Mothers – we all have one whether living or deceased. It is never a simple relationship.
This week I’m going to visit mine, who turned 100 last April. These trips are not easy. Firstly because our relationship was tumultuous. She could be very kind and very cruel, generous and abusive, demanding and acquiescent. I freely acknowledge that I had a part in all of this. The all loving mother and the innocent child are stereotypes that complicate the relationship.
Secondly, my mother is wheelchair bound, deaf, losing her cognitive abilities and if she recognizes me at all, she will forget as soon as I leave the room.
So why am I going? Because no matter what, she is my mother and I care about her.
As a therapist I’ve seen clients with horrible abusive mothers and some with very kind and non judgmental mothers. The common thread was how bound up we all are with our mothers. We love them, we hate them, we blame them, we blame ourselves, we appreciate and honor them or we condemn them. Usually it’s, a mix of all of the above. This often creates a great deal of internal confusion. Who am I if I’m not my mother’s child? Which parts are authentically me? If these parts go against her beliefs and behaviors, what does that mean?
Is it sacrilegious to even think bad thoughts about our mothers? Society would tell us so.
So what choices do we all have with our relationships with our mothers?
Some people choose to separate, to close off and shut down. The difficulty is that this doesn’t work. We can eliminate physical contact but the experiences, the judgments, the beliefs will still be there.
Even with the cases where cutting off all contact is appropriate, the need to recover ourselves, to sort ourselves out from our mother’s and what we’ve decided is us that really isn’t us, is still there.
This is not about confronting our mothers, that rarely does any good, but rather about reclaiming ourselves. It’s about coming to terms with the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s about exploring what we’ve been told we shouldn’t explore.
This is work that takes courage and effort, but the end result is a much greater awareness of self and a sense of peace when considering our mothers.