One of the things I hear a lot from people I work with is that they’re afraid to have children because their own parents were abusive – whether that abuse was psychological, emotional, physical, sexual, or a combination of all four – and my clients are concerned that they, too, will be abusive.
Sadly, I know many adult daughters of narcissistic mothers who deliberately chose not to have children so that they would not ‘pass on’ the abuse that they were subjected to. It’s a terrible shame, and a dreadful sorrow for them – not least because these women would have made wonderful mothers.
But here’s the thing – cycles can be broken. YOU can be the cycle-breaker in your family. YOU can be the one who choses not to pass on the pain of abuse to the next generation. It’s not easy, and you’ll make mistakes but – and this alone will set you apart from your abusive parent/s – you will apologise for your mistakes.
As the daughter of a narcissist, a psychopath (my parents were really two cheeks of the same arse, to be honest), and the sister of brothers who raped her for years, I managed to break the generations-long traumatic cycle of abuse within my own family. It’s not easy – and it may mean walking away from your toxic family members, or at the very least, putting strict boundaries in place but you’re worth it, and your kids are worth it, too.
First of all, please take comfort from the fact that you recognize and want to change the cycle of abuse within your own family. Your desire to do so is the first step. The second thing I want you to know is that doing the exact opposite of everything your own parents did isn’t really a solution – extremes are rarely healthy.
Thirdly, I’d suggest you talk to friends whose parenting styles you admire. Ask them to recommend books for you – or go to the library and check out a selection of books that recommend things that feel right when you read them. Not necessarily books that recommend things that make intellectual sense to you. And I say that because while both emotion and intellect are involved in it, parenting is more of a heart job than a brain job. I have a selection of books I can recommend, but I’m reluctant to suggest that how I parent will necessarily work for you. That said – please avoid the ‘What to expect…’ books because they are full of shit, and actually promote dangerous practices.
Finally – you know that old saw that you can’t love anyone unless you love yourself? Yeah, well it’s not true. I loved many people, and most especially my children, long before I loved myself. BUT I am a better mother, a happier mother, and a better role model for my kids since I learnt to love myself.
How I did that is something I’ll talk about tomorrow.