much rougher than I would like. Not hitting, but still too rough. I will try your strategies because this needs to change.
Thank you for sharing your experience. I felt like I was reading my own story. Man, the abuse…the yelling, the bullying,the violence, the craziness and twisty prickly feeling of panic was the norm till I moved out at 17 yrs old. I panicked too when I became pregnant with my first. I felt doomed in beginning, then as my daughter bloomed in my belly I grew confidence that I could and would be a different parent. I too found attachment and child centered parenting, and that was a big a-ha moment. I then set out to create the loving family I never experienced myself. I soon discovered Waldorf and RIE and found my mama tribe and settled into a new and secure life as a parent. I have four children, one girl, three boys, all mostly grown now, and two grand kiddos! You can do this, you will rock it, and most important you have evoked a change in yourself that will ripple through your children to their children, thus shutting that door to the dark place you left behind. It will stay shut, as there is no foothold for that dark in the light you now have as a family. I know, because I did that too. I now have a legacy of love, how cool is that! I see it in how my children relate to me, to each other, to their friends, their loved ones and how my daughter loves and parents her children and my sons celebrate their niece and nephew. I cant say enough about mentoring, I too had mentors, and I am so grateful for those wise women who saw something valuable in me even when I couldn’t see it myself. Keep sharing and caring, its a great story your telling, its one of love and courage. I wish you all the best.
Sophia,your comment and story has helped me so much.I see so much of my own in it.Thanks for giving me the awareness to change.I would so love to talk to you!
Your personal story of your childhood sounds exactly like mine.. my dad constantly hitting and belittling me and calling me stupid, my step mom being mean and never guiding me, all the while growing up they pushed me in and out of psychologists offices telling me they had to figure out ‘what was wrong with me’ only to pull me out only when the truth came out.. i was terrified and insanely shy and thought everyone disliked me before they even met me, because I grew up being told that everything I said was worthless and being shut up every time I talked, or hit in the face if I so much as defended myself. Now with my 3 yr old son I find it so hard to always keep my cool, to not yell, but I am always respectful of his feelings and try to guide him through his more difficult days. We don’t hit, but at times when we’ve visited my dad, he has been forceful or hit him, so we stopped visiting them. They tell me I can’t parent properly and don’t discipline. Our RIE practices really work, and our son is very advanced and happy.. but things like this really hurt him deeply. The last thing I want is for him to have the same fearful or distant memories as I have and to feel loved and respected.
I just wanted to say thank you for sharing this story. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said “please don’t let them grow up like me.” I cried so much after reading this post. I really can’t even say anything more other than thank you. When you share your story so bravely, something I still have yet to be able to do – in a public way anyway, it helps people like me so much. Thank you again.
Thank you so much for sharing.
You are brave and YOU are braking the abusing circle not only for your children, but for all the generations ahead and for that, you are amazing.
Although our stories of childhood are different and my relationship with my parents is different than yours I believe, I share the same conclusion: “please don’t let her grow up like me”. I wish I’ll be my daughter’s friend, I wish she’ll be self-confident and that she’ll know she’s worthy of love, she’ll know her worth that she has what it takes to be whoever she wants to be.
It scares me so much because braking patterns is a long process and in the meantime life goes on. I’d be happy to know more about your journey. Thank you again for sharing
Lot’s of love <3
I just want to thank you for your post. I will admit I have been frustrated by other posts with examples of struggles from “near-perfect” moms whose parenting challenges seem so small compared to parents trying to break the cycle of abuse.
I am also an abuse survivor now parenting a 4 year old strong willed boy. I experienced both physical and verbal abuse and also the loneliness of living with parents who were present but didn’t engage. I sometimes feel like everyday is an internal battle to not repeat the cycle . I have never hit my son, but I have yelled and slammed doors. I feel so guilty when I behave like this, but I take a step back, apologize and try to make amends. I want my son’s life to be better than mine but some days it is so hard, but I am proud that I have been doing better than what I experienced. I try to learn and grow everyday.
Good luck to you and continued growth on your parenting journey!