Dear Dr. Yael,
I read your column this week and truly feel for this woman. I had the same type of childhood as she described. Baruch Hashem, I was able to raise my children differently – partly because I am blessed with an amazing husband.
Today, I am part of what we call the “sandwich generation.” My parents are aging and I have children in different age groups, including some married. So, the stress continues.
Dr. Respler, I have gone for professional help and constantly work on myself, however, to a large extent how we handle stressful situations may be about our nature. He just handles things better then I do – no matter how much I try.
My children were raised to have great self-esteem, yet, I still grapple with my insecurities. I constantly second-guess myself and my decisions. I guess, as you say, that my parents are still living rent-free in my brain. I work hard on my kibud av v’eim, but it is hard. When they come to us, which is often, they criticize both me and the choices I make for my family.
Interestingly, like in your letter-writer’s case, my parents treat my husband and children very differently then they do me – and my siblings feel the same way. We are constantly criticized by our parents, but our spouses, children and grandchildren are showered with love. It is as if they feel they can “be themselves” only with us. It is incredible, but why? How can the same people who are so critical of us be loving to our children and their great-grandchildren?
I would like some insight into this matter since I actually crave this love and positive attention. My siblings are less sensitive and tell me to give up and that our parents are not going to change.
I would appreciate any insight that you can share on this challenging situation.
A Stressed Sandwich Generation Mother
I understand your dilemma, and while I do not know your parents, I can tell you that it is a sign of emotional health that your parents are able to be more loving to your children, grandchildren and the in-law children. It is possible that they feel you and your siblings will respect and come around no matter what, while the next generation and in-law children might not feel the same way.
This is not uncommon. In general, we tend to treat strangers better than those close to us. I actually once did a three part series on this topic (it can be fond on Kol Halashon).
We all crave our parents’ love and attention, however, as you know, you can’t allow them to have free headspace.
Baruch Hashem, you have a loving relationship with your immediate family, including your siblings. Focus on that. Take comfort that your children have benefited from a different childhood and that your parents are kind and caring with them. Appreciate the good that you have, no matter how things are with your parents.
And as always, continue seeking out professional help. It can do wonders for your self-esteem.
I wish you hatzlocha in all your endeavors.