Monday, October 13, 2008

My kids hate me (and I'm sure it's because I work)

pI'm convinced that there are parents out there whose kids do not talk to them the way my kids talk to me. My son has, of late, been lashing out (usually when he gets in trouble for something), and he will tell me that I am "mean" and he "hates me." It does wear you down after you hear that too much.

Last week was bad. My head was spinning after trying to compensate for short staffing at work. Then not only my son, but my 3-year-old daughter starts in on me. She throws a fit, gets in trouble, and has to go to her room without stories that night. I go in to talk to her. Through her tears, she tells me point blank that she 1) doesn't love me and 2) wishes I would die (!). I told her "you don't mean that." Of course, she says "yes I do!!"

I told her I wasn't going to let her be mean to me, and I retired to my bedroom, where I promptly burst into tears. I told my husband "ss-ss-ssophie s-s-said she...she wanted me to DIE..." Friday night is not a good night for anything emotionally taxing to happen to me.

As I said, I know there must be kids who don't say these kind of things to their parents. Which makes me think, "what am I doing wrong?" Bingo-I am a full-time career woman! Of course my kids hate me, how could they not? Maybe I shouldn't work, then my kids would be awesome to me and really appreciate me all the time.

As soon as that thought crossed my mind, I realized how ludicrous it sounded. My kids will hate me (at times) no matter what. I'm not naive enough to think that spending more time with them will make them hate me any less; I may just be around for them to express that to me more often! Pathology may be a thankless job at times, but being a mom is in a thankless league of its own!!

I told a friend Saturday that what surprised me most about being a mom was not the work involved, but how ugly the ugly times could get. And I had to screw up my courage to write this post, because it is really hard to admit how awful your own kids can be sometimes. Those of you who read this will belong to one of two camps: those who have, either by virtue of their much younger or infinitely better behaved children, are aghast at the events above; or those who read this, laugh, and say "oh yeah, sister, been there! In fact, that's the tip of the darn iceberg!!"


  1. Yup, been there done that, bought the t-shirt.

    It gets better (a bit) after they leave home.


  2. Totally disagree with the comment above. Try to mend the net the best way you can, regain your balance and composure, identify where exactly the conflicts are between career and the kids, and return the favor in kind with unconditional love (with the "unconditional" part underlined). Sooner or later, the boy and girl will realize that you are an incredibly caring but overstretched Mom who wishes to have 10 hands, instead of just two. Good luck!

  3. I'm in the camp where mine is still too young for such things.

    But when I talk to girls in their teens and twenties, I think most of them have so much more respect for working moms than they do for their SAHMs. Not that this is necessarily deserved, because SAHMs do an incredible job too.

  4. sahms get that sort of thing, too, as my sahm friends tell me. my own kid doesnt do that (yet), but if she did, i would not assume she meant it - instead i would assume she was really upset and angry and just state that - you are angry. i hear that you are still very upset.

    i use this technique when she has tantrums or fusses when tired. very often helps me more than her - makes the difference between me flipping and me staying calm.


  5. While I never yelled such things at my parents (even when we were little, it Just Wasn't Done), I remember feeling things like your kids are saying on many occasions. It's not because you're a career woman, it's because you're a parent with a more-than-full-time job. My dad was a high school athletic trainer and a teacher, so he'd be gone from 7am until at least 7pm, often later if there was a game that evening. That schedule meant he'd have to miss my own sports games, concerts, plays, whatever. Although he tried to do both as often as he could and in hindsight I know how hard it must have been for him, at the time it felt like he was choosing other people's kids over me. I think the best thing you can do for your kids when this happens is to let them know that they always come first, even though you can't always be with them. I hope things get better for you.

  6. As a SAHM I can tell you that my kids will do and say similiar things. Someone once told me when I was in a similiar situation with my oldest that the reason he would do and say those things to me is because I am the one with whom he feels the safest! That really changed how I felt about it and it also changed how I responded. It sound like you are doing a great job!

