Secrets of the Motherworld is a podcast created to help mothers feel less alone. We're two psychotherapists with a special interest in parenting. Listeners send us their anonymous stories about their own experiences in the Motherworld -- experiences that are too intensely private to share anywhere else. Each week, we read a listener's story and give our own reflections. It's a thoughtful exploration of the most intimate aspects of motherhood.
44: “The whole family is walking on eggshells.”
45:32“I would like to hear your thoughts on how parents can speak about the elephant in the room. My daughter is 15 and we have experienced school refusal for some years now. The lockdown has been great for her and she has enjoyed it. And yet. I know we, as a family, have colluded in her avoidance of any difficult subjects. She rules the household. If something comes on the TV and she doesn’t like it, we switch it off. We are pretty much forced to focus on the positive of everything. She suffers from anxiety and I hate to upset her. However the whole family is walking on eggshells around her. To be honest, I don’t think this approach has improved her. She now believes that can’t cope with anything difficult and yet, as a child, she was able to cope with lots of different things. I am worried about what will happen when school begins in September and we are forced to confront the school refusal and the fact that my child has narrowed her world. I myself am coping with the death of my mother and my father’s ongoing health problems and so I’m finding it stressful to only speak about life in a positive way. It’s all a mess and yet from the outside we look like a happy bouncy family.”
43: “My daughter is overweight.”
21:04My 13 year-old daughter is overweight and I don't know how to handle this. We have always had food problems in the family as my husband has battled with his weight all his adult life. He is a great cook and I also battle with my weight. My daughter doesn't really care about her weight and just wants to be free to enjoy her food. I find it a huge burden to try to manage her weight as well as my own and I'm becoming resentful. I've always been very careful to talk about 'health' and not 'food' or 'weight' but it is failing. She is very confident and declares that she is skinny. She knows she's not skinny so she is just being defiant in the face of pressure to conform to her super-skinny friends. I just don't know how to handle it, she is at an age where she can access food so my control over the issue is diluted. Until now I watched her like a hawk and kept her weight in check but now, finally, just as she has more freedom to eat more, she has suddenly tipped into being overweight for the first time in her life. It's not a lot overweight but it is there. I don't know what to do - please help!
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42: “It's the world that's crazy -- not us parents.”
25:11“Hi Lisa and Stella. This is not so much of a question, but a warm and heartfelt THANK YOU. I think (hope!) that we're slowly getting to the end of some really tough years. Two years ago our youngest daughter at 13 rapidly developed anxiety and then presented herself as trans. Now I know it was pretty much the usual ROGD-story of no earlier signs, lots of internet contacts and a withdrawal from the family. But we didn't know that at the time. We felt so lonely and desperate, didn't know how to help her. Our contacts with psychologists were the same: they went through their questionnaire, told us that she had anxiety and depression, affirmed her trans identity 100% and recommended us to contact a gender clinic. In a time where we needed to be at our best as parents, these meetings really made us feel like we didn't understand anything about our child. Then I found a group of ROGD-parents in my country and media started to investigate the gender issue. We slowly got back on our feet, set some boundaries (like not going to gender clinic), allowed her to use a boys name in school and dress as she liked, and found a way of not using ”she” and her birth name but also nut using her boys name at home (because we really couldn’t). We also found a better psychologist at last, who helped our child und us with a somewhat broader view at her difficulties. And most important for me: I found you Lisa and Stella, along with Sasha Ayad and Benjamin Boyce. You have helped me through this, sometimes I have literally felt that you're holding my hand. Your mantra “Stay connected” has helped me focus on the most important. I cried and laughed when you talked about adolescences, and said that about one out of three gets through puberty easily, one with ”normal” problems and one of three really has the shittiest time. My three children really tick those boxes. You have reminded me again and again that it's the world right now – not us parents – that is crazy. You have made me feel less alone. Now my daughter is slowly exploring the possibilities of being a girl again. She has started to wear more girly clothes, skirts, dresses, stockings and even underwear. I think she still identifies as a boy, but I also think maybe she