The Real Reason Why Many People Make Terrible Parents

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bad parents and sad daughter

Every time I speak to Anna, we circle back to the same topic — her fifty-year-old son, who is very much dependent on her.

Anna is in her 80s. She’s a vibrant, spontaneous woman who has refused to let herself rust, no matter how many years fall off the calendar.

One thing about Anna is that men have always been attracted to her like a moth to light.

But any woman knows that having a man and having the right man are two different animals.

Anna has lived by the mantra, “Men are like buses. When one leaves, you catch the next one.”

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Anyway, somewhere between all those “buses,” Anna became a mom of two boys.

Sadly, despite the love she has had in life, motherhood has been a heavy yoke around her neck.

Her eldest son walked out on her a decade ago.

Her second one won’t lift his weight and move his life forward. He still lives with her and won’t get a job or help around the house.

But, what can we say? Moms will be moms: rain or shine.

So, Anna still stands, no matter how far down her son drags her.

And trust me, she’s been dragged through the gravel and the roughness of motherhood, from paying off huge credit card debts, traffic fines, and having her car written off to trying to get her son to leave the gang.

Name it. She’s seen it all.

I don’t know how she does it.

All I know is that she’s a giant who doesn’t lick her wounds too long.

Her son’s father left years ago, and the subsequent partners either didn’t try to foster a good relationship with him, or it just didn’t work.

I asked her what she would do differently given a chance for a do-over in life. I thought she would reconsider having kids.

But nope.

Anna would deeply scrutinize the partners she would have kids with. She would ask deep questions about what they felt about parenthood.

She said the biggest struggle around parenthood isn’t so much about kids but about the person you choose to have kids with: their expectations, commitment, willingness, and the ability to stick it out when things get thick.

This discussion opened a big window in my mind a rush of insight came flooding in.

Some parents are deeply focused on optics rather than on their children.

You’d think the urge to please Daddy goes away when one grows up, right?


I’ve seen red-blooded, fully grown adults who live and yearn for a gold star from daddy.

They’ll walk on fire and cross the Alps to fulfill their parent’s expectations. Turns out the boy/girl in them never dies.

You know this is happening when you hear phrases like “passing on the family name.”

Either that or they’re so focused on having picture-perfect families. You know, kids that look dope on social media. The kind every family wants to be associated with.

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But if you zoom in ever so closely, you’ll uncover the ugly truth that most families living this way are a mess behind closed doors.

  • Kids are forced into high–powered careers they have zero passion for.
  • Because of status and reputation, kids aren’t allowed to be themselves — their sexuality and orientation, for example.
  • They treat the people who work for them like trash and almost always get away with it.
  • There’s no limit as to how many buttons these types of parents are willing to push to ensure their families fit the ideal design in their minds.

But what I’ve noted is that at some point, an optics-focused parent crumbles because:

  • They realize nothing is ever good enough for their old folk — once your entire existence revolves around measuring up to someone else’s standards, the stakes just keep going high.
  • As a result, the flurry of enthusiasm slowly fades into apathy.
  • Raising children who are locked in emotional cages turns them into resentful adults.

A lot of parents are pressured into having kids before they figure out if it’s something they want.

Many women find themselves in the same shoes as Anna. They want babies, but their men are never sure they want the same.

That’s the most common scenario. I’ve also heard of men who are super-keen to be parents but whose women find themselves straddling the fence.

A lot of people who find themselves here give in eventually.

When you’ve been waiting long to find the person you believe is right for you, it’s easier to give in than walk away.

Love makes us do crazy things. There’s always that warm and fuzzy feeling when you’re in love that causes you to overrule your rationale and opinions until you wake up one day and realize you’ve bitten more than you can chew.

I asked Anna to offer the best solution for a couple with conflicting ideas about having kids but who didn’t want to sever the relationship.

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Her response:

"Wait it out for a couple of years and see if they change their mind. Maybe they’re at a point in their lives or careers where they don’t have space for kids. That might change with time. We don’t all know what we want upfront. Some of us catch up much, much later."

Obviously, you need to decide if this is a compromise you’re willing to make. At times, hard choices pay off. Down there in the long reeds of relationship challenges and compromise is where you find the treasure of real and lasting love.

However, it’s never guaranteed that someone will change their mind no matter how long you wait. So you’re better off cutting your losses and looking for someone who shares the same ideals as you.

Few things are as unpleasant as a life spent nursing bitterness and regret. Anyone pressured to become a parent leaves a trail of destruction in their wake.

Resentment festers like manure. Everyone ends up hurt. Themselves. Their partner and their kids. Walk away before you hurt others.

If parenthood isn’t something you’re prepared for, don’t give in, no matter how deep you’ve fallen into the trenches of love.

Most parents aren’t prepared for the stressful times that come with parenthood.

I heard of a woman who lost one of her babies to a terminal illness. She abandoned her husband and the other son when she couldn’t cope with the trauma.

I’ve written about the huge toll kids take on their parent's lives, but the truth is that while many people push through the challenges, some are just not emotionally equipped to care for someone else.

Like this woman who walked away on their own flesh and blood.

I don’t get it.

But what I know for sure is that kids don’t deserve abandonment.

They want and deserve parents who are committed to every stage of their development. I don’t care whether you’re ready for them or not.

The last thing we want is a generation of emotionally broken adults, which is inevitably how kids from such parents end up.

Sure, there’s always the option of adoption.

But not all adopted kids end up in safe hands.

It’s as simple as this: If you’re not ready to be a parent, chances are you’ll be a terrible one. So don’t be one.

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Leah Njoki is the author of Relationships Truths: Everything You Wish You Knew About Love.

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.