'My mum is a lovely grandmother. But she's a terrible mum.'

As told to Ann DeGrey

As a full-time working mother of two lively girls aged 10 and seven, my world often feels like a whirlwind of deadlines, school runs, and constant to-do lists. Yet, amidst this chaos, there's a beacon of incredible support and love—my mother.

She spoils my girls with affection, always giving them treats and hugs and she giggles with joy at everything they do. It really is beautiful to see. Due to my work, they walk to her house every day after school where they’re greeted with the smell of her baking—banana bread, muffins, vanilla cake – they are thoroughly spoiled by her. Even though she’s in her late 70s, she’s there for every school play, every little milestone, cheering the loudest, her pride evident for all to see.

Homework sessions under her guidance become adventures in learning, with her patient explanations and creative methods. She’s also dedicated to their well-being, making sure they eat plenty of vegetables, get enough sleep and have minimal screen time. I feel blessed that my daughters have such a loving and nurturing grandmother.

Yet, this beautiful picture is shadowed by the memories of my own childhood, a sad contrast to the warmth and affection my mother now showers on my daughters.

Watch: A spoken word video starring Laura Bryne articulating the contradiction of pressures that mothers face in their daily lives. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

Growing up, she was always cold and distant. She was nothing like the doting figure my children know but a stern, often absent parent, caught up in her own struggles and insecurities.

I would have loved baked treats waiting for me after school and some gentle words of encouragement with homework. If she loved me, her love was hidden behind a wall of indiffrence and impossible expectations.

I remember vivid moments from my childhood, like the time I came home, bursting with pride over a B+ in math, a subject I struggled with. Instead of praise or a hug, I was met with a lecture on why I didn't achieve an A. The message was always clear: I was never quite good enough.

While my parents dined on carefully prepared, nutritious meals, my sister and I were often given quick, unbalanced options like fast food or microwavable meals. This division wasn't anything to do with financial issues—my parents were very comfortable. But my mother seemed to think that her gourmet meals were too "sophisticated" for children. I couldn't help but feel excluded from a basic family ritual. It wasn't just about the food; it was the message it sent—that we were somehow unworthy of the effort that went into those meals.

Then things got worse, during a time when sibling rivalry had escalated between my sister and I, as it does among children. Instead of intervening with guidance or mediation, my mother chose to exacerbate the situation by openly comparing us, highlighting our faults against the other's strengths in a misguided attempt to motivate us. This not only failed to resolve the conflict but deepened the wedge between us. At times she’d pit us against each other—tell my sister something I’d said about her, then tell me something mean my sister said about me. This just sowed seeds of resentment and insecurity that took years to mend. 


Listen to the latest episode of This Glorious Mess. Post continues below.

One particularly upsetting memory was when I’d spent weeks preparing for a school science fair, my project a labour of love as I was always a 'science nerd'. I was very excited to share my work, not only with my friends but with my mother. I was hoping for a glint of pride or encouragement in her eyes. But when I asked her to attend, she instead chose to go to her friend's birthday drinks. 

Once again, it felt like she was sending me another message; that I was not worthy of her time. I have a clear memory of standing beside my project alone—my father was seemingly always away on business - the absence of my mother among the crowd of proud parents made me feel so insignificant.

These instances, among others, paint a picture of a childhood where emotional warmth was dreadfully scarce.

While I'm grateful she is able to show that warmth to my two girls, I can't help but wonder why I wasn't deemed worthy. 

The author of this story is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons.

Feature image: Canva.

We want to hear from you! Help us shape what you read, watch & listen to on Mamamia. Share your thoughts in the below survey. PLUS as a token of our appreciation…you’ll go in the running to win a $100 gift voucher!