Posts Tagged ‘Relationship With Your Mother’
Since the Relationship with Your Mother questionnaire draws such rich responses, this will be the first in a few posts teasing out some of its thicker themes, beginning with what women aged 20-88 referred to as the controlling/judgmental/martyring mother.
Here’s a fairly benign sample of that mishmosh from my own personal collection, one I catalogued with my mother about 18 years ago, yet was able to reference immediately. The scene: my mother wants me to come home for Easter, and I don’t want to go, but after weeks of really annoying internal deliberation I decide I will because it will make her happy.
Mother: I called to see what you’d like me to cook for Easter dinner.
Daughter: I don’t care. Anything but ham.
Mother: Oh…Ham was what I was going to make.
I think there’s a valiant social history to these undermining qualities that deserves our respect. It makes me think of the mental agility Edith Wharton and Jane Austen’s women use to indirectly express and protect themselves within the limitations of their society. Women scrambling to feel control and to secure their standing among each other used to come out of financial necessity. Now maybe we still deploy artifacts of that legacy, with quiet yet masterful pieces like, “Is that what you’re going to wear?”
Bullies are born out of an attempt to feel powerful in the face of powerlessness. Controlling and judging personalities are born of a desire to escape insecurities in order to feel safe. Elements of this can be seen in the responses in which daughters compare their mothers’ bullying of them, to their submission with their husbands. And daughters reveal how they carry on these destructive traditions with their own children.
This is what it feels like to daughters who’ve been hurt this way. What follows are responses to the questions: What pushes you farthest away from your mother? and What personality trait of your mother’s do you have that you hate or disrespect?
She can’t stop criticizing me.
She is very controlling and judgmental. I hate hearing her badmouth relatives she doesn’t like. I am sure she does the same thing with me behind my back.
Her incessant need to demean.
Her criticism. It seems no matter what I do she can always find something that should be done better, rather than focusing on the good aspects.
When she tries to tell me how or what to do…and the way she excuses everything her husband, my stepfather does. I feel judged when she tries to tell me what to do. Like what I’m doing isn’t good enough…and her opinion weighs heavy on me.
Her belligerence toward me. Her submission to my father. Her attempts to make me want to be someone I am not.
Guilt. My mother’s ability to make me feel guilty about anything and everything. I doubt even the smallest decisions because she has made me defer to her on everything and thrown it in my face when it does not work out.
She is catty and I can be too. I hate it about myself so it really rankles me when she does it.
I can say cutting things to my daughter that I know she said to me. She can always point out people’s flaws, it’s not judging them but she labels EVERYONE.
I am too critical of my children. Most times when I give my children constructive criticism, I can hear my mother’s voice and feel that my children hear me in the same way I heard my mother.
Judgments. Insensitivity to problems that I deem stupid or wrong or not like I would handle it.
Guilt. Sometimes I try to control my children with guilt. It stand out because my mother has a way of saying things that make me feel consumed with guilt and my negative feelings toward her. Especially because I love her.
I have a tendency to withhold approval or snidely criticize. I hate that in myself and struggle against that impulse.
We can continue this cycle of emotional corruption in the mother/daughter relationship, or we can raise free-range daughters who carry a sense of security within them wherever they go.
Of the 34% of women who described having fabulous relationships with their mothers, the qualities they esteemed as making that possible were: being seen for who they are; not being judged; not being criticized; and being listened to.
For those of us for whom it might be impossible to improve our relationships with our mothers, it’s important to seek out girlfriends who have no need to compete or criticize.
And for the mothers out there, let’s try not to drive our daughters into psychologically bankrupting themselves through ordering a continuous delivery of boxed “PERSONALITY DEFENSE KITS” from the Looney Tunes ACME Supply Co.