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My whole story of being an Enabler of my 45 year old daughter Has anyone else had a similar situation they could share

(23 Posts)
Overit Sun 15-Jan-23 19:21:27

I have asked for advice before on here and the support and responses were wonderful. But I have not shared the whole story and I have looked and looked for people who have experienced what I have or are experiencing it. Briefly, I was married, had my daughter, got divorced, kept my daughter with me till age 12, let her go live with her father while I moved 200 miles away and remarried. I told myself I was just not maternalistic and my daughter would be better off living with her father because they seemed more bonded, and yes because I did not want the responsibility. I never babysat, never really liked kids but at 22 that clock ticked and in my day you got married and had children. So I did. Found out right away I did not enjoy it and I was always afraid of doing things wrong or screwing her up. (which I guess I ended up doing anyway or exacerbated her illness) because she was always kind of sad or unenthusiastic no matter what we were doing. I guess I should have gotten her help right then, but in those days mental illness especially in children was not addressed, you made excuses or ignored it or said it was normal just her personality. Our personalities were so different. Because of the divorce I never had the money or the heart to make her follow up on anything I never pushed her because I did not want to make her unhappy. I was inept. and I just wanted out of parenting. Deep down I knew she had issues even at 4 years of age, but I did not want to admit it and I certainly did not know how to deal with it. Letting her live with her father seemed the perfect solution because he loved being a parent and was remarried as well. (I was 34 when I did this). Unfortunately, I could not live with the guilt of doing that, so I went up the road every weekend to visit, and stayed in her life as much as possible, attended her recitals, her plays, her shows, dropped her off at her friends, took week vacations from work to spend up there with her. Unfortunately, she was again depressed, despite having friends and participating in social things. Again, I felt guilty, but neither myself or her father and stepmom insisted she get help, we thought she was just being a teenager etc. (I believe she was bipolar even back then), I never knew what to do, I was running back and forth, married, working etc., and I ended up having a nervous breakdown because I blamed myself for her unhappiness always, I eventually smoothed out and realized I could not change what I already did and I live with the guilt, and tell myself I have paid the price for this "freedom". I am on the whole happy with my life, but from the moment I let her go live with her father, I have, because of guilt for the last 30 years enabled my daughter, who did get married, did work, did have kids but was never happy and eventually tried to commit suicide. Again, all through those years, I was at the wedding, I came up and spent two weeks with each child that she had (2 children), ironically I loved spending time with my grandchild more than I did with my own when she was born (I was probably too immature with issues of my own I guess) When she tried to commit suicide I got her to a psychiatrist and therapist and she was diagnosed as bipolar (although she claims it is PMDD (which it could be) finally at age 28. Unfortunately she has been on medications on and off ever since and nothing seems to really help and in fact, she stopped working, says she just can't is continually unhappy, unmotivated, can't get motivated to join a group or exercise or clean, I hear this every week in some form or another when I call (I call her every Friday to stay in touch with grandkids and see how she is doing) She is a good mom in that she makes sure the kids are doing their schoolwork, helps them and keeps them on track, takes care of them except for the cleaning, and her husband is supportive. The grandkids are now 18 headed to college and the other is 15 and right on track. (and I like spending time with my grandchildren and daughter up to a certain point. At any rate because of the guilt I felt for having let her go with her father at 12 instead of raising her myself, I have paid for our "family vacations" for years, support them monthly, cleaned her apartment for her while she laid in bed, and until the pandemic was up there every 3 or 4 months and holidays, but I am now 66 years old and have been making that trip 200 miles up and back for over 30 years. I get car sick and have to spend the visits in a motel because they don't have the room. In addition I am saving whatever money I can to help pay for my grandkids' college. It gets more and more difficult to even want to visit because their house is not clean, and it is so discouraging to see my daughter at 45 years of age still be continually unhappy, unmotivated, can't hold a job, anxious etc. We are so different in personalities and I want to shake her and tell her to look outside herself, be grateful for what she has, but I know from years and years of listening that it doesn't help to do that, so I try just listening. I have tried everything, tough love, empathy, encouragement.. She won't do the things the therapist suggests to help her as she says she just can't. In some ways, I feel she has been allowed to get away with this, the "not trying" by all of us, her husband, me because we fear she may get more depressed and now I think it has become so ingrained in her mind that she can't do anything to feel better that she has just given up. The thing is I can't continue to go up the road, I have asked her to visit us here anytime, and she even said that sometimes when I visit her I just make her feel worse. I know I do because I can't stand to see her that way, and though I try to keep my thoughts to myself I think I just irritate her more. I am not ever going to give up on her, but I think I am entitled now, despite letting her go live with her father (which probably, I am sure exacerbated her symptoms), to also have a life. To stop trying to fix her, listen but let her get to a point where she either can find a way to be better or accept how things are. I can't fix her. I am not really asking for anyone's advice here, though it would be welcome, but I wanted to tell my story and see if anyone out there has done what I did, let their daughter live with their father instead of staying with "mom"and experienced their unhappiness and how they handled it.

