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Girl Gone Authentic: Mother/Daughter relationships can be complicated

Updated: May 25, 2020

I’ve written about many of the relationships in my life. I’ve written about my husband, my ex-husband, my husband’s ex-wife, my teenage daughter, etc. One relationship that I haven’t written about is what may be the most complicated that I’m in – the relationship between me and my mother. I’m the oldest of four children. My parents got married at the age of 19, when they found out they were expecting me. I figured this out when I was approximately 10 years old (when I noticed that they got married in July 1973, and I was born in December 1973). I grew up feeling closer to my dad than to my mom, but I wouldn’t say that I had a bad relationship with my mom. I always knew that she loved me, and she did a good job of providing for my needs. She was at my band performances, she threw parties for my birthdays, etc. In the background, though, I felt a slight resentment emanating from her. She seemed “jealous” of the relationship I had with my dad (her husband), occasionally making snide comments. I learned as I got older that the relationship between me and my dad was the type of relationship she wanted with her own dad (she’s the third of four kids; she has two older sisters and a younger brother). This made it possible for me to at least understand WHY she seemed to resent the relationship I had with dad. When I was 17 years old (a senior in high school), my parents split up. My dad fell in love with another woman and decided to leave his marriage. My mom was obviously devastated, but the way she handled things was not how I hope I would have handled things. Chiefly – she blamed ME for the marriage ending. I need to explain why she blamed me. My dad got promoted at his job a couple of years before he left my mom. It required him to commute over an hour each way. He and my mom talked about the family moving to the new town. I was going to be drum major (student leader) for my high school band in my senior year, and if we moved to a new town, this would likely not happen at the new school since I’d be the new kid in class. I let my parents know how much I was opposed to us moving. My dad decided to stay a couple of nights a week in the town where his promotion sent him rather than have the family move. Eventually, he used these two nights to stay at “the other woman’s” house. When my dad left my mom, she told me that I was the reason we didn’t move, and if we had moved, he wouldn’t have been able to stay at her house, and my parents would still be together. I carried this guilt with me until I was almost 25 years old. I asked my dad about it, and he said that I had nothing to do with his decision to not move our family. He didn’t move us because he had already made the decision to leave my mom, and he didn’t want to move her to a new town when he knew he’d eventually leave her. He said that he would never let a teenager’s opinion change his mind about something like this. To this day, I’ve never told my mom what my dad told me. It’s enough for me to know that I was not the reason we did not move. Another thing she started doing was saying how she never wanted to marry my dad in the first place. If she hadn’t gotten pregnant with me, she wouldn’t have been “forced” to marry him. In my 17-year-old brain, this meant that it was my fault that my mom had to marry him in the first place. These things are enough to make our relationship a bit “off,” but our relationship became even more strained/complicated when I had kids of my own. If she didn’t agree with something I did with one of the kids, she would tell me in front of them. I’m not a super strict parent, but I believe in setting limits and then sticking to those limits. Anytime I’d enforce a consequence on one of my kids and my mom was present, she would question the consequence in front of the child. I remember one particular circumstance as if it was yesterday. We were at a party at my cousin’s house. My daughter was being very disrespectful toward me. I gave her a warning, telling her that if she continued the behavior, she would have to get out of the pool. She continued the behavior, so I told her to get out of the pool for 10 minutes. After she got out of the pool, I went into the house. A few minutes later, my mom came into the house. She told me that my punishment was far too harsh and that she didn’t need to be out of the pool for that long. I looked at the clock and replied that it had been less than 5 minutes. She yelled at me, saying that I was ridiculous, and stormed out of the house. I was really upset. For one thing, several family members were standing there, and they heard the exchange. For another, it was not her business how I disciplined my kids. That night, I sent her a lengthy email, telling her that she didn’t have to agree with my parenting, but I needed her to respect the fact that they are my children and I will parent them the way I think is most appropriate. I also asked her to stop pitting my kids against each other by treating them more fairly (she routinely had two of my kids for overnight visits but left out my middle child; this caused the youngest to tease the middle one about not being invited). It was the first time IN MY LIFE that I really stuck up for myself or for my children. The result? We didn’t speak for months. My mom made several threats via email, but I ignored her emails. It was HARD, but I couldn’t respond. I know my mom. Responding would be a waste of time because she would NEVER see my side of things. We eventually started talking again, but both of us pretended as if the whole ordeal never happened. I knew it was pointless to bring it up because she would never acknowledge my feelings. The years have passed, and my three biological kids are now grown. One of them still lives at home, and she spends time with my mom. She has led me to believe that my mom is still critical of me and how I interact with my daughter. I was really upset, thinking that my mom and my adult daughter were sitting around, talking about me and about how I’m not a “good enough” mom to my daughter. Recently, something happened that made me think that perhaps our relationship isn’t doomed. One of my sisters and I threw a baby shower for one of our nieces (at my sister’s house). My daughter came out of one of the bedrooms and was dressed in a way that I can only describe as “tacky.” I asked her if that was what she was really going to wear, and she stomped back into the bedroom. My mom was there, and I was expecting her to criticize me. I was wrong. My mom looked at me and said, “What was she wearing?” I asked her if she thought I was being unreasonable and she replied that she agreed with me. We then proceeded to have a short discussion about some things that are troubling me about my daughter (namely, her lack of ambition and emotional immaturity), and I found out that my mom agrees with everything I was saying. I finally said, “I’ve always thought you were against me when it comes to my daughter. She has led me to believe that the two of you sit around and criticize my parenting skills.” My mom looked shocked and said that they don’t talk about me at all. She said that in fact, they don’t really talk too much about anything because of my mom’s work schedule. We stopped talking after this exchange because the shower was starting. At the end of the day, I loaded up my car and was getting ready to drive home. My mom came up to me to say goodbye (something she doesn’t usually do). She said, “I’m not against you.” Maybe there is hope for us after all! ~Denise #girlgonesmart #girlgoneauthentic #motherdaughterrelationships #complicatedrelationships #clearingtheair

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