When you think of a good mother-daughter relationship – what do you see? Two attractive blonde women that are legit #bffs? They call each other at least once a day to discuss boy troubles and the mother soothes the daughter with kindness and sound advice. They go shopping on the reg and get mistaken for sisters which makes them giggle attractively into each other’s shoulders. And let’s not forget the slumber parties where they’ll sit in their pyjamas on Mum’s bed discussing life and speaking openly with one another. Yeahhhhh sounds like a movie starring Reece Witherspoon or some shit. And it’s taken me almost three decades to stop comparing my own relationship with my Mum to an ideal that doesn’t exist (beyond old mate’s heartwarming movies.)
The pressure for a relationship with your Mum to look a certain way as a chick is intense and I’ve only recently come to terms with how toxic and detrimental that pressure has been.
Since I was young, I’ve so desperately craved to be close with my Mum. I yearned for her to be the first person I called when shit went wrong. I’ve wanted to be open and share intimate details about my fears, what went down at work that day, an argument with a friend or a cute boy I met – but I’ve never really known how. When you feel like you don’t have that kind of relationship with someone, where and how do you ‘just start?’
For years, I felt I was in a state of mourning for the relationship Mum and I didn’t have. I was angry about it, like really angry. I constantly compared. I was jealous of friends who had their Mum on speed dial and an ability to be open. Why couldn’t we be like that? And why isn’t she fixing it? Isn’t that what Mum’s are ‘supposed’ to do? Fix things? So for a while, I sat in my inner child and played the blame game. It wasn’t ‘my job’ after all to make this better, I’m the kid remember? But the worst part was the guilt around it all. Saying out loud that you and your Mum aren’t like-the-movies close conjures up ideas that you must hate each other or have no relationship at all which is so not the case. I’d worry how that would hurt Mum and the whole craving for closeness felt embarrassing and a bit shameful – because Reece makes that shit look so easy in the movies, like it’s your birthright.
When I began trying to heal parts of my life and consistently seeing a therapist a few years ago, I started to look really closely at the role I play within my family and delve deeper into my the relationship I have with all my family members – in particular my parents. And it was as though I was really seeing things clearly for the first time. I realised my anger had blinded me from seeing my Mum as a person, as an individual that had lived an entire life before I rocked up. An individual with her own past, complexities and hurt. Up until this point she was just ‘Mum’ MY Mum, and it was difficult to see her as anything beyond that role. It actually blew my mind the first time I came to realise her life didn’t completely revolve around me – being a mother was part of her life, not it’s entirety. So over the past few years, I’ve managed to arrive in a place where I have compassion for my Mum, an understanding that we all do the bloody best we can with the tools we’ve been given and ‘openness’ was certainly not in the toolkit my Mum had been given growing up, so how the hell was she supposed to practice it with me?
Grieving and letting go has been a massive part of my healing process, both personally and specifically with my relationship with Mum. Had I not spent the past few years allowing myself the space to do this, I know I could have never moved out of anger.
Only really recently (I mean like a week ago) I decided to start taking responsibility for my part in our relationship too – because after all, isn’t that what a relationship is? A two-way street amongst two people? Up until this point, I’d been waiting for her to wave a magic wand and afford me the safe space I needed to be open. But what if I could heal enough to not have to wait? What if I could practice what I’d craved all these years and just actually ‘be’ open and see what happened. I tried it and fuck did it feel good. I said ‘Mum I went on this really good date the other night’ and the excitement and surprise in her voice at having been let in filled me with so much joy. You could hear her smiling down the phone, just like I was.
By NO means do I think I have the whole mother-daughter thing solved. And by no means do I think I’ve completely healed all I need to and we can now go shopping hand in hand into the sunset. It’s an evolving process, just as it’s an evolving relationship. What I do know for sure though, is that taking responsibility for my own part of the whole mother-daughter shebang & doing what I can to understand Mum has taken me a place I’ve never been before.
For more on this, listen to this week’s podcast…