• Mon, Sep 24 2012

I Hate That My Parents Think My Daughter Is The Greatest Thing I’ve Ever Done

parentsI sat on the floor with my mom and dad, watching my daughter tinker with her toys. I was telling my parents about a new and exciting ghostwriting opportunity, a milestone in my writing career. As I spoke, they occasionally nodded as they grinned at my crawling baby. When I reached the peak of my story, my daughter did something cute and they both cheered wildly for her, followed by a lackluster, “that’s good,” about me. To test their loyalties, I started telling a story about the latest solid food my baby had tried.

And wouldn’t you know it: two pairs of eyes were on me, eager to find out more.

I read somewhere (maybe it was embroidered on a pillow), “If I knew grandchildren were this much fun, I would’ve had them first.” Though the humor is the obvious irony: there’s a deeper truth in it. For many new grandparents, I think having a grandchild is a chance at redemption from their mistakes as parents. For my parents in particular, I have an anecdote that describes this well.

When I was a baby, my dad and his father were riding with me in a car. When I supposedly let out a massive fart, my dad wrinkled his nose in disgust but my grandpa looked at him with a smile and said, “My granddaughter can do no wrong.” My dad told me this story recently, and in homage of the circle of life he now says this same thing of my daughter, that she can “do no wrong.”

The story itself is sweet, but I’ve only figured out recently why it upsets me. In saying defensively that my daughter can “do no wrong,” my dad presumes that I’m judging her the same way he judged me when I was a child. And here’s the thing, I’m not. Both of my parents have commented how wonderful it is to simply adore my daughter, to adore her without judgment. And I agree, because this is exactly how I feel toward her.

I have no expectations for her, nor do I have criticisms. She is goofy and quirky like all children are, and when I comment on her quirks, I’m merely stating the truth, not wishing she behaved differently. I’m no Tiger Mom: I’d call myself an Otter Mom. Chill and carefree or perhaps even a Sloth Mom. My baby has both rolled over late and crawled late, and this didn’t bother me. She will probably walk late, too—and to this I say, great! She’s not a Baby Einstein, but she is perfect because she is my baby. And in my eyes, she can truly do no wrong.

But when I watch my parents celebrate my daughter with such unhindered joy, I think I’m mourning my childhood. Or, rather, what my childhood could’ve been, if my parents had loved me without judgment or expectation. I’m the firstborn, a long-awaited arrival after my mom struggled with infertility for nearly eight years. I hit all my milestones ahead of time, earning myself the nickname “Amazing Amanda.” The bar was set very, very high. My parents expected me to grow up a conservative Christian woman with a business degree, and to go on to be a CEO, supermom, and superwife to a rich and successful husband. How could I not? I was quite a perfect baby, after all.

Instead, it took me five years, a long struggle with depression and two college transfers to earn my degree, and I still don’t have a “grown-up” job with benefits. Instead I’m doing what I love, writing and painting for a living. I’m also an atheist and a liberal. I had sex before marriage, and I’m absolutely glad I did. None of these things I would change. I am absolutely who I wanted to be. But I am absolutely not who they wanted me to be. They’ve grown used to me now, but in their eyes (and they’ve said this), they think my greatest accomplishment may be my role as a mother.

How can I possibly take this as a compliment? I think I’m doing a good job as a mother, but there are so many other things I’ve accomplished that I wish they would recognize. And the horrible thing is, their attitude actually makes me resent my daughter a bit when I’m around them. Will she grow up to be the girl, woman, they wanted me to be? Will she, in an act of rebellion, become my opposite—a straight-laced, religious young woman, exactly the person I’m not?

As I watch my parents’ love for my daughter grow daily, I feel a wedge being driven between me and them. I worry that the older and more wonderful my daughter becomes, the more I’m going to resent them for their relationship. What pains me the most is that I always thought having a child would bring me closer to my parents. I assumed that coming full-circle and becoming a parent would only improve our relationship. And while there have been a few transcendental moments, the moments where I fade into the background are becoming the standard.

(photo: bioraven/ Shutterstock)

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  • msenesac

    I know EXACTLY what you mean. My parents (mother, especially) was never impressed with any of my accomplishments (they didn’t even bother to congratulate me when I recently got my master’s degree) but my adorable 8 month old son can DO NO WRONG. I love my son to death (and surprisingly my parents would describe our relationship as being “close”) but my parents do not know the first thing about being actual parents.

    • maureen

      Congrats on your recent master’s degree!

  • popple

    Great piece of writing!

