The single most typical question I receive from callers is about a profoundly unpleasant relationship with a parent. The caller is generally a woman who is married with children.
When I point out that their never ending drama with their mother, usually, or father is disrupting their home life, they either dismiss that or begrudgingly admit "they know."
Yet knowing doesn’t seem to be sufficient to coming up with a plan that limits their own emotional stress so they can focus on the blessings that come from children and the vows they made to their husbands.
Just the other day a female caller wondered aloud why she keeps getting so upset about her mother’s selfish and nasty behavior. "I even dream about it," she said.
I asked her if she knew who was the primary murderer of babies?
Before she could say "the baby’s father, the mother’s boyfriend," or some other male, I told her it was mothers.
"You are trying to make some personal sense out of your mother’s anythingbut-motherly behavior. The reason you and everybody else does that is simple: We all want and need a 'mommy.'"
However, not all women make good mothers.
Women don't have the market cornered on morality or parental nature or mental health.
The point of telling these women who call about disappointing or downright abusive mothers is to partially remove their own mother’s behavior from being at all "personal."
They have the fantasy notion that all mothers are motherly, so they invite their mothers to sensitive events and then wail when the event is ruined.
They have their mothers move into their home in the hopes that if they show that amount of sacrifice and "love," momma will be transformed into the loving mommy everyone craves.
I will ask, "Do you really believe your husband, since the day he proposed, dreamed of having your difficult mother living under his roof?"
They generally tell me what a kind, understanding, accepting man he is.
And I repeat myself about his fondest wish and remind them that husbands often say,
"Whatever you want dear, it is up to you," not because they are wonderful and sacrificing, but because they know they really don’t have a choice, considering the price they would pay from their guilt-ridden wives.
There is the word: guilt. It goes along with immature need.
If all mothers except yours (in your fantasy) are nice, then it must be your fault this mother is not nice to you. Or, she would have been a nicer mother, were it not for her history or her choice in a husband.
Excuses, excuses, excuses.
At some point each person living this nightmare must admit to themselves that they never did and never will have a loving mommy.
When I have both men and women say that sentence five times out loud, they generally cry. There is both pain and relief to face the truth.
And then comes the decision as to how to proceed.
While there is no one solution for all thenpossible permutations of the situation, the general thrust is to minimize.
For example, I told one woman caller not to answer the phone for the multiple times a day her mother would call and complain about her husband, etc., but to pick only one time per day.
Also, I recommend a timer set for 7.5 minutes of pure listening to mom’s complaining and rants, some expression of, "Sorry, mom, that things aren’t better for you," and a lovingly seeming exit sentence telling her you will call in a week.
Wish her well. Go on about your day.
If dear mother is a drunk or druggy, let her know that until she is sober for a year, there won’t be any visits and no contact with grandkids.
Minimize contact. No confrontation.
Get involved in new, productive activities. And forgive yourself for all the time and emotion you wasted thinking you actually had control over another human being, but somehow failed. Not everybody gets on the right line for a mother before they are born.
Dr. Laura (Laura Schlessinger) is a well-known radio personality and best-selling author. She appears regularly on many television shows and in many publications. Listen to Dr. Laura on SiriusXM Channel 111, Mon.–Sat. 2–6pm ET, Sun. 5–9pm ET. Read Dr. Laura's Reports — More Here.
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