Unhealthy Parenting ~ The Foundation is Passed on to Me

head clearing work ~ preparing a new foundation for parenting
Darlene and Bodie

In my recovery it has been important for me to realize how my parents did not have a sense of their own value and therefore did not know how to help me to see my own value. I think that when we are adult children and we struggle with self esteem, we have some funky and skewed systems in place, causing us to believe that the road to wholeness and freedom is on a path that it isn’t on at all. It can get really confusing if at the heart of it we believe that someone else can restore our value, or that we can be the source of defining value for another. If you have not read my last post “The Beginning of Broken ~ Family Foundations”, please read it first as it gives more context for this post.

Somewhere along the way my mother thought that her children would restore her value.  I think this is what so often happens. Parents try to get their value restored through their children. Children can’t accomplish that; nobody can restore value for another person. But I really wanted my mother to be okay, and thought that if only I could love her enough, that she would love me too and I tried harder and harder but I failed her. Her disappointment became blame which seeped out unto me and became a part of the way that I viewed myself.

When my oldest son was 12 he began to roll his eyes at me, speaking to me and looking at me like I was a little crazy. Since I had struggled with depression for many years, deep down I thought maybe I was crazy. My greatest joy and most important work in life up till then had been raising these 3 kids but I had this feeling that I was failing. Pretty much  my only goal in life had been not to do what my mother did to me, but it was all going wrong and I was seriously considering giving up. I thought the kids might be better off without me, and that my husband might be able to do a better job on his own. I sought help as a last resort.

I was very sure that I could do things better with my own kids. I had a few ideas about where my parents failed me, but I didn’t often consider that my self esteem got stunted because their self esteem was stunted. When my parents didn’t succeed in showing me my value, and although I worked hard in many different ways to find my value, I failed, mostly because I looked for evidence of value in the wrong places. I didn’t have anywhere to start from. The foundation was never laid, so I looked for my worth in my work, through other people, through my talents and things like that.

When I had my own children, deep down I thought that I would do better with raising them and that in succeeding in doing better, in successfully raising my own kids, that THEY would be the proof of my value. I thought successful parenting would “define” me and prove that I was a valuable person. I started to have increasing mental health breakdowns as I realized that I was not having the success that I dreamed of, nor was my value being established. I had to throw all my old ideas out the window and learn a new way of looking at things in order to heal from the illnesses that I struggled with. I had to think outside the confines of the box that was passed down to me in order to find freedom and wholeness on this side of broken.

What are your thoughts on these ideas? As always I welcome your comments, as your views only enhance the effectiveness of my purpose.

Bright Blessings,

Darlene Ouimet

18 response to "Unhealthy Parenting ~ The Foundation is Passed on to Me"

  1. By: Mo Posted: 5th August

    I got caught up in this issue in the last couple weeks. My kids were taking swim class, they are not naturally water-lovers. They can’t swim yet and I really wanted them to be able to (feel like they should by this age). I felt embarrassed and shame-filled when I watched them struggle with the lessons (like it’s my fault for being a ‘bad mother’). They didn’t want to put their heads under water, they weren’t getting the movements quite right. And the instructors were being so patient and kind and inwardly I’m screaming “just do it”. The other moms were so chilled, even when their kids weren’t following instructions. So I’m looking at where my reaction is coming from (my own childhood). And I battled with it. So my kids aren’t swimmers yet….will they learn better if I shame them or encourage them…I know which one is better and I mostly make good choices but sometimes the voice in my head leaks out my mouth 🙁

  2. By: Drained Posted: 27th April

    Darlene – I admire how you were able to turn your life around. How smart and courageous! So many broken souls end up on a dark path that leads to self-destruction, and destroying others. Thanks for the inspiration.

    I chose not to have kids for many reasons, but mainly I was terrified of having a child with my mother’s personality and also, I felt like a child myself, incapable of properly parenting another human. Lack of self-confidence and emotional immaturity due to mother’s toxic Narcissistic parenting certainly contributed to my choice! And, I just prefer animals LOL.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 28th April

      Hi Drained
      Thank you. I was terrified of having children too ~ I waited till I was 30! My biggest fear was having a child that was “like me” because I believed that I was born defective, sullen, selfish and unhappy and that I too was incapable of parenting (because I was so defective!) and my mothers narcissistic parenting style as well as my fathers passive abuse was the sole reason that I was so scared!
      Thank you for sharing!
      Hugs, Darlene

  3. By: Barb Posted: 29th June

    My kids were what got me through. I threw myself into my children. At last i had someone who would love me no matter what. I didn’t realize that it was an unhealthy relationship until a family therapy session. Now I feel so guilty. I still struggle to not take my problems to her.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 29th June

      Barb, the good thing about this is that you realized it! I threw myself into my parenting too, and became a slave to the kids thinking that was love. I had to learn relationship all over again. I had to learn what love really is and what relationship really is. That all came with finding out where my false definition of love and relationship came from in the first place. Keep striving!
      Hugs, Darlene

  4. By: stacy Posted: 26th April

    I have 2 kids and one thing I know for certain is that parenting is a selfless act. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I try every day so hard to do right by them but I know most days I don’t begin to measure up to being the parent I thought I could be.
    This post reminds me a little of a converstaions I had in therapy today. We talked about having fun. Like, do I know how to have fun in life and honestly I don’t. My parents never had fun. They were all about accomplishment and self disapline. Having fun was of no value to them. So, I don’t seem to value it either. Or really even know how to have fun. Just like you, I want to try to do differently with my kids. But it’s hard to teach them something, especially something that’s learned through example, if you don’t do it or value it yourself. I think it’s pretty commen to do a lot of reparenting ourselves as we parent our kids.

