Archive | February, 2011

Feeling confident despite the differences…

27 Feb

I wish my mother knew how much she helped me prepare to live without her.

I must assume that both of my parents played a role in helping me to be self-assured, even when feeling so different from those around me. Growing up, I had perfect opportunities to feel inadequacies and be embarrassed. Yet, I was unaffected by these situations. For example, I have never felt frustrated at not having average or seemingly “normal” height. And, even though I did not have the most common and accepted religion, I always felt proud to be Jewish. I did not have the almost perfect grades that my sister had, yet I felt proud of my schoolwork.

And, for the past 17 years, I have not had a mother and constantly encounter opportunities to balk at my unfortunate circumstance. Sometimes when my friends talk about their mothers, I drift off into thoughts about my mother and then I find a way to disassociate myself from their discussion. I might think about how my mother’s death separates me from women and mothers who have mothers. My mother cannot stop by for dinner, ask me how my day was, or bring my family important groceries or special treats. She cannot criticize my parenting practices, busy schedule, outfits or housekeeping. Even though this is the first handicap that does make me feel crushed and sad, I still do not feel defeated. My parents raised me to advocate for myself and to be strong and proactive.

How do we deal with such huge differences that set us apart from our friends? How do you help yourself accept your differences without calling attention to them? How do you ignore a deep, heartfelt loss while helping your friends enjoy the very thing you do not have?

 

Simple Tasks

24 Feb

How do we learn how to take care of a house? Our mothers, mostly.  We might learn by seeing what they do or what they don’t do! In fact the latter rang true for my mother. I recall her telling me how my grandmother did not know how to clean–or maybe even that she should clean the house. As my mother endured life in a messy house, she pledged to do a much better job. And, she did follow through. She knew how to clean corners, under furniture and rugs, and the most inconspicuous dirty spots more meticulously than I’ll ever see again. Yet, it wasn’t all dust-free and shiny…she often skipped the cleaning tasks if she thought she would not be able to do a perfect job. Seeking perfection in each job she took on actually stymied her ability to start and finish these jobs. But, that’s a whole blog post in itself…another time.

I wonder, am I the only “lucky”–(really, lucky to know how to clean thoroughly??) daughter who learned how to clean because my mother set good examples and involved her children (okay, often forced her children)? What if your mother passed away before she was able to show you? In that case, did you learn to clean? how? from whom? Or, like my own mother, did you learn how to clean so that you could dig out of your own house? If you have cleaning questions now, who do you ask? For example, I’d love to ask my mom how to get a bit of paint off of our basement carpeting? I can google the answer, but will the result contain that motherly wisdom? Are most daughters fortunate enough to have had some motherly tutelage?

 

Missing a supervisor

22 Feb

In our professional lives, we react to the interference or support from supervisors. We have all had experiences with the good and the bad…the helpful and the unreasonable…. The same with moms?

It is not until a few years into my current position, that I truly missed having a supervisor. As an English teacher, I always had a direct supervisor as well as a principal, superintendent, etc. Some supervisors were supportive and even inspirational. As a librarian, I have never had a library supervisor, someone to watch over me and the job I do.  Sure, sometimes I am glad to not have pressure, even interference. But, often, I would relish encouragement and even constructive criticism.

The same with moms. As a child and teenager, I can recall those (thankfully fleeting) moments when I thought how much easier life would be without someone telling me what, when and how to do things. I often resented my mom’s instruction and criticism.  Fortunately, I did always feel her strong love and underlying approval.  Do we, at almost any age