On Having a Difficult Mother (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

I wonder how many of you out there can relate to having a difficult mother?  This is a topic about which I have never publicly addressed, however I have privately journaled about it, often, in the past.  I was thinking that, perhaps, it may be somewhat therapeutic for me to put it out there.  So, what makes a difficult mother and how does one cope with her?

Having a difficult mother for nearly 45 years (my entire life) has taught me alot.  Certainly, I am thankful to have my mother and I love my mother, though I recognize that I love her in a manner that is quite emotionally detached.  This is how I have learned to cope with my difficult mother, in order to protect myself, emotionally.

What currently makes my mother difficult is that her behavior can be very critical, negative, jealous, resentful, selfish, abrasive, and stressful.  In times gone by, her behavior was sometimes more than difficult, though I learned to cope with and survive that, too.  Of course, there have been many times in my life in which my mother has been supportive, helpful, loving, and encouraging, though the times in which she has not have been most hurtful of all.

My mother is a person who typically has nothing good to say about anything.  She is a person for whom nothing will please.  A person could knock themselves out making the greatest efforts to please her, and it will never be good enough.  Thankfully, I learned that in enough time (in my teens) to save my own identity from any greater dysfunction or deterioration.

Of course, I have analyzed my mother’s personality and behavior, and I realize that she is who she is as a result of her family, upbringing, and environment.  She is the third of four children in her family, and I believe was likely one who needed a certain amount of attention as a child since she was the youngest for many years before her younger brother was born.  Perhaps she learned to act out for attention, or perhaps she had to fend for herself against her older brother and sister, who seemed to be more bonded to each other than they were to her, as she has expressed.

I further recognize that my mother is her mother’s daughter.  My grandmother “Babcia” was a strong-willed and independent-minded woman, but one whose perspective was also very negative, critical, and pessimistic.  She was further one for whom nothing was ever good enough.  I believe this is where my own mother gets that from.

I came to terms with having a difficult mother many years ago.  I realize that she is never going to change.  After all, why should she?  She is who she is and does not recognize or have any desire for positive change in herself.  She has been the way she is for nearly 72 years, and she is quite set in her ways.

So, I am the one who recognized that, in order to survive, emotionally, I was the one who had to change – and I did.  I changed my perspective about my difficult mother to one that recognizes that she is who she is, she will never change, she does not recognize any need for positive change, she does not realize the hurtfulness and harm that her words and actions often cause, and it is better to readjust my own thinking and behavior not to allow this to negatively affect me.

Consequently, and not out of any actual desire to do so, I have become detached from my mother.  Our society teaches that, typically, mothers are expected to be nurturing, loving, caring, and supportive – all of the characteristics which I reflect to my own son.  However, not all mothers are this way.  I recognize that what I want in my own mother is something that I will never receive.  And so, while it is discouraging and disappointing, it is something that I have accepted.

I additionally recognize that I do not have to be like my mother, as many of her characteristics and behaviors were like those of her own mother – my babcia.  Family is family, and I will always love my family, but I believe there are certain levels and definitions of love.  Love can obviously mean different things to different people.  And, while I love my mother, it is not the same love that I have for my dad.  While I recognize and understand that my dad is always supportive of my mom, even in questionable situations and those that may create increased stress or conflict, I feel more bonded toward him than I do to my mother.  And, I also recognize that it’s okay.  I’m okay with it.

After my son was born, the things that really got to me about my mom, however, were those of her negative and immature behaviors toward him.  There has been many a time where I have put my foot down and have had heated arguments with her about treating my son – her only grandchild – better.  While I won’t go into detail here, some of the manners in which she has treated my son have definitely been difficult, stressful, and unnecessary.

What saddens me the most, though, is that my son is already recognizing that, in order to emotionally-preserve himself from her abrasive words and behaviors – he must also emotionally detach from her.  This is not something that I really want him to learn because I hope that, in the future, he is able to bond with a wonderful woman who will become his wife.  However, I understand and support his need for emotional protection and self-preservation from a woman who is difficult, negative, and critical, and who never sees the harm in others that she causes.  My son is aware of how my mother treated my brother and I when we were children, and she will never treat my son that way, or she knows she risks losing her relationship with us.  It is sad, however, that neither of us can truly be ourselves – and be accepted for it – when we are around her.

I am glad to have a mother, but having a difficult mother is certainly difficult.  It has always been difficult.  This is why I believe that I can listen to other peoples’ problems and issues, and be supportive and understanding.  I’ve had my share of troubles and difficulties in my life, and I can certainly relate to them.  It always shocks, me, however whenever someone comments to me that they believe I have it together, that I do not seem to need anyone (but I do), and that I do not appear to have particular needs.

Perhaps I am good at hiding it, though more often than not, those deep issues are private to me, and are not things that I share with just anyone.  I have to know someone so well that I would trust him/her with my life before I shared some of those deep issues.  And, I recognize that about myself and get the support that I need when I need it, too.  That helps me maintain my own sanity, or I would certainly not appear to be in the “good” mental shape that I would like to believe I am.

So, that’s all I’m going to say about my difficult mother.  I know if she were ever to read this, I would never hear the end of it.  But, at this point, I do not really care.  I love my mother and she knows that – it is just a type of love that is detached and for which I have learned to preserve myself.  I have to believe I am a better, smarter, stronger, and kinder person than I believe my mother thinks I am.  These – and my son and strong religious faith – are that which keep me going, one step at a time.

 

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