There are a lot of parents out there who are selfish and don’t put their kids first, even if they could.
There are far more parents, I think, who are doing their best in circumstances that might not be easy at all.
That said, the trauma that kids in either situation might end up with as a result isn’t null and void just because there was nothing else you could have done to prevent it.
OP is the mother here, and acknowledges that as a young and struggling single mother, there were many times her oldest daughter had to go without.
She says she did her best, buying gifts for important occasions and such, but that they never really had anything “extra.”
I (45F) had my daughter, CJ (now 28F) when I was 17 years old. Her father did not stick around and we really struggled for a bit. Even when I graduated college, I had a bunch of student loan debt as well as juggling rent, food and other expenses. CJ never lacked necessities, but I admit she didn’t get a lot of material possesions.
I would try to save up as much as possible to make Christmas and birthdays as fun as possible, but she didn’t get much else throughout the year and we only went on 2 vacations total in her childhood.
We definitely ate a lot of struggle meals and had to move often. We honestly teetered on the poverty line.
Now her daughter is grown and OP is married with two much-younger children. Because circumstances are different, she’s able to give her youngest kids a life that wasn’t possible with her oldest.
That said, she tries her best to “make it up” to her daughter when she can. She pays for vacations, gives her random gifts, and the like.
When CJ was 17, I was finally debt free, got a promotion at work and was doing much better. I did start to give her things throughout the year. I used my bonus to take her to Disney World-somewhere she always wanted to go but couldn’t. It was nice that after years of struggling, I could spoil her a little.
She went off to college and in this time, I met my husband “Matthew”. We got married and now have 2 kids together, “Jack” (5M) and “Melissa” (6F). With our combined incomes, we live quite comfortably. I admit, Jack and Melissa have gotten a lot more than CJ did at that age. I’ve certainly never left her out.
She’s always invited on our trips (we pay), I get her random gifts throughout the year, birthdays and Christmases are bigger. I’m trying to make it as even as I can, but I know it realistically never will be.
Her daughter, though, is struggling to forgive her mother for what must seem like a “do-over” family getting everything she always wanted as a kid.
OP apologized more than once for all her daughter found lacking about her childhood, validating her feelings and agreeing that just because she was doing what she could, that didn’t mean it was good enough.
CJ first pointed out the discrepancy a couple of years ago we took the kids to Disney (CJ went with us). I sat CJ down and apologized for her childhood. I said I wish I had been in a better place when she was their age, I know I can never truly make up for it, etc. I said I know it’ll take time for her to heal from that.
Recently, she’d had enough, though, after her oldest made a snide comment to a literal preschooler about his birthday gifts.
I thought that was it, but since then, CJ has constantly complained whenever her siblings get anything. I’m always super sensitive to her feelings, validate them etc. But things came to a head recently, on Jack’s birthday. Instead of a party, he opted to see the off-broadway production of Frozen. We as always, invited CJ to come along, as well as her fiance.
The whole night, she was pouting and seemed upset. I tried talking to her but she brushed it off. We went to dinner after the show. Jack and Melissa were excitedly talking about it. CJ then butted in “You know what I got for my 5th birthday, Jack? A Barbie from the dollar store.”
She’s unsure whether or not she’s wrong, or how many times exactly her daughter wants her to apologize.
The kids didn’t really see the big deal, but the adults at the table understood. I was civil the rest of the meal but later called CJ and told her what she did was unacceptable. I cannot continuously apologize for her upbringing and she can’t throw it in my face.
I asked if she wanted me to give her siblings less, simply because she did. She said no, but that she can bring it up whenever she wants and she’ll continue to do so. I said I was disappointed and hung up.
Later, CJ sent me a very long text, telling me I was a horrible mother. AITA?
I’m super curious what Reddit has to say about this one, because it’s a bit tricky!
The top comment says that, although she sympathizes with the daughter, it sounds like therapy is in order.
The second comment also thinks OP has done everything she can and has even acknowledged her failings. They wonder what, exactly, the daughter wants her to do.
After all, the way OP had to raise her first daughter wasn’t anyone’s fault, per se.
They say it’s on the individual to manage their own trauma. Once you’re an adult you can’t expect your parents to do it for you.
This person says OP is NTA, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t still work to do.
This is a tough one, and I feel for the oldest child, too.
That said, no one is going to heal until she can recognize that no one is at fault, and so there’s no one to blame.