Eight years ago, I started this space in hopes of helping other women become the best mothers they could be. We teach what we need to learn, right?
You see, I’ve never been close to my mother. My reasons are personal, and out of respect for my mother, I won’t share specifics here other than to say our relationship always was and continues to be – difficult.
Sure, most of us think our mothers can be difficult at times, however Psychology Today says “But psychologically speaking, a difficult mother is a great deal more than a person with whom we have difficulties from time to time.” I’m also not talking about worrying if we are terrible parents ourselves, because simply noticing and reflecting make us better.
I want to share bits of my story with you because, even though I see healthy (if not challenging) mother-daughter relationships down every street, I know there are plenty of us estranged daughters hiding around every other corner.
We hide for various reasons, jealousy, shame, fear… We don’t tell our stories, because it makes us different, we might feel judged or sometimes, it’s just too damn sad to say out loud.
Growing up feeling alienated, for any number of reasons, from our mothers is excruciatingly painful. Becoming mothers ourselves can be terrifying because we feel the cards are stacked against us. We put a tremendous amount of pressure on ourselves to “be a better mom” because repeating these patterns is simply not an option. This pressure can lead to all sorts of unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Terri Apter, author of “Difficult Mothers”, lays out the 5 types of “Difficult Mothers” as Angry, Controlling, Envious, Narcissistic and Emotionally Unavailable. The Independent tells us “…only around 20 per cent of mothers will fall into these categories – the rest are just normal, flawed humans – but if your parent does fit one of these types, it can have a profound effect on whom you become.”
Sometimes, the relationship can be salvaged with immense effort and transformed into anything from toleration to a new-found love and respect. Other times, healing hasn’t yet happened because the behaviours are still the same, or even worse. Managing the toxic relationship might take more out of us than we are willing to give. Sometimes, limiting contact is the best choice for the mental health of ourselves and, in effect our children and our partners. For the time being.
I’ve been through the bend with my experience over the years. However, as I approach my 40th birthday, I am finally feeling more peaceful with what is. I still get rattled but I settle into acceptance a lot quicker than I used to.
At the beginning of this story, I said I wanted to help women be the best mothers they can be. I am learning that “the best we can be”, for all of us, is a hella-long way from perfect. As a recovering perfectionist, I’m trying to keep my insatiable nitpicking from clouding my potential.
Recently, we were asked as AMEX Ambassadors to share how we realize our potential as part of their campaign Realize Your Potential with Pinterest. You can imagine how that went for a fusspot like me. Share what I’ve accomplished, in a public forum? EEK! The perfectionist in me scrambled for ideas that would be “good enough” to share in this campaign.
However, as I got into the grind, something spectacular happened. I went from feeling like this task was impossible to exhilarating! Going through the photos of my life journey, a pattern started to appear. Bliss suddenly snuck up on me.
I have a freaking fantastic life with fiercely loyal friends and family. And that didn’t just happen. I’ve worked damn hard to realize my potential.
So, maybe I’ve not climbed everest or made a million. But I have overcome my biggest enemy – myself. Well, I am becoming sweet friends with her. Sure, we’re going to have knock-down-drag-em-out’s once in a while, but that’s normal. And that’s all I’ve ever wanted, anyway. This, is by far, the best Mother’s Day gift I could have ever asked for.
Happy Mother’s Day, my friends. XO
1 thought on “The Gift of Difficult Mothers”
Love this. Thank you for sharing. I can so relate, and every Mother’s Day, I google “difficult/narcissistic Mothers and Mother’s Day” for reassurance that I’m not alone. ????