Parents blamed by adult children. Are parents’ ‘mistakes’ worthy of hate?

By Sheri McGregor

A father recently wrote to me about an article he’d seen at AARP. Here’s a link to it: Avoid Mistakes That Could Make Your Kids Hate You.” 

Are parents’ mistakes, worthy of hate

parents blamed by adult children

Parents’ mistakes? Let’s turn that around.

Thousands of parents blamed by adult children for all their problems write to me. Among those, many have been called upon in drastic situations. A son or daughter makes a mess of things repeatedly and needs money or other help. The parent may help … and then try to tell the adult something to the effect of, “Look, you’ve got to wise up. . . .” In other words, the parents give advice.

As time goes on, the parent may see the adult son or daughter not learning anything from their mistakes, maybe not even trying to learn. Parents can begin to feel used. They may tell the “child” that the Bank of Mom & Dad is closing. Parents have their own bills or may be living on a fixed income or have a nest egg that needs to last their remaining years. It is often at that point that the child cuts them off.

Which makes me think of the abuse that sometimes happens. Parents can be isolated.  A parent may not be physically well, is disabled, or perhaps a widow or widower. The isolation makes them vulnerable to a son or daughter who knows what buttons to push. I have heard from many parents who say that they put up with abuse, financial, verbal, or even physical, because their child is their only family left in the world.

Parents blamed by adult children 

I hear from people almost daily who say, “My grown daughter blames me for everything wrong in her life.” Or, “My adult son says I caused all of his problems.” These children are often in their 30s or 40s or beyond, and remember with detail every “wrong” the parent has ever done. Sometimes the memories are completely different than that of the parent or even siblings and other family members. And many times, the “wrongs” are miniscule.

Twice in the last week, mothers shared that their daughters say all their issues derive from the fact they weren’t breastfed. One of these two moms was a single parent. It was a different world back then. Working mothers were not provided with understanding and a place to pump breast milk (as is the norm now). The other mom was encouraged to bottle feed by her doctor, as were many mothers in the 1960s. Yes. I said 1960s. . . . The daughter doing the blaming is 54. Maybe it’s time she did a little self-reflection rather than blaming the mother who worked two jobs to care for her.

Parents blamed by adult children, recognize the good you did.

It’s wise to recognize our own mistakes as parents, but it’s also wise for adult “children” to consider a parent’s point of view. One of my sons recently traveled to a very cold climate. Before he left, I said, “Do you have a warm enough jacket?” He made a funny face, and then we both laughed like crazy! It was funny, and I added, “I guess you’re old enough to figure that one out.” It’s a mom thing, but is it reason to abandon me. No. How about hate me? No. And he knows that (thank goodness).

The father who wrote to me about the AARP article said that one of the reasons he was successful in his overall life was that he had learned to recognize problems quickly and work to fix them before they were upon him.  When he sees his young adult daughter ignoring problems until she’s forced to deal with them, it causes him stress. His words, “The anxiety kills me.” So, he tries to offer her advice. She resents that advice. But is that reason to hate him or cut him off?

How about a rule?

The article mentions a parent forwarding emails, and not understanding that the son or daughter is already inundated. I know that feeling. A much older relative often sent me a batch of forwards daily. This individual wasn’t computer savvy, didn’t type well, and worried about his privacy on the internet, so I never received a regular note. Was it a reason to hate? No.

No, no, no. It was an opportunity for me to be understanding. And creative.

Perhaps an adult son or daughter can create a “rule” in their email account. That way all the forwarded emails go to a certain box, don’t clog the general folder, and everyone is happy. A considerate son or daughter who recognizes their parents’ motivation to communicate and stay in touch (which is what is behind the forwarded emails) might do well to check the special folder now and again and make a comment in reply. What does it hurt to let parents know they’re appreciated for their good intentions? Beats hating.

Okay to hate?

This is getting long, so let me close with what I see as the main problem with the article this father shared:  It covertly makes the point that it is okay to hate your parents. From the title (“Avoid Mistakes That Could Make Your Kids Hate You”) on, the warning is that if parents make these mistakes, their children will hate them. HATE them. I see far too much of this in our society these days. Kind, caring parents who aren’t all that horrible yet are considered “toxic,” and worthy of hate.

Lift the veil. See the good you did.

To the father who wrote to me, I want to offer my empathy. When one of my five grown children became estranged, I mined every memory with a fine-toothed comb, wondering what I did wrong. Parents are very good at taking on the perspective of their adult child(ren), which has been demonstrated in research related to estrangement. The same research, however, shows that the children who reject parents are not.

In time, I hope all of the caring parents who are nevertheless rejected by adult children will not only see their own mistakes and even magnify them, but also recognize all the good they did.

When you can look past the veil of estrangement that clouds your memories and steers you toward any mistakes, you might even realize that the good you did as a parent far outweighs the bad. There’s an exercise in Done With The Crying that can help.

Hugs to all the hurting parents,
Sheri McGregor

Related reading:

Abusive adult children affect parents’ self-image

Beyond the shadow of estrangement

Freedom for a new era (parents rejected by adult children)

Estranged adult children: Why do they make contact now?

Mother yourself

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42 thoughts on “Parents blamed by adult children. Are parents’ ‘mistakes’ worthy of hate?

  1. Fkyred

    My daughter is 46 years old and blames everything on me for not being home, for being poor, for things that happened when I was working and she was with babysitters. I grew up in an abusive house with an alcoholic father who would meet us at the front door if we were fifteen minutes late. He would beat us with a belt until we dropped, then kicked us until my mother finally had the nerve to get him to stop.

    I had her when I was seventeen after my brother’s wife’s brother would come over and befriend me after they left me to babysit their kids. One night he brought some whiskey. It seemed to make my world brighter. We laughed and he was nice. He brought it the next time I babysit and although I don’t remember much, I knew when I woke up that I was no longer a virgin. And she was born nine months later.

