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4 Signs You Have A Mommie-Dearest Parent


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Have you ever seen the movie Mommie Dearest? Do you remember the scene where  she awakened her adopted children by screaming, crying, and having a temper tantrum over iron vs. plastic hangers? The emotional intensity, the roller-coaster mood swings, and the self-centeredness of her anger frightened her children. Sadly, her emotional lability didn’t stop here:

This article will discuss the 4 types of emotionally immature parents that Dr. Gibson mentions in her book. You can find my review of her book on PsychCentral.com

4 Comments to
4 Signs You Have A Mommie-Dearest Parent

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  1. Hi Tamara,
    I’m not sure what-if any category my mom would fit in. There is probably some blending there as well as areas where it does not apply to her at all.
    She is older now – just turned 76 but it seems in many ways I have always been the parent figure to her because I was put in that role early on. (On her part, I don’t feel that this was conscious–at least not initially.) Also, since I did a lot of babysitting for my younger siblings, they too seemed to see me as a mother figure at times.
    My mom was/is never mean or cruel and in some ways was very overprotective, but she feared dangers outside the home rather than opening her eyes to the fact that danger lived with us and that on any given day, I would have been and felt much safer on the streets or at the mall than I was at home with her husband!
    She is definitely way too enmeshed in our lives. Very dependant on me, will offer help and emotional support to my siblings and will ASK how I am doing but I don’t think she handles it well when I am not doing good so I don’t share that with her. Yet for my siblings, she will obsessively worry about them, try to intervene, ask about every detail and give advice on things that are really not her business.
    As she gets older she relies on me more which I understand–to a point. But 4 or 5 calls a day is a bit much!!

    • Hi Lori,
      Thank you for your thoughts. Your story is very similar to one of my current clients who was, what we call “parentified,” by her mother over the years. When you are parentified you are made to grow up fast, act as the “secondary” parent, and feel emotionally responsible for the well-being of the family unit. Some kids who grow up like this are very mature and responsible, almost so responsible that they come across as little adults. Other kids grow up and begin to struggle with substance abuse, depression and anxiety, and identity issues among a host of other challenges. I would say that 4-5 calls a day is a bit much as you put it Lori. it sounds as if your mom may have some anxiety and whatever the anxiety is, it is released when she reaches out to you or calls you repeatedly. There is definitely some dependence there but why? Perhaps things that have happened in her life has made her this way. Surely anxiety can also cause dependency.
      Take good care

      • Even your responses are so well written and thought out, Tamara — very helpful and I appreciate it!
        I immediately could identify with the explanation of kids who are so mature they seem like little adults. That was me for the most part. I remember being allowed to join my mom and her friends and extended family members that would come over to visit regularly, have coffee etc. I would be allowed to listen and even participate in some conversations (appropriate topics). People would often compliment my mother on how well I behaved and my maturity and it seems that from junior high on, I tended to gravitate towards friends who were older than me. That at times has been problematic because it sometimes felt that along with the friendship, I was looking for a mother figure. I remember if a friend’s mom, aunt or even a church member or teacher would call me “hon” or “sweetheart” as a term of endearment, I would form almost an instant attachment as a young person. Sounds crazy!
        My mom is worse with her neediness as she ages. She has anxiety and fears around aging and death, health related concerns and is extremely lonely and unhappy in her marriage. Her husband treats her with indifference and at times outright sarcasm, hostility or anger. She wants to divorce and move back to this area but lives on a very limited income. He has always been greedy with his money even though he had plenty of it when she met him and well into their marriage whereas she has very little but has always been generous. It’s sad… I know she’d like to live with me but I have an anxiety attack just thinking about it due to the clinging dependency and also issues from the past. Plus she has very weak boundaries and I don’t want my abuser in my home — she would allow that because he lives with my brother and they travel to family events together.

 

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