How to Come to Terms with Uninvolved Extended Family

Updated on May 20, 2015
V.S. asks from Coatesville, PA
41 answers

We are expecting our 3rd child over the next couple of weeks. As with our previous births, family has never even asked if they could be of any assistance (ie. to watch our 2 kids during the birth process, help out afterwards, etc). Our family all lives 3 hours away (they are not around the block but not in Alaska, either). My father is deceased and sadly, my mother has never been of any assistance to me - this may be one I have such a hard time accepting this. Growing up my mother never attended school trips (I remember crying in 6th grade when everyone sat with their Moms on a bus trip to NY and I sat alone), sent my older sister (3 years older) to my Mother/daughter tea with me when I was a Girl Scout, refused to come dress shopping with me when I was planning my wedding (she was "too tired"). My in-laws have never, ever been involved or helpful with our children - my husband's parents are divorced and both remarried although his Mom is now widowed. He has adult step sisters and brothers who he treats like biological siblings but I guess they are "too busy" or immature to step up to the plate (they are in their late 20's). I feel like I have done everything "on my own" for my entire life (I even joke that it should be on my tombstone when I die). I am always envious of friends who have involved grandparents for their children or who have Moms who are active and involved in their lives. I realize this sounds nuts, but although I am a practicing Christian/Catholic, I even get angry with God, who I feel has never provided me with another adult that I could rely upon in times of need or look to as a role model. I feel so very sorry that my kids only have myself and my spouse. A good friend of mine always tells me to "just get over it - you can never change people" but in my mind I have a speech as to what I would love to say to my in-laws someday re: their lack of involvement (don't worry - I have unloaded upon my Mother several times but she is too selfish/naive to fully understand the point). Has anyone else delt with this problem throughout their lives? How did you cope with it? Please don't bother to respond by telling me to "make friends with an older adult at church". We are active in our large parish but have never met anyone that really lends a hand outside of church activities. Thanks for the ear! I am so sick of feeling depressed and miserable about this my entire life.

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

Featured Answers



answers from Dallas on

Plain and simple answer - Therapy for me to cope with the mother I have.

It sucks, but some people just don't have the emotional make-up to be more than superficial. You can't change them. You can only accept that fact and move on. It takes time, some heartache, but it's doable.

Once you've started to accept the fact that these people who "should" (ditch this word) behave a certain way because they are family (biologically) won't behave that way, you'll feel lighter, better, and more open.

You can't really "look" for a person to fill these kinds of roles, but when you've come to peace with them, with the loss of the "ideal" we all want, you're heart/mind will have room in it to build relationships with others.

13 moms found this helpful

More Answers



answers from Portland on

This is so painful for you. Of course you're angry. however, you cannot change your extended family. Anything you say to them will not make a difference and may cause an angry response back. I urge you to accept who they are. Your anger is only hurting you and your immediate family and making it impossible for you to enjoy the limited contact with the extended family.

You want them to be more involved. They are who they are. They will not change. Find a way for you to change your feelings so that you can be happy. Model for your children that happiness comes from within ourselves and is not dependent on what others do or do not do.

I suggest counseling for you. Perhaps reading about codependency would help. Know that you're hurt and angry. Accepting the way you feel and knowing they will not change is the first step. The next is finding joy with your immediate family and letting go of thinking you need this to be happy. I've had to do this. Getting to be happy with myself and accepting families inability to provide what I want is painful. However, the happiness I have now made that process worthwhile.

As adults we tend to try to get what we didn't get as a child. As a child we needed mom's approval. You needed your mom involved with you. Children rely on parents for emotional support. As an adult it is good to have that support but we don't need it. As adults we can find that support in other ways.

11 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

You want something and you need to find a way to deal with that want or find a way to not want that anymore.
You want your family to be people that they are not.
They can only be them selves - and they are not people who want to live on each others doorsteps.
You can want it as much as you want - and you will NEVER be able to force them to be what you want them to be.
You want to tell them what you think - they are not going to respond in any sort of positive way to this.
They'll only stay farther away from you.
The only person you can change is YOU.
And I'm afraid you're only choice is to get the therapy you need to find a way to not want this anymore from these people.

So maybe you don't want to make older friends at church but the best way to find like minded friends is to be a friend.
Sitting and stewing about how unfair it is that your family doesn't help you out isn't going to solve anything for you.
Sometimes you need to bootstrap yourself without role models.
You've been dong it - you just need to get over being mad about having to do it.
Your kids are lucky to have you and your spouse - some kids don't even have that much.
Be the parent(s) you wish you had but never got.
Just get some therapy to get over your anger and resentment.

11 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I think that you need to come to terms with your mother's never being the mom you wanted her to be and never going to be the mom you want her to be. Mourn that loss. I think that this is more about your relationship with her than anything, and perhaps each child brings those old memories up. I would focus on the family members you do have. You may need to seek counseling to work through the grief and anger over your mother being who and how she is or your in-laws being who they are. It stinks. It's hard. It hurts. Your friend suggests you let it go - and I agree with her in the sense that if you don't, you're holding onto anger that's only really hurting yourself and your children.

The problem with speeches is that sometimes no one wants to listen or care. We may dream that it's going to wake them up... and it doesn't. I had a cousin try to tell me that my version of my childhood was false. So I told her no, it wasn't. That was one of the last times I ever heard from her. My reality didn't fit hers. She was not open to hearing it.

I never had a real dad growing up and I understand being disappointed with that relationship. I had to come to terms with that on my own, as you do. You can be angry with God for not replacing her, but I find that sometimes when we dictate what WE want, we don't always get it because it's not the right thing for us. We can stare at a closed door and never notice the open window.