crazyH Sun 15-Jan-23 19:57:12

Overit - strangely enough, there are a couple of threads today about Mother-daughter relationships. I have a difficult relationship as well, with my daughter. Today, we had a tiff and she said some awful things. I personally think, she has undiagnosed Bi-polar. She is divorced with 2 teenage children in University. She has a good job. I doubt she will do anything silly, but I always worry. Her father and I are divorced. She was very close to her father and I think our divorce has affected her. Take comfort from the fact you’re not the only one. I am on my own, so plenty of ‘thinking’ time, and that’s not good. She annoys her brothers as well. So, I can’t complain to them. I can only pray that things work out, that she finds a nice young man who will tolerate her moods 😂

M0nica Sun 15-Jan-23 20:09:42

Overit No matter what we do or our children do, if they are not less than brilliant we see it as being our fault, some defect in us, not mothering properly. Similarly, many children, especially adult children, if life doesn't go properly,find it convenient to blame their parents, especially their mother.

First and foremost you need to understand - and believe - is that letting your daughter live with her father, is not something you should feel guilty about or consider as being something you did that damaged her. She was clearly happy with him and he was a good father. You are too brainwashed by old fashioned ideas, that the worst thing a woman can do is abandon her child, while men can do what they please and children can manage without fathers. Your daughter's unhappiness has got nothing to do with you letting her move to live with her father. Anyone reading your post would say, present or absent, you were an excellent mother.

You are certainly not responsible for your daughter's mental illnesses. Bi-polar disorder, seems to be something that can have a genetic basis, but is not the result of nurture alone, or only if nurture is terrible, which in this case it certainly isn't. She is also an adult with power over her own life and has the ability to decide what she wants to do, in relation to her illness -and if she chosses not to go with treatment that is her decision, not your fault.

Your daughter needs to understand that you are not superwoman and that as you get older you no longer have the energy, the stamina, the money to keep going as you have and you need to slow down.

So start slowing down, visit your daughter less frequently. With whats app, email, zoom etc, you can keep in touch with your daughter and your grandchildren, without constant travel and expense. Especially develop cyber links with your grandchildren so that you can keep in touch after they have left home.

Then you seek therapy to help you to stop blaming yourself for everything that goes wrong in your daughter's life and to realise that, actually you have been a very good mother indeed.

Soozikinzi Sun 15-Jan-23 20:56:40

Your daughter is 45 and must take responsibility for her own actions .Yes she lived with her dad a while but surely it could be argued that you were allowing her to form a good relationship with her father ? If you hadn't then you'd feel guilty for not allowing that. I think you need to let the guilt go now . Some people sadly are born awkward .Sadly I think your daughter is one of those people. You need to set up good links with you GDs for when they go to college and even encourage courses that are near you . Wishing you every happiness you can grasp in the future .

Wyllow3 Sun 15-Jan-23 21:02:19

What MOnica said.