  5. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 26th April

    Welcome! Thank you for the great compliment.

    Still Learning,
    What you have said here sums it up for so many mothers. I think that would have been exactly what might have been said to me if I had not found my own self esteem and identity. Thanks so much for your comment.

    I did this same thing with my kids when they were younger, even from the age of two. I realized when I was in therapy that although many of my expectations with my children were good solid parenting methods, my motives were wrong. And if the motive is wrong, (that they need to act a certain way in order for me to look like a good mother) then the kids get the wrong message no matter HOW good the parenting method is. I realized the exact same thing that you did; that I was giving my children a mixed message, and really doing damage. Thanks so much for your insightful comments!

    As always, I thank you for your willingness to share deeply from your heart, and your sincere honesty and insights from your own life experience.

    Hugs, Darlene

  6. By: Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker Posted: 25th April

    I became a house mother in a group foster home for two years in an effort to feel good about myself. I didn’t realize that was in my subconscious until after I quit. I realized then that I couldn’t really help those boys until I knew myself and did my own healing work. I will forever be grateful to those boys for the lessons they taught me about myself. At the time that my husband and I were houseparents, I was still in denial of my real feelings about my incest issues.

    With my own two children, I was determined not to raise them the way that I was raised. I did not sexually abuse them but I did pass on my fears. What I learned in Al-Anon is that 360 degrees of sick is still sick. Because of my unresolved issues and rage, I was a very sick person. I just made a different set of mistakes with my two children.

  7. By: Still Learning Posted: 25th April

    The first time I went to a counselor, which was about 7 years ago, after hearing me blurt out my story and struggles with my daughter, he summed it all up with, “You’re using your daughter to feel better about yourself”. It sounds harsh and hit me quite hard, but it rang true because it was true. I have been on the pathway to find a better way since then.

  8. By: Christina Enevoldsen Posted: 25th April

    Darlene, it just occurred to me that that’s one of the things I so appreciate about how you help people. The ‘spirit’ of it seems right since you are not driven to help people to gain your self-esteem. You do it out of love and as an expression of joy for your own freedom.

  9. By: Christina Enevoldsen Posted: 25th April


    “When I had my own children, deep down I thought that I would do better with raising them and that in succeeding in doing better, in successfully raising my own kids, that THEY would be the proof of my value. I thought successful parenting would “define” me and prove that I was a valuable person.”

    I can completely identify with the seeking self-esteem from your own children. When my kids were in their teenage years, I noticed that I was sending them mixed messages. One message was that I loved them, no matter what they thought or did, but another message was that they needed to act in a way that didn’t embarrass me. I was horrified that I needed them to perform just so I’d feel better. It went directly against my definition of a good mother, so in my seeking self-esteem through their lives, I disqualified myself from ever “earning” it by my own standards. In my method of trying to get it, I would never actually be the kind of mother I so wanted to be.

    It was a lot of work to separate ‘me’ from ‘them’ (a whole different issue) and to really know that I am wonderful apart from my abilities or accomplishments. I still catch myself thinking in those terms from time to time, but I really don’t operate that way anymore.

    I just love that you’re bringing all of this into the light for others to learn and grow from. Thank you for your honesty and vulnerablity.

    Hugs to you!

  10. By: Frieda L. Ferrick Posted: 25th April

    Darlene, what I see of value and importance is that even though you struggled, you did not give up and you got help. As you put your pieces together in a different way you started to have a true sense of self and therefore, you did a brilliant job of role modeling for your children.

  11. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 25th April

    I totally understand, and I thank you for stopping by. Be gentle with yourself my friend!

    It is so great to have your professional insight added to this post! Thanks so much for your comment!

    Welcome to our blog, I took a quick peek at your blog and I am so happy to have you join us here. I appreciate your wisdom as we travel the healing road to freedom and breaking the cycle, together.

    I know that I speak for both Carla and I when I say that we are so pleased to have such great contributions to our posts from everyone who leaves their comments and feedback.

    Hugs, Darlene

  12. By: Svava Brooks Posted: 25th April

    Thank you Darlene. I can relate to this challenge. I have 2 teenage girls and sometimes feel at loss what to do. That can sometimes send me spinning into bad feelings of what is wrong with me for not knowing how to do this. It takes support from my husband to find compassion for myself and trust that I am breaking a cycle and finding a solution that comes from the heart, not from my wounded part. Loving myself first so that I can love them just the way they are. Work in progress.
    Thank you for all that you do.Love and Light,

  13. By: Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT Posted: 25th April

    “The foundation was never laid, so I looked for my worth in my work, through other people, through my talents and things like that.”

    This goes on for so many who never learned that they were valuable, worthwile human beings from the start. I can identify with this a great deal – particularly the piece about putting my identity into achievement.

    It’s taken a lot of my own growth to stay clear on what’s driving me – and whether it’s coming from a healthy place or not. We’re all a work in progress and will always be so. And that’s ok! I believe this experience (and my work around it) makes me a better therapist as well. I get it – and have a pretty good idea of how to help people navigate these waters.

    Keep up the good work, Darlene.


  14. By: Carla Dippel Posted: 25th April

    I love how you describe the desire to “restore your value” and I can definitely relate to the belief that being a good mother would do this for me. I am still single without children, but for most of my life I have felt the pressure to be a wife and a mother, with this unspoken sense that if I didn’t become these things my life would be meaningless. Thanks for this wonderful post Darlene.

  15. By: Splinteredones Posted: 25th April

    Ah hon sorry not yet ready to hear this. But beautifully written all the same. I feel a tantrum coming on ;). Keep up the bravery gal

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