It sounds like both you and your DH have lackluster external families. So build strength together vs waiting on an outside influence. My DD will never have a grandma that picks her up from school and bakes cookies with her. My friend will never be able to be that grandma for her husband's grandchildren because her DIL doesn't like her. So she is an honorary grand to my DD and I try to cherish that for what it is - no more, no less. Relationships are not plug and play. If you are healthy in your interactions with others, you will attract people who are healthy as well. This is not something you can fix with a replacement. This is something you heal from the inside.

Frankly, the older I am, the more I realize that not everything is as Camelot as it looks on the outside. That family has a child with ADHD. That one struggles with marital conflicts. That one struggles with infertility. Etc. The more you compare yourself to what you don't truly truly know, the more you will feel like a failure. Count your blessings and worry more about what you have vs what you don't.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

What do you do? You put your big girl pants on and get on with life. That's what you do. Instead of thinking about what you DON'T have look at what you do have. A loving husband, two wonderful kiddos and another one on the way.

No, you didn't decide your extended family but you did pick YOUR family. Embrace them. You are blessed! The Lord sent you a mate and children to fill your heart with love. Not bad.

You are the one in charge of your life now. You can either go with "the past sucked but I'm so thankful for this family I created OR this ALL sucks" and then you make everyone miserable.

Don't repeat the mistakes from your past. Give your children all the love and understanding going forward. Don't do to them what was done to you. Break the cycle.

Be that awesome Mom sitting next to your daughter on a field trip or on a bridal dress hunt. THOSE are the memories YOU create.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I would recommend the book "Ambiguous Loss" by Pauline Boss. You have a parent who is alive but not present for you any longer. I have had similar experiences-- I won't tell you to get over it, and I will tell you that it's okay to grieve what you have missed from your mother and then to move forward.

You have desires for her to behave in a way which would let you feel loved and supported; she has no desire to behave in this way. Believe me, we really cannot change another person. It sounds like the relationship is already fraught--you say you have unloaded on her several times-- I would ask you what you think your children can gain not from the potential of a good relationship, but from the *reality* of this tense relationship with your mom.

That said, I think you bear a lot of anger and judgment toward both your families as well as your in-laws. I think the claim of immaturity could be shared by all of you. My husband and I do "everything" in regard to raising kiddo without any outside help from either of our families. We don't have a problem with this because WE chose to have a baby and we understood that this level of expectation from them was not realistic. So, understand that when you say that they should "step up to the plate" you are projecting a sense of entitlement toward them, that these people should help out, just because. Unfortunately, family doesn't work that way. Please, find a way to accept those around you for who they are and ENJOY your life instead of finding reasons to be angry and disappointed, or you will only pass your perspective and feelings of loss and disappointment onto your children.

We have created a chosen family for ourselves and our son in our community, so when we do see extended family, which is seldom, they can enjoy Kiddo at their own level and pace. If they don't, too bad for them. No biggie. I don't hold onto it. We've created something good without conventional support and that is something we can be glad about. Envy and anger will get you nowhere-- accepting what you have to work with can and really will help.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

similar story.. I pay for all babysitting... I got over it.. in laws come to visit from another state once a year for a few days...

hire a nanny to help after the baby..

even a few hours a few days a week will help..

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I think the advice given is super.

I grew up without a mom doing the things you mention - out of circumstance.

And I'm a mom who can't do the things you mention - out of circumstance (I'm ill).

I think moms are human and we need to realize that they don't always meet the perfect mom standards. Some are not cut out to be chaperones or do the girlie stuff, others can't ...

I only know a handful of friends who have the 'perfect' situation but other things in their lives are very stressful and difficult. No one has it all.

No one owes you anything at this point either. For them to drop everything and help you, realize that would be a favor. It's like being a sitter. Some grandparents do it willingly because that's their expectation. But it's not everyone's.

I think feeling you were cheated as a child is only going to bring you misery - you need to look back, forgive your mom, and realize you turned out well. Move on. I used to pity myself (big time) and then met people who had it much, much worse and realized I was just being an idiot.

Good advice I was given was when you get rid of the negative feelings (forgive, therapy, move on..) it leaves room for good ones. So maybe get rid of the expectations - accept what is - and find other solutions. If you are bitter - you likely are not attracting kind willing people.

Good luck :) and congrats on the new baby soon to come!

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Cleveland on

The lack of help and attention you had as a child is sad and I'm sorry. I read in a book recently (fiction so take it for what it's worth) a character saying "it only takes once to forgive. To hold onto resentment is an effort every day." Something like that. I'm the type to resent so it made me stop and think... Once you have time, counseling might help. In terms of now, only thing you can do is be proud. I have had very little help too bc of no family nearby and they're elderly and my MIL doesn't help either. Sometimes I get mad and/or jealous. Other times I say "well, I'm an adult. I knew when I had kids it was all on me so it's my responsibility." I even have a friend with an MIL IN THE SAME TOWN who doesn't help. Her attitude is "I raised my kids." And maybe she did it with no help too. It's her right to not help with grandkids... I remind myself of that too. Unless a parent/in law was bugging you to death to give them grandkids, why are they their responsibility at all?... I know it'd be nice but honestly it's one reason I didn't have 3 kids. People I know with 3 kids often have grandparent help and I've said to myself "well, maybe I'd have had 3 if I had that but I didn't so I stopped at 2." So to me it's a tradeoff between being proud of yourself and remembering no one made you have these kids so they're not anyone's responsibility but yours. Certainly not your husband's step siblings. So try to separate your childhood, which did suck, and now. Your childhood is your mom's fault. Now isn't... Nor is it your inlaws... At least know you're not alone. My mom also never had help bc she moved here from another country and her inlaws beyond sucked. She said my grandmother held my sister ONCE for about 2 min. Btw - I will not help my MIL much either when she needs it. My parents at least would be willing to help if they could. But you can treat them the same way they've treated you someday. Not in an angry way but just don't feel obligated.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Barbara on

My parents are beyond awful and never for one second would have wanted help. I'm the mom. My ex-husbands family is very nice although his mother has since passed. Never in a million years would I have set myself up for disappointment with my family, she didn't need what I went through.