We can never know the true nature/nurture balance but I believe it to be the case that some people are particularly vulnerable and that another daughter with the same background would not have "turned out the same".

Oreo Sun 15-Jan-23 21:35:43

What Monica and Wyllow3 say.

Just to add, I have a similar DD that I help when I can just as you do OP cos she has problems but she had a very nice life growing up with me.That tells you that in most cases it’s nature not nurture.
You can only do what you can do, which is how I look at it.
They didn’t ask to be that way, but you can’t run yourself into the ground either.

Hithere Sun 15-Jan-23 22:20:10

Your poor daughter, she has done nothing to deserve it

You playing hot and cold with her, showing more interest in her kids than ever shown on her, your "trying to fix her and not giving up on her" is..... how to say this... look at the mirror and fix yourself first.

You want to be a mother or don't- just don't play games to appease your guilt

Hithere Sun 15-Jan-23 22:22:02

And you were not an enabler at all, that is so not the issue(s) here

Sago Sun 15-Jan-23 22:23:39

Have you tried counselling together?
Your daughter needs help.
Have you considered that she felt abandoned?
You admit you were not maternal do you think she could be suffering from an attachment disorder?
My mother was a poor parent, it has taken me years to get over it.
All I wanted was her love and respect.

VioletSky Sun 15-Jan-23 22:57:12

I really feel for your daughter.

I struggled with your post because you seem to understand that you have let her down but not why she hasn't gotten over it.

You have to understand that seeking forgiveness for yourself or her forgiving you is completely seperate to her mental health struggles and the legacy of being an unwanted daughter.

Yes I think you need to step back. You are hurting her by showing her you are capable of a deeper love with your grandchildren than her and the message that sends her is that she wasn't/isn't good enough.

Yes it is her responsibility to fix herself but how can she do that when you are so very focused on how you feel about her childhood?

I think the best approach is for you to get some form of counselling and work on your unresolved guilt because your daughter isn't in a place to sooth that for you and its still hurting her

I really hope you are both able to find happiness in future

Caleo Sun 15-Jan-23 23:29:00

Mothers often worry about whether they inadvertently caused their adult child's illnesses or troubles.

You seem to have reasoned well about the decisions you made at the time. You have done and are still doing a lot for your daughter and her family.

If you want to make sure she feels loved by you simply tell her you love her, and always have loved her, and appreciate her for the unique person she is.

Cabbie21 Mon 16-Jan-23 06:54:58

I second what MOnica and Wyllow3 said.

Urmstongran Mon 16-Jan-23 07:52:04

Our eldest daughter is 45y too so I suppose that’s what pulled me in to continue reading your post.

I feel for you because although on some level you regret decisions you made in the past you know you can’t go back and change anything. You just can’t. So you have to come to terms with what you did.

I think you must be exhausted by now, trying to atone for your actions. I think it’s time to let the rope drop now.

Your daughter isn’t living alone. She has a supportive husband. Okay, she is a slattern but he sticks with her so it mustn’t bother him or the kids. They sound a solid family unit.

I can understand how your daughter’s attempt at taking her own life freaked you out. Consequently you tip toe around on eggshells, crushing them as you go. You say your daughter doesn’t like you going anyway as you make her feel worse. So, stop. If the visits only benefit you (seeing your grandsons) then you’re looking at this situation from the wrong angle in my opinion.

I always say communication is key. Tell her you love her very much and you’re sorry for what you did to her. I don’t think you ‘caused’ this but in her mind you certainly didn’t help. You could always write some nice things in a card that perhaps she might want to keep and look back on. Tell her what a good mum she’s been. That you acknowledge how hurt she must have felt and that in time you’re hoping for a better relationship between the two of you. No rush, baby steps. I think if you are sincere, making this all about her - not you, your feelings and certainly not the boys, you might be in with a chance.

