Mothers can be the most enthusiastic cheerleaders in the world for their children. They were there to encourage our first steps, teach us our first words, and we trust that they’ll generally have our backs when we need them. We often look up to our mothers for examples of strength, perseverance and success.
Sometimes, though, a mother’s desires for her daughter aren’t the same desires that a daughter has for herself. Even more complicated is the situation where both women want the same thing but there’s conflict over the methods that the daughter employs to bring her goal to fruition. As ambitious adults we’ve all been there.
In particular my mother and I struggled with my singleness in my 20s and the fact that she wanted grandchildren sooner rather than later. We definitely went through alot during that time and our relationship is stronger than it was before. I won’t say that the arguments added to the strength of our relationship – I think our ability to move beyond them and the perspectives we’ve gained about each other contributed to how we relate today.
Here are four lessons I’ve learned and the ways in which I’ve adapted so that my relationship with Mom can be more harmonious and conducive to my goals.
When sharing information, be selective.
Notice that I didn’t say lie. I don’t feel its necessary to be dishonest with Mom in order to keep the peace. Sometimes we tell too much because our moms are one of our best friends. Then later on Mom will bring up something we’ve said, done or didn’t do and that will cause an argument. I suggest that before you share intimate details of your life, that you consider how your mother will react to this information and what she feels your priorities should be. That way, when telling her that your date with the hot surgeon didn’t work out, she won’t blame you for something that was beyond your control. In that instance, she doesn’t need to know why he isn’t worthy of you, only that he isn’t. Being resilient against your mother’s questions may take some time and practice to master. Once she sees that there are certain things she’s not going to know about you, some of the tension you feel when having particular conversations will dissipate.
We may be used to dishing everything to our mothers, but sometimes its better for our sanity and to keep the peace if they don’t know everything. And think about this: do you know everything about your mom??? (Think about that for a second). Trust and believe that Mama has mastered the art of selectively sharing the things with you that she feels you need to know. “Need to know basis” might be a helpful tactic for you to employ.
Firmly communicate your definite goals and aspirations
Conflict can also arise when we don’t tell our moms what it is that we’re working toward and how this goal fits into our lives. A great example would be my pursuit of a graduate degree. At 25, my mother’s priority was her first grandchild while mine was career advancement. She saw additional years devoted to education as delaying her goal, while I saw them as an investment for my future and the betterment of the lives of my future children. After having a few arguments with her about me working too hard, spending too much of my life in school and neglecting my social life, I sat down with her and explained how the degree would improve my career, enhance my marriage prospects, and affect the lives of my children. Before I could have this discussion I had to make sure I had mapped this all out in my mind. When I made things clear for her then she changed her tune. She still encouraged me to go out when my schedule permitted, of course.
Now this might not work all the time. But I’m willing to bet that your mother will appreciate the fact that you’ve given this goal major thought and you are clear on what it is that you want. Moms are good about supporting us when they don’t agree with what we’re pursuing.
And if that doesn’t work, then go back to #1 and be selective. Don’t bring up the topic often and don’t allow your mom to badger you about it. If she doesn’t agree she’s not going to have much positive to say to you about it. You don’t need any negativity toward your goal, even if your mother has good intentions or believes she has your best interest at heart on this one. We’re adults and sometimes we have to train our mothers to treat us like adults… unless we want them to treat us differently.
Don’t antagonize your mother’s beliefs or methods
One thing that vastly separates us from women in our mothers’ generation is the information age. Your mom might be old-school; she might not see the benefits of iPhones, Blackberrys, Facebook or Match.com. In her guerrilla tactics to see you married, she might tell all her church friends about you and set you up with men who just don’t do it for you. She might not see anything wrong with your current weight and frustrate your efforts to shed pounds by bringing her mac & cheese or sweet potato pie to your house. What does a woman do in these situations?
Explain what it is you want, and why.
Now if you Mama doesn’t respect that enough to cease and desist her efforts, then you’ll have to put your foot down. But don’t expect her to see your point of view. She’s a different creature than you are and her beliefs run deep, just as yours do. Make sure you selectively mention the men you’ve met from online dating sites, limit your smart phone time in her presence and have dedicated people to donate her baked goods to. There’s no reason why your difference of opinion should stall your goals. And recognize, too, that sometimes our moms just need to do things for us. Even though we’re grown they still feel the need to take care of us, and your mom’s misplaced but well-intentioned efforts may be her way of feeling closer to you and like you still need her. So don’t fuss at her about it, try to get her to see ‘reason’ or anything like that. Just accept her and learn how to integrate her actions and beliefs into your life, so that you continue to move forward when you’re in opposition.
Ask for help and advice when necessary
The flip side of moms needing to feel needed, is our need for help. One characteristic that my mother and I share is a strong sense of pride. I had to swallow mine a few times and ask for help with things I felt I should be able to handle as an adult. My mom quickly let me know that I was being silly and that I should feel no hesitation in coming to her. It may be hard to reconcile the fact that you’re grown and on your own with the fact that sometimes you need assistance. Be thankful when your mom can help you out and know that she gives out of her love for you.
This method may be a no-brainer for you, or you may struggle with this like I used to. My mom used to tell me that I wasn’t too old to get a whooping when I did something wrong. By the same token, if I can still receive discipline (lol) I can still receive comfort, advice, help and love from my mom and so can you. If you have a strong pride also, think of it like this: your mom is one of the few people who you can let your guard down with. You’d help her if you could and she feels the same way. She doesn’t mind doing things for you and it makes her happy that her child still needs her. Now don’t wear out your welcome so to speak, but realize that it may be to your detriment to refuse to ask for help when its readily available to you.
Writing this post has made me appreciate my mom more, and I hope you have the same reaction. Go call your mom and tell her you love her, just because.