I always think that I had double bad luck when it comes to my parents. They split up when I was young and we only saw my Dad once or twice a year. He was a professional man, with a good job and plenty of money but he was violent and the relationship between my mum and him was toxic. He didn’t do any of the things that you would associate with a Dad, he never came to parent’s evenings, we never went on days out with him or even stayed at his house. He didn’t even buy us Christmas presents and those visits a couple of times a year were traumatic because it was clear that he didn’t love us and he could be very nasty.
When I was 16 I achieved 6A’s and 4A*s at GCSE and he actually told me that I could have done better – after all, I didn’t get 10A*’s, what a disappointment! Shortly after that he was physically violent towards me and I was old enough to realise what sort of man he was and I cut all ties. Since then I haven’t missed him at all (I mean what was there to miss?!) and I think that our rubbish relationship has actually shaped my life for the better – I learnt not to rely on a man or to let a man (or anyone) treat me badly. My mum put up with his poor treatment for years and there was no way that I was ever going to do the same. I now have the most wonderful husband, who would never be hurtful to me and would certainly never be violent.
My relationship with my mother was more complicated. Obviously she brought my brother and I up as a single mother effectively but it was a difficult childhood in many ways. She had clear favourites and whilst my brother could never do anything wrong, there was plenty that I could do wrong. Our relationship went downhill when I fell out with my brother, not only because she obviously took his side. Despite supporting her financially, physically and emotionally for the last 12 years our relationship turned toxic too. The constant criticism I experienced dragged my mood down so much it was making me unhappy daily. I only really realised just how unhappy she made me when she left, and I can honestly say that I don’t miss her at all and I can’t imagine a day that we will reconcile.
What I do miss is the idea of a normal mother and father. I know that no one has the perfect family, but unconditional love should be the basis of any relationship between a parent and child and that is something that I never experienced. I see friends with mums who are more than happy to look after their grandchildren, no agenda, no complaints. I see friends whose parents happily accept their spouse into their family and make them a part of it. I see friends who don’t have to support their parents financially and who aren’t criticised for every thing that they do. I’d love to have a dad who I could call to pick me up should my car break down, or who would help me with DIY jobs around the house. I would love a mum who I could go for a shopping and lunch trip with or who I could call to pick up the kids from school if I had to work.
I’ve come to a point though where I realise that this life was not meant for me and it is ok. I’ve accepted it. I was sad for a long time but now it honestly feels liberating to be estranged from my parents. I’m released from the obligation to try to impress them or look after them and I can honestly say that everything I have achieved in life is down to my own hard work, I don’t owe anyone anything. It has also massively inspired me to be the best parent that I can be. Although I honestly can’t imagine anything other than unconditionally loving my children – I guess I am inherently different from my parents in that respect. I’m going to be the Grandma that hosts Christmas, the mother that welcomes their friends with open arms, that cuddles them when they are upset, that babysits with joy. I am going to take them shopping and out for drinks (hello lunch and cocktails and catching up on their lives). I’m going to drive out at 3am to pick them up if necessary and I am going to be the best mum that I can be. I’m also so proud and happy that they have the best Daddy too. He might be useless at DIY and car maintenance but no doubt it will only take one phone call for him to sort any issue out for them. He’ll be buying rugby tickets and taking them out for the day with their partners and he’ll be pushing his grandchildren on the swings too. I don’t doubt it for a second.
So I guess, what I am trying to say in this very personal, rambling post of mine is that being estranged from your parents is hard but it has made me a strong, independent person and I have the perfect little family now that makes me happy and who make each other happy. Cutting people out of your life, especially family should always be a last resort, but you’ll know when it’s the right thing to do. I’m so much happier and I feel like a huge weight has been lifted now that I don’t have to worry about these toxic relationships.
Are you estranged from one or both parents? I’d love to hear from you if you are. It’s not a common situation to be in from my experience!