Posts Tagged ‘mothers’

When You Don’t Have the Hallmark Card Mother

Sunday, May 6th, 2007

I admit it: I’m a people watcher, especially at the card racks before holidays such as Mother’s Day. I have watched people read every card diligently, scrunching their faces or shaking their heads from side to side, only to walk away cardless and, I’m sure, frustrated. Not every mother/adult child relationship can be expressed with flowery poetry or gushing accolades. If this is true for you, how do you handle Mother’s Day?

First, make a deal with yourself not to send false sentiments or you’re likely to build resentment, not ease it. If anything, it may be that Mother’s Day is a time for you to grieve what you never had.

If your mother was not the kind to bake cookies, attend PTA meetings, or tuck you in at night with a kiss on the forehead, that’s a loss of what never was. If your mom was on the Mommy Dearest side of reality—angry, perhaps addicted, or emotionally unavailable—then you have a right to grieve for the nurturing you deserved but didn’t get. The key is to not get locked into feeling guilty for what you can’t feel.

Maybe what you really need is a chance to forgive rather than conjure up gratitude out of thin air. Forgiveness is a gift we owe ourselves. Most of us just hope it will come to us, that we’ll wake up in the morning and there it is—instant, magical relief from resentment. But forgiveness takes conscious effort.

The first step in forgiving your mother or anyone is to acknowledge fully the wrongs that have been done to you. If you don’t make an honest inventory—if you minimize the hurtful behaviors—you are likely to feel stuck in resentment, bitterness, and avoidance.

The second step is to give yourself compassion for the effects these actions and behaviors have had on you. Give yourself what I call in my book, Enough Is Enough!, a pity party. A pity party is where you give people who care about you a chance to let you cry, sulk, pout, or whine for 30 minutes. They are not to judge you or try to fix your relationship with your mother. They are with you just to mirror compassion back to you. If anyone else in the group also needs a pity party about their relationship with their mother, they can take a turn too.

By the time you are done with your pity party, you are likely to feel lighter. That’s the magic of forgiveness work. I see it in my life coaching practice all the time: A client comes in angry or hurt by someone’s actions or words and stuffs it with self-admonitions like, “Oh, I shouldn’t complain. Other people have it a lot worse.” This line of thinking leads to self-abandonment, not self-care, resentment and regret, not forgiveness and compassion. Once someone gives herself permission to express the resentment and underlying hurt, they feel relieved and freer.

So a few days before Mother’s Day, practice true forgiveness. Acknowledge whatever wrongs were done to you by your mom. Don’t make excuses for her. Just feel the sadness for yourself.

Do you need to tell her you forgive her? It depends. If you mother has never admitted to any hurtful behaviors, then she may just get defensive or hurtful. But if your mom has admitted to being less than perfect, then letting her know you care enough to forgive her might be the best Mother’s Day gift you could possibly give her and yourself. Maybe Hallmark has a card that says just that. If not, you can always create one on the computer.

Jane Straus is a personal life coach and the author of the popular and insightful book, Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life. Visit her web site, www.janestraus.com to read excerpts from her book, see clips from her seminars and TV interviews, read her magazine articles and blogs, or to schedule a session with her.

Protecting a Child from Family Members

Tuesday, January 9th, 2007
 
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Dear Jane,
My mother and I have not spoken for several years. I have no desire to reestablish a relationship with her, but I recently had a daughter of my own (she’s 3 months old) and I don’t think it’s fair to her to not know one of her grandparents. (She does spend time with my father.) I have legitimate concerns for the well being of my daughter spending time alone with my mom and stepfather, but feel I should give her the opportunity to establish a good relationship with them if it is possible. Should I wait until she’s older? How long is that?

It is time to transition from being your mother’s daughter to being your daughter’s mother. If you choose your mother over your daughter, would you perhaps be reenacting whatever betrayal you suffered? If you have legitimate concerns, why would you consider putting your daughter at risk in exchange for the hope that something won’t happen?

It sounds as though you haven’t really fully acknowledged the severity of whatever occurred that caused you to sever your relationship with your mother. In my experience, children don’t break off a relationship with a parent unless they have strong reason to do so. In Enough Is Enough, I address the importance of acknowledging the wrongs that were done to us so that we don’t re-create the same situation for our children and so that we can forgive at a deeper level.

You say you have no desire to reestablish a relationship with your mother. If that is the case, then let it go for now. Or see if you and your mother can work on your relationship with professional help. But do not use your daughter as a “peace offering.” If you want your daughter to have contact with her grandparents, be there with her. Don’t put a time limit on this arrangement. You are responsible for your daughter’s safety and your loyalty belongs with her, not with your mother.

About Jane
Jane Straus is a trusted life coach, dynamic keynote speaker, and the author of Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life. With humor and grace, Jane offers her clients and seminar participants insights and exercises to ensure that the next chapter of their lives is about thriving as the unique individuals they have always been and the extraordinary ones they are still becoming. She serves clients worldwide and invites you to visit her site, StopEnduring.com. Here you will find excerpts from her book, more articles, TV and radio interviews, and clips from her presentations.
She is also the author of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, Grammarbook.com, an award-winning online resource and workbook with easy-to-understand rules, real-world examples, and fun quizzes.
Contact Jane at Jane@JaneStraus.com.