We have two chances at this parent / child relationship thing. Mine was done with my parents which was failure since I was a little girl. The most wonderful, rewarding, loving, laughing, learning, thoughtful, fun relationship is with my daughter and her dad (my ex husband).

I'll take my way any day!

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Anchorage on

It would suck to have them show no interest, but it seems you are more hurt that no one is helping you, but they did not make the choice to have those children so it is not their job to "step up to the plate" in any way. Are they welcome to be a part of the kids lives on smaller terms, seeing them occasionally at your place, or do you expect involvement to be in the form that helps you (i.e. babysitting)? Just something to ponder.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Wausau on

You're holding on to a lot of childhood stuff. It's hurtful and not what you wanted, but you're also never going to go back in time and get it. So move forward. Keep your focus on your core family - that is the people in your own household - and let the rest fall into the peripheral as something you don't worry about anymore.

Be active in your own kids lives and let that be enough. Your friend is right that you have no control over other people. There is no speech you can make that will matter.

I was just talking to someone last night about her awful father. She is in her late 40s and has never stopped trying to win his approval. I told her last night that she will never have it. He will never be proud of her or anything she does. She will never be good enough in his eyes. She can keep spinning her tires in the sand and get bogged down wishing for something she will never have, or she can get on the pavement and drive away from that mess. The same applies to you.

You've been carrying heavy baggage for a very long time. If you can't move past this on your own, think about talking to a counselor to walk you through it. Ultimately you have to make the mindful decision that you're going to let go and live your life going forward, not looking backwards. It isn't your mother nor your in-laws that are holding you back. You created your own chains, and only you can break them.

Added: I'm not really clear on what the issue is with your husband's siblings. You said "they are "too busy" or immature to step up to the plate" but I'm not sure what plate you mean. What is it that you think they should be doing in regards to your household? I have siblings, and we've pulled together in an emergency scenario, but we don't depend on each other for routine matters.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Asheville on

Just be grateful for the blessings you do have, and forgive your mother. Our parents aren't perfect and your expectations are exactly that- your expectations. Carrying around resentment will do nothing but eat you alive on the inside.
I grew up with an older single mom who battled cancer when I was a child. My father was uninvolved. To this day, my father and I have been estranged for 14 years. I was bitter for a while towards my father, but when I had a family of my own, I let that go and forgave him. Simple as that. Once you say that out loud, it makes things feel so much better. My father is who he is and I have accepted that. I'm here and ready to talk if he ever is, and if he's not, well, I'm ok with that, too. Inside, I'm at peace and I won't be expending any more energy in that direction. It works for me.
Your kids have two loving, involved parents, which is more than many children have these days. Instead of feeling depressed and miserable, focus on being supportive role model for them instead of looking to others to support you. Be everything to them you wish your mother/in-laws would be to you. Best wishes to you and your blessing on the way!

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I know you did not have the ideal childhood, but perhaps if you changed your perspective a bit, you could be a happier person. Your whole post is about "what they don't do for ME". How about re-training your thoughts to, "What can I do for others?" If this is the energy you give off in a sincere way, people will be drawn to you and want to be there with and for you. I, too, have pity parties for my current life situation and am thinking this is the way I need to go to feel better about my life. I have the love of family and friends but my husband's health has blown away any of the dreams we had for the way we wanted our life to be. I just feel in my heart that gratitude, acceptance, and giving would make me happier than wanting and jealousy ever could. Getting to that state is the hard part.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

This is an honest question and not a criticism -- have you directly asked anyone for specific help? You mention that "family has never asked if they could be of any assistance" but did you, yourself, ever approach them to ask them to be of assistance, ask for them to come to place X at time Y to do thing Z? I do not mean the question to come off as critical. I really do want to know if your asking was part of the equation at some point, because if it wasn't, they might be assuming you don't need or want help.

If you did ask and were turned down, you did the right thing by being specific and asking, and now you know not to try again, at least. If you did not ask, they can't know they're needed unless you do. But honestly, from what you post, I wonder if you would want them, especially your mom, around you much anyway, IF they even said yes.

You do have a lot of pain here regarding your mother's distant relationship with you, and that relationship is your clear sign that she's just not going to step up or volunteer or make offers -- it would be out of character and her character's been clear since you were a kid, sadly. As B. posted below, you want your family to be people they just aren't. Sometimes we all do. But instead of expending your precious mental energy being angry at them or at God, take that energy and do something about finally sloughing off your past and your present disappointment.

I really hope you will see a therapist, if you haven't already, to work on and get past your last sentence in the post. No one should go through their life feeling this bad. But you don't have to navigate it all alone. There is a lot of help out there to put your childhood and your current relationships (like with your husband's siblings) into perspective instead of letting it control you and create false hopes, like the hope that people will make offers they will never make. Therapy can also show you how people are not going to change because we hope they will, or because we have a major life change (like kids)..

As for the in-laws, I say, in-laws are the business of their adult child, in this case, your husband. If you need help, he has to step up and ask them for it. If they can't or won't, that's their prerogative, frankly. How you and your husband feel about it is another thing. You can stay angry and hurt or learn to let it go and stop wanting them, and your mom, to become involved grandparents, aunts and uncles, since that is not in their personalities or in their desires. Again, a good therapist or counselor can help you find some peace with that.