    So I did not have great role models and I was not the greatest of parents when she and her brother were younger. She is very intelligent but by the time she was three, I could barely handle her outburst and tantrums. So I guess I did stay away a lot, I had a brief two-year marriage, I had her brother, and was divorced at 20 years old.

    There were times I worked two jobs, so I was not there and I tried to go to college when they were young, but it was all too much.

    Every time I would get her therapy she never liked what they told her so he would not go anymore. She was diagnosed as agoraphobic and depressed. She is still living with me and a wonderful man I met when I went back to college. But she wants very much to tell me what I can and cannot do in my home. I am 64 and I think I have paid enough for my own sins. She blurts out about how I don’t know what she went through when I wasn’t there, but she won’t tell me. She makes hints about the boys in the neighborhood and the thing they made her do in the basement. Obviously, the babysitters were not watching my children because they were young and working for crap pay.

    I got her to go to college, but then I remarried and she hated him, so she quit college and went back into hiding. Every time she would make a step forward it now seems as if she found a reason to take a step backward again. When my current husband and I both graduated college in our thirties we got married and he was fine with her staying with us.

    I have just let things be, giving into her, and kept things calm. I have asked her to care for my dogs a few times, but she decided she did not want to do that anymore. She will care for my two parrots because, let’s face it, they are in a cage and she just has to throw in seed and water in order for them to survive. We asked her to load and unload the dishwasher every day. She does it maybe three times a week, She is supposed to keep the downstairs toilet clean. Nope. That’s all she does. the rest of the time she watches TV in her room and cruises the web. She does not work, she does not leave the house, and I have been through so many rounds of screaming, crying, begging me to not make her get help, and the list goes on.

    Even if it was my fault, I am over it all, and I want her out. I want her to move on and take care of herself and let me live in peace for whatever years I have left. I could have done better and I have spent my life feeding her, protecting her, trying to get her help, listening to her tell me what to do in my own home all these years. I have RA and several other medical problems and I keep strong in all things except her. I feel guilty, I am guilty, but I really do think I have done my time, above and beyond in many cases.

    What the hell can I do?

    1. Jan K

      Honestly, at 46 your daughter should not still be living under your roof. I had a traumatic upbringing but I left home in my late teens and made a life for myself and I certainly never mentioned or complained to my parents about their poor parenting skills. Yes, you have indeed done your time. It is not for her to continue this punishment of you forever and I’m sure you did your best and even if you were to apologise over and over for every little infraction she would still blame you for everything wrong in her life. I have a son who likes to tell my husband and I what to do in our own home but fortunately he doesn’t live with us and nor would we let him. There is nothing so demeaning as having your adult child feeling it is ok to critique everything you do or say whilst being less than perfect themselves! It will be hard to ask her to leave but it’s either that or spend the rest of your old age living in misery.

  2. Corinne

    I have been dealing with an estranged daughter for almost 4 years. She had a pattern of this throughout her childhood of estranging herself from friends and blaming them for it. Now it’s move on to her family. My husband and I first. She tried to get her brother on board and he wanted nothing to do with her after a year of trying to build a relationship back with her. She insulted his wife. She has a history of anxiety and depression. She has been in counseling since she was 15. We were involved in some of her counseling throughout the years, but felt like she didn’t want us there. That it wasn’t fitting the narrative she had told the counselor about us. I go on the try, not try rollercoaster. And I think I want to be done with all this. I really don’t see it getting any better. We’ve made attempts without any reply and at 63, I don’t think I can go on like this anymore. I read all the heartache people in these blogs are willing to do to have a relationship and it breaks my heart. We become prisoners of what we thought our lives should look like and what will never be. We gave them what we could and tried our best. For me, I don’t want the walking on eggshells life. May everyone here find peace and some joy!

  3. Sandra

    I have 2 adult children, a 44 year old daughter and a 42 year old son. I have a relatively good relationship with my son. My daughter has severed all ties with me recently and won’t let me talk to my 7 year old granddaughter. I was in an abusive marriage for 47 years.My husband died suddenly of a massive heart 18 months ago. He had a very close relationship with our daughter. I’ve had OCD, anxiety, and depression since 1988, when my mother passed away. Most of my obsessive thoughts were about my daughter. I thought she was switched at birth, for example. She was 14 at the time. I went for therapy. I thought I kept it from her, but she knew. We were very close till she graduated from college. I was obsessed with her health. She gained a lot of weight and started growing hair in places she shouldn’t. She had PCOS. She and I started communicating less when she was in her thirties. She moved to Florida and spoke and texted with her father every day.She got married., but couldn’t conceive. I offered to pay for fertility treatments. She got angry. Colon cancer runs in my family . My doctor said my children should get colonoscopies at 35. My son did. She did too after her father said to. Everything I said to help was met with anger. She did get pregnant and only wanted to see her father in the labor room. I was able to hold the baby. My daughter married a lazy slob. He has 4 cats who vomit, have diarrhea, and poop all over the house. She does everything-the cleaning, the shopping, the laundry. She works from home and takes care of her now 7 year old daughter. When her dad died, I discovered awful things on the computer, a lot of adult pornography, videos of him having cyber sex with women, inappropriate texts to a woman who is even friends with my daughter on FaceBook. I said nothing to her. Slowly our relationship started getting better. She was communicating with me and letting me FaceTime with my granddaughter. We even went on a cruise and had a great time. In the airport on the way home, I wrote a text to my friend about my lazy lump of a son in law and the deplorable and unsanitary conditions in her house. I accidentally sent the text to my daughter!!! She called me at the airport and was livid. She called me a liar and a gossip and she and my granddaughter will never communicate with me again. She said her husband has always hated me and now she does too. I sent her many texts apologizing and taking full blame and begging for forgiveness. She won’t answer the phone. I may be blocked. I’m in a very dark place now. My therapist said to give it some more time and not to contact her anymore. I don’t know how to move forward.