  7. I get the same thing from my 10 yo son from time to time, usually when he's not getting his way. He's very stubborn, and so am I. The best I've been able to figure is that he's trying to get my attention and thinks that he can push my buttons and get a reaction by saying things like that. I've found that just walking away and ignoring him for awhile will usually work to calm things down (for both of us).

    I'm not sure this has much to do with having a career. I bet kids from all kinds of families do this sort of thing.

    Our kids are going to get mad at us, because we're going to make decisions they don't like. That's our job. They're going to try all different ways of getting us to change our minds and do what they want. We can't let that bother us. They'll understand us later, when they have kids of their own. (I understand my mom a lot better these days.)

    And they don't mean those things. They really do love us; they just might not like us very much at the time. So be it.

  8. Yep, I agree with the sentiment: anyone who says that their children don't do this from time to time is lying.

    Also, it made me feel better to see that I am not the only one who occasionally has a meltdown on Friday night.

  9. My 2year old doesn't go so far, but does tell me to go away and "You get outta here!"

    It is heartbreaking to see her breaking away from me sometimes, or even just preferring her Dad. I routinely have the "Calm face for daughter, upset face for husband" experience.

    I am still close enough to my maternity leave to know that I cope with her independence much better when I am at work (=sane) than when I am at home all the time (=overwhelmed and feeling more insane)

  10. Nah, they'd hate you even if you didn't work. Mine are grown, and like the above, been there, done that, have the t-shirt. Interestingly, now that they are grown they think old mom had a little sense after all. Hang on...

  11. I work part-time, and still get the "i hate you"s from my 4yo. Generally, I have found he is still young enough that I can breezily say "Luv ya anyway" (despite the breaking heart) and start tickling him or something similar. If that doesn't work, I tell him that I really love him a lot regardless and he can stay in his room and think about how much I love him until he's ready to come out on his own.

  12. Ooooooh, love that last piece of advice, mommy doctor! You're brilliant! (I respond better to that kind of wisdom than to patronizing, out-of-a-self-help-tv-show, holier-than-thou stuff, if you know what I mean...)

    And Pathmom - SO there with you, SUCH the tip of the darn iceberg, bought the t-shirt too, and don't let anyone tell you this is anything other than normal, once-in-a-while-meltdown kinda stuff!

    If they feel strongly enough to hate us every once in a while, they're still engaged. It's when they don't give a shtick any more that all might be lost...

  13. I am a part-time MD/mom about to go back to work full time. I am frightened to death of the conversation I will have with my 7 and 3 year old that "mommy is going back to work until dinner and you guys will have to go to aftercare until 5." My tremendous Catholic guilt is getting the best of me (and I haven't even been to Church in years!)

    I have to admit sometimes I feel part time work is harder than full time because you have to be ALL THINGS to ALL PEOPLE... do almost the same amount of doctoring AND be the pseudo "full time mom" at he same time... I am not sure what the solution is.

  14. Been there, too. Eleven year old son can be quite a pill these days - and it fluctuates wildly. Agree the Paula - I try to see the silver lining and figure that I am the best person for him to let his guard down with because he knows I love him and won't fear (much) reprisal. Sometimes I think he projects (to get all psychiatric)his own frustrations and self-loathing that come along with all of the massive mental and bodily changes going on.

    This all sounds like I'm not taking any of his comments personally - not true! They hurt like hell. Fortunately, age has it's perks and like the stock market (hopefully)as much of a downturn oldest and I have in our relationship - I know that somewhere around the corner will be a very sweet moment that will make me want to hug him like the mama bear I am.

    Hang in there! Your upturn is coming!

  15. Hah! If they don't break your heart now they will break your heart later (think teen years). You don't win in this parenthood game. But those moments of joy sure do make up for those razor sharp comments. Chin up, it's all part of being a parent!!!

  16. I still remember when eldest was quite small and in a very casual manner said to me one day, "You know, there are moms who don't go to work but stay home with their kids." Even now these words pierce my heart...Pathmom, you're not alone! (But things will get better)

  17. I feel like you missed a golden opportunity to let your child identify some important feelings. Instead of walking out and saying I'm not going to let you be mean to me, a better approach may have been to stay and help her identify the anger she was feeling right then.

