Something I’ve learned over the last, say, 10 years or so is this: no matter how “good” you think your relationship is with your own mom, it’s always complicated. [Can I get an amen?]
My mom is great in a lot of ways. On the spectrum of potentially crazy mothers, I really lucked out. She’s not a lunatic, she’s not emotionally needy, she’s not a lot of awful things. And, for that, I am grateful. But she’s my mom, and as I’ve heard said before, she knows how to push all of my buttons because she’s the one who installed them.
At one point during our very brief visit, the question kept sounding in my head: “do you actually like me?” OK, that’s perhaps overly dramatic. I know my mom loves me. I don’t think she actually dislikes me. And yet, it’s hard to shake that question. Maybe it’s better phrased by wondering if she’s disappointed in me. Because my life doesn’t look quite like her life, and I’m pretty sure she thinks it should.
I feel her dissatisfaction with my home. She is a perpetual-motion home-improvement machine, and she can’t be without a project. She always wants to help me get organized. Or decorated. Or cleaned. My house isn’t a pig sty or anything, but there’s some degree of clutter. I’m not a great housekeeper, and sometimes things just fall where they may and the mess gets away from me. I really do think she’s trying to help me, but I feel the twinge of disappointment.
And then, there’s the issue of food. My mom is a very good cook, and I absolutely got my love of cooking and baking from her. I also, though, got my weight and body image issues through her. My mom isn’t skinny, and has worked at various points in her life on losing some weight. But she eats pretty darn healthy these days and gets a lot of activity, so she doesn’t seem to have any issue maintaining a reasonable weight right now. I, on the other hand, have struggled my entire life, and continue to do so. I remember very clearly when my mom took me on a number of occasions to a nutritionist. When I was about eight years old. Since then, I’ve never not been dealing with my weight. This is connected to the fact that I still sneak food. I eat in secret, because I know my mom will tell me not to. I’m nearly 30 years old, and even though I’m hungry (and an adult!), I won’t take a second helping of dinner, because I know my mom is watching. She might not say anything, but she’s watching. Watching how much I put on my plate, watching my fat ass in my plus-sized clothes. And she’s disappointed.
And though she lives 1,000 miles away, and has made it known that she hopes I might move back to Chicago some day… she arrived on Tuesday and left for my aunt’s house (her one sister who lives in Massachusetts instead of Chicago) on Thursday. Two days. 48 hours with me and the grandkids. On the one hand, I know his isn’t that different from my own struggles with balancing family visits. More than one person you want to see in a very short period of time. But still…
It wasn’t, of course, all bad. It was nice to have extra hands, and my mom is great with the kids. She’ll play peek-a-boo, sing songs, and read Brown Bear six or seven times in a row, all with accompanying animal sounds. She thinks the kids are great (and they are, of course!), and loves to do anything and everything with them. And one thing I am very thankful for is that she has not been at all critical of my parenting. Mealtimes are when I say, naptimes happen like they’re supposed to. I do appear to be doing something right, and it’s something important. And her crazy organization/project thing does mean some legitimate improvements were made. Things I had long been meaning to do got done, plans were made to rearrange my den in a productive way (more on that later), new lamps were purchased, tasty dinners were made.
I guess this also got me thinking about the fact that I now have my own daughter. And I know that, despite all best intentions, I will make her a little crazy, too. Like it or not, I will push the buttons that I created. I’ll try my hardest to draw an appropriate line, but I know that mothers and daughters will always be complicated. I suppose the best I can do is, when my own daughter is an adult and a mother, I can try to remember what it’s like to be a daughter.