  4. Mary M.

    That is exactly my story with my son! He would start arguments or tell lies and if I did not stand up for my self and went ok. But 4 years ago I started saying WHOA! That isn’t true and started refusing any more abuse and my son now has walked away and taken his 2 sons with him. Yes, everything he accuses me of are things he is doing to me – not the other way around.
    Stay strong!

  5. J

    Hi. I’m having some trouble with my 19 year old daughter. She is the middle of three girls, who are all close in age. My oldest daughter and my middle both have learning disabilities, so school has not been easy for her, although in all fairness, she puts very little effort into her school work. Anyway, from a young age, she has not always been easy to get along with. Everything was unfair and she would come and tell on other kids when she didn’t get her own way, expecting parents/adults to solve these kid issues, such as taking turns, sharing, etc. She had few friends because she tends to get into arguments with them over everything and anything. She becomes belligerent and rude, and demands apologies where none really need to be given. So her friends basically stop hanging out with her. Currently, I’m the shit in her life. She has been seeing a therapist since she was 16 because of her depression . She refuses to take her medication for it, even though she clearly needs it. She smokes a lot of pot, which I feel makes her anxiety worse. I sometimes feel though, that these therapists/social workers are allowing her to blame me rather than assisting her in coping with any issues. I was speaking to her social worker and she asked me how D was doing. And I said I was concerned because she was smoking a lot of pot lately and it seems she doesn’t sleep well when she does. Then she’s moody and irritable with anyone around her, friends included. The social worker’s response ‘Well, let’s just keep things positive okay. We don’t want to be talking negative around her’. I was annoyed because I don’t think avoidance is the answer either. I don’t believe she’s always being honest with the social worker either because she wanted me to call this hotline for suicide, after talking with my daughter, telling her that her family MUST help her, like we’ve been neglecting her. So, I call worried, and then when she came home after work, I asked her what that was all about and my daughter says ‘I told her not to worry, but she insisted on talking to you or someone else in the house’. She is not a realist, but heaven forbid you try and explain anything to her and she not like it. For example, I tried to explain to her that applying to a certain college campus would be better because there was not a lot of competition at that campus versus another campus at the same college. Her grades are not good, so her chances of getting accepted there are fairly slim. As soon as I try to explain any of this, she flies off the handle and gets pissed off at me, saying if I would have helped her more she would have done better, etc. She does have a learning disability, but an effort will still be required! I don’t help her enough…I also have a full time job, do the housework myself, lawn work myself, cook myself, shop for groceries, presents, decorate and everything else that I do, such as coaching. I’m trying my best and I guess that’s what pisses me off. I have offered to proofread stuff that she’s written, but I’m drawing the line at doing it for her! She does have a job, but works maybe 8-16 hours a week. A few weeks back, she was joking around about how having Covid would be nice because then she wouldn’t have to go to work. She was in a good mood. The next day, she came into the kitchen, asking about taking a Covid test. I jokingly said ‘Still hoping you don’t have to go to work?’ And she ripped my head off. Called me a stupid f’n c**t. That’s not why. I’m probably really sick and you don’t even f’n care. My husband stands there and says nothing to her. I’m so done, I really am. Tonight, I told her that I have a PD day on Friday to work on report cards, so I’m going to work on them and hopefully get my house clean. She is like ‘Good! You can help me with my school work’. So I say okay, but I still need to get my stuff done and she freaked out on me…’You never want to help me! That’s why I don’t do well in school. You’d think a mother would want to help her kids, that’s your job. You’re such a selfish bitch…’. I just cannot do this anymore. I’m fed up. Every time she raises her voice, I get anxious because I don’t want to fight with her. She will get into arguments with her younger sister and pull her hair or hit her because she always has to have the last word. You cannot have a discussion with her because it turns into a defensive argument and her voice just gets louder and louder and she just yells over top of you. I have been very understanding and forgiving, but I’m getting to my own breaking point, This child has had every opportunity; played sports, horse back riding, clubs. I wouldn’t say she’s spoiled, but she’s never gone without anything. Always had clothing, food, and lots and lots of love. She also vapes and asks me to stop and pick the cartridges up for her, I’ve told her no, I’m not doing that anymore. Then, I’m a bi**h and a c**t. Sometimes, we get along great and we do things together often, when she’s in a good mood. But one word can turn that day into a nightmare. She is 19 and I don’t know what to do.

  6. Cora

    All people process things differently, and everyone has a right to their own opinion. Yeah, it hurts when adult children avoid their parents, but if that’s the way they feel, it’s probably best they stay away. If not’s as if the adult children were perfect from the time they were born and did everything in their power to be a perfect individual. Some things must have been horrendous for them, but how did anyone know it was going to turn out the way it turned out? It can hurt, but be reasonable here. My children and grandchildren didn’t develop hate for me until I stopped taking care of their kids (gratis) while they worked. I wonder, why, if I was entrusted with their children for so long, did it take so long to dislike me? I didn’t care for my own mother so much; however, as she aged and needed me, I was there for her just as sure as she would have been there for me. Most (if any) parents are perfect. I’m sorry you don’t like me, and that has to be the way I feel. I am near the end of my natural life and I am not going to allow myself to be guilt-ridden about something others see me as doing which I don’t see.

  7. Marlene

    OMG, I came across these emails and have not stopped crying.

    I have the same situation with my 44 year old son not with my 39 year old who came from the same household.

    He tells me things that I know are not true and I listen and cry. I am retired ,moved to a nice retirement community and want to be happy the remainder of my life.

    After reading these messages above from parents like me today is the day to live!!!!

    Thank you, thank you and may God Bless All of us caring parents.