has to do that for a while to be able to meet the world as a girl? I feel sure that she will do this in her way and her pace. She seems so much more happy, openhearted and confident now when she is experimenting with girl identity, than when she went down the trans path and didn't want to talk or even be with us. And of course, the other week Stella gave some really good advice about not asking or talking so much about this, ”saving face” and so on. Just in time when I needed it! These years have made me reflect a lot about girls adolescence, how shocking – almost violent – it can be for a young girl, and how all the new expectations and gender roles can be just too much to handle. This time has been really tough for our child, and by far the worst and hardest in my entire life as a mother. But in a way I feel proud today over her braveness. She refused to accept the rules, and now she is inventing her own, slowly adapting to her new body and person in a way that suits her. Standing up for herself. Thank you again, for your wisdom, warmth and experience. I truly don’t know where I would have been today without you. Links: Stella Tedx talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWVcyCyRs2Y Stella’s book Cotton Wool Kids: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cotton-Wool-Kids-Parents-Paranoid/dp/1781173206/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=cotton+wool+kids&qid=1591537596&sr=8-1 Lisa’s patreon about ROGD kids and young adults: https://www.patreon.com/LisaMarchiano
41: “I don’t trust her decision making.”
24:31A year ago when our ADD student daughter then aged 21 revealed to my husband and myself that she was on a waiting list to have cross sex treatment, our 16-year-old son took the role of her trans ally. My husband said he would tolerate her having a partial mastectomy. My family doctor referred me to Mermaids. I called them and found there was no space for parents to feel grief, only acceptance. I thought the world had gone mad and I should take my exit. Since then a lot has happened, a lot of shouting, a lot of crying, nights alone in hotel rooms when I couldn't bear to be in the house with my husband and son. I then made huge efforts to find other parents who felt the same and bring them together. My husband and son seem to have changed their tune and don't now support my daughter's position. I worry about our daughter's welfare when our time has ended but don't trust her decision making. I want her to have a roof over her head where she may not be able to manage a home herself. I have got a lawyer to draft up a family trust which becomes active when we die, to be managed by our son and my younger brother and family, stipulating any help will stop if she uses money to advance any physical transitioning or furthering of the trans ideology. Though he seems to be growing up well, has a long-term sweetheart where they are smitten with each, it's putting a lot of pressure on our son where he isn't yet an adult. Links: Lisa’s patreon about ROGD: https://www.patreon.com/LisaMarchiano The Samaritans will provide free support for anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts or emotional distress: www.samaritans.org Father saying good bye to his son at college: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/michael-gerson-saying-goodbye-to-my-child-the-youngster/2013/08/19/6337802e-08dd-11e3-8974-f97ab3b3c677_story.html
40: “I know we should love the child we have and not wish them to be different but I can't help having these thoughts.”
17:40“I worry that my boy is not very clever and I am secretly embarrassed and ashamed about this. My family is over-invested in achievement and especially educational achievement and the cousins' fabulous exam results are continuously talked about within our family WhatsApp. It is very distressing to feel ashamed of my boy who is both kind and funny. I'm not sure how I should navigate this - should I just declare that he isn't 'academic' and thereby lead the rest of the family to make insinuations that he is a bit stupid? Although I don't equate intelligence with qualifications, everyone else does. Or should I continue to not speak about his exam results - even though this is not working and I know the family has silently decided he is a bit stupid? To be perfectly honest, I am very disappointed that he is not bright and competent in school and I wish he was. I know we should love the child we have and not wish them to be different but I can't help having these thoughts.”
39: “My work has "juice" for me now while parenting just feels hard and draining.”
21:24“I'm feeling incredibly disconnected from my kids right now. I'm the main breadwinner and my husband stays home with them. When they were little, I stayed home with them and I loved it, but now I am spending most of my time at work. To be honest, I like it that way. When I come home at the end of the day, I find the chaos and noise distressing. My work is very gratifying at the moment and I am receiving a lot of recognition after putting in a lot of hard work over many years. My work has "juice" for me now while parenting just feels hard and draining.”
