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In hindsight, do you think there was a way to have prevented estrangement?

(36 Posts)
Dazy Thu 17-Aug-23 15:55:40

Hello GN,

First post . I'm not quite there yet but I can see it becoming a reality one day. Mine are older teens and I'm in my mid 50s. Single parented and loved and nurtured them when their dad vanished with his GF.
In the past few years I've been through three deaths in immediate family, continuous neighbour harassment and some shocking betrayals in my life. Yes I may have cried a lot or seem like "the victim " and yes I am on at my daughter to get off her phone and study ...but as time goes on they are both increasingly 'stone-walling' me. Several times over the past few years they've been abroad with their dad and left not on talking terms with me for petty reasons like being told off for ... normal things to be told off about!

My ex mother in law spent an hour last year spewing toxic rubbish about me to my daughter, and whilst she originally sided with me , I feel it's changed the genetics of our relationship.

I'm probably not being clear but I get the distinct impression that regular Stony silences will one day become permanent.

I'm mentally fragile, my children were my reason for existence.
Do you think there's a way of preventing estrangement? Is there something you think might have helped at the time when things were deteriorating
Thank you

NotSpaghetti Thu 17-Aug-23 16:32:56

I don’t know but whilst your children were your reason for existence you need to let them become adults now and have other reasons to live. Your daughter won't believe an hour of toxicity over a lifetime of love.

Someone will come along soon with more experience.
I hope you have a life separately from them. They need to see you "functioning" again after all your pain, I think.

Sidelined Thu 17-Aug-23 16:33:21

Hello Dazy, welcome to GN

Your post rang a bell or two for me and if I can be blunt, the answer I’d offer to avoid estrangement is to get a life of your own. Making anyone the reason for your existence is a huge mistake. Your kids wont want or need to be saddled with that burden.

I was a single parent of two boys raising them totally alone from before either of them was as school. I made them everything. As they became independent I saw my mistake and made an effort to build a life for myself. It’s not easy but it will be worth it. Good luck!

Dazy Thu 17-Aug-23 16:41:24

Thank you both, I really do appreciate the shared thoughts. Yes I can see sense in that, building a life of my own. Illness and bereavement has made that hard but you're right, I've got to try.

silverlining48 Thu 17-Aug-23 17:06:55

Your children are still young, teenagers are generally awkward but yes the advice about making a life for yourself is good. I was another who put everything into my children and realise now it is not the best idea. As for trying to get your daughter to study, I nagged too, and I realise it’s up to her, it’s her life, her future.
Join something, see or make friends, get involved somehow.
I had a Similar poisonous mother in law , ignore , you have lots of years ahead so enjoy.
You can do this . flowers

Dazy Thu 17-Aug-23 17:25:32

silverlining48, a huge thank you. That's sage advice.

Smileless2012 Thu 17-Aug-23 17:26:00

Hello Dazy. Yes, you need to have a life that isn't centred around your children but I understand how having brought them up as a single parent they've been your main focus.

Their behaviour is probably down to them being teenagers, but wont be helped by your ex m.i.l. running you down to your D.

How do you know, did your D tell you? Communication is the key, being able to talk about what bothers/upsets them and as they're teenagers when it comes to their behaviour, that needs to be reciprocal. You need to be able to do the same.

TBH I think you're worrying unnecessarily about estrangement in the future and this current situation is down to them going through that difficult teenage experience. flowers.

Hithere Thu 17-Aug-23 17:37:51

"petty reasons like being told off for ... normal things to be told off about!"

What were those petty things and normal things?

MayBee70 Thu 17-Aug-23 17:49:36

I’m many years on from where you are Dazy but I struggle with the fact that my children ( who were also my world) seem to socialise far more with their father and his family, even though he left us for someone else and I’m still the one that provides childcare etc. I wonder if, when their father still lived with you, you were still the disciplinarian ( I’ve always thought that that always falls upon one parent and not the other) and it’s just continuing in that way? Can’t really offer advice other than try to make a life for yourself and be happy.

LovesBach Thu 17-Aug-23 18:02:55

When children grow up and have their own lives it is an emotional time for parents, and with your circumstances of having been the sole carer, and with the horrible events you have touched upon, you will naturally feel it more keenly. I agree completely that someone being 'toxic' about you for an hour won't tip the balance for a loving Mother with a lifetime of care and support. It is important that you have interests of your own; you will then have plenty to talk to your children about, and you won't be so dependent on living a vicarious life. I so hope your situation improves - a good deal of it is in your own hands, and as Anne Frank said (paraphrasing here) 'We don't have to wait one second to begin to make the world a better place' x

pascal30 Thu 17-Aug-23 18:59:52

Continue being consistent, truthful, loving and kind to themand let them go. They will really value you and will still need you in this increasingly challenging world for young people. Be their rock but not needy.. you have plenty of years to find lovely things to do just for yourself as well..

