Ever since I was a kid, I have always strove to be liked because it made me feel special. I enjoyed bathing in the attention of my family, and always competed with my two other siblings to get the undivided love of my parents. And whenever I did not receive any attention, I turned into a green-eyed monster filled with jealousy and anger.
My need for attention became less of a problem in early adulthood – I matured enough to realise that I could never be in everyone’s good books. It was fine with me, especially when I settled into married life with Ian*, whom I got to know at a cousin’s wedding.
Our private “universe” expanded with the arrival of Kim* nine years ago, our first and only daughter. For Ian, she was a precious gift – he had always wanted a girl to call his own, having been brought up by a doting single mother alongside his three protective sisters – and even took a year’s sabbatical to take care of her.
In the beginning, I was grateful that I had a hubby who was so loving (and willing) to undertake the role of taking care of our baby, a gratitude that turned to pride over the years when Ian and Kim developed a father-daughter bond that had my female friends and co-workers “ooing” in jealousy over. However, envy would come over me in the later years.
At first, it was just the common matter of how Ian and I took to parenting Kim. I was the disciplinarian, while Ian was the “good Dad cop” that Kim would run to whenever she got into trouble or wanted something. Ian would give in to her, and I would end up getting mad at both father and daughter. There were times when I had a sneaky suspicion that this “troublesome-twosome” would gang up to go against my wishes and conspired to keep secrets from me.
In the last two years, I begun feeling neglected and even turned against, by both Ian and Kim. I started to take petty acts of “revenge”. I laid down stricter house rules and punishments for Kim, denied her gifts on the reasoning that she won’t “feel entitled and princess-y”, and even cold-shouldering Ian if he took Kim’s side (even if I was in the wrong).
What was worse, I even begun making Ian and Kim spend less time with each other. I would insist on accompanying Kim to her school and extra-curricular activities as our way of having our own “girls-only time” without Ian. I would tell Kim that “Daddy is busy” or that she needed to concentrate on study time whenever she wanted to spend moments with him.
Bold-faced lies and emotional blackmail became my tactics. I would use Ian’s name to threaten her by saying he would get angry or no longer spend time with her if she did not listen to me. I would cause feelings of tension or unease by blowing up any issues or incidents when either one of them was unhappy with each other. I had, on occasion, even hurt Ian and Kim by declaring loudly that she was no longer “Daddy’s girl” in their presence.
Things came to a head during an extended family dinner. Kim and Ian got into a fight where Kim shouted that she hated him, which provoked Ian to raise his hand… but he did not strike her. The three of us excused ourselves and left, keeping silent all the way home in the car. I was in shock – over what had happened, and how it was a result of my selfish, jealous actions.
That night, I spent time alone with both Ian and Kim separately. First, Ian confided in me, about how he felt he had let his mum, his sisters and me down, for not having brought up Kim well. Later, I spent time with Kim in her bedroom, where I sat next to her as she cried. She said little, except that she was sorry and promised never to act that way again. After I had comforted both Ian and Kim to sleep, I locked myself in the bathroom and sobbed, knowing how venomous my jealousy and insecurity has made me.
In the last few months, both Ian and Kim have become suspicious of me – of how less harsh and less “Mum-zilla” I have become. I am still a “monster” – I now force them to spend family quality time with me, to hug and make up with me after every quarrel, and to accept all my presents, given out of the blue. Yes, I demand their attention, but now I do so because of my love for them, and not a lack of love from them.
*Names changed to protect privacy.
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