One aside: Those 20-something siblings of your husband's could end up being terrific aunts and uncles once they're a bit older, especially if right now they are in various stages of focusing on their careers, getting married or pretty newly married, or starting families, etc. Their life stage may be very different from yours at this time but in a few years, they may be at a place where they are settled in and more understanding of, and interested in, their brother's kids. So please don't write them off. You mention: "I guess that they are 'too busy' or immature to step up to the plate" -- but again, did they know there was a plate to step up to, or that you wanted help from them? They might even have figured that you'd ask the in-laws/your mom first before them and since they didn't hear from you they didn't want to bug you, or didn't know what to offer you if they don't have kids and don't really understand what's involved. So consider giving them a break, and reaching out to them and not waiting for them to reach out to you.

Happened with us. My brother has become a really great uncle (and better brother) in recent years. He just needed to hit the right place in his life to understand some things. If I'd written him off earlier, I wouldn't know this person he is today, and neither would our daughter. Just a thought.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

Ok. I'm 48, an only child of a mom who got pregnant by the boy next door and was never married. She has never really bothered with me. My grandparents whom I was very close to both died in 2000 when my first born was less than a year. My now ex-in laws never bothered with my 2 kids, their only grand kids either. So I have always been "on my own" as well. I didn't "like" it but figured that was my lot in life so I have dealt with it. I actually am a Chrisitan and very active in my church. My husband and I over the last 3 years have become very good friends with 3 other couples. These are the people that we can rely on. My best friend picks up my son for me if I need her to, not my mom, who lives 15 minutes from me. So don't cross off meeting friends at church. Generally on Sunday no one has time to socialize, we are hungry and leave right after the service to eat lunch. But we go to all the activities, women's groups, men's groups, kids groups, etc and that is how we became friends. If you feel like you meet someone you may have something in common with then see if they can meet for coffee or at the park and build on that. None of us with crappy family like it, but we just keep moving forward and take care of ourselves and our husband and kids. Good luck.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Williamsport on

***This just brought to mind one of my FAVORITE people. She's worldly and wise and has amazing high schoolers and one college student. They've traveled the world homeschooling and put their kids in several foreign schools, she's active in a million community projects, and works at a charitable place. She's got a billion FB friends and is always up to something interesting...I just had dinner with her the other night and learned: She was raised Mormon. When she and her husband rejected Mormonism, they were CAST OUT of their entire large families' lives. BOOM! No family. And as far as their ex-family is concerned, they're condemned sinners. So. She's had no family support of course raising her kids. But again, she's one of the happiest most well-rounded people I know.***

You are desiring something you'll never have. Something that many people don't have. Something that many people don't want! I have no relationship with my in-laws whatsoever THANK GOD, they're jerks. I have no family in my state. I see my parents rarely and we haven't been close since I reached adulthood. They did not help me with births or anything. My mom does not sound uncaring like yours-as a child she did nice things for me in her rare spare time and is affectionate by nature, but since age 17 I have been on my own. I'm now a divorced single mother of three age 44. I'm a happy woman with a wonderful community. I'm my children's support. That fulfills me.

My helpful resources and positive influences are friends I have made throughout life of all ages. My best older friend (70) is a gay man I've been best friends with for over 20 years! I get along well with a couple of aunts and uncles, but they live far away and I almost never see them.

Also, my mom and dad are Republicans. My mom's a Tea Party Republican!!! We just don't have anything practical in common. And that's OK :)

I may have escaped some mysterious biological pull by being adopted...I have some friends who are HEARTBROKEN into eternity when their family members don't meet their expectations....but you're craving certain behavior from your in-laws who are not blood so...that's not even it.

You need to find a way to love your life how it is and stop wishing for something that will never be. That's the only solution.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

I can relate so much with you. My mom passed years ago and she was my everything...her husband, my step dad...yeah well we see each other twice/yr, no support. I have a dad that is a superficial dad at I feel ya! I'm a single mother of a six yr old, so I do understand the feeling. You do have more than a lot of people though...and that's not to downgrade how you feel...but I feel bad my son doesn't have a sibling, I feel bad he doesn't have a male role model in his life on a daily basis, I feel lonely because I don't have a partner/husband to help with life in general....but I had to just give all that up and embrace us as a family. There's no grandparents, cousins, siblings, etc, there's just not. I do the best I can, I spread our wings when I can, I.e. social/church groups, etc. But it's hard. I wish it weren't this way...but I read a meme the other day that said something like play the hand you were dealt like you chose it. I loved that! That's just some good perspective....I'm sorry I have no REAL advice but I certainly understand. :)
Good luck with just continuing to accept things how they are honey, that's all you can do.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Here's something I've noticed as I've gotten older. I've realized that there are takers and givers. My husband is always surprised that he gives so much but it's never reciprocated by his friends and family. He's right. He's the first person to go out of his way to help a friend, but he anticipates that he'll be helped in return. Not so much. He's often disappointed. Basically, you either pay for help or you do it yourself. I have a close friend who is there for me, and I know a few more folks I can call on to help, but for the most part it's up to me. I either do it or pay to have it done. With those limitations in mind, I pave my own way. I'm very thankful for my husband who is in it with me. I have people ask me for help all the time and I jump up and help, but I've learned to not expect too much in return.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I'm sorry you're dealing with this. When I was a teen my mother decided I was too much trouble so she 'mentored' her boss's daughter instead of mothering me. It hurt. Time passed and with the perspective of adulthood I realized she had done the best she knew how. I forgave her and we have a good relationship now, however she will never be someone I can rely on to physically help when I need it and that's ok.

I agree with Michelle S - you seem very focused on the fact that no one is doing anything for you; not your parents, siblings, inlaws, even God. While it is certainly nice to have family who can step in during emergencies, ultimately it's not their responsibility and you can't get mad at them for not doing something that they don't have to do in the first place. My brother used to get mad at me because we didn't visit him often. We didn't visit him because when we got there he acted like it was vacation time for he and his wife and we were in charge of all the kids. He didn't ask, he just expected us to come and give them a break. Maybe if he had offered to give us a helping hand now and then we would have been more willing to help him.
As a Christian you know you reap what you sow. My brother sowed demands and ultimatums and anger, it's no surprise that he didn't get kindness and generosity in return. What are you sowing?

