A lot of new parents find that having a baby makes them love and appreciate their own mothers that much more, but those of us who have strained or neutral relationships with our moms know that's not always the case. I was reading a post on Babble recently by a woman who says she didn't truly appreciate her mom until she had kids of her own, and though it was supposed to be a positive post, I couldn't help but feel a bit sad and envious.
In the post, the author goes through all the ways her mom has supported her and helped her in her motherhood journey. She talks about telling her mom she loves her 20 times a day and how good it feels to know your kid's grandma always has your back. She even says her mom always knows exactly how she's feeling and can identify with so many of her emotions. My post-kids relationship with my mom doesn't feel anything like that. In fact, I'd say the birth of my kids solidified the wedge between us more than anything else ever has, and it makes feel like I'm really missing out on something special.
Like the author's mom, my mom was a single mom who worked hard and sacrificed to raise me. By definition, there is a lot I should praise about her, but the similarities between our stories end there. Where pregnancy and eventual motherhood made the author feel thankful for her mother's support and like she could more easily relate to her, the process left me feeling isolated and alone.
Throughout my pregnancy and even after my daughter's birth, my mother could only see my needs and feelings so far as they mirrored her own. Rather than sharing our experiences, any instance in which my own journey of motherhood diverted away from my mother's wishes was seen as a direct betrayal of our relationship. I can remember vividly times when she threatened to disown me, judged my choices, ignored my boundaries, and left me in tears over wanting a say in my own pregnancy and parenthood.
Most of the time, I feel like the struggles I have as a mom are totally foreign to my mom and like I'm failing her somehow by not experiencing motherhood the way she thinks I should. I feel voiceless and like she expects to have some sort of say in how I raise my children specifically because she sacrificed so much to raise me.
It's taken a long time to sort out my feelings about my relationship with my mom, but ultimately I ended up deciding things just work better when I keep her at arm's length. As much as I wish I could confide in her and share my perspective with her, I know it will only lead to a power struggle or to her having information she can use to hurt me later on.
I know my mom loves me, but I also know she doesn't know how to show that in a way that's healthy and productive, and having kids didn't make that better. Instead, it highlighted it in neon and strung bright, flashing lights around it. I do the best I can to overcome our issues because my kids deserve to know their grandmother, but their relationship exists separate from me and is a source of constant stress.
Having kids will strengthen your relationship with your mom if it was strong and loving to begin with, but if it was weak, kids will only exaggerate and exacerbate those trouble spots. For some of us, the best we can hope for is to remember how difficult it was to be a parent under the watchful eye of a hurtful grandparent and try to do better for our own kids. That's one lesson I can definitely say I appreciate.