Ungrateful Daughter Diaries

Before I go any further with this post, readers are advised that there are flashes of self-care internal battles in this post. Anyone who does not believe in self-care or mental health should proceed with caution.

In 2018, my father was diagnosed with Stage 3-and-a bit colon cancer; the cancer was successfully removed, together with a chunk of his colon, and he has been able to live a fairly normal, active life. 

On Monday, he called me to say his doctors wanted him to go for an MRI scan because there were “abnormalities” in his latest health check. He said my mother, who claims to know everything, everyone and what’s best for everyone, insisted it was high time I took responsibility for my father’s care, so I should go with him to the MRI lab on Tuesday. Fact – my mother avoids medical facilities as she has had a double mastectomy and hip surgery; I  understand her reluctance but I resent being ordered to accompany him when I would have willingly done so – he only had to ask. Why, when I am a working adult, does my mother think I will take kindly to being ordered about? I also resent the implication that I don’t take enough responsibility for his care. 

After the MRI session, my father wanted lunch before heading home. Over lunch, he talked about his childhood, English football, the US elections, recounted several arguments between my mother and her sister, and then he asked if I’d spoken to my aunt.

Squabbles between my mother and her sisters are nothing new: they grew up bickering and that habit persists to this day. What has changed is the passing of the younger sister in August 2019, and the elder sister having to sort through her effects. Because my late aunt named me as co-executor, I have obviously met with my surviving aunt (the other co-executor) at the lawyers’ and she has mentioned her unhappiness about my mother’s constant accusations that she is taking too long to clear out my late aunt’s things, and my mother’s demands to have items she had given her to be returned. Fact – my aunt is 91 years old and I feel the task is mammoth, emotional and she is doing it alone, so let her take her time and pace herself! Why is she handling this alone? Because my other aunt would not have wanted my mother anywhere near her things. Why am I not helping? My doing so will trigger more aggressions from my mother, and the suspicions that I have made off with things of value. 

Back to my father’s question. I would be damned no matter how I answer because he will report it to my mother and she will have another go at my aunt, after calling me all sorts of names and recounting my sins to the neighbours, her friends and her relatives. I settled for, “I haven’t talked to her about the house.” My father accepted that but followed up with, “What has mum done to you that makes you so ungrateful?”

This is a question that really didn’t need to be answered in a cafe in the middle of Covid-19. But never have I been more grateful for this disease because my father is near-deaf, refuses to use his hearing aid but, thanks to Covid-19, the nearest tables were 1.5 metres away. 

I told him I am not ungrateful. I am well aware of her sacrifices raising me; she has never let me forget her struggles and how she had to do everything on her own because her husband and sisters were useless. But there comes a point where gratitude and filial piety can get overtaken by survival needs and emotional self-defence. I told him of instances where I heard her telling other relatives about how I was a disloyal, uncaring, unfilial, lying, useless daughter, and that I had poisoned my relatives’ and my own family’s minds and opinions against her.

I told him of two occasions (there were others) where she upset other people at social events and I was politely requested not to have her present in the future. I told him of a school event where she ranted at me in front of the principal, teachers, students and other parents for something I never did. How much, I asked my father, was I supposed to take from her? Did he really think I should remain “grateful”, and for what exactly? I told him smoothing over ruffled feathers in those situations was already paying for “grateful”. And that “grateful” and survival were two separate issues. Fact – the question I also wanted to ask was: where were you, dad, in all of this? Did you never know mum clearly has problems? 

I don’t know how much of what I said was heard. Or if anything registered. Or if it meant anything to him. Or if he’d been simply tasked to ask that question by my mother and he would report whatever he could. I do know that the circumstances were not ideal for that conversation. My father was not an ideal discourse partner. My mother will never accept anything I say anyway because she is never wrong and she knows everything.

I am aware the situation in that household is percolating away and may well boil over. I am aware I am dodging things and am stuck in the middle. And this sorry situation has taken a toll on my health (could this be the trigger for the heart attack?). I should probably also have sought help way earlier. 

But that conversation went better for me than I expected. I didn’t get emotional. My father wasn’t angry so that meant I hadn’t been disrespectful or totally illogical. I was clear headed and firm. And I have therapy to thank. 

Therapy has taught me that I can’t change the past or who people are, or tweak the present, especially if they deny a need for their own self-examination. It has taught me that there is a difference between being grateful and being a victim, being filial and being abused. It has taught me that abuse takes many different forms and not all bruises are seen on skin. 

Therapy has taught me that there are toxic parents. That mothers can suffer from narcissistic personality disorders, or be bipolar, or simply not be equipped to be good mothers. That fathers can be compliant because they go along to get along. That siblings don’t all get along and that the child sometimes has to be the adult.