  8. Ruth B.

    I’ve been estranged from my adult daughter for around 9 months now but I’m finding it difficult to find support/advice that reflects our situation. Everything seems to be either the adult child is unreasonable/abusive/unbending etc to an essentially good mother, or the mother is evil/narcissistic/abusive to an essentially good daughter. My situation is this: I recognise that my parenting wasn’t all bad but nonetheless, it was pretty poor (eg. I went in and out of various relationships which I probably did prioritise, and I ended up addicted to drugs when she was a teenager, so although I always kept the practical things together, you can imagine I wasn’t very ‘present’). BUT I don’t think I’m an especially bad person/mother (in part, and not as an excuse, I was dealing with my own difficult childhood expereinces – or not dealing is maybe more accurate at that time). My daughter became quite verbally abusive and bullying in the lead up to our estrangement and, yes, she was out of order and should have taken at least some responsibility for herself at 30 years old, but she’s also not a bad woman and I believe she was in her own pain and trying to deal with her past. So where do you go if actually you were a pretty poor mum, you did make a lot of mistakes, but acknowledging these and apologising hasn’t revented an estrangement? Any suggestions gratefully received.

    1. rparents Post author

      Dear Ruth,
      I don’t think my work is about all “children” being bad, and both of my books have instances of several levels of behavior. The latest one, in fact, BEYOND Done, has an entire chapter for parents who did make mistakes they feel are “bigger” or “worse” and how to deal with that situation. The apologizing and acknowledging may not prevent or end the estrangement, but you can DEAL with and learn to grow during it and for yourself. As a result, you’ll be stronger and better equipped should reconciliation take place.

      HUGS to you,
      Sheri McGregor

    2. Liz

      This is up to your daughter. My dad was very difficult and turned himself around starting at age 60. I was the only child who accepted him, the other two mostly cut him off and missed out. I am so sorry, changing must have been hard and I admire your resolve.

  9. Mary

    I’m in the same boat. Our son, aged 27, met his girlfriend in high school who started to negatively influence his behavior. She has severe relationship issues with her own mother (I’ve met the mother many times while they were in high school, and could never have a normal conversation with her, without her making snide comments and insults directed at me for no reason. To further complicate things, the mother would also give me gifts, which I found to be confusing, given the reality of her negative interactions with me. After a while, it appeared to me that the mother was probably a “toxic narcissist” type, so I avoided her as much possible.)

    Anyway, this girlfriend became a fixture in our household, as her relationship with her mother started to deteriorate in college. (My son and his girlfriend both attended a local college at that time, so she was at our home a lot.) Coming from an abusive home myself, which I left at 18, I actually felt sorry for her because she seemed very withdrawn, emotionally anxious or depressed most times. While she seemed to respond better to my husband socially, for some reason she never looked me in the eyes, barely spoke to me, and was always hypersensitive to anything I said, which would get back to my son. This led to unspoken triangulations between the three of us, with no way to defend myself from the unwarranted character assassinations. I should mention here that my husband and I are “what-you-see-is-what-you-get” kind of people. We don’t enjoy people who play psychological games, or use other toxic methods to communicate, and that was what I realized was starting to happen, and it seemed to be directed only at me!

    After a while of this, I finally had to sit both my son and his girlfriend down to explain to them that I was there to encourage and emotionally support them, but I was not interested in playing games, or harming anyone. At this, the girlfriend began sobbing and began heaving uncontrollably and buried her head in my son’s shoulder, effectively ending any attempt to discuss the issue. This same behavior played out with the girlfriend until one day, (they were both around 23) they were in my son’s room, with me alone and reading in the living room, and the girlfriend began moaning loudly (sexually) on purpose. Another incident involved a rug craft project that I was working on, where I found the strips of fabric taken from my craft area and tied to my son’s bed. (the girlfriend had taken the fabric to use in their sex play.) I finally had enough of this toxic, passive aggressive behavior, and kicked her out., and didn’t see her for over a year.

    After a year, my husband and I decided to give her a second chance, knowing that her home environment was probably toxic, and that maybe she had “matured”, and “learned” something. She was thrilled to see us again, but we were still a bit cautious. At that point, the girlfriend had moved into a dorm, so my son was mainly at her dorm, and our issues with her disappeared for a time, although they both tried to involve me in triangulations. I kept my distance and remained polite, but wary.

    Fast forward to March of 2020, and my son (still in the local college) wants to live with this same girlfriend in another state who is getting her master’s degree. Frankly, at that point, we were more than happy to see him go off to be with her, since his classes were changed to online classes, and he could live anywhere to complete his degree. My husband had just retired and we looked forward to the time that we could spend together alone. We paid for my sons rent, with the stipulation that it would stop after he graduated. All through the pandemic, my son and I got along great. He would call every week and we would talk about his new apartment, current events etc. and his girlfriend had also started to come around. Once night when I was talking with my son on the phone, his girlfriend started to have a major anxiety attack and insisted on speaking with me. That was very first time that she had ever done that after 8 years, and she began to confide in me about her serious problems with her mother. (it turns out that years ago, I was accurate in my assessment of her mother’s psychological issues).

    Anyway, I asked the girlfriend if she would like some coping strategies, and she readily agreed to it, and I sent her some strategies to deal with similar personalities like her mother, without diagnosing, laying blame on anyone, or even mentioning her mother in particular. I figured that the information would be generally helpful in her life, as she would be certain to meet people like this in the future. She was grateful and sent me a kind note to thank me for caring about her. So, everything was going well between my husband and I and my son and his girlfriend, up until a few weeks ago.

    With everyone vaccinated, they had decided to drive over to see us for my son’s birthday. I made his favorite cake, we had his favorite sushi dinner and my husband went out and bought a special sushi boat for the occasion. After being holed up, like everyone else, during the pandemic, we were overjoyed to see our son again. But the joy didn’t last very long. His girlfriend seemed very happy to see us, and even gave me a gift of candy that she knew I liked, and I thanked her and hugged her. But then her attitude began to change. She refused a gift that my husband had gotten for them, and seemed dismissive and peeved about.