Good luck for a happier future with your girl.

luvlyjubly Mon 16-Jan-23 08:18:25


Have you tried counselling together?
Your daughter needs help.
Have you considered that she felt abandoned?
You admit you were not maternal do you think she could be suffering from an attachment disorder?
My mother was a poor parent, it has taken me years to get over it.
All I wanted was her love and respect.

Spot on, in my opinion. I have personal experience that I won’t go into on here. It’s never too late to get help which could repair some of the damage.

Cakeface Mon 16-Jan-23 09:24:34

M0nica and Wyllow are spot on with their advice, your daughter's bi polar disorder is not your fault and you have nothing to reproach yourself for there. Despite your reduced natural maternal instincts, you've been a good and attentive mother to her over the years and I agree that, at 45 years old, she's old enough now to get herself sorted out both practically and with support for her mental health. Time to start caring for yourself now.

Smileless2012 Mon 16-Jan-23 11:36:10

I can only agree with what's already been said Overit. You did what you thought was best for your D when she went to live with her father, and it's time to be free of your guilt, so I hope that you'll look into counselling to enable you to do this.

You'll never know if things would have turned out differently if she hadn't gone to live with her father. Keep in mind what's been said here, especially this from Cakeface "Despite your reduced natural maternal instincts, you've been a good and attentive mother". flowers.

Overit Mon 16-Jan-23 15:49:05

I just want to thank all of you for your responses. Monica, Sago, all of you, I so appreciate your taking the time to respond and share your experiences and your advice as well. I would like to tell Crazy H. that I hope she and her daughter arrive at a good place as well. It is never, ever easy, the mother daughter relationship I know. Everyone's support has been astonishing and given me much to think about. I also want Sago, Hithere and luvlyjuly to know I saw and hear what you are saying. You have given me a whole different and valuable point of view. Thank you absolutely everyone.

SeasideLili Sat 21-Jan-23 15:03:40

Totally agree :-)

crazyH Mon 06-Feb-23 23:38:04

Thankyou Overit - she has been very difficult. I’m almost sure her father and his new wife stir things a bit. Divorce affects children very negatively. Somehow, my youngest son has come out of it unscathed. He is well adjusted unlike his older sister and brother. My teenage grandson once said “Nan, aren’t you glad you had a third child? Can you imagine what your life would be like, if you only had my Mum and Uncle S” ? He is right …..

Sielha Sun 12-Mar-23 22:34:57

Not really an enabler as such but I relate to the idea that we feel eternally responsible for our kids and their emotions. My daughter has recently made a thinly veiled attack on me -apparently I don’t do enough. I have masses of other problems and struggle on a daily basis, as do so many people and I am disappointed that my daughter doesn’t seem to recognise that. Generational thing??

imaround Sun 12-Mar-23 22:53:50

I would recommend you get some type of therapy for yourself so that you can move forward and find peace with the decisions you have made in your life. What is happening now is not enabling, but it is affecting both of you.

Smileless2012 Mon 13-Mar-23 09:05:19

Sielhaflowers it's hard not to feel eternally responsible for our kids and their emotions but we're not. You know how much you can do for your D, over and above dealing with your own problems that mean you struggle on a daily basis.

I do think some have unrealistic expectations of what their parents could/should be doing to help them with childcare, financial support etc so maybe it is a generational thing.

Glorianny Mon 13-Mar-23 09:29:21

Your daughter seems to have raised two children successfully in spite of all her problems. Perhaps what you need to do is to focus on her achievements rather than her shortcomings. You say the house isn't clean, well there are 4 people living in it, who should all do their share, so it isn't all her fault. But if it doesn't bother them what right have you to interfere?

You could begin by thinking positive thoughts about your daughter. Think of three things that she has done well and don't allow negativity to block them out.
Try to do it regularly. Eventually you might repeat some of them to your daughter, but without any of the "You don't do this" or "you should do that"

There's a theory about children (which might also apply to some adults) that they respond to others the way the person expects them to. So the child labelled as "naughty" will behave badly. You seem to have labelled your daughter "difficult" and she's doing her best to show you are right.