Mother’s Day is here and every year I have a hard time finding the right Hallmark card. I’ve always had a really complicated relationship with my mother. As a young child, I remember being in such awe of her. Her beauty, her grace, her magic. I wanted to be around her all the time, it was like I wanted to soak her in–I wanted to be her. As I grew up and I began to see a more realistic picture of who she is as a human being, and how her expectations of me clashed with who I was, the tensions quickly arose. We have had many iterations of a mother-daughter relationship through the years, much of it neither close nor positive. Through it all, we loved each other deeply, and very ambivalently.
I have had trouble accepting her for who she really is, and, although I can’t know, I know she feels the same way about me. She, bless her heart, hasn’t had the easiest life. Unfortunately, she’s not very resilient so often plays the victim-card. You know, the “Oh woe is me, life always hands me a raw deal”-card. She’s the kind of person who can see something wrong in every possible circumstance, person, or rainbow. And she’ll gladly point it out for you. To be helpful, of course. She won’t do anything about it, but she’s generous in sharing her observations. She is always the helpless complaining damsel in distress. There is no bright side to anything. Silver lining? Gold is more valuable. There is nothing to be grateful for in this cold, unfair life. I have difficulty with people like that. Needless to say, conversations with my mom are short, and few and far between–I’ve found it best that way to keep our relationship positive. She is my mother, I do love her deeply. But no, Hallmark, she is neither my confidante nor my friend.
She can, in fact, be kinda mean. She is a master of backhanded compliments and passive-aggressive love. I think she lashes out and plays the victim as a coping mechanism in the hopes of avoiding additional hurts in life. If she can keep people at bay, her theory dictates it minimizes chances of her getting hurt again. She can also feel better about herself if she tears others down.
And I realized that she and I genuinely get along only when she’s vulnerable. She has been in poor health the last few years. Some days she’s so weak she can’t open a kitchen cabinet or walk up the stairs. She has her good days and her bad days, the latter outnumbering the former. I’ve found that on her good days, I can’t talk to her. I don’t want to talk to her. Because I don’t want to hear my own mother essentially tell me she doesn’t think I’m worthy, that there are conditions to her love. But on her bad days, when she’s too physically exhausted to put up a front or keep people at arm’s length, I can have real conversations with her. We actually connect. She’s not judging or condemning me; in those moments she’s the mother of my childhood.
And I’m sad that she can only be genuine and authentic when she’s at her most vulnerable physically–when she’s literally so weak she can’t do anything else but put down her armor and be her true self. I wish she could be my mother more often.
I used to want to be just like her. Now I try my hardest to not be anything like her. I won’t wait until I’m sick or dying or compromised to open up to people and show my real self and connect truthfully with others. I want most days of my life, if not every day, to be a good day for me and those around me. I’ve accepted that we have an ambivalent and complicated relationship, and I know we love each other very much, and as best as we can. I’m not sure I’ll ever find a Hallmark card that conveys our complicated yet loving relationship, so I always just end up sending cookies or fruit. Can’t go wrong with food. Most cultures demonstrate love through food, so I’ve sent a tower o’ love.
I hear you–Mother’s Days is hard for me, too.
Julia-I’m so sorry it’s a difficult time. I think the compounding factor that adds a layer of complexity to it is that there’s this expectation for all rosey smiles and love all around. When things just are what they are. Hugs to you!
Sorry to hear of your challenging relationship with your Mom. My mom also sees mostly negative with a victim stance. I used to judge her, now I’m softening to see & understand the fear and hurt that hold her back. I was just listening to a talk this morning at Unity that suggested our Mothers are here to offer 2 main lessons;1- to receive unconditional love, 2-to bring up all that isn’t love in order to be loved/ healed. I’m getting better at accepting my Mom and others as they are and I still have many judgements and shadows to love! Onward we go. Happy Mother’s Day!
Thank you! Yes, onward we go. And I’m sorry also your mother has acted out of her hurts. I am glad you’ve been able to empathize with that part of her, and feeling compassion for her hurts and fears helps us not personalize it as much, and takes some of the sting out. You are very resilient!
There are so many of us who have difficulty in our mother relationships. I decided in 2009 to do something about my own one and I started to research daughter mother relationships and what I could do, so that I would feel okay being around her. We have the Atlantic Ocean between us and that’s just fine by me. For 2 years I blogged about it at http://www.MotherWhisperers.com
And then she found the website. She was devastated that I could “do this to her”. How cruel. How could I. My heart broke open and I felt so bad that I had hurt her like this. I let her and myself be with this hurt and then I reached out to her to say once again how sorry I was. That my intention was never to hurt her, but it was for me to share with other daughters who were having difficulties. She said “I accept your apology. I’m glad we talked about it. (!?!) Let’s put it behind us.” and that was that…….
I learned that my mother is not able to look inside herself. She sees things at face value. She cannot deal with difficult emotions or conflict. She is a narcissist and unable to empathize or tune into an other’s needs. There was no such thing as unconditional love for me. My childhood was tough in many ways. I was able to forgive her, yet there was a part of me that always wanted her to be different… and to love me for who I was, not as a reflection of her.
Through these past few years I have come to accept her fully and love her as an imperfect human being. She wasn’t a good mother, but she was good enough. I turned out pretty good after all. And probably a lot stronger and more courageous than others 🙂
The shift comes when we see our mother as the person she is and take the old attachments away. Crafting a new relationship based on who we are now opens up new possibilities for the future. And peace of mind.
It has to start with us … most older mothers are not able to bring about change. We can give them the opportunity to see us as the women we have become.
We can find compassion and love once more when we heal ourselves in the process.
I can’t post on my Middle Ground blog because she will read it.
I promised her that I would not write any more things about her personally.
Please check out my Mother Whisperer blog. There are some valuable insights there. We can also communicate directly if that might be helpful!
Hugs to you and other women out there who find today tough!
You are not alone.
Thank you for sharing, Val, as always.
Yes Val, thank you for your courage and strength!
Val-your courage and strength are amazing. It is clear you have done a lot of hard work–I’m so proud and happy for you for that. Yes, aging ourselves brings the ability to stop seeing our parents as magical or perfect–but truly see them for who they are, with their hurts and flaws and struggles.
I’ve come to understand who she is, and that she does do the best she can, and what she’s willing to do. She’s the only mother I have, and I am grateful for so many things. I do know she will never truly understand or accept me for who I really am. I don’t personalize it, but I do also know that when she passes, I will feel great regret and guilt.
I will definitely check out your other blog. Thank you for much for reaching out in such a deep way to me. Thank you!!! xoxo-