    Then the toxic triangulation with them started happening all over again, specifically targeted at me. During a conversation alone with my son, I noticed that he was trying to elicit feelings of guilt in me, or otherwise getting me to say negative things about his girlfriend. I didn’t take the bait and remained positive in our conversation. Meanwhile, the girlfriend would flit in and out, visiting her family here, and showing up to see my son at our house. My son continued with his attempted emotional manipulations of me, but was unsuccessful. Out of the blue, he did mention to me, that his girlfriend sometimes “sees things in me”, that are really issues that his girlfriend has attributed to HER mother, but in no way did I do, or say anything that was toxic, manipulative, or could be misconstrued. I felt like I was walking on eggs.

    After about 5 days, I tried to have a conversation with my son about his job search efforts (he had graduated from college in 12/2020, so we had been supporting him through 8/20.) but he kept deliberately blocking my questions by evading, distracting me, changing the subject, etc., so I never got to have the conversation with him. Later my husband entered the room, and got the same treatment when he tried to discuss the same subject, but my husband became frustrated and angry. He didn’t yell, but my son erupted and began screaming loudly. My husband and I just looked at each other, as if to say “what’s going on here?”

    Nothing was resolved, and then my son called his girlfriend (she was at her brothers house with the car), and she came over to pick him up. The next morning, they came to our house and silently packed up their things. I had a moment to talk with her alone, telling her that we were simply trying to ask him about what his plans were, and she immediately shut me down, telling me that the “baby-boomers had it easy, while I didn’t understand how hard it is for the millennials.” I left home two weeks after graduating from high school, found an apartment with roommates, and worked a series of crummy jobs, so I’ve never “had it easy”. Anyway, her personality changed completely and she suddenly became defensive and very cold to us. She dramatically took my son’s arm and began leading him away, as if we were some kind of “monsters”. I began crying because at that point I realized that they were just going to walk out the door like that, and she was just fine with it, even though she wasn’t even there for the failed discussion with our son. As she approached the door, she very cruelly turned around and looked specifically at me while saying a flat and final “goodbye”. I still don’t understand their deliberate cruelty in that moment.

    My husband and I were totally stunned by all of this. Since my husband has always looked after the finances, he immediately stopped the financial support to my son that day. He told my son that it was “time for him to take responsibility”, and it was also time for him and his girlfriend to stop manipulating me in particular. Since my husband was at work when they would try to manipulate me, this was the first time he witnessed it for himself. He even mentioned later that any woman who could be so cold like that for no real reason, would probably use our grandchildren against us, by denying contact, and I’m afraid that he is right.

    We have heard very little from my son, and nothing from his girlfriend, just curt texts here and there. After a week of grieving, my husband and I realized how much we value and enjoy having the house to ourselves, and don’t miss any of their drama. We are still hurt that we have given so much to them over the years, both emotionally and financially, but it was taken for granted, and never appreciated. We know that we were good parents and decent human beings to them, but there is no longer anything that we can actually do for our son. He has adopted many of his girlfriend’s emotional and psychological tactics and we have acknowledged that this is the life, and the person, that HE has chosen, not us. And so, forgive me if I have rambled on, but we have made the decision that we are going to live our lives as a couple now, alone, and continue our happiness together. And we’ve worked hard for it. We will not allow our son to move back in with us, even if he breaks up with his girlfriend. We’ve done enough, and we’ve had enough. We have no debt, and no obligations to anyone but ourselves now, and we’ve made the decision to enjoy ourselves free from toxicity. And if you recognize your situation in this, that’s what we recommend that you do too. Thank you for listening, and may you find peace and joy in the future. It’s your life, and only you can live it.

    1. Jules

      Hi Mary I read your post out of sheer desperation as I am going through a very similar situation with my son without girlfriend.

      It’s very hard to come to the realisation that no matter what you do and how much help you give its never good enough.

      I’m glad I read your last paragraph, you have given me the push I needed to do the same. It’s been on my mind but felt guilty in putting it into play. You are so right. It’s my life and only I can live it. Thankyou so much.

    2. Unexpected Detour

      Mary, One of my favorite quotes I like…”I choose detachment as a path to freedom.” Detaching from our ES was the hardest and best thing we ever did. Peace to all us parents and to Sheri.

  10. Melody

    Mike, thanks for sharing the penguin story. As much as this makes me sound like a female dog, I would turn away in a hot moment if I financially could. I’m going to find that National Geographic penguin segment. I need some hope for today.

    1. Barbara M.

      How I needed to read this today…I’ve been put through it by my son’s last 5-6 years and I’m sick and live alone and just feel like death is the only relief there will be! Seeing an oncologist for goodness sakes! I had the boys and then their dad decided he didn’t want that life …drinking and friends is what he wanted. I put myself through nursing school and stayed single raising them for 15 years! Every sport I managed or coached, worked, took extra classes for parenting!! They both told me at 21 they wished they could repeat childhood over! We had a wonderful life and times and now it’s like they’re aliens! Thank you! I wish to God there was a support group I could join…I’m going down fast and I’m only 58

  11. Edward P.

    It is comforting to know I am not alone. My son always continues repeating mistakes until the consequences become too severe. Then for some reason it’s my fault because I didn’t teach him. (He just never listened). He is 43 now and won’t talk with me. His memories are of things that did not happen or happen that way. He doesn’t remember big event in his life. He is musical so for summer, three yeas in a row I sent him to band camp for two weeks. He loved it but now doesn’t remember it happening, yet remembers and hates me because I bought a dog for my wife. It is really crazy and makes no sense. My wife asked me what I wanted to do for Father’s Day and I almost cried. I have been working with therapist to try to end this fighting but when he talks with the therapist he says they take my side because I pay them. I which for him to get help, but he refuses. I do feel so alone with this, my wife is wonderful about it but I would just love to be a family again but realize it will not be possible. Sorry for the rant.

