To Anyone with a Mother Who Tries Too Hard and Sometimes Drives You Crazy (from one of us)
Hello there, you with the heavy sigh when we talk about your mom. Maybe rolling your eyes when you have to deal with your mom. Or maybe with harsh words when you want to avoid your mom, like when your mom is flat out wrong about you and doesn’t see it.
This letter is for you.
I know you have a massive soft spot in your heart for your mama (otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this). So you deserve to know the truth about your mother and why she does those things that drive you crazy, which if she would just stop, would make your life that much better.
How much better? Well, as much better as she can imagine your life to be. That’s all she ever wants.
I don’t pretend to know everything about your mother. If she hurt you beyond any hope of repair, if she was cruel, or left you, what I’m about to explain probably won’t apply. You need a different kind of understanding.
For all the rest of you, realize that some combination of the following is true…
(Motherhood is complex. Maybe that’s why I use the “f” word sometimes. Fair warning, permission to swear coming up here. But not at people. Love, mom.)
If your mom wasn’t planning on you,
or didn’t mean to start a family or wasn’t ready to have children, when she first found out she was pregnant with you she either froze, freaked out or fell apart. She wanted only to do the right thing by her baby and yet she didn’t know what that was yet.
She had choices to make from that moment on that would not just affect the existence of an innocent, choiceless being, but would forever determine her own reality. It’s that important. Lives at stake.
Somehow she decided she was meant for this. Taking care of you was her job and she would try, try, try to be good enough at it. To be your mother even if she didn’t know what the fuck she was doing.
If you were a planned-on child,
maybe even long-awaited and this was exactly what your mom was actively hoping for, your mother likely celebrated and gave great thanks. Her freezing, freaking out or falling apart would wait until later. When something when wrong. When blood pressure was too high or there was blood in the toilet or labor pains came too soon. Or when the adoption lawyer had a funny look on her face, or the follow-up call was a day late — yes, your mom, too.
She would brave it out, of course, and get the right help and say the right prayers and try, try, try to perfectly insulate the precious gift of you. You weren’t even born yet, and all that fucking pressure.
And it’s entirely self-justified, the whole motherhood thing. It has to be, because she was chosen for you and no one knows it more than she does. You come along and she must carry you around. You can’t get anywhere unless she moves you. You can’t be left alone. You can’t take care of yourself. You need need want want cry cry and that is on her. Not you. You do nothing wrong and you deserve everything right.
Fact: this how it all begins, and has begun, since forever. Ancient mothers, tribal mothers — even a royal bitch mother who enslaved nursemaids to do all the work knew that her baby was entirely in need and always in peril unless she arranged protection.
So, who is up to the task of being the vehicle for everything you are?
As weak or unprepared or worried or misguided as she might have been as a human being, the answer is your mommy.
I don’t know exactly how she has coped, but I do know her method of making it through day-by-day, hope-by-hope, crisis-by-crisis, must have developed into her own unique form of sanity-keeping. And possibly sanity-losing. Perhaps for both of you. That’s why we should try to understand.
As I mentioned, motherhood is complex. The ultimate love. No wonder she tries so motherfucking hard.
Does she have an opinion on everything?
It’s crazy how much she is compelled to share. Realize that to your mom, all those dos and don’ts are based on obvious facts and it’s up to her to make you aware.
First it was you shouldn’t touch the fire or the stove because it is hot. Next it was you should do your homework because an education will help you in life. And then it was how that’s not yours, you can’t have it, and don’t ruin it for someone else.
Also comb your hair and shower. And don’t let your ass hang out of your clothing, at least not around your elders and other authority because it paints a certain picture of the type of person you are, and right or wrong, people who can help or hurt you do form opinions on how to treat you based on the level of effort you put into the impression you’re willing to make.
Is she all up in your business?
Know that she is still trying to build her own confidence in the job she has done raising you, in her ability to teach you how to make wise choices that will keep you safe and make you happy. Was she able to show you how you can create the good life you deserve? Did you even see it? Because sometimes she can’t tell. So she keeps trying.
Does she yell at you to try to save you from what she has decided would be mistakes on your part? Like, getting too skinny, getting too fat, settling for less, letting people take advantage of you, or taking advantage of others?
Does she try to talk to you, heart-to-heart, to explain what she learned when she was in the same spot as you are now? Does she always want to teach you based on lessons from her own battles which you may know little about, really, or you may know too much about and for that she is sorry?
Does she break down into tears when you tell her how you really feel and it is not at all what she assumed you felt, or what she wished you would feel instead? Is she just too emotional, with that tender heart of hers?
Does she drink a lot of wine, or eat a lot of sweets, or spend a lot of money, or complain a lot about loved ones, and then say maybe you shouldn’t do so much of the drinking/eating/spending/complaining yourself?
It is a challenge, being the child of a mom like that.
A mother who feels so committed. So fucking lucky to be given the chance to help grow someone like you.
You, who has so much more potential to make a difference in this world than she was ever able to do herself, other than being your mother.
You, with a smile she woke up each morning to see. Dead tired. So depending on her era, she might have become addicted to diet pills, your Ritalin, or expensive coffee drinks to be on top of it all.
You, with a stubborn side she saw as a strong will, meant for great things. So, which was it going to be to help you hone it — time outs, chore charts, grounding, shouting, fighting or that horrible smack on the butt when you couldn’t control yourself in the KMart, or the slap in the face when you were a teen on the nastiest of days?
You, with your quirks she believes everyone should appreciate and admire. So she taught you weird tricks, let you dress in ways that might have ended up being embarrassing, videotaped the strange shows you put on, and keeps suggesting you do something with all that talent of yours.
You, with your dangerous behaviors, impulses, twists and turns she considers a reflection on her flawed capabilities, her wealth of imperfections.
You, who are the fuel to her spirit and the achievement of her lifetime, and now as timegoes on, she is learning that can be a hell of a lot of pressure on you. So, by trying too hard, she is really just asking for many chances, still trying to do right by her baby. Still trying to detach from needing to know you can be okay without her.
Yet maybe she never will…
If she’s being honest. Which she is trying to be, without driving you crazy.