MercuryQueen Thu 17-Aug-23 19:53:40

Grief can be so hard and overwhelming. I’m sorry for your losses. Do you have a therapist? It can be a massive help to have someone help you through, and, they can help you navigate the parenting issues as well.

Dazy Thu 17-Aug-23 21:06:54

A heartfelt thank you for these very comforting replies. I'm actually jotting down key points from this thread that ring true for me.
MercuryQueen yes I have a therapist but feel I probably need a bereavement counsellor.
MayBee70 yes I was always the responsible parent and he was more or less a 'happy visitor ' -no real parenting input whatsoever, absorbed in his own world...and yes it feels quite sad that they're now drawn to his laid-back aura and prefer to be in his company.
Hithere things like "it's time to revise , we need to set some limits on your phone , monthly room tidy , help around house , no it's not ok for your girlfriend to be eating lunch and dinner here everyday...can we agree on designated days ... Etc

imaround Thu 17-Aug-23 21:14:50

I agree 100% with everyone who says create your own life. It is time to give to yourself and allow them to blossom into the adults they are going to be.

readsalot Thu 17-Aug-23 21:18:24

You seem to have a lot of sad events happen but no-one to share the grief and offer support. Be kind to yourself and try to find things that make you happy and also a balanced, fulfilling life. Let the kids know that you love them but they are old enough to make decisions regarding phones, studying etc. and take a step back. Good luck!

VioletSky Fri 18-Aug-23 13:02:36


Find out what they aren't happy with.

Practice active listening, don't defend or make excuses, acknowledge their feelings because even if you do not agree with what they say, those feelings are real

Then take away what they have said to your therapist and discuss there what you can change in the relationship reasonably and what you can't.

Another important one, especially for teenagers, is don't make them carry your burdens. You want a good relationship with them as a mother, not as a friend. So don't lean on them too much. Make sure you lean on friend.

With relationships with their paternal side especially, don't speak badly of those family members. It's ok if they come to you with something that is said to say "no that's not true" but resist saying anything bad back.

I hope things get better for you

DiamondLily Fri 18-Aug-23 14:17:49

Sounds like most of it is the usual stroppy teenager routine, aided and assisted by your ex MIL.

But, you do need to start building a life a bit distanced from your children - at some point, they will want to "spread their wings and fly" and a needy parent often causes conflicts.

Nothing wrong with nagging then about "normal" stuff - contrary to their own beliefs, they don't know it all.

I wouldn't worry about estrangement yet - just find some hobbies, interests and friends and make your own bit of life.

Best wishes 💐

Smileless2012 Fri 18-Aug-23 16:09:40

Revision time, limiting 'phone time (no mobiles when ours were that age thank goodness), tidying bedrooms and helping around the house are all perfectly normal requests Dazysmile.

DS always objected but our ES never did.

lyleLyle Fri 18-Aug-23 20:45:00

Life is never one size fits all. Each situation and family is its own. Sometimes families go through rough patches. My advice would be to stay away from forums that may lead you to start looking at your situation through the lens of a group. Your family is not anyone else’s. Your reasons for family friction are not the same as others you may read about. The personalities involved are not the same. The family dynamics are not the same. Instead, I would seek family counselling or therapy. This way, your individual circumstances can be looked at and discussed with an objective party. Reading estrangement forums can negatively impact your mindset into believing estrangement is inevitable. Nothing is set in stone! Your future is not determined by reading other people’s stories!

I’d also caution against constantly ruminating on the negative. Perspective is always necessary. Constantly reliving hurt can stagnant forward movement emotionally. Take life a day at a time. smile thanks

grandtanteJE65 Sat 19-Aug-23 12:07:24

In my professional life as a teacher of the pupils in their late teens I have seen a lot of situations like yours, and I think you may be able to prevent the estrangement you feel threatened by if you act now.

First, stop nagging your daughter to get off her phone and study. Doing so is obviously not working. And it won't. No teenager (and very few adults) has ever stopped doing anything because they were nagged.

You have made your point to her, now leave it to her teachers to follow it up, if the time she spends on her phone or on anything else is affecting her studies.

You can ask her teacher for a progress report if you are seriously concerned about how she is doing in school.

Next point; Find an adult whom you honestly can discuss the problems confronting you that have no relation to your children, plus the situation between you and the children's father and grandmother.

No child of divorced parents should be forced to listen to one parent complaining about the other, or about a grandmother whom they are fond of.