6 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

You might never get that kind of help. I do hope however, that when and if you are in a position to do unto others, that which was not done for you that you meaningfully offer the help that you so despeartely craved. so in the years to come look out for and offer help to your children, your siblings, your husband's step children, a neighbor, or someone you meet at church.

F. B.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I've had many similar experiences. My father had a cruel streak but died before my son was born, my FIL died decades before I met my husband, my MIL was helpless and needy, and my mother is very up and down in her moods. She can be helpful, but also very judgmental. My brother is a holier-than-thou born-again bigot who pretends to be charitable but isn't. My husband's ex was very vindictive with the children, so my son's much-older stepsisters weren't really part of our lives on a regular basis from the teens years on. Both my parents and my husband's were "older" when we came along and most had no children, so there are few others around anymore.

I had a lot of resentment and, like you, I'm a "speech rehearser" who tends to mentally write (and deliver) a long list of grievances and suggestion for personal improvement to people who "deserve it" and who have wronged me. But the truth is, I've learned that this will only eat up my energy and optimism, and it would never ever change them or improve them. So the only person suffering was….me.

I know you don't want to be told to seek out an older adult at church. So I won't do that. But I will tell you what I did. We decided to BE the people we wanted to attract. We decided to BE of service to others, without looking for the payback. The reciprocal efforts came, but not because we sought them out.

We also learned that there are plenty of people with similar issues as ours You can read that in the posts below. So we sought out those who had no one else. Our holiday table has extra seats, and we asked our rabbi to inform anyone who was alone that there was a place for them in our home. We met many lovely people who wanted a place to go at Passover or other holidays. We didn't invite the world - just 2-3 people at a time. Many of them became dear near-family members and gave our son the rich depth of extended "family" he couldn't get elsewhere. We found some distant cousins (his grandmother and my husband's mother were each other's wedding attendants) and they are now so very important to us and vice versa.

God's job is not to provide you with a family. God's job is to give you the smarts, the strength and the compassion to find a way out of your mess. You don't deserve what happened to you. But God didn't do it to you. There are people who pray. There are others who "pray with their feet" - they take action. And I don't believe that God never gave you role models. They're there. You have to look. Do you know the story of the man facing the hurricane? The city tried to evacuate everyone from the flood area, but he said, "No, God will provide." The flood waters rose to his porch level, and the firefighters knocked on his door and urged him to come. He resisted; "No, God will provide." Flood waters rose to the top of the first story, and a guy came by in a rowboat, saying, "Give me your hand, I'll help you in." The man's response: "No, God will provide." Flood waters rose, and soon the man was on the roof of his house. The National Guard came with a helicopter, but no way. "No, God will provide." The man was swept away by the flood waters and drowned. In Heaven, he asked God, "Why didn't you save me?" And God replied, "I sent you the fire department, the rowboat, and a helicopter! All you had to do was to take hold of them."

So I would urge you to create, and seize opportunities, and not to become the bitter person your relatives all are. Give your children a better, richer, more supportive upbringing than you and your husband had. Don't inflict the understandable bitterness on them. Set it aside, and move on. Your kids deserve better than you had. Don't wait for it to be handed to you. If church isn't the place to find it, join another group. But start with "what can I give?" instead of "what can I get?"

6 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Yep, I practically raised myself (not to mention my younger siblings) so I guess I learned early on never to expect much from my family.
I mean "help" would have been nice but since I never had it I just never expected it, ya know? I knew when I had my kids they were MY responsibility to raise and take care of.
When we needed a sitter we either hired one or traded babysitting with another couple whose kids were around our kids' age, usually good friends.
ETA: once you let go of your own expectations, and your preconceived notions of how you think things "should" be you will be so much happier.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on


I’m really glad you took the time to write down your feelings and thoughts. They are what they are, and they are important for you to articulate. To get out of your system. To move forward. To define the problem. Once you define any problem, you can start searching for a solution.

My lack of family support is actually worse than yours. I grew up in a physically and sexually and emotionally abusive home. With 7 children. I raised my 2 youngest siblings. My alcoholic parents provided a roof over our heads and that’s it. I worked and bought groceries, etc. I hated my parents for years.

The anger and resentment I have harbored throughout my life directed at my parents has been debilitating at times…..but fast forward, I’m 55 now, so ahead of you….and I can tell you first hand that the advice given below works. It doesn’t work over night, but it will with time as you learn to practice being the mom / friend / daughter / wife that was never role modeled to you. As you learn to embrace your very good life that you have created with your husband.

You have the power to turn your life into what you want it to be. You have the insight to see how your mother’s actions or inactions effect you and you have the capacity to be the best mom to your children, the one you wanted but did not get.

I think it’s OK to be mad at God. I was too. And I prayed daily for a maternal substitute. And that prayer was answered quite often for me. I always have had luck finding caring, nurturing woman at church with open hearts. But you have to learn to be a supportive friend too. You can’t be just a whiny, leaning on someone all the time sort of friend. You have to put out there too what you want in return. I always found supportive friends when I volunteered in areas that spoke to my heart. I have also had dry spells in my life, especially after a move and I’ve lost my support network. And those periods are dark for me. I know that I need a godly woman friend in my life for balance. But you have to keep trying. Don’t give up on this. I have wonderful friends in gardening groups, art groups, volunteer activities at school. They are there. You will find them soon. You know why? Because you asked. Open your heart up to older / younger / different nationalities of all woman.

I also think you are in the early stages of mourning. You need to read up on the 5 stages of Death and Dying. You are stuck in the first stage: ANGER. You have to learn to mourn the loss of a less than perfect relationship with your mom and move onto acceptance that your mother / daughter relationship is dead. It’s the same exact phases. And honey, when you're constantly disgruntled and critical and angry at what you don't have or didn't get, it shows. And people will avoid wanting to be apart of that, because like other poster's have said, we all have our own baggage and we've all had to learn to cope with our profound disappointments. So in essence, you do have to learn to let go at times. It's tough. But once you start and practice, it gets easier.