  • Beth

    I find this sad. I always tell people that the best gift I ever gave my parents is grandchildren. I love how much they love my kids. Their unconditional adoration of them and awe over their milestones is a reminder for me not to sweat the small stuff when it comes to parenting. I think we’ve all been in situations where we feel that our parenting skills or our child’s behavior is being judged and it’s so refreshing to never have to feel that type of scrutiny coming from my parents because they just enjoy my kids for who they are and the people they are becoming. There are plenty of grandparents who are not as involved with their grandchildren or feel the need to tell their children how they should raise their kids, so please just enjoy and appreciate your parents unconditional love of your daughter. I’m sure your mom and dad are proud of your accomplishments and the woman you’ve become, as you should be, but remember in the end, your daughter is your legacy.

    • ipsedixit010

      A legacy can be defined by more than just having children.

    • Beth

      You’re right, a legacy can be defined by more than just having children, but often for the average person, our only and most important legacy is our children. Erma Bombeck once said that no matter how much she accomplished during her writing career, her children would be her greatest legacy. She said that if she did a bad job with them, then everything else wouldn’t matter.

    • ipsedixit010

      The average person can make everyday contributions to society and leave an existing legacy. To limit oneself to thinking that a child is the “most important” legacy is to place boundaries on what the average person can accomplish. In fact, that type of thinking is a bit dismissive of those who choose (or are unable) to have children. If someone does not have children, that does not mean they don’t have a legacy or their life is any less fulfilling.

      While I went to Erma’s alma mater and admire her writing, such a statement is only her opinion. There are certainly some people who feel that their children are their most important accomplishment, but that does not hold true for everyone. My son is an important facet to my life, but he is not the only facet. I hope someone will not define my legacy simply because I was able to give birth and raise a child.

    • Amanda

      Your daughter is your legacy? Seriously? I’d say Marie Curie left a pretty good legacy, yet I’m not even sure if she had children.

    • Rachael

      She did…and her daughter won the Nobel Prize, too. So a good legacy on all fronts!

    • Amanda

      That’s awesome! Thanks for the info!

    • Kelly

      Your legacy? How about living a good life? How about doing good in the world? How about just being a good person? Being there for others? Lots of things can be your “legacy”, if you really feel that you need to have such a thing.
      We do not need to be reduced to walking uteruses to have a purpose in life.

    • bumbler

      hahah, geez I totally disagree with the other commenters. Kids are a legacy, whether you want them to be or not.

      And childless people? Butt out! What are you even doing on a parenting blog? Just looking for the opportunity to point out that not everyone has or wants kids? What a revelation!

      The writer sounds like a jealous step child. Does she really need her parents to love and adore her more than her baby? She’s an adult, and her daughter is a baby! Of course the grandparents are crazy about the baby!

      One of the best things about being a parent is that the burden of ecocentrism is lifted. You no longer have to be consumed in your own daily life, you get to put someone else’s happiness and welfare above your own. I’m not saying it’s never about you anymore, but your kids get a spot light, especially with their own granparents for goodness’ sake.

      The author says her parents are never satisfied with her, but as an adult lucky enough to have two doting grandparents for her daughter, she certainly sounds like the unpleasable one.

    • waffre

      It’s interesting that you assume that the commenter who pointed out that not everyone wants kids is childless themself. It makes me wonder if you understand the concept of putting yourself in the shoes of another person. The anger you seem to have toward people who have different opinions from you suggests you don’t. Well, at least you’re living up to your screenname.

    • Rachael

      If you really think the burden of egocentrism is lifted just by becoming a parent, you reeeeaaallllly need to take your head out of the sand.

    • meteor_echo

      You spelled “ass” wrong :)

    • Mary Sue

      Maybe the author wishes her parents adored her as much. It can be painful to see your child getting the attention and love you wish you had gotten while your parents are still oblivious to your own accomplishments. That doesn’t make you spoiled or jealous.

    • Lastango

      Beth,
      Please resist the urge to defend yourself. You don’t have to — you have the right to your own perspectives. When you read a comment like “we do not need to be reduced to walking uteruses to have a purpose in life” you are dealing with a political gender-feminist. Your values are what those people spend their waking hours trying to deconstruct.

    • meteor_echo

      Of course! And also, we Horrible Feminists eat housewives for breakfast! Mmmmmmm, delicious with maple syrup.

    • Kelly

      HAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!!! Oooh, maybe that should be my legacy. Oh wait, I have kids. Guess I can’t do anything else with my time.