Nor can you reasonably expect teenagers to be interested in, or have the experience to comment usefully upon the other problems you mention. You are concerned about these and find them wearying, but you need a contempory to discuss them with, not your children.

It is fine telling the children something along the lines of, "I am worried about our neighbours' attitude." but please don't expect or demand that your children know what to do about it.

I am sorry if I sound harsh, but my life is hard too, right now.

Now is the time for you to start letting go of your babies by realising they are nearly grown up and instead of regretting this, beginning to think of what you want to do with your time.

If you feel mentally fragile, go and get professional help.

Then when you feel stronger, engage more in your work, and less in your children's affairs. Now is the time to start letting them do their own washing, cooking an evening meal once or twice a week, balancing their own budget for phone, travel expenses and so on, so when they leave home they can cope, and you know what you are going to do the day they move out.

If you can avoid being the over-protective mum now, you will be able to establish a good relationship to your adult chidren, even if the road through their adolesence is hard at time. It is a hard road to travel.

Nannashirlz Sat 19-Aug-23 12:17:48

Hi my sons are both in their 30s now with their own families. Dad left the same way thinking his grass was greener and inlaws used to do all the same but my boys would come home and tell me and I used to say to them everyone has a different story to tell their is the truth and then their is what they believe. Yes we’ve had our disagreements what parent doesn’t but they always take my side. I used to scream and shout at them but then one day I wasn’t it’s called growing up lol and ex Mil no longer with us and they dad only bothers when he’s not got a Gf one day they will move out and you will be alone you need to make a life for yourself. Pick a hobby sit in coffee shop someone will talk to you or ask lasses at work if you can join them on night out line dancing etc when they out ask yourself what will i do when they don’t come back look at four walls or will l ????

Applegran Sat 19-Aug-23 12:19:24

I think Pascal30 gave excellent succinct advice. Continue to love them, see them as approaching adulthood and treat them accordingly even though they may be challenging, find other people and interests, and let your children go. Show them that you know they have to make their own choices - you do not have to tell them what to do. You cannot make them do or be anything - but you can imply by your words and behaviour that you value and respect them. Focus on listening and understanding, not telling, and you may find over time that things feel very different.

11unicorn Sat 19-Aug-23 14:15:42

A lot of wonderful advice there already.

I agree with finding a club to join where you can make friends and find a new hobby. You are still young. Do a dance class, an craft class, learn a new language. There is a lot on offer.

Speak to your children like adults. Find a relaxing moment where you all reminiscence and then add "things didn't always work out as we wanted, you know with your Dad and me and you were still young at the time so it was not always easy to talk about everything - but if you ever have any questions, don't forget you can ask me anytime" something like that and it will give them permission and opportunity to come back at any time and ask.

Do not force too much "checking" on your kids. Let them be adults and live their live. If they have moved out then contact them ever so often (not daily) and start with the opening of "just wanted to check in how your doing" or with "I just thought about ... and thought I give you a ring". Speak at equal terms about what you have done and ask some questions about how they are doing.

Don't be hurt if they are short sometimes as they are young and have very busy lives. They mean no offence but whatever they are doing often takes priority in life. It will change over time.

icanhandthemback Sat 19-Aug-23 14:38:54

I used to ask my children what they would do if they were the parent when it came down to things like time spent on the phone, revising, etc. I would explain my reasoning and then see if we could broker a way forward. For really serious things, if push came to shove, I used to tell them I understood why they felt the way they did but I wouldn't be a good parent if I allowed things to continue.
Most of what VioletSky said at Fri 18-Aug-23 13:02:36 seemed spot on especially the bit about not badmouthing the grandparents no matter what they said about you. If you keep any negative thoughts to yourself, I think your children will learn to see for themselves where the land lies. My daughter was sure that her father and father's family were the bee's knees but as she grew older (especially when she had her own child) she recognised that there was one family/parent she could rely upon and it wasn't them. They bad mouthed me every step of the way and I didn't retaliate. Now she says to me, "What they don't realise is I was there and I know you aren't like that." If there was a child I thought I'd be estranged with and I worried about it continually, it was her but we've come through it all and we still have a relationship. Just always try to keep the lines of communication open, even if you feel saddened by some of the unfair things that are levelled at you because without communication, things can't and won't change.

Norah Sat 19-Aug-23 14:47:33

I found it best not complaining, not giving opinions or advice, letting them work out how to accomplish what they truly wanted.

I think some mums get trapped into doing things they don't want to do. For example: long ago a poster complained to driving her child's back to uni on motorways with roundabouts, silly and ridiculous complaint. Just don't. BUT, if you allow yourself to be cajoled, don't whinge on and on.

Ask little and don't compare or complain.

We never enquired as to their future partners family matters - know what is your business and what is decidedly private.