Parenting insecurity

I’m pretty sure that the most insecure parents are the people who hate their parents.

Actually, I don’t hate my parents. I mean, they have apologized for everything I could ever want them to apologize for. It’s just that they ruined my childhood by being children themselves, during my childhood. So I have no gratitude toward them for what they did for me, and it makes it hard for me to understand what makes kids so grateful to their parents.

It seems miraculous that kids love their parents and it seems so hard, in my head, for me to be good enough that my kids will love me when they grow up. I know, this is not rational. I’m just telling you what goes on inside the head of a kid who had totally shitty parenting.

So every day that I make homeschooling decisions, I don’t just have fear that I’m making bad education decisions. I have fear that my kids will hate me.

I have talked about this in therapy. There is generally nothing to be done except to recognize that it’s an irrational feeling and try to put it in a box. (This is what dialectical behavioral therapy is. It’s what I do. It’s very common for people with messed up childhoods to use this type of therapy.)

I told this to my friend Melissa last week. I said, “Don’t bother telling me I’m a good mom. I won’t believe you. I don’t know what it’ll take for me to believe it.”

Her response was so good, that it will be my blog post for today:

I think it’s like how you know whether you’ve gone insane or not. If you’re still thinking about whether you’re insane, you’re not. People who are insane don’t know they’re insane. Or put another way, if you’re wondering if you’re depressed, you’re probably not depressed. So if you’re constantly concerned that you’re a bad parent, you’re not. You can’t be because you’re too aware of parenting itself. 


15 replies
  1. Kristin
    Kristin says:

    Fantastic point of view. Thanks so much for this–I think its true. The problem with the box, by the way, is that it often opens back up again, especially when our parents get older and need help themselves.

  2. clark
    clark says:

    Is that actually true though? Or is it an urban myth that if you think/know that you have a problem then you don’t. Because I have a friend who has brain damage, paranoia, clinical depression and he knows it. Is this from when you guys were tripping on Adderal

  3. Zellie
    Zellie says:

    Maybe it’s not a yes/no state. Not good or bad, but evolving.

    To say someone is a good parent is somewhat relative. When you see your own flaws you may question whether you fit into the good parenting category.

    I think the best thing you have going for you is your kids see you striving to improve. They were going to find out you aren’t perfect eventually anyway. Since you’ve been honest with them it gives them a model for being human.

    • penelopetrunk
      penelopetrunk says:

      Thanks, Zellie. I am trying to see things this way – that kids appreciate when they think their parents made them a high priority, not necessarily when their parents were perfect.


  4. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    Yes, I agree, snapshots can be deceiving. They can also serve as a reminder that not everything about your childhood was terrible … even though there were many terrible events.
    I was fortunate to have very good parents. Of course, there were times we had our confrontations and I had my doubts but not comparable to your experiences. I’m not qualified to give advice but I can always offer my opinion. You’ve engaged your questions and troubles head-on with the people in your life. You’ve sought help with professionals with varied backgrounds. It’s all good and you’re a better person for doing so. However, it now requires a constant regimen of therapy and medications. It’s definitely not fair but it’s the way it is. The past can not be changed. What I haven’t heard you mention (at least lately) is meditation and prayer … and specifically your faith. Go to God for answers that other people in your life (and people for that matter period) can’t answer. Set up a routine (first thing in the morning as an example) and set aside ten to fifteen minutes to collect and be at peace with yourself. That’s the end of my unsolicited advice/opinion (for today, anyways). Also, I agree, Melissa had a good response and she is a good friend.

  5. karelys.
    karelys. says:

    I had “good parents” by the book. But where it mattered TO ME they were lacking or not there.

    And it hurt tons.

    Also, I felt that I sort of limped through my teens and early 20s. It has gotten better now that I am married but man! it has cost me awful fights, lots of crying, depression and coming out of it, the works.

    I still appreciate my parents and try to not be resentful because I see them as human beings trying to do their best and making us priority. I am just glad that I wasn’t messed up forever.

  6. Kimberly
    Kimberly says:

    I’m not sure if this is just therapy folklore that they taught me in grad school (I’m a newbie therapist)…but it’s said that people who read all those parenting books and blogs end up being pretty good parents not because they’ve read all the research, but because they’re the type of people who will stop at nothing to improve as individuals for the sake of their kids.

    So in line with what Melissa said, you’re probably pretty good if you’re worried that you’re terrible.

    • penelopetrunk
      penelopetrunk says:

      That’s really interesting. It’s true of careers, too. People who read a ton about how to be better in their career actually do get pretty good at managing their careers. And you know what? I think that for careers is about self-knowledge as well.


      • Marilia
        Marilia says:

        Parenting is all about self-knowledge as well.

        Good to be reassured that looking to improve is being on the path to improve already.

  7. Karen Loe
    Karen Loe says:

    ***I’m pretty sure that the most insecure parents are the people who hate their parents.***

    WOW, that hit me like a ton of bricks!!!!!!
    I wonder if I’m a good homeschool mom…

    (thanks for the post)

  8. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    Here’s something for you and Melissa which I recently read regarding sanity –

    “Evelyn Underhill wrote in her book Mysticism that “sanity consists in sharing the hallucinations of our neighbors.” Anything we might do outside the norm—no matter how positive or virtuous—will often be considered insanity by those around us.”

  9. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    I started to appreciate my parents when I had lived on my own a few years and witnessed peers with no morals or sense of responsibility. My parents weren’t perfect, but they instilled values and didn’t try to protect me from the consequences of my decisions.

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