    • meteor_echo

      Legacy, you say? Your children will live for 60-70 years, and then die. If they are average, they will not leave any visible trace in the humankind’s history. But books, pictures, scientific discoveries live on and on. Everyone heard of Newton, Einstein, Da Vinci, Freddie Mercury, Rubens, etc. Why? Because they did grand things. Special things. Having children can be a legacy, but it’ll just be awfully short-timed.

    • CW

      99.999999+% of people are never famous and accomplish little of any lasting value in their careers. At least in having a family, your descendants will know who you are if they do their genealogy.

    • meteor_echo

      And you will be forgotten by your great-grandchildren already. I do not know the name of my great-grandmother, nor did she matter to me. But maybe the paintings I make will be valued for hundreds of years. I can at least give it a try. Maybe they will inspire someone to draw, maybe they will save someone’s life from depression. Children may be an inspiration, but they also might turn out to be serial killers, rapists, animal abusers etc. Paintings will never do that.
      Also, a family is not defined by children. Two people are a family. A single mother with an adopted kid is a family. A group of friends can be a family. A person with their pets in a family. Children are an option, not a necessity.

    • CW

      Sorry, a group of friends is most certainly NOT a family and neither is a single person with pets. Families are tied together by blood relation or legally through marriage/adoption. I’ll grant a cohabiting couple if they have a child together but otherwise nope. P.S. good luck with your painting, though hardly any painters are successful enough to be remembered.

    • canaduck

      “…though hardly any painters are successful enough to be remembered.”

      What a nasty, unnecessary comment. What is wrong with you, exactly?

    • meteor_echo

      Excuse me? Who are you to tell people that what they consider families are not, in fact, families? The creator of a Metric Family Standard? And, if yes, please provide the aforementioned family standard here, because I’m veeeeeery eager to take a look at it. If not, please provide the credentials that allow you to speak for the others. If you don’t have them, put on your big girl plants and zip your lips.
      P.S. Oh wow, that was one sad attempt at passive aggressive snarking. I’m pretty sure that you just tried to say “We all know that you will die homeless and penniless in a gutter, while my three children will bask in glory!” It’s so sweet of you. I’ll take it as a compliment!

    • meteor_echo

      *pants. Ugh, unintentional hilarious typos.

    • Lawcat

      Oh, I didn’t realize *you* had the power to “grant” status to people! How wonderful! Hopefully we will all be deemed worthy of your acceptance.

      EVERYONE! The Almighty Granter of Familial Relationships has blessed us with her presence! YAYYY!!!

    • EditKitten

      Family is who you make of it. Would you consider an abusive parent better than the most supportive friend in the world? And who are you to decide?

    • Katie

      A group of friends can most certainly be a family. When my abusive parents forced me to flee their house a FRIEND is the one who took me in. Her family became my family and I didn’t have to marry or adopt any of them.
      Grow up. A family is a group of people who love each other.

    • ipsedixit010

      If I had the choice of being a name on a family tree someone will look up 100 years from now or being a force of good in the community who implements some changes – however minimal – in the present, I would choose the later to be my legacy. If all you can hope for is that someone in your family will look you up years down the line as a blip on the radar, that’s a little sad.

      Additionally, what about the kids making their own legacy? At what point do mom and dad stop taking credit for creating the person their child turns into? If my son cures cancer, do I get to claim as *my* legacy as producing the person who cured cancer, or is that his? That seems a bit silly and dismissive of all the hard work he would have put in. I can’t control his personality, I can’t control how he uses the skills he’s learned, I can’t control what he does with his life. I can only instill in him the values we have and help guide him towards his goals. If he chooses to become a clerk or an astronaut, that is up to him.

      At some point, our legacies are no longer tied together and he is his own person with his own accomplishments.

    • maureen

      I find it odd that someone who identifies as “Childfree” and is vehement about not having children comments regularly on Mommyish. Though I agree with your point, Meteor-echo. Sure my daughter is my legacy, but so is my career and accomplishments.

    • LiteBrite

      @e8f5db20e9cc945a451338f1e4360e55:disqus, I don’t think it’s all that odd. Mommyish has some interesting articles that lend themselves well to a childfree viewpoint, one that I think we parents sometimes miss.

      Plus, childfree people often aren’t completely “free of children.” Many are aunts, uncles, siblings, etc, and as such they often have a valuable perspective that isn’t colored by being a parent. One of my best friends is childfree. Some of the best parenting advice I’ve ever received has come from her.

    • meteor_echo

      Well, I originally came here because of the STFU Parents column. Then I started exploring the neighboring websites and pretty much stayed. Some of the articles here are actually really interesting, so..yeah.

