Sunday, October 28, 2007

Do we have to?

My post about aging brought out comments about mothers and our relationships with them (which wasn’t really the intent of my post). It reminded me of this article I read in “Coup de Pouce” (a local magazine) asking if we were obliged to love our mother. It almost seems inconceivable, doesn’t it? But what if our relationship with her makes us unhappy? That might happen. I know it does.

Despite the fact that she brought us up, gave us values like respect and being polite we often feel deceived or angry with our mothers. Their constant critiques of the way we dress, the way our hair is cut (or colour), our poor choice of friends (and boyfriends), our career choices, our weights, our grades, our successes, every little aspects of our lives are comb with a fine-tooth comb and commented on. It isn’t always negative, but those critics will alienate our love for her. Her attitude irritates us and if it were any friend doing this we would ditch them so fast. Because she’s our mother we feel guilty (so girly of us) or it is simply because of filial love. But, really, we don’t have to love our mother. Since my father died (seven years ago) I've been treating my mother the way I would a friend; if she says or does something that I would not tolerate from a friend, I let her know. It's not always easy, but it's so much easier between us.

Being raised in a society based on religious principles such as “Honour Your Father and Mother” it’s only normal that we feel guilt when we don’t feel all warm & fuzzy about our parents. Daughters will feel tormented by this because deep down we want that good relationship with our mom. On top of the mother-child link there’s the mother-daughter one which also makes the mother out as a model for us to look up to. We relate to her as a “girl/woman”. The first real conflicts usually occur in the teen years. We feel this need to be different from her, and yet we seek her approval.

If we tried to better understand our mother we might get along better. But in doing so, we shouldn’t feel sorry for whatever she went through. We’re not responsible for her either. We can only be compassionate. Often when we get pregnant all emotions regarding our mother come rushing back. If we had tried to stay away from her, we will then try to get closer. We realise that so many of the things we disliked about her were her way of protecting us. We often only realise that when we have a child of our own.

Often there’s a big gap between a “perfect” mother and the “real” one, who’s not so perfect. We must forget about the perfect one and see our mother for who she is. If our mother is frail or sick it might be a good time to tell her how we feel, but if she’s healthy we should let her know that we were unhappy during our younger years. We have to make sure it’s said in a way that it’s about the way we feel. Of course we’d love to hear her apologize and admit her wrongdoing but we shouldn’t expect that. The only thing we can really change is ourselves, and how we see things. If that fails, and if we still feel frustrated with her, we should try to limit our visits or the time spent on the phone with her. And if we decide to keep a relationship going, we have to accept the fact that forgiving is a long process. We should not hope that she would really change, because she may not, and that will add to our frustration. In the worst-case scenario, maybe we’ll have to cut our mother from our life. It might be temporary, but a needed pause. We shouldn’t hate ourselves for the anger we feel. If the idea of never seeing our mother again is unbearable, then let’s hope that with some help, some time and once we feel stronger and “healthier” we will be able to reconnect with her.

9 comments:

Monkey said...

I think it is okay to dislike our mothers- I did for many years. i have found that my letting go of my negative feelings about her, I was more free in general. Once I accepted her for who she was, and not the person I wanted her to be I became a happier person overall.
That's just my two-cents. Thanks for letting me share.

Mr. Social said...

I think I respect my mother now more than ever. She's a dynamite lady, though she does drive me nuts. I never really bought into the Mother-Son/Father-Daughter theory, but now that I am a dad, I get it. You've hit the nail on the head... We are always seeking approval from our parents... but for some reason it seems easier for a son to get that from a mother, and easier for a daughter to get it from a father. Weird cycle...

Maybe it's a system of checks and balances...

lizgwiz said...

I'm really lucky--I've always both liked and loved my parents, who are two of the most supportive people on the planet.

I have watched friends battle with their feelings toward their own parents, though, and I've seen how difficult it can be. A couple of mothers in particular always made me want to offer my own mom to my friends!

Kim said...

I'm one of the lucky ones that have a good relationship with both parents...I always have and perhaps took it for granted growing up. I have friends that have rough relationships with their parents and it seems so sad to me.

Stinkypaw said...

monkey: What you did shows maturity. You didn't let your guilt or whatever else guide your feelings.

mr.social: Isn't it weird that we still seek approval? Even as "grown-ups"...

lizgwiz: You're lucky and even more so that you realise it!

kim: Like I told Liz and keep on enjoying it.

DrowseyMonkey said...

Getting to see your mother as a woman and not your "mother" is all part of growing up. I'm glad you've reached that point with your mom. Remember...moms might not like us either! LOL But it's better once the threshold is crossed and you can become friends...2 women.

Stinkypaw said...

drowsey: I wouldn't say we are friends, I just want her to be my mother, that's enough.

Brave Astronaut said...

I miss my mother every day now that she's gone. But I had my rocky moments with her. Now, my father on the other hand? Therein lies the trouble.

Stinkypaw said...

brave a: Not always obvious, is it?