38: “My sense of disappointment feels selfish.”
18:59“I'm a single mom and I've always worked full time while raising my kids. My youngest is graduating from high school this year and I've been anticipating the empty next stage of life with mixed emotions. I've known it will be tremendously sad, but at the same time, I'm looking forward to having more time to myself for the first time in over two decades. Now with the coronavirus, it looks possible that he won't be leaving for college in the fall and I am feeling very disappointed about this. I know he is disappointed as well. My sense of disappointment feels selfish. It's hard to admit to friends and family who assume I'm happy to have him home with me for longer.”
37: “Now, with the Coronavirus, she won't have any of the ceremonial endings that seem important to her.”
18:40“My 12 year-old is leaving school this year and now, with the Coronavirus, she won't have any of the ceremonial endings that seem to important to her. I know it's all half-fabricated and there are a lot of much bigger problems in the world, but for my girl it seems like a big deal. I don't really feel she's ready to go to secondary school yet and I thought all these graduations, confirmations, and end of school ceremonies would adjust her mind as she sets off into her teenage years. I'm interested to hear any ideas or thoughts about this - I wonder are there fairy tales or metaphors that we could use to help provide my daughter with a narrative of her new life? Should we have our own ceremony or is that pretty mad?”
36: “We never told my parents.”
22:11“I come from a close family. My parents have been involved in all aspects of my children’s lives and are extremely special to them. I have one adult sibling who has special needs and is cared for exclusively by my aging parents. At the time of his birth, it was common for children with special needs to be placed in an institution rather than raised at home. My parents never considered this and have proudly fulfilled his every need without assistance. It has always been a fact of life that I would take over his care when my parents could not continue. I willingly accept this and have made preparations. My husband and I are now experiencing the freedom of the empty nest, as our children are away at university. The last few years have been incredibly stressful, as one of our sons out of the blue and with no warning began identifying as female during high school after a history of anxiety and depression. We have never told my parents. They have so much to deal with already and it would be cruel to put them through the worry and fear they’d undoubtedly feel. So, for the past few years, they have been unaware of their grandchild’s double life. Our son has never told them and interacts with them as the grandson they know and love. At this time in my life I am reflecting on parenthood and enjoying a return to individuality as I explore my own goals and passions without the soccer games, swim team, and band practices. Only now do I realize the sacrifices my mother has made by committing her life to my brother. I would love to connect more deeply with my mother, who recently said to me that she wished we could be better friends. Her grandchildren are the light of her life. How can I nurture a deeper “woman to woman” relationship while keeping a secret that consumes my own life? I feel guilty for not being more helpful over the years as I raised my own children, and for enjoying this new freedom that she can never have. She and my father have recently fallen into poor health. If ever it existed, the window for adding any further stress to their lives has closed, as they are now navigating the medical system and an uncertain future. It breaks my heart that she has felt in recent years that I was too busy for her when in reality I have needed her very much but distanced myself in order to protect her. Lisa and Stella, thank you for reading my story. I understand that it may not make it into an episode of the podcast, but it still brings me comfort to know you’ve heard it :) Thank you both for what you’re doing for mothers everywhere.”
35: “Should I ask him if he’s still transgender?”
20:42A year ago, my 16 year old son told us he is transgender. I was completely shocked, as he is not particularly feminine. My son was very emotional and begged us to allow him to use puberty blockers or estrogen. We managed to delay his pursuit through distraction and some bargaining, though I often feel like I'm lying to him or manipulating him. We are now in social isolation due to the coronavirus lockdown. My son actually seems happier than he has all year and, out of the blue, he went on a three hour walk with a girl, who he says he's now dating. My question is, what do I do next? Should I ask him if he's still transgender? I feel like I'm walking on a tightrope with him but, is this just what it's like to raise a teenager?” In this episode Lisa mentions the book, “Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers” by Gordon Neufeld & Gabor Maté: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hold-Your-Kids-Parents-Matter/dp/0375760288