  • Tinyfaeri

    I hear you on the defending your child to you bit, my parents do that a lot and I’m never sure they’re joking. I have to bite my lip sometimes to avoid saying that no one could love her more than I do – if I say she has rolls it’s because I’m damn proud of them, not to criticize her.

  • Indiana

    Good for you for being honest about feeling this way. I’m currently expecting my first and I’ve been baffled by my parents’ excitement about it — when they greet the hard-won advances I make in my career with much more than a blink. They were far from stellar, awesome parents to me, so I wonder if you’re not right, that the idea of being a grandparent, and enjoying it vs. pressuring it, are looming big and juicy in their minds.

  • Ellen

    I hear you. My parents couldn’t care less about what I do in my career. Saving lives is so . . whatever. But when after 16 years of marriage we decided to have kids? Well, now our marriage is “real”. Yes, that’s a quote. And now my “life is fulfilled because I gave my husband the greatest gift I could ever give”. Yep, another quote.
    We don’t see them much.

    • ODBeckster

      I feel your pain… I’m a 30-year-old married lawyer with a job, a house, a car, all of that. But my mother calls me a “quasi-adult” because I don’t have children. I geniunely feel like my life choices aren’t as valid because I’ve decided not to procreate.

  • meg

    Thank you for your candor! This is a huge fear of mine- my mother always showed a lot of resentment about the attention that my father gave me and I am scared of feeling jealousy towards my children. It’s so wonderful to be able to read about motherhood in a way that’s real and difficult in ways that many of us would be afraid to admit. It is so reassuring to know that I’m not the only person with these fears.

  • bergenia

    Your parents are jerks. Sorry, there’s no other way to put it. My father is a jerk, too, so I know it’s painful to accept that – I kept making excuses for him for years, kept wanting him to approve of me, hoped he would love me finally when I had a baby. None of it worked. I am much happier since I finally accepted that he will never love me or approve of me, and I feel lighter and free because I have given up longing for him to think highly of me and care for me. You have a career, a presumably happy marriage, and a lovely child. The fact that you have creepy Christian right wing fanatic parents who disapprove of you is unfortunate, but you can learn to accept it and let it (and them) go. Just learn to pity and tolerate them, and stop sharing your heart and hopes with them.

  • Mary

    You should consider yourself very lucky that your parents give your daughter the time of day. My mother and my MIL are to busy to visit my children and when they do, they talk to me, don’t even acknowledge my kids!

  • Amanda low

    Thank you everyone for the comments. I’m glad many of you can relate. I do love my parents and they did many things right…sometimes I think the only reason they were so critical of me was because they are so hard on themselves…a different topic for a different essay, but I just don’t want everyone thinking i’m trying to demonize them.

    • Andrea

      I can understand your feelings, but I think there difference is that they are grandparents not parents. They can truly, TRULY, enjoy your child. They don’t have to worry about molding her character, or paying for her education, or making sure she is taking the right enrichment classes, or making sure she eats right. They can just feel free to enjoy!

      You are their daughter. They had to raise. Teach you right from wrong. Give you food, shelter, clothing, education, etc. It’s much harder to do that!

    • Tinyfaeri

      I didn’t think you were trying to demonize them. :) I think this type of post can bring up a lot of things for a lot of people, and it’s very easy to read your own experiences into it.

  • Kaylie

    Right there with you. I haven’t lived a perfect life, but I’ve done more than most. And to be told by my own parents “You don’t deserve your healthy, intelligent, gifted little girl – you should have been given a special needs/Downs/wheelchair baby”… was crushing, to say the least. Whereas my daughter can do no wrong, I can do no right, in my parents’ eyes.

    • Lo

      That’s the worst and oddest parental comment I’ve heard in ages. If anyone were to hand out the kids, I’m pretty sure the *best* parents would get the children with special needs. What your parents said was a shitty insult in so many ways.

  • Lastango

    Just like no one ever gets over highschool, no one ever gets over conditional love.
    ===
    Perhaps your parents don’t think creating your daughter is the greatest thing you’ve ever done. Rather, it’s possible they think it’s the greatest thing THEY’VE ever done. Maybe that’s why you’re not getting any credit for the mothering you do. If that’s true, then — as you say — your daughter is their chance to be redeemed for their failure birthing and raising you.
    ===
    The best you can do may be to love them for who they are, smile gently, and allow your own mind to move on (as much as that’s every possible). You’ve grown, they haven’t.
    At least, they’ll be reliable babysitters. (As long as they don’t start driving wedges to make your daughter their own…)

  • CW

    Can we trade parents? My dad *STILL* gets on my case about when am I going to go to grad school and resume my paid career. Well, I may go back to school when my kids are older and more independent, but even if I never do, I’ve got 3 wonderful children. And yes, they truly are my legacy. Jobs come and jobs go (especially in this economy), but family is forever. Nobody on their deathbed ever said, “I wish that I had spent more time at the office.”

