Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Mothers and other irritants.

I've dithered about this post.  I don't think my mum reads my blog. She's certainly never mentioned it and she's not usually backwards in coming forwards, but I know my brother does, so it's possible.  And I'm not sure I'm ready to deal with all this face to face...

But anyway.  My mum.

I've read other people's posts about their parents and I realise that in the grand scheme of things I am very lucky with my mum. She's kind, loving, intelligent, generous (see Canada trip...), fantastic with my children and I think must have done a pretty good job with me and my siblings (she says modestly).

So why am I finding her so difficult at the moment?

I used to have this fantastic relationship with my mum but somehow since my girls were born it's changed.  On the outside you'd say I still have a great relationship with her.  I see her relatively often, we speak probably once a week or so, we get on well when we see each other, she helps out with the girls, we don't (generally) bicker or argue.  But I don't call her unprovoked,  just for a chat, the way B does with his mum.

And all that does is add to the guilt.  Because I've worked it out.  The reason I feel uncomfortable when I'm with my mum is because I feel guilty.  All the time.  And I have don't entirely know why.  I just get the impression that she thinks I am letting her down.

Some of this, at the moment, I know is related to my job and the dithers I'm having about it.  But what else is going on? B, the amateur psychologist, thinks that she must feel as though her role is being usurped by me.   She's been the mother and the mother figure all my life, and now I am.  So what does that make her?  This sort of relates back, in his opinion, to my job.  She's done a great job as a mother (she hasn't done paid work since I was born, and didn't do any work at all until after my younger brother went to school) and I'm the living proof of this - happy healthy family, great job, modern exemplar etc etc.  If I give up work and become "just" a mum, what does that do to her status as mother to this pinnacle of virtue?

And then some of it, I think, is because I do feel guilty.  I feel guilty because I get irritated. I get irritated when she implies, or seems to imply, that she knows my children better than I do. Or when she knows me better than I know myself.  Or when she complains about the way my house is arranged (although to be fair, I complain about the way she arranges her house, so that's totally hypocritical of me).  Or when she tries to solve problems with money.  Or when she puts herself second, again, and I just want to say "Stand up for yourself, mum. Do what you want to do when you want to do it", even when the person she's putting herself second to is, well, me.

And I feel guilty because I don't call her, and because I don't help enough with my dad (who's ill) and because I know she'd love me to pile all the girls in the car and drive up and see them once a month as so many of her friends' children do (and I don't because I'm lazy, and L is carsick and I know that when I get there I'll just feel guilty, so I don't, and the cycle continues), and because my brother's in Canada, and my sister's uncommunicative, and I'm talking about moving to Scotland and taking the girls with me and I suspect, in my heart of hearts that she feels abandoned, yet I'm still doing it...

I realise that a lot of this is because I've just spent 12 days in the company of my family for the first time in probably as many years, but I've talked to some of my friends about this, and it appears that I'm not alone. So what are we doing wrong? And how can we rescue it? And how, please, how can I stop my daughters needing to write the exact same post in thirty years time? Because that thought breaks my heart.

And Mummy, if you are reading this, I'm sorry.  Maybe we should have a chat.


  1. As I don't know you personally I feel I am not qualified to comment indepth, but I'm sure your mum would hate the thought of you feeling guilty in any way, because of her. Communication is key, always a way forward, and even if it starts with raised voices it nearly always ends in a hug. Go to your mum, hold her tight, and tell her you love her, no matter how little or often you see her. She probably feels the same, perhaps you are more like her than you think.

    Whatever you do, take care. CJ xx

  2. I think that our status with our mums change when we become mothers, although I am in no position to offer advise, as I can not get it right with my own mother.

    I will be watching the comments with interest!

  3. You aren't the only one. The time when we are becoming mothers is coinciding with a time of great change in our own mothers lives. In my case, Dad is on the edge of retirement (causing mild anxiety throughout the whole family, let alone my parents, he is not going to take to retirement well), Mum wants to do other things, she can't work out her role, she can't work out what she wants to do, she can't seem to enjoy having the time to go to the cinema in the afternoon if she wants to, feels she should be doing something else. What she knows, what she is good at, what she has experience with is parenting. I'm the only one who has produced grandchildren. I'm the only daughter. I'm in teh spotlight. She wants to help, she does help. But I am the focus and I don't want to be. I'll be watching your comments with interest, I have a similar situation. But I think CJ has the best point. I think we probably both have to take the initiative and actually sit down and TALK to our mothers. I just need to work out how to do it without getting all defensive and accusatory. Hmmmmmmm.