    1. Liz

      don’t feel sorry for the rant. It’s great that you are on this site and are expressing yourself and your grief. If you read many of these stories you will know that you are not alone. I just found this site. It is November 2022. I’m recently estranged from my adult children because they blame me for everything, and misconstrue things as well. I did the best I could as a mother in an abusive relationship for 20 years. I did everything for my girls and they didn’t go without yet they focus on the negative things and not the many positive. I have been there for them and have helped them over and over again but it’s never enough and goes unappreciated. It seems that the generation that are now ages 30’s through 40’s have a sense of entitlement. Social media hasn’t helped the situation with our children. And the world has changed for the worse it seems. In the 50s and 60s it was a different world where kids got less and appreciated what they did get and respected their parents. The innocence of the 50s and 60s has been long gone and I think a lot of it has to do with technology development regarding social media, and a society focused on consumerism and greed.

  12. Gail

    One of our local shopping centers currently has a display of little pennants on one wall. When I went closer to read what was written on some of them, I realized it was a Mother’s Day feature. Children had been asked to finish the sentence “I love my Mum because…” There was such an outpouring of love and appreciation (often misspelt), sometimes with crude drawings of the Mum. I paused to read quite a number of them and as I did, I was surprised to find that it was affirming, not depressing me.

    Why? Because it helped me to remember some of the good I had done as a mother of young children. My daughter, now mostly estranged, could have written any number of those tributes and meant it at the time.

    i hope everyone visiting this website will be able to recall, without too much angst, the loving Mother’s Day cards they once received.
    Hopefully you will also be able, as Sheri so wisely advises, to
    “Lift the veil” . & “See the good you did.”

  13. margaret b.

    thank you for these people writing these letters. I need to try and walk away from 26 years of verbal abuse.
    In the past, I would just apologize and turn the other cheek ,just to keep the peace. I would apologize for things that knowingly were not my fault. I was brought up that way and my Mother would always suggest to just take the blame because it’s not worth it to keep fighting. My Mother passed away a year ago and I stopped apologizing …” to just keep the peace “. My daughter continues to blame me for everything in her life that has failed her. I continue to defend myself and tell her it is NOT my fault. I know I need to let it go and walk away, but its a horribly lonely feeling. How on earth do you do this and have the courage to stay strong ?

    1. Terrie L.

      well I have put up with lies and manipulation from one of my kids to the point I’m done. You are responsible for how other people, including your grown children, treat you. You deserve to be happy and surround yourself with positive people who lift you up instead of putting you down. You will reach a point where you have had enough. It’s taken me 10 years, but I’ve had enough. My youngest wrote me out of his life because I used the word change instead of transition during a conversation and he turned nasty stating he was not taking my shit. Well I’ve made the decision I’m not taking his any longer. He is starting to show signs of re-instating contact and I will not be replying, I’d rather be alone then continue to take his lies manipulation and overall abuse.

  14. Chrissy

    I have blamed myself for so long, I left her (cheating, lying father) that walked out leaving me with £50k worth of debt!! I found out years later after applying for a credit card I had a CCJ against me!!! I had to go to court to pay back something I never knew I had. I married young because I was in love and thought that’s me and my family security forever. He cheated and stayed out most nights. After my daughter was born he didn’t even stay with me at the hospital because he had to ‘wet the babies head’ that lasted for a week. Guess I should have known then. He worked away for 2 years so I was a part-time working mum but also ensured she got to do everything I couldn’t. (My family didn’t have much money) I was so proud of her dancing, ballet, tap, drama, Brownies, singing, karate, swimming, gymnastics you name it I took her there. When her dad walked out I had no choice but to work full time. So she went to breakfast club/after school and holiday clubs (which were not cheap) but the work kept us afloat and I even managed to save her a lump sum for when she turned 18. When she was 7 I met someone who I thought was a good person. We bought a home together, he was made redundant so I worked longer hours and when I found out I was pregnant well I made sure not to go without. The day my son was born my partner was offered a job in London. Obviously he accepted but this changed him. Not having the financial security when my daughter was born but being assured of it now I was confident and trusting that we would be okay. So after MAT leave it was suggested I take a year out to spend with my new baby son. Something I couldn’t do with my daughter. It was okay for a while but at some point he became grumpy, controlling, self absorbed and very short tempered. My daughter got the brunt end of this. Being now 11 years she was challenging her boundaries. It caused a rift in our relationship which eventually led to me leaving our family home, with two children and zero savings. I know my daughter was never happy my being with him and moving into somewhere else just us, me, my daughter and son would be happy times. Now here’s the question we all as parents ask… where did I go wrong??’ Shortly after moving she became angry, resentful and rude to people. She went through a stage of smoking marijuana so much she was either asleep or throwing up. She is now at college and doesn’t seem to have any friends, can’t seem to hold a relationship and has nothing but aggression towards everyone. My main worry is my 6 year old son. She constantly picks at him, shouts at him and calls him names (she is 18) she says nasty things about his dad and says it’s not his home and he should live with his dad. She tells him he’s a brat and she hates kids and he isn’t her brother because his dad isn’t hers and if I step in she tells me to F¥@ck off and I am a weak
    Mother who should discipline her spoilt child oh and I need to get a proper job because apparently my current one makes her feel insecure. (I am a weight control consultant) i own my own business which was ideal to work around school/college meetings, appointments, drop offs etc…. also pays okay. Apparently my job makes her paranoid about her weight. Before anyone asks why please know, my children have always eaten good home cooked food, yeah we obviously had takeaways, McDonald’s etc but this was more a treat than a regular occurrence. So I was to blame for her putting on a little weight, not getting the big parts in plays even though she took drama lessons. It was fault she was reprimanded at holiday club for calling someone names, it was my fault we moved and so couldn’t make friends, I was to blame for allowing my ex to be mean to her even though I didn’t know but when I did I left, it’s my fault she had to leave her bedroom with en-suite into a smaller house she hates, it’s my fault her and her boyfriend didn’t work out because we moved, it’s my fault I didn’t get her doing driving lessons when she was 17 yrs even though we’re in lockdown and no lessons are taking place. It’s my fault she hasn’t got a job even though ( I wrote her CV and sent it to everywhere locally, even people I knew who were more than happy to help) I got her 3 jobs, she was sacked from all 3. She won’t go to an interview if it’s a bus ride away and next year when I am finally able to buy my own home it’s on her terms and can’t be to far away from public transportation. Woah I guess I’ve talked a lot and if you’re not asleep by now then thank you for reading this. With everything I’m worried my sons personality will be damaged and that he will become just as angry and disrespectful like his sister. It’s what he’s seeing and he has on several occasions pushed the boundaries. But he’s 6 yrs. anyway, feel like jumping on a plane and never coming back