Ditto the advice below about joining a 12-Step Co-Dependent Support Group. The 12 steps are emotionally healing and provide healthy boundaries for you to both learn from and practice. Please, please consider this. Your entire family will benefit from the tools you learn there.

You have to focus on the positives in your life – daily. You have a chance to build a loving family with all the support you’ve always ever dreamed of ☺ Focus on the circle of love you have.

P.S. I have 3 children, and my 2 youngest are from my 2nd marriage and they are the only grand children on my husband's side, and I thought for sure after investing years of my personal time into taking care of my in-laws that they would help us out, repay my time with a little bit of their's - just a little. Like one date night a year, or watch the kids for an afternoon while we ran errands - and nope - not ever, not once. We have raised our own children all by ourselves. And I stopped helping them and don't feel obligated to anymore. Because I have my own family to care for.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

Sorry. We mostly did our early childhood years alone, also. Our family all lived over 5 hours away. We did have friends who were able to help with the elder when the younger was born, though. Do you do anything to foster friendships among a peer group?

I would suggest that rather than feel sorry for yourself about what you aren't getting, you accept that your family isn't able to give what you want. It isn't about "deserving" either. It's what you want. They can't provide it. Obviously.

So maybe focus on what YOU can offer someone ELSE. When we look outward at how we can serve others, we tend to be more fulfilled and less aware of what we think WE are lacking.

Good luck.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

You choose to keep framing the relationships and events in your life the same way and it's making you miserable. So please stop.

I'm the oldest of two girls. I look just like my mom and my sister looks just like my father. My sister is 4 years younger than me and from the minute she was born I seemed to disappear in my father's eyes. My mom always treated us equally giving us the love and discipline we each needed as was age appropriate. My father NEVER disciplined my sister. She could do no wrong however I was disciplined often and frequently and more harshly than necessary at every turn, some would even consider his treatment of me abusive. Fast forward to today. Our mom died in 2011 and even before she died I would visit my at least twice a month. My dad's health is in decline and truthfully he is living out his last days in a Veteran's hospital. In the last month I have watched his health decline significantly and have been begging my sister to come with me to see him. This past saturday was his birthday and I knew I would be visiting with him. I asked my sister to come with me but she's been too busy to spend time with him. Yesterday was a very bad day for him. The news from the hospital was we should get there to see him because he wasn't doing well. The soonest I could get up there again was today. I called my sister and let her know he wasn't doing well at all and she needs to see him. Long story short we went up there today and again he lights up like a Christmas tree upon seeing her. Over 40 years of my life have been this way but I don't hold it against him or against her or against anyone. It just is what it is. He is free to feel and treat whom ever how ever. I love my father because he is my father. I try to do right by him because it is the right thing to do. It's not just right for him but right for me too. My dad is free to dote on my sister and light up like a Christmas tree around her and it doesn't bother me any longer. It makes him happy and I figure it is a good thing for him to have someone he loves like that. He loves me too it just is different and I'm fine with that. I have someone who makes me light up like a Christmas tree and someone who lights up like a Christmas tree when I'm around. I'm at peace with it.

As for your situation, you probably should seek counseling to get an understanding and freedom from a lifetime of negative thoughts, feelings of depression and misery around the actions of others. You could begin by accepting the fact that they are who they are and do what they do and they have every right to and now how can you be OK with their right to choose? Stop giving them emotional power over you and influence in your life like this.

As for your church members, you haven't met anyone so you say but you don't sound like the type that is warm and friendly either. When have you ever befriended someone without looking to get something out of it for yourself but looking to see how you can make their life better? Have you ever invited an older person to your home or do you only see church members in church settings? Rhetorical question.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I'm sorry you're not getting what you want or need from your family members. That really stinks.
Just a few tried & true thoughts that might sum this up for you & how you approach it:
1. We can't change other people. Only our own behavior.
2. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting to get different results.

You've tried. You've asked.
I think it's time to get support from others: friends, neighbors, extended family? Good luck, hon!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Raleigh on

I'm in a situation similar to yours. My in laws are crude, disgusting, inconsiderate jerks. I'm estranged from my dad, have been since I was 15. My mom can't support herself and is depressed and lives far away. There's no "going home for the holidays" in our family. I'm not close with my younger siblings, and I've moved around so much in my life that I've never made very close friends. Our son and his soon to be born brother don't have anyone either except for me and my husband.

A lot of the advice you've gotten applies to me as well, and I'm glad you wrote, since I'm also trying to figure out logistics at times. But, as much as I've dwelled and thought and been pissed off, I'm starting to realize that I have what I have; what I chose. I so wish my kids would have good grandparents but they won't. The most I've got for you is to be what you never had. That's our plan. We want to be there for our kids and their kids. It's my motivation every day to give them more stability and love than I ever had.

The more you think about it, the more brain power it takes up; I totally understand. I struggle too at times because it does hurt. All will be ok though. Harness that energy and use it for love. Be courageous and strong, and give your kids what you didn't have. Good luck mama.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Amarillo on

I am sorry for the non fairy tale family you dreamed about your whole life. For whatever reason(s) that are theirs, they are not in your life. It hurts like hell but it is what it is.

Trying to force or change people to consider your feelings and interests is a waste of time. I feel for you for the times that your mom didn't attend the trips and such. I lost my mom at 9 and and my dad at 14 so there was no one who was interested in me. I had to learn how to make me happy by myself and not depend on others to fill in any gaps that were so desperately needed. Family members who did kind of step up to the plate where only interested in how much money they could get when I became of age. Being an only child had its ups and down as there was no one else.