  • Mary Sue

    I can relate in a way. My parents are the opposite as far as how they feel about my accomplishments. They say I “had so much potential, but chose to have kids instead”. You can’t win with these types of people, and it’s really painful to feel like a disappointment. Im sorry you have to deal with it too.

  • Justme

    I hate baby worship on any level, whether it is your own child or a grandchild.

  • Sami

    This is heartbreaking. All I can say – as a total stranger, obviously – is that the problem is definitely them, not you. As my therapist is fond of saying, parents owe their children everything, children owe their parents nothing; all the love and support and adoration at their command should have been yours from birth, too. Yes, grandchildren are more fun, and grandparents can often be more indulgent of them, because they’re not responsible for them in the way they were their own children, but the grandchild shouldn’t be more important to them.

    In an odd way, though, I think it’s something you might want to be careful about. If it’s a worsening problem, and they do start to make you feel resentful of your daughter, I think you might need to tell them to raise their game or lose grandchild access. Among the things you don’t owe them would be “a chance to alienate you from your own child”. Your daughter needs your love, whole and unsoured, more than she needs them in any way at all.

    Obviously, the baby is shiny and new, whereas you are not, and milestones stand out more in a new life, but they really shouldn’t leave you feeling like they love her more than they ever loved you, or anything like that.

  • jsterling93

    I have 2 master’s degrees and a career where I help people daily. My career is flying high and i have even received national attention in my field for the work I do. And yet my mother was more excited abut my wedding and recently announced pregnancy than she ever was about a graduation or award. It stings to think than in her eyes all my hard work wasn’t worthwhile and I should have just been popping out babies.

  • MamaJ

    Wow! Lots of vitriol on here! Seriously has touched a nerve wih many, I see.

    My comment is that it can be painful, so painful to be reminded of unmet childhood needs (and I count parental love and adoration as one) when we see others getting what we long for. I feel for you. My mother HATED the love and attention I got as a child from my father, my grandparents, anyone. She cut them out of my life because of it, to the extent that she could, and told me often about their “mistreatment” of her. I grew up saddled with guilt that I had taken away love that my mother should have had, and believing that I, in turn, did not deserve to be loved.

    You deserved to be doted on, loved unconditionally and completely adored as a child. It is a crucial time when we are forming our view of ourselves and our self worth. You deserve to be angry and hurt for that. But now it’s your daughter’s turn. Please don’t make her pay for what you didn’t receive as a child. Your relationship with your parents and their relationship with your daughter can be separate things. Who knows, maybe they assume that your daughter is your greatest accomplishment because you are theirs…

  • EK

    I think you guys are all overthinking this. Grandparents are crazy about their grandkids because they’re FUN. It’s like being presented with the world’s greatest toy. They can spoil them, pet them. play with them. They don’t have to take care of them. Kids are primarily WORK, not fun.

    I don’t know anyone whose parents are dying to hear about their work. It’s not a criticism of you, it just doesn’t interest them. It doesn’t mean they aren’t proud of you or don’t brag about you to their friends.

    Instead of being jealous of their relationship you should celebrate it. My little son adores his grandparents, we spend a lot of time with them because we cherish that bond and what it means to him.

  • Library Girl

    I could have written this post. My parents and I used to be very close and now I cannot carry on a conversation with them at all. They just don’t listen. They only care about my toddler. And they think she will achieve great things (unlike me). They also spoil her to no end and give in to her every whim. When I try to discipline, they whip out candy and ice cream. It’s hard. I only see them once a week, but sometimes (for the health of our relationship), I wish I could make it once a month.

  • Exsugarbabe

    I hear you, I am everything my step mum hates in a person and she makes it painfully clear. I’m not much my dad likes either. Every parent has wishes for their children but when THEY grow up they should remember they made a little person separate from them, they might not be a carbon copy of them, but that’s fine. Be happy your daughter makes them happy, accept you don’t share each others values; be nice and use them as a babysitter so you can get on with you’re writing. You sound lovely, if you we’re my daughter I’d be proud. I thought Christians re supposed to forgive, could point this out to them