    1. Terrie L.

      same situation here, left an abusive and over controlling spouse who did parental alienation tactics and played our kids against each other and the kids against me, only one of the four has remained neutral and stood by me. One refers to me by first name and has not bothered with me for years, the youngest pulls me back and forth. Our kids blame me for everything and even though their father still is abusive they put up with his antics and treat me totally disrespectful and nasty. Well my kids are all grown and in their 20’s and I am not longer willing to accept the blame they keep using as a bashing tool or the disrespect they continue to shove at me. One told me she doesn’t like me since I left her father, she preferred me when I was in an unhappy marriage being mentally beaten down. She doesn’t like the independent happy me which is questionable in itself.

  15. JAB

    So glad I’m not alone. I am a divorced Mother of two adult children. My son, the elder, is thriving. He has a great job and is planning a wedding with his lovely fiancée. My younger child, a daughter, is not doing so well. She is 28, has always lived with me. She has had anxiety and depression since a teenager and refuses to see therapists because she says they make her feel worse. She hasn’t been able to keep a job recently because of her stress. She has wailed over the phone “I want to die!” while seated in her car after finishing a shift. She is a good employee when she works because she works hard. She leaves the jobs respectfully. However at home it’s a nightmare. She blames me for all her problems because of a sh*t childhood and the divorce from her Father when she was 11. Her childhood wasn’t perfect but far from bad. The split was amicable and he has maintained a good relationship with her. I have bailed her out financially with bills and she hasn’t paid me rent in 4 years. Her partner just arrived 3 years ago and moved in without asking. He works full time. He has never paid me rent. My dining area is overrun with plants. She keeps buying them because she says they help. She will have screaming/wailing fits and hysterical sobbing if the slightest thing goes wrong or for no apparent reason at all. I’m on tenderhooks every time I hear a raised voice. Recently she has called me the ‘c’ word and says I upset her because of my ‘tone’. I tell her I’m worried about her and wish she realised how sick she is. She says she knows but refuses to do anything about it and expects everyone else just to put up with her behaviour. Her partner tries to help her but he gets frustrated too. I’m surprised he’s still here. I have asked them to move out but I think he will go and leave her here. I don’t know what to do.

    1. Allison

      I can’t imagine the worry and frustration you must feel daily. I wish your daughter would get the help she needs. That is no way to live and thrive. I’ve been on my own since the age of 17 and never had any help. I raised my two daughters with no child support as a single parent. I’m having similar problems with my 20 year old daughter who recently moved back in after I made her move out last June for her disrespectful attitude towards me as well as my fiance. She has a huge chip on her shoulder and blames me for her lack of motivation and for the fact that she still doesn’t have a driver’s license. She expects me to drive her to work and continues to disrespect me. I have recently decided to stop bending over backwards for her constant disrespect and ungratefulness. We’ve done so much for her to help her thrive and succeed including paying for an apartment out of town so she could attend college. I’ve cut ties as far as giving her rides anywhere until she respects me. My only thoughts on your situation would be to give her an ultimatum and tell her if she refuses to get the help she needs that you will no longer support her. It only takes two signatures to force her to be evaluated in a psychiatric hospital. that may seem harsh but it seems to be the only answer in your situation. I do feel for you because I understand what you’re going through and I pray that you were able to convince her to get the help that she needs. She is lucky to have you and needs to appreciate everything that you are doing and have done for her. My mother and I have a very strained relationship but I will say as far as what she told me growing up is to never enable bad behavior no better who it is that is treating you that way. I certainly wish you the very best. When our children show no accountability for their actions it is impossible for them to thrive in life and as long as they blame us or others for their shortcomings they will continue to disrespect and blame us for anything and everything that goes wrong. Dr Phil said something that I never will forget and that is you teach others how to treat us.

    2. Carlene G.

      I am so sorry. I lost my 2, 4 and 13 year old grandchildren overnight.
      I believe the pain is as close to losing your grandbabies to death as you can get.

    3. Terrie L.

      I’m beginning to notice a pattern here. For those of us who did our best and provided nothing but unconditional love and kindness, even if we did not have much, are the doormats.

    4. Laurie

      Look up NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). They have caregiver support groups and many other resources to help you figure out how to help your daughter, if possible. I attend a caregiver support group on zoom and get emotional support and good ideas from others who are dealing with the same.
      Good luck! ❤️

    5. Annie

      She needs to grow up. Boot her you deserve happiness and to be stress free. Its not your fault that she is like this or refuses help. You tried

  16. Rebecca S.

    Mike, Wow…I love the story about Penguins. I have become hardened by 6 years of abuse of two of my daughters. (Both in their 40’s ) They blame me for our divorce 26 year ago. They loved me when I could babysit…but now that the kids are teenagers, they don’t need me anymore. I don’t even cry anymore. I feel I need to just put them away in a box and put it on a shelf. I need to enjoy the remaining time I have left on this earth. I saw my lawyer and took them out of my will. If they don’t want anything to do with me now, then they don’t need my money. (just more money for my other two children) My lawyer said that this is becoming very common. What a shame. God bless us all.

    1. Bea

      Hi Rebecca,

      I think that taking your 2 daughters out of your will is a great idea. It’s a natural consequence of their choice of removing you from their lives. They have that right, and you also have rights, rights that you give to yourself. One of them is for ex. “I am more than a mother, I am my own, independent being and being a mother is just part of who I am. So today I choose ME”.

      Good luck and all the best! Bea

  17. Irene

    I can’t believe my eyes reading these posts. I thought that I was the only “bad” mom. My sons are 35 and 44. I have come to conclusion that one cannot be called an Adult, until he/she rethinks his/her life, stop blaming his/her parents, and move on his/her life. What I see now… they are still teenagers.