Yes it hurts but then you may not know how much hurt the other people have and don't show.

I wish to this day that either one of them could have seen me grow up and become the person I am today. I wish that more people had had an interest in me and had been a support system so that I could have been the best person I could have been or a different person on a mission to create the next "hot" item in technology or science.

The best thing I can offer is for you to seek counseling to help you find a way to make amends and to move on to a happy and fuller life than you now how with out resentment and anger. These people are not going to change only you can change and move on. Life is what it is. Stop sweating the small stuff and become happy. No one wants to be around a pity party attitude of "woe is me".

Sorry to be so blunt but you need a wake up call to see the light in what you do have -- a family, a husband, a place to live, food in your stomach.
Yes make the new friends and cultivate the relationship. People now days just don't jump out asking you to be their friend it is work and it is a commitment of time and energy. Perhaps it is the pregnancy hormones spinning you out on this limb. Let's hope all gets better after the birth of your child.

the other S.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

i guess i'm somewhere in the middle. my family is much more intellectually engaged but not as likely to jump in and offer to help as my in-law family, who are much more likely to step it up in a practical sense but not so into philosophical musings. and i was lucky enough to have my MIL come stay for a week when i brought my 2nd home. she was such a lifeline. i cried when she left.
perhaps coming from a family where we're all pretty independent, i never *expected* family members to show up when i had babies (or weddings or family get-togethers) so never really suffered from the rather toxic resentment you're harboring. i'm a little taken aback by your characterization of your husbands step-siblings as too immature to 'step up to the plate' by being of use to you.
i know i prefer not to be around people who are depressed and miserable, or who 'unload' on me for not being available to them. maybe that makes me selfish or naive.
but pretty happy, for the most part.
maybe approach it from the other angle? if you're not expecting others to jump to your aid, and simply radiate happiness at seeing them on their own terms, maybe they'll feel more inclined to be around more?

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

What did I do? Well, I made my own way. People are imperfect. I can't fix them, change them, or make them meet my needs. I can choose not to wallow in that. I can choose to find other people to befriend and love on. You're not the only one out there with family that doesn't act like family. My own family is spread far and wide, and has their own interests. I wish it were different...I wish everyone were close. But they aren't. So I join in at church, theatre, and find friends. I choose to live with what I have instead of being sad about what I don't. It's a pretty good life.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I think your feelings about your own mother are justified. How to best deal with them is not for me to say as my mother was and is super attentive. She's too old and far to physically help though so I can relate to your frustration on one level. I do think the anger at your inlaws is only causing you way more harm than good. You're likely getting nervous about the upcoming birth and are hormonal so being a bit emotional is normal. But if you take a step back, expecting them to step up for your kids isn't right. I used to get mad at my mother in law too bc she actually made work for me when our kids were little but I also resented she didn't help. I see now it was a waste of energy. It would have been nice if she had. And those are words I have read to use rather than "should have". But these are my kids and she's not even my mother. She really doesn't owe me anything. Nor would step siblings in law if I had them. Plus single people in their late 20's are often pretty clueless and busy in their own way. Why are your kids at all something for them to worry about? Likely they think you're just fine. I remember having no idea how hard it all was. Either tell them or remind yourself they had zero part in your family planning so not at all their responsibility. I've never had much family help either and I also have been jealous of friends who do. That's natural. But then I take a deep breath and remind myself all the good fortune I do have that many many other mothers don't. Remember you're not a tragic figure. That's for a mother whose entire family and extended family was killed somehow and now she is left with no one to help with her three kids and no way to support them. You have your husband still and that is who you made the decisions about kids with. It's really no one else's fault. The stuff with your mom seems very tough though and I hope you got good advice here or can get professional help.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

Some women are not natural mothers. They have children, but just do not have the natural mothering instincts.

Your mother also sounds depressed. Depression does not always look like it sounds. You cannot help her or change her. All you can do is accept her and move on. I know it is hurtful. You have a right to be hurt and angry, but you also need to find the strength to accept this and move on. I also suggest you go to a professional to help you come to terms with this.

I have spent too long holding grudges, I hate it, but by talking to a profession it helps me realize I am allowed to have these feelings but I am also not going to be able to change others.

I really am sorry, but you can be the mother you always wanted and deserve.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I'm so sorry to hear about the less than ideal experiences you had as a child. Unfortunately, when we get older and have our own families, not all grandparents and other family members place a priority on seeing extended family. And that's OK. It's not great, but they have that choice. I'm always surprised at people who get upset when family members don't pitch in to help in the day to day activities of a family. The fact is, everyone is busy with their own lives and interests. Even if they watch TV all day, they have that right to do so and are not obligated to help anyone else out if they don't choose to do so.

I don't mean to sound unfeeling to your situation because it would be very difficult to feel like you have no support system around you. I am in a somewhat similar position in that while my parents are extremely supportive, they live on the opposite coast. Other family members are equally far away. My in-laws are very unreliable and we've regretted asking them for help anytime we were in a bind. The drama and aggravation ultimately wasn't worth it. Anytime I need help with my kids, I have to pay for it or barter favors. I'm not sure what you want from the step-siblings, but in my experience, people in their 20s are pretty self-centered and focused on jobs, relationships, and getting established. Helping out a step-sibling with their kids is not on their radar (if that's what you want from them).

