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Sunday, 11 August 2013

Guilt and other Motherly Instincts

Onemoremum has produced yet another excellent blog about what it is like to be the mother of an anorexic daughter.  What struck me was the first sentence:

The lovely Laura Collins sent me an email once in which she said she never intended to parent like this.

I don't think any of us set out to "parent like this", when it comes to laying down parameters and parenting teens.  I, for one, knew that I was not going to parent like my parents - they were way too strict and didn't understand my angst, social insecurity and deep fear of being rejected by other members of my caste.  They were just hopeless parents who were deeply unfair and didn't "get" me at all.

Parenting a child with a serious illness is about the toughest kind of parenting there is.  Parenting a child with a deeply stigmatised mental illness often means that your support system and peer advice is either hopeless outdated and traumatising, or just dwindles away into a vague wave as people cross the street to avoid you.  The things you have to do, as a parent of a lethally mentally ill child, might make you appear cold, controlling and cruel.  To understand that what you are doing comes from the deepest well of love and requires the utmost effort of self-control, you need to have been there yourself.  As a mother, I feel it is my job to ease my children's distress as much as possible and give them security, comfort and a kind of fuzzy Hollywood mother love.  When parenting a child with an eating disorder, that is just not possible.

As a parent of a non-eating disordered teen, I have realised that I cannot relieve her stress, anxiety and angst either.  I am her mother, not her friend.  It is something that has to be worked through by her and bourne by me.  Not an easy option and perhaps my parents weren't so bad after all?

Finally, as I am dying, I have to try and cram this all in to a much shorter space of time than would be normal and somehow leave my girls with an essence of understanding how tough life can be and that Hollywood fuzz is just that - fuzz.  It is not real life.  BUT, this does not mean that I don't love them both equally and all-consumingly.  

As I said on the forum the other day, I always love my girls.  It's just that sometimes, I don't like them very much.

2 comments:

  1. Charlotte, I cannot tell you how much I love this, " Parenting a child with a serious illness is about the toughest kind of parenting there is. Parenting a child with a deeply stigmatised mental illness often means that your support system and peer advice is either hopeless outdated and traumatising, or just dwindles away into a vague wave as people cross the street to avoid you. " You NAILED it!

    And of course we always love our kids, and don't always like them. Quite a thing for a parent to sort out.
    I'll be sharing this with parents for sure. Thank you.
    Becky

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  2. In my work with parents at UCSD, this is main message I try to impart--you have to make ED (who wears the disguise of your child) hate you. It's the only way to save the child trapped inside.

    It is hard, so hard.

    Thank you for the work you are doing.

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