Sunday, January 11, 2009

Being true to me

With the new year I thought it was time for me to really grow and assert myself as an adult. Lately, I have been feeling smothered and drowned by my mother. While I love her to death, she is going through a rough time in her life and seems to be determined to drag everyone else down with her. She's lonely, frustrated, and having some financial issues. Things have been this way for her for a while now but it seems like life has been piling the crap on lately this past year. At the same time, however, I have fallen in love, found a good job, and I am closer to graduation every day. Things are going well for me and I am growing in ways that I never imagined I would in such a short period of time.

Because my mother is a single parent and we have always been close I felt it was my responsibility to keep her encouraged and listen to her when she is down, like i always have. While it sounds like I am being a great daughter, I am also neglecting my needs and feelings. It's difficult to keep myself encouraged when I feel so heavily responsible for the emotional well-being of my mother. It was clearly weighing me down and exhausting me and adding to the stress of everything else going on in my life (for anyone who made it out of their 20s...you are sooo lucky lol). I've watched her become something unfamiliar...she is negative, judgmental, and bitter...and yet she projects these things onto all the people around her and has cut them out of her life, isolating herself and perpetuating her loneliness. Though things have always been difficult for us throughout the years, she was always able to maintain her optimistic outlook on life and has lost that.

While this may not have been the best time to assert myself as an adult and request some autonomy, I don't think there is ever really any good time to tell your parent that it's time to cut the umbilical cord. Seriously, it is just not healthy how enmeshed I am with her...for either of us. So what did I do? I wrote her a letter just expressing myself. There was no pointing fingers or blaming and I didn't even mention how I thought she had changed. I was just saying that I had grown and it was time for me to truly test and see how good of a parent she had been to me. I also shared with her my plans with my boyfriend...stating that he was a great person and a great friend to me and that I really loved him.

Why couldn't I just tell her all of these things in person? Well...my mother is not a great listener. All she needs is ammo to hear one thing that she doesn't like and you might as well just glue your lips shut and grab a box of tissues. She's been adult for much of her life (even when she was a child she acted like an adult) and because of that she often forgets what it is like to be in her 20s. When she was my age, I was 5...we clearly led very different lives. I just wanted to be able to express myself without interruption and without feeling bad that I want to be myself and live my life and make my own decisions.

Unfortunately she didn't see things my way. She immediately jumped on the defense and almost made it about her--feeling the need to remind me of all the sacrifices she made for me while I was growing up. While I appreciate all of her efforts as a parent, I don't think it appropriate for a parent to throw in their child's face things that they were supposed to do. Her job was to make sure I was taken care of and my job was to get good grades and make something of myself; I did that, and I did it well if I may say so myself.

In any event our relationship is forever changed. It was something that needed to happen in order for her to begin to see and respect me as an adult. I will continue to take care of myself and make her proud and hopefully one day soon we can begin to rebuild our relationship, until then I am actually going to enjoy a bit of emotional separation from her so that I can figure things out for myself.

7 comments:

CaribSun said...

Good for you!! You sound like a very mature 20-something. You clearly recognize the need to further spread your wings and fly further from the nest, and the truth is that we should not be held responsible for the emotional well-being of a parent. All the best to you my dear. Your mom will get over it in time, and so will you.

Cherish Love said...

Wow! You did it! I think the hardest step to take is to point out to a parent that you , in fact, are grown-up. I remember when I had my daughter, my parents flew down to help me out for a couple of weeks. To make a long story short, there was an incident when I was trying, unsuccessfully to breast feed. My mom went as far as to actually ttry to place my boob where she though it would be better. I flipped, unfortunately and told her that as the mother of my child I just needed to be out from under her hawk eye and be alone with my baby. My daughter and I found success and my mother realized that I had my own baby now and needed to do things my way and respected me for it. Our relationship is closer now that she realizes there is a boundary and I'm sure that in time your relationship with your mom will grow even deeper because of this one stepping stone.

N'Drea ~ the Storyteller said...

I know it couldn't have been easy, but I applaud the steps you took to assert yourself. Don't feel guilty. In the long run, it'll all work out.

Spread your wings and fly, butterfly. :-)

Au Naturale said...

thank you ladies for the support. it's definitely difficult but freeing at the same time! i will update as i continue to grow and mature and also attempt to mend my relationship with my mother. for now though i am enjoying the limited contact lol

sunsail said...

Moving away from my parentals was the best thing for our relationship. I tried to write my dad a letter too, but unfortunately, that this not go over very well, either. He's the best at beigna martyr and the emotional guilt trip. When he starts that mess, I say, "I'm sorry about xyz" and keep the conversation moving. I don't have time for that mess. Now, ten years later, our relationship is SO much better.

Don't worry 'bout it, just give yourselves time. It'll work out; you'll see.

Maryee said...

With your career and life goals, this may be something that was very necessary. Although painful, the emotional separation is a good time to reflect. Write, Write, Write...get it all out. I've had my share of cathartic "Mama" poems:

http://search.fotki.com/Maryee/?q=poetry

Continue to be encouraged.

Au Naturale said...

good news everyone! she's starting to accept that i'm an adult with my own ambitions and ideals. she's even offered to give us all of her old living room furniture...and let me tell you this is no hand-me-down furniture...this is the good stuff!

i'm still allowing for some emotional distance though but i think she understands, though i may have to remind her every once in a while. thanks all for sharing your own experiences!