    1. Carlene G.

      My 40 year old daughter has always been extremely emotional when things didn’t go her way. Most people see her as sweet, loving and kind. She is. Or can be. Hoowever, close friends and family have seen her melt downs. And say she is temperamental and difficult.
      She literally never liked younger brother. Admitted to it regularly. He was 6 1/2 years younger. “We always blamed her when he was little.” Her Dad became mean when her brother was born.”
      She went through 3 years of an abusive marriage. It was bad.
      When I became disabled. I took the kids as much as possible. But I did have limitations.
      At 39 she complained about her piece of junk truck, I not we, bought her in high school. I gave her crappy gifts. (I always gave money and a few things with it.) I did spoil her.
      Suddenly I am toxic. I didn’t handle relationships right. I was married to an abusive man for 35 years. He was ok with the kids till they were 16 or so. But my daughter was difficult. You can’t tell her no.
      I had a boyfriend for 8 years. I never told her that she was part of the reason my last 2 relationships failed. She was not the full blame but they did say that giving in to her on things as big as a house and how she talked to me at times was stressful to them. I never told her this. Probably never would.
      I went from keeping my 4 year old granddaughter 2 nights a week, taking her to school. Running my 12 year old grandson all over and keeping my 2 year old granddaughter every week to no contact. I needed too much help was the last comment from her and she didn’t have time.
      Everything I did was wrong. Even what I didn’t do was wrong. Then she blocked me and anyone who felt for me too. My children had vehicles, horses, horse trailers. Show animals, everything I could afford to give them. I gave her my vehicles to drive, a house to live in, food and money till she got back on her feet. She did her best so I didn’t mind, with the exception of giving up a house to her that I really wanted for myself. That affected my relationship at the time.
      But when I became disabled, I was too needy. Though I paid others to help me.
      My son says I did nothing wrong. He said she was always ungrateful, and threw temper tantrums when she didn’t get her way. My friends and family agreed. Even most of her friends, husbands family and my ex spouse agree but are too afraid to say so. I am amazed how many don’t agree with her but are afraid to say anything.
      Therapy was a must for her but no one could disagree with her. Even her new spouse said she punished him when they got home after a session if he tried to bring up his side.
      Even he shared her toxic posts yet is hopefully things will straighten out. She has a way of making people say they side with her when they don’t.

  18. Kristine B

    My 25 year old son, diagnosed late with ADHD, blames/hates me specifically, while he gravitates to his dad, who did not even want him to be diagnosed or take the medication.
    His dad pretty much does every task for him, so it’s a hotel atmosphere.
    Even with ADHD he still needs to be responsible.
    Cook something, do your dishes.
    Say something awful, say you’re sorry.
    If I tell him, softly, his shirt is on inside out, he rips my head off.
    Being a rude & disrespectful to those who support you when you are the most down, do not deserve to be sworn at with such vile comments.
    I have Hashomoto’s thyroiditis, so some how, I gave him ADHD on purpose?
    He can’t wait for me to die, thinking he will get the bank account.
    Imagine your son, hoping his crippled mother, “falls down the stairs?”
    I am disabled with 9 levels fused in my spine and he will not even carry a 12″ x 12″ ice pack up the stairs for me.
    He won’t move out, even though he hates me.
    He said he wants me to evict him.
    I told him, evictions stay on your record for 7 years, and ruin your credit.
    He thinks he is out smarting me.
    His therapist should be wanting all of us in at least one session.
    I went to therapy in 2002 for 2 years from child hood PTSD.
    I am not against outside, third party help.
    I called the crisis line one day, and got voicemail.
    What a mess.

  19. Ladasha

    I go through this every four months. My adult daughter brings upp the samething. She yells at me says i am the worst mom ever, and tells me to beg her foregiveness, or i will never see my granddaughter again, i always end up saying sorry. She has done this for fifteen years. This time two days ago she did it again called me names and told me i am the worse mom and i should die. After years of begging her for her forgiveness i finally said no matter what i do you will never tthink i am a good mom, and you will tell lies about me, so i am walking away. And her reply was my dad should of killed you. I am 65 and way to old to threatened all the time. She even does the samething to her siblings that are my children, but doesn’t do.this to her siblings from her dad and his new wife .

    1. Bec

      Honey I feel your pain and grief. My son is 35 and he’s been doing this to me for 10 years. Every 6 months he starts some petty argument that leads to really heated situations and then blames me for all his problems, even though I have helped him financially over and over through the years. Our relationship came to a head last week when he started texting me regarding politics, yes politics. I’ve told him repeatedly to not bring up the subject because we disagree and we aren’t going to change either of us. He proceeded to text me and told me to F Off, said I was mean, manipulative and emotionally abusive, Well he’s describing himself to a t. Anyway I became so angry from all the years of dealing with this back and forth and forgiving only to get treated like this again. In my anger I told him I couldn’t believe he came from my body, I told him not to call, text, not come into our home spewing his venom anymore and like that it’s over. Now to make it worse he shared my private text on Facebook, not his, no! Just mine, at this point I don’t see a path forward.

    2. mike

      I once saw a show on national geographic on penguins and the rearing of their chicks. Interestingly the Parent Penguins raise their chicks for two years, then as nature works they turn away from the chick, and walk away never to see the chick again. Maybe that’s a practice you should try. My children treat me like shit. Blame me for all of their faults. Its seems easy to blame a parent 30 years ago for something, ignoring all the sacrifice you made for them and the good things you did
      . I did not abuse my children. I was firm in direction when I needed to be. Families are not democracies, young children do not have equal say they don’t have the capacity to do sol As I said I think the penguins have it right turn your back walk away. Children do not have the rights to abuse their parents because of their flaws. It will be hard at first but freeing. You only have one life and it was meant to be enjoyed by you. You have to choose between yourself and your children.


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