I would be careful about trying to seek out someone to step in and fill a motherly role to your family. This is a lot to ask and it takes a lot of history with someone to be able to fulfill the expectations you have in mind. I'm afraid you're going to set yourself up for disappointment. Make the most of your nuclear family and find a way to get the help or support you need from sources other than family.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

I can relate to your feelings, especially once you have kids when it was one thing that no one ever spoke much to you anyway and now not even to your children. In our household, alcohol ruled and by age ten, I had already been sent to live with my older sister on and off at least three different times. At ten, I was then permanently placed in foster care.. (my mother didn't raise any of her children) that said... you don't mention it, but sounds like there is what they call in program (a 12 step that is) stinkin thinkin.. I don't know if drugs or alcohol were present in your family, but they actually needn't be for there to have been previous generations who did and then passed on the dysfunctional thinking and ways of dealing with things which is to avoid, suppress, ignore.. etc..
your mom sounds like she suffered from depression in that my mother sounds similar to her in that she too never attended much in my life, even when in foster care, if I wanted to speak to her, I had to call her, she NEVER called me.. all this family drama has/had left me feeling as you do, hurt, depressed and yes, miserable at times.. it pains a person dearly when you have thoughts like, wow even my biological family doesn't care.. that a big pain to get over and unless others have endured as such, it's often easy for them to say, get over it.. However, yes, for your sanity and peace of mind, you do... and that's because all that resentment and hurt will or can be passed along to your own children. my best advice and that of which I have taken myself is to get into a 12 step.. for me, it's Alanon and OA.. for you, while I know nothing of your entire past, I can sense co-dependency and or enabling from the standpoint that you, like many if not all of those in a 12 step (and many in every day life) share in this resentment and anger for past occurrences.. you can't just get over those things, it takes work.. it's only been since doing a 12 step that I have found some mental and emotional relief from the past.. I am not completely cured as it were, but compared to years ago, I have much more inner happiness, this despite my still having no biological family involved in my life... and I have MANY cousins, nieces, nephews, sister/brother out there, whom because were raised under the umbrella of addiction, whether directly or indirectly, are not speaking to me or many others within the family.. but you come to a point when you not only understand but ACCEPT that true,you can't change others and more importantly you have no control over others and therefore must work on yourself.. so your work here isn't about your family, it's about you... the 12 step offer tools and the groups allow you to be around others who can relate and who have gone through what you have.. so I would start with you.. it's not to say that you are the problem... but rather to suggest that it's only you who can change your life... the 12 steps have allowed me to accept that which I cannot change and the courage to change what I can.... I will say that for YEARS I held out hope that my family would some day come into my life and thought for sure that having a child would bring us closer, guess what it didn't... there is freedom in accepting what IS and even more freedom in letting go on old notions and ideas that are never going to come to fruition.. my biological family is NEVER going to be a part of my life.. and for once in my life, after 51 years, I accept that and can now focus on my present life which if that is all I focus on and not the past, in the present moment, I have a loving child, a husband and his family who ARE involved in my life... it's not biological, but it's even better... it's loving... sometimes we don't find those things within our biological families, sometimes you find them outside, but it doesn't make them any less important ... if you stay stuck in the pass.. you just might be missing out on the special people that are already in your life... I would give the 12 steps a chance.. they are working for me and more importantly, I am working them..

good luck with everything

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Oh, dear woman, I understand. I do. And I'm sorry for your hurt and wishing things were different. I'm glad you wrote to us. There are many good suggestions below. I add another: please, accept your anger towards God, ask Him for help in way that you cannot begin to understand. Start each day with a prayer that you can feel His help in some new way. You are loved. You are not alone, ever. If you think it might be helpful, talk often with a priest at your parish or at another. You need to heal from all the hurt, so that you can be the Mom you want to be, without the lingering wishes of a different past and a different family. All my best.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

You need to lessen your expectations of your families, they aren't the story book type. Find friends and/or neighbors who can help when you need it. Maybe try sittercity for a babysitter, or even someone who can sit with the other two kids when you have the baby.

I have had similar problems in the past and I am a million times happier now doing most of this on my own. And when I do ask my family for help they know it's because I have no other options at all.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

you should do what you told us not to tell you to do. but don't limit your friend finding to the church.
when i felt like my dad was only being a dad to my brother i was able to get "fathering" from a classmates dad.
branch out. volunteer for a soup kitchen... visit a nursing home and make a friend there.
if you lived near to me i would suggest a certain church that is full of people who are happy to mentor and be a perent to someone who no longer has one.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

I'm sorry you didn't get the best pick of family support. I do think perhaps it has colored your attitude a bit. For example, you have a husband and kids that I'm sure love and support you. You are active in the church. Sure it might be nice to have more familial support, but you can't change them. All you can do (and I'm sure you already know this) is control how YOU act. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves, force ourselves even, to be grateful. There is always, ALWAYS something to be grateful for. It's whether we choose to acknowledge and focus on that, or the negative. That's really the only advice I can give. We all have our baggage. I'm sure once you get this little one born and into a routine, things will look better. I'm sorry I can't be of more help - but there isn't really any help for it. I have a feeling you know this, but were just needing to vent. Hope things get better soon.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

You certainly can't pick your family but you can pick your friends. Surround yourself with good friends and you won't feel this void left by your family.

Why not ask some of your girlfriends to help out?

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

I feel bad for you. Sometimes situations just stink when it comes to family. I am close to my parents and my Grandmom. However my in laws have both passed. They were also uninvolved . They would cancel my visits constantly when it was just my oldest (it would of been easier to visit..) It hurt so bad I would just cry. She rarely said anything mean to me. She was indifferent to me. My goal was for them to her a relationship with their grandchildren. They loved them.. Didn't seem to want to a relationship with my kids. I was never unkind to her.
Also although I have a close relationship with both of my siblings they live states away. My cousins are are within 1-3 hours from. All lovely people. Each of my cousins have 3 siblings that live close to them. I have tired repeatedly over the last 15 yrs getting together. I am invited yearly at the holidays at one cousins house. My other cousin I see 1-2 times a year. Its depressing. We were a famy that together one very regular basis growing up. So many of my friends have relatives in the same town
The enjoy getting together. Well I have made some wonderful friends but the absence of my extend family is something I never got used to.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions