When you become a mother, your life tends to revolve around your children. You do what you can to make them successful in school and life in general. You teach your kids the skills they need to become good little people. Does there ever come a point when we stop mothering? Are we ever done?
It seems that lately I’ve been surrounded by examples of what I’d call Hurtful Mothering, and the victims are my grown-up girlfriends. We’re all in our mid to late 30’s and I’m stunned to see the power that our mothers still have over us. A few words or a simple action wounds us severely. He who said “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” was full of shit.
My friend Chris recently asked her mother to watch her son for a few hours because both she and her husband had crises at work that needed to be handled on a Saturday afternoon, when daycare was not available. Instead of getting a helping hand, she got a lecture about managing her time more wisely with an extra insult thrown in about how she was too old to have such a young child.
My friend Kate went on vacation this summer with her mother, two brothers and assorted nieces and nephews. Throughout the week, Kate had to listen to her mother and sister-in-law talk about her “weird” kids and “bad” husband. Finally, Kate stood up to her family for some negative things they said to her daughter. Instead of seeing the impact the words had on her granddaughter, Kate’s mother informed her that her daughter was nothing but a liar and the incident was all in her head. The vacation was soon over, the arguing went on, then Kate’s 60-something-year-old mother defriended her on Facebook.
And my own mother… We speak frequently (several times a week) and I try to keep the conversation light. We laugh about the buffoonery that Sugar and Spice bring to my day. We talk about books and sales and family gossip. I rarely share Big Important Things that matter to me. Over the summer I took a Public Speaking course and had to write a speech about something that I was proud of. I would like to say that I struggled for hours over this speech, but it really came pouring out of me in no time at all. I loved my speech and wanted to share it and decided to include my mother. I attached it to an email, then sat there thinking “should I send this?” with my finger hovering over the “Send” button. I clicked send.
The next day was “speech day” and I gave my presentation to my class and got a very positive response. I came home elated. There was a message on my answering machine and I listened to it while still floating on air. It was my mother. She had read my speech and was less than pleased. How dare I talk about my childhood that way? One line about how I didn’t get the Trapper Keeper I wanted when I was twelve overshadowed the three pages about adopting a soldier in Iraq and making sure she had a fabulous Christmas. I was blown away by what she said and very deeply wounded. It goes without saying then, that when the speech was published in the local paper (submitted on a dare), I didn’t buy her a copy.
At the end of Grey’s Anatomy on Thursday, the main character said “by the time we are standing on our own two feet, we are standing there alone.” We are grown up now, but we don’t want to be standing alone. We forever crave the acceptance and pride that can only be given by our mothers. We want the same applause, hug and “atta girl” they gave us when we spoke our first words and took our first steps.
We secretly always long for the approval of our mothers and therefore can never stop mothering our own babies. Teach your children well and realize that their successes are a reflection of your influence on their lives.