  4. I always feel guilty around my Mum and I have no idea why! I hope you manage to get on an even keel with your Mum though.

  5. Instead of feeling guilty about the things you're not doing try doing them. Give her a call for a chat for no reason, pop up to see her, maybe not once a month but at least give it a go.

    I'd also abandon the cod psychology. Very often its easy to second guess other people's feelings and opinions completely incorrectly, leading to misunderstandings and the sort of tension you are describing. Whether you are now a mother or not, the fact remains that she will always be YOUR mother so you can't really usurp her.

    Above all, think kindly of people and your suspicions of evil motives on their part will generally disappear. If you go into a situation expecting someone to criticise/make you feel guilty/give you a hard time then even the most innocent remark could send you off in a huff. Go into the situation thinking how lucky you are, what a great example she's set and how fantastic she is with your kids (i.e. be charitable) and you'll find its easy to ignore the stuff that doesn't quite sit right.

  6. I think there is a generation gap that emerges when the new generation arrives, and it takes a while to settle down into new roles.

    I think B is probably right, and it sounds like you're hitting lots of nails on heads too.

    I hope she does read it, because it sounds like a chat would help. Your hearts are obviously in the right places.

  7. Oh wow. Your post totally made me cry. I think its cuz my relationship with my mom is in turmoil right now. You see she and I used to have a great relationship too. She lived in Chicago and I lived in Dallas. Then she came to live with us and everything changed.

    That said, she is awesome, wonderful, kind, and great with the kids. But she is also tedious, bitchy, and very critical. She acts pissed off because I won't do things the way she thinks they should be done.

    It's so hard because when she wasn't living with me we got along great, but now our relationship is strained and tense.

    I think becoming a mom and having our own families definitely changes the nature of our relationships with our own moms. Sometimes for better. Sometimes for worse. Sometimes a little of both.

    I hope that my relationship with my mom improves. And I hope yours does too.

    Come visit my blog sometime if you want. I really enjoy reading yours!


  8. I think as women we have to work much harder at relationships with our mothers than men do - it constantly evolves and is so tied up into how both sides see themselves (and their relationship)

    I hope you can have a chat and work it through - what really helped me was remembering that my mum loves me like I love my girls, what she does is not out of malice or fore thought but because she is still trying to work it all out

  9. This is a great post, simply brave to write.

    I read with most interest as my relationship with my mum is evolving as I am 4 months pregnant.

    My mum puts herself 2nd always and it drives me crazy and probably explains my extreme independence. I am searching for a way to ask my mum to be a strong woman/role model when her grand-child arrives. I am lost.

    I hope for an update and good luck if/when you chat to your mum.

  10. Thank you all for your lovely comments and thoughts.

    By way of an update - I took Anonymous' (and Nike's) advice and just did it. I picked up the phone and I called her, just for a chat.

    Of course she was out, but I had a nice chat with my dad for the first time in a very long time, which was good in its own right.

    And my mum rang me back and I didn't talk about stuff or issues or guilt or blame; I talked about babies and holidays and our plans for moving and over the course of 40 minutes or so we just had a nice chat. And I feel better.

    I'm not saying I'll never have THE CHAT, but for the moment I'm going to try, as Anonymous suggests, just doing some of the things I haven't been doing, and trying not to be over-sensitive and look for criticism where maybe none is intended.

    Wish me luck! Will keep you posted. And very good luck to all those who are going through something similar. Please let me know how you get on.


I know. I'm sorry. I hate these word recognition, are you a robot, guff things too, but having just got rid of a large number of ungrammatical and poorly spelt adverts for all sorts of things I don't want, and especially don't want on my blog, I'm hoping that this will mean that only lovely people, of the actually a person variety, will comment.

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