I think the time has come to admit some home truths to myself and make some changes.
I am going through life with one foot in the past and one in the present, leaving no foot free for the future, and until now I wasn’t ready to admit it to myself. But now I am.
I spend a lot of time (far too much given I should be spending none) looking for ways to follow the lives of people from my past experiences, for example Facebook stalking people or googling their names. And if I am brutally honest, this behaviour has gone beyond the realms of normal. For example, my ex partner Jean (I have written about her on this blog before) has blocked me on Facebook, so I log into a different account specifically to check her profile (which is stupid because it is locked down anyway and so I never see anything). Or on Instagram, I have a list of “recent searches” which mainly consist of people I am following who wouldn’t ever accept a friend request from me on Facebook (let’s face it, i’m probably blocked by those people too). And this is my biggest admission: I regularly log on to one of my ex-boyfriends Facebook account (he’s not particularly Facebook minded so has literally never changed his password) as he is friends with the ex-partner of my ex-partner, and for some reason I can’t stop looking (talk about degrees of separation, I’m not even sure why I do this). It’s crazy isn’t it. On top of that, I have two “extra” accounts on facebook in the name of my dog and my parents dog (it was funny to begin with) which I log on to follow other people who I can’t access from my own account.
Now I have typed that out, I realise how stupid and sad it sounds. I need to let go of all these people before I can properly move on with my life. So today, I have made some changes.
Step one My first step has been to deactivate the two accounts that belong to “the dogs” and make a promise myself to never log back into them. I didn’t even have one “final look round”. I just logged on and deactivated. Proud of myself!
Step two Secondly, I have gone through my own Facebook account friends list and deleted anyone who I feel is toxic, who I no longer speak to, or who I believe I am keeping on my friends list for the wrong reason. (This was hard but I used the tearing-off-the-plaster approach)
Step three I have cleared my instagram search history and will never again search for the people I have been “following” (and will work hard to stick to this)
Step four (This is going to be the deal breaker). I am going to take a large step back from social media. I have been noticing my ever increasing obsession with social media. Wherever I go, I take my phone. I’m ashamed to admit it but when I should be interacting with my daughter I am looking at my phone and she ends up trying to grab it. This needs to change now, before she is older and it is too late. Things have become so bad I feel I need to set myself some rules as I don’t believe I will be able to achieve this without helping myself with ground rules. So my rules will be as follows: I can upload one thing per day and one thing only (to either Facebook or Instagram) (this will also help with the zillions of pictures I keep sharing of Evie despite feeling guilty about removing her choice of internet privacy from her; I just can’t seem to help myself.) Secondly I am going to limit my screen time. I will not use my phone after 9pm in the evening (I hope to start reading more!) and if I am with Evie and she is playing I will dedicate that time to interacting with her rather than looking at my phone.
Another large part of my life which causes me a huge amount of pain and stress is the relationship with my family and the time has now come to address this.
Let me quickly explain the dynamics of my family; My parents are both still alive and married (to each other!). My dad does have prostate cancer with secondaries although a new wonder drug is controlling it for now. We don’t know how much time he has left so I am mindful of this with any decisions I make. I work alongside my mum in the family business which she started nearly 25 years ago. If I am honest, I am paid over what I am worth, and pretty much have free reign to do what I want in terms of choosing my hours, taking holiday and making decisions within the business. My mum says she will give me the business when she retires so I can keen to maintain this arrangement, and to make sure the business thrives as best it can to secure my future and the future of my family.
My father has two children from a previous marriage (my half brother (15 years older) and half sister (13 years older)) who are both married with two children and five children respectively. Historically I have not got on that well with them at times despite seeing them a lot; my guess is there is a lot of jealousy and bitterness underneath the surface between us (from both sides). Perhaps they resent that my parents are still together and theirs are not, and perhaps they believe I am spoilt as I had many more “material” things than they did growing up. I resent the way my dad has behaved when they visited by ignoring and belittling me whilst attending to their every need (this could have been real or imagined, I’m not sure); in fact my first self harming behaviours began when my sister and her first two children moved back to my parents house after her relationship breakup when I was 12.
Sadly I do also believe my sister can be or has been a difficult person, she loves to gossip and talk behind peoples backs, and particularly seems to enjoy feeding things back to my dad about me that she has read on my Facebook. She can be such a kind and giving person (she is currently doing a lot of fundraising to help the refugees in Syria) but in the same breath she can be very thoughtless and quite calculated. Although I know it will cause an issue, I have today deleted her from my Facebook. This has been a historical problem with my sister and we have fallen out many times over the years. I do not want to fall out with her as I she is still my sister and I love her, and I want my daughter to grow up knowing her Aunty/cousins, but I am taking a big step back from and distancing myself from her – I do not need those feelings in my life at the moment.
The other problem with my sister is that our views on parenting vary hugely; she is very mainstream and obviously does what she feels is best for her five children – of course I am not disputing that. But alongside my own parents she seems to constantly question my choices and it is a real struggle to continually defend them. I remember sitting at my parents kitchen table with my Dad and her, and her telling me in no uncertain terms “There WILL come a point when you have to leave your daughter to cry, just like I did!”. Sorry – I just can’t agree with that. I would rather never sleep again than do that to my daughter.
That brings me to the constant commentary from my parents giving me their strong opinions on my parenting choices; in short… everything I do is wrong (or that’s how it is beginning to feel!). It is so disheartening to be so proud of the choices you make (they feel totally right to me and I wouldn’t change anything) and to be constantly questioned and belittled. No matter what I say, how I try to justify myself, how much research or reading I offer them, nothing helps. They are totally blinkered and it is their way or nothing – and if I chose nothing then I am accused of offending them and being ignorant because I make them feel bad and unworthy as I won’t listen to their advice.
I spend a lot of time with my parents or at my parents house. In a typical weekday, I get up, drop Evie off at the childminder, take the dog to my parents house, go to work (a few minutes down the road from my parents and with my mum), go back to my parents house for my lunch break to eat/express milk), go back to work (with my mum), pick the dog up on the way home, pick Evie up from the childminder. Quite often if my other half is working, I will go back to my parents house for the afternoon/for dinner. On the weekends quite often I will spend the day there if my other half is working. In addition to that, we speak on the phone several times per day, and if anything needs doing around the house (DIY) it is normally my Dad that will do it. In fact, my other half has often commented how much time we spend with my parents and how it is quite odd to him that I choose to do that given how they make me feel.
I do sometimes wonder if subconsciously I am trying to make the most of the time we have left with my Dad but it is strange because when I was at university I came to back to my hometown to see Lesley (I lady I was thinking of as a “mother figure” at the time – see my previous post for my explanation of this) and didn’t even stop in to see my parents, so why now? People looking from the outside would say I have a very close relationship with my parents but I don’t think I have ever experienced that with them. We have always bumbled along being close in terms of time spent together, but I have never felt able to communicate with them or confide in them. In fact, when I hear my Dad talking on the phone to my brother and giving him support (he is currently going through a tough time) a lump comes to my throat because I wonder why he can’t say that to me, or if he did, why I would cringe inside and my stomach would clench and I wouldn’t be able to respond to him.
So, I guess I’m wondering what I do about this toxic relationship I have with my parents. I think I have come to the conclusion that I need to take a big step back from them. Of course, I work with my mum so I can’t change that, and I still need to take the dog to their house daily as I can’t leave him at some. Similarly, I still need to go to their house at lunch time to eat/express because it isn’t appropriate to use the pump in the office. I have come to the realisation that I cannot change how my parents speak to me or treat me, so the only other option is to change how I feel about it. So, here are the steps I have decided to do:
- When I come home at lunchtime I will go to a bedroom to express rather than the living room (this seems small and probably won’t make too much difference as my Dad stays out of the way anyway due to being embarrassed by my expressing)
- When I have a problem in the house I will not call my parents immediately. I will try to sort it/ask other half to sort it and only call my parents as a last case scenario – or mention it whilst I am at work (and therefore reducing the number of phone calls)
- I will not engage in confrontational conversations with either parent (this one is a big one). Currently I allow my passion for things to fuel a discussion about things such as breastfeeding (my dad has very outdated views on it), money, parenting. I end up getting very angry or upset about the conversation and it affects me more deeply than I care to admit. I leave the conversation feeling hurt, misjudged, angry… a whole host of emotions which are now having a large impact on my life. When these conversations begin, I will make a concious effort to not engage in them. For example, I might use the phrase “I do not wish to discuss this with you” or simply walk away from the conversation (although I accept I will then be labelled rude – but it is the lesser of two evils). I will also not bring up any topics that I feel could become confrontational (so pretty much everything at the moment!) and I will not engage in any conversations that involve my brother or sister (there seems to be an ongoing theme of discussing other peoples lives in my family and instead of contributing to this I need to try and stop it).
- I will stop seeking their approval. I don’t even know why I still do this. I’m nearly 30 years old but still do most things for the approval of my parents and the people around me. I think this links in with my social media addiction. Quite a lot fo the time I only do things so I can post pictures of me doing them, to show what a “balanced and happy” life I am now leading and then wait for the comments and likes to keep rolling in. I need to stop doing things for other people and start doing it for myself – I think this links into the impact of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation as a child and leads me to be stronger in my conviction to not use parenting tools such as sticker/reward charts or presents for good behaviour.
- I will stop sharing information that does not need to be shared. So as I said before, I don’t really have an emotional connection with my parents, but for some reason I feel like I should tell them about all the things I do in my life, for example, taking my daughter swimming, going for a walk, going shopping. I need to stop sharing this information and hopefully they will become used to not being so involved in my every day life.
Recently I have noticed that I have had increasingly worsening levels of anxiety. It is hard to pinpoint what is causing the anxiety which leads me to believe it is a combination of many factors (some I have discussed here, others I haven’t). As I am still breastfeeding I have been unable to resort to my historical method of dealing with anxiety by medicating myself with Diazepam (although I am not sure I would even want to nowadays). I have been taking rescue remedy and trying to focus on doing deep breathing when I start to feel anxious (I can always tell it is happening because my stomach tightens, my heart starts racing and I get a funny feeling in my throat). I am hoping the steps earlier in this post are going to help me control my anxiety as it seems to be only getting worse as every day goes by.
Now I need to make another confession and it is something that is also affecting my life in a negative way. I have become a very negative and judgmental person and I really don’t like that side of myself. My judgement are normally on other parents and I feel ashamed to admit it but I need to be honest to not only stop myself from doing it but to give myself permission to forgive for my behaviour. I judge parents who don’t breastfeed, I judge parents to who leave their children to cry and I judge parents who aren’t gentle and choose to yell and smack their children. This is what being a gentle parent is about. I am totally and completely gentle with my daughter but completely the opposite with other people and myself and I want to change that, starting today. I am going to make a huge effort to be a lot more tolerant, gentle and non-judgmental of those people who make different choices to me – after all, they are their children and their choices. Who am I to be angry at my parents for treating me the way they do when I am doing almost the same thing myself to other people?
I think that’s it for now. I am hoping I can stick to the changes I have implemented and I will keep you updated on my progress.
Take care of yourselves.