    Maybe you were just venting. Maybe you don't want advice..but if you want a better way to communicate with your kids, please read "How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk".

    This book makes so much sense, you'll wonder how you ever got along without it.

  18. I love what the mommy doctor said :-)

    I am ashamed to admit that I said the "h" word to my mother when I was that age as well....and she was a sahm until I was 13. I was very proud of her when she went back to work and finished her degree at the age of 45. The only thing I didn't want her to do was keep joining school committees and being president of them (I hated having my mother at school assemblies :-))

  19. it happens with the best of kids and parents! my son (who just started college) is so much better now that he is not at home and we have really good conversations now. My daughter (10th grade) is a calmer person by nature and somehow manages not to get my goat as much. So don't be too hard on yourself. kids have elastic memories and will not remember these episodes and in a way they only do it because they feel safe with you and know that you love them no matter what! having said that I would still let him know that it is not nice to say that to people who love him and care for him so much. It will eventually resonate.

  20. When she was 13 one of my daughters had a meltdown when I refused to sew a button on her shirt.

    She knew how, had done it before, and if she really did not want to do it herself, her older sister was a champ at anything resembling stitching or mending.

    She finally shouted, "I'd be better off with no mother at all than with YOU for a mother!" and stomped off into her room.

  21. The comments are interesting, and I love hearing about others' experiences! I think one of the hard things about being a mom is feeling that you are responsible for every negative event that occurs, so it's nice to hear that I'm not alone. Also, it's easy (as some of you have already proven) to fall into the trap of what we as the moms could have done more ideally to magically reverse these moments.

    Motherhood is not easy, but I think that it is important to realize that we, like our children, are not perfect. And we are not that unlike them in that we have feelings that are not always conducive to us acting perfectly all of the time. So that is why we should never underestimate the value of the support we give one another.

    And because I am one of the few bloggers who has written about such an imperfect moment, I think I have enabled some misperceptions, so I will clarify: I think my kids are wonderful, fantastic little people, and I am an AWESOME mom.

  22. Rest assured, you're not the only one with 'imperfect moments'. One of the first things I learned after having my first child was that perfection -if possible before marriage and motherhood - was now impossible entirely. That notion gave me a lot of relief. I try to remind myself that it is all about doing the best I can with what I've been given. And my kids need to understand that i can't do or give them everything they want when they want it- not only does that buy me some relief, but it also teaches them an invaluable lesson, one that they are bound to learn sooner (hopefully) than later: "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might get what you need."

  23. You might find a lot of answers and relief in a book "Secure Child" by Stanley Greenspan, who wrote many other books too to help parents and children espicially whene they are such problems. I agree with above comment that when you walk away and ignore the child's distress, it does not help/solve the problem. When children are rude, they try to get adult's attention - its a cry for help. It is out job as parent to find out what the probelm is and help child solve it. Focusing on your own "hurt" feelings will alleinate you and your child and you will start looking forward to "better times when they are gone to college". Our children need us in this extrememly stressful world, and we need to have right tools to help them. If we do not help them now, they will make more mistakes when they go on their own. It has nothing to do with career. I grew up in culture where all mother wwere working. In fact it was illegal in my conutry for adults not to work. So we all knew as kids - working parents is a norm. Kids in this country get more attention and goodies than anywhere else in the world, and yet american kids are most misbehaved, rude, insecure. In opart because the yhave to deal with incredibly cruel peer culture, and lack of treu values. If the problem is discounted ("My kids are wonderful little people and I am an AWESOME mom") that will not solve the problem. Check out Stanley Greenspan's books and "Family Esteem is a family affair" by Jean Illsley Clarke, and it will change your life forever. You were brave enough to post the problem, you can now solve it.

  24. And here I was thinking I was a failure at being a mom.... Even though I love my kids to pieces, and I do whatever I can to make.sure they're taken care of. My oldest behaves much like what you described in your blog post.

  25. Yay... I'm not alone after all.


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