Therapy has taught me that my mother’s script is not mine; I have a right to write my own.

And writing this has been cathartic.

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Ungrateful Daughter Diaries ~ Rosy Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

You may have read my earlier posts about my struggles in my relationship (or non-relationship) with my mother. Nothing has changed.

Social Distancing has ironically made it easier to cope in some ways: I was not able to visit and, as bad as that might make me out to be, I found that this was a relief. Afterall, if I didn’t have to meet her, there would be no friction.

I made sure to call on my father’s birthday, and I sent bread or food hampers over the lockdown weeks since the bakeries in their neighbourhood were shut. I called to check that things were well.

Guess what? Not even my father (he goes along with my mother to get along) contacted me to say anything about receiving any hamper – just to be clear I don’t need thanks, just an acknowledgement that the food had arrived so I could follow up with the delivery folks, if necessary.

My aunt has since informed me that my mother had ranted and raged upon the receiving the first hamper. She snarked about my sending food for only my aunt and father and refused to touch any because nothing was meant for her. My aunt even had to stop her from giving the second hamper to her neighbours.

The amount of food should have made it clear it was for everyone but I had forgotten about the narcissist’s martyr complex. I had allowed myself to overlook her cruel tongue. And I had deluded myself, once again, into thinking I should care.

My aunt also informed me that my mother has prepared 3 letters to be sent to my father’s relatives, each one detailing my multitude of sins. And she has had her lawyer draw up a new will in which I would get nothing.

Like it matters. I don’t want things. What I want is some measure of civility so that my own family doesn’t have to witness this acrimony. What I want is a regular mom. What I want is a dad who can support me. What I want is a situation where sending bread shouldn’t unleash another cycle of cruel words.

So, tonight, I finally broke down.

Tonight, I accepted that I am going to have to stand on my own, and stand up for myself. I am an unwanted child who has had her reputation smeared to anyone with hearing abilities; even my father has not denied that when my mother visits relatives, she speaks ill of me.

If even sending food because I cannot visit (not that I would have wanted to visit) is a problem, then either I am truly abhorrent to my mother or I am the stupidest person alive to continue to delude myself that being filial matters, and to believe that I have parents.


RDP ~ Rosy Hues

Ungrateful Daughter Diaries ~ Broken Boughs

My family tree is large and its roots stretch across the globe. I don’t even know how many second cousins I might actually have, much less their parents’ names.

But I’ve often wondered if having relatives even matters.

You see, I have struggled for a long time with family expectations and standards. As the eldest grandchild, I was expected to set an example and my mother pushed me to excel in school and in other activities.

When I did well, I was praised and my mother was pleased. When I didn’t, which was more usual, it was explained as, “Well, she never studied/practised enough and she’s not naturally bright/talented so why should I expect anything from her? She’s useless!” or words to that effect. So I buried my feelings, avoided the stares and resolved to try harder next time.

But school got harder, extracurricular activities got more demanding, the days seemed to grow shorter and my grades got no better.

I stopped trying. I hated school. Hated the other kids (heck, they hated me but that’s another story). Hated always being the one never chosen for the good groups or interschool competitions. Hated always having to play the piano at family events. Hated being my mother’s chance to outshine the kid of Aunt This or Uncle That.

Because my mother also skillfully kept all relatives’ attempts to chat with me at bay, nobody ever knew how I felt. One of my aunts once encouraged me to write to her (she lived in another state) and my mother found out. “Why are you so stupid? Can’t you see she just wants to assess how you write then teach her children? Do you think she cares what you have to say? You’re so stupid.”

Back then, I knew nothing of narcissism or Tiger Mums. I only knew what lay ahead if my mother didn’t look good, or if I didn’t do things her way. I remember telling her off once, that she treated me as a performing monkey more than as a daughter. That conversation didn’t end well.

Most conversations with my mother never ended well. She and I are different personalities. And my father was never strong enough to support his child against her.

I stopped speaking to my mother 15 years ago. She tells everybody that, followed by a litany of all she has done for me and how much money she has wasted on me. And how I am unfilial, worthless, undependable, untrustworthy or whatever.

Family occasions are weird because we’re both present but we stay apart. It works for me because I have nothing to say to her, and she can’t call me any names.

I have started seeing a therapist to help me deal with the unreleased fury and grief I have within me. I want to learn how to cope with how I feel now and how I felt then.

What has this post got to do with branches? Well, there are countless branches on my family tree. Yet not one provided shelter or shade. I don’t want to blame anyone because narcissists are that good at camouflaging the truth, and they probably saw what she wanted them to see.

I have so much to say about my mother. I might share more stories. We’ll see.