Childhood trauma resurfaces for new mom

Published 9:11 am Saturday, May 20, 2023

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DEAR ABBY: Throughout my childhood, my mother was controlling in many ways. One of them was my clothes. She dressed me in ridiculous outfits that I found humiliating. If I expressed an opinion about anything, I was treated as being “bad.” It affected my mental health, which resulted in me hating the way I look.
I went through multiple eating disorders and addiction, and I had plastic surgery 15 years ago. After many years of therapy, I am now doing better emotionally. I also endured many years of heart-shattering infertility, but I am finally a mother, working hard to give my child a better life than I had.
My mother continues buying clothes for my child, and receiving these “gifts” fills me with rage. My son is too young to pick out his own clothes, but I know what he likes and choose clothes accordingly. I allow him to select which items he wears, guilt free. My mother seems to buy clothes based on my son’s interests, but I resent her buying any clothes for him. I want her to stop. It’s my turn to be a parent!
I feel so much guilt, anger and shame giving away or selling clothes I don’t want, like I’m being “bad.” Despite therapy, my childhood trauma persists. How can I ask my mother to stop buying unwanted “gifts”? – BAD KID FOR LIFE
DEAR BAD KID: Do not ASK your mother to stop buying clothing for your son – TELL her. While you’re at it, tell her what you have been doing with them, AND WHY. Then, if she doesn’t already know, explain exactly how the way she raised you affected you. To do that isn’t being “bad”; it is honest and long overdue. If she persists after that, feel free to donate the clothes, because another child might be thrilled to have them.
DEAR ABBY: My 50-year-old daughter divorced her husband 15 years ago because she thought she could do better. From what I could see, he was a good husband. She didn’t work and lived a comfortable lifestyle with two small children. Since the divorce, that lifestyle has gone steadily downhill. She can’t hold a job because she always finds some way to be offended, and quits.
She had a house my husband and I paid the down payment on, but lost it by making the ownership joint with her abusive second husband. She no longer receives child support because her children are grown, so her finances are worse than ever. We bought her a car last year because she had no transportation.
My question is this: How much should we continue to financially support her? We are well-off, but where should our obligation end for a daughter who continues to make bad decisions? – PUT-UPON MOM IN GEORGIA
DEAR MOM: As parents of a 50-year-old daughter, you and your husband are likely in your 70s. You have two choices. If you wish to continue enabling your daughter, she will receive whatever is left of your estate, so she shouldn’t be homeless after you die if you leave it in a trust. If you don’t wish to continue your financial support, you may need counseling to help you overcome your instinct to rescue your self-destructive daughter, who is no longer a child.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more sociable person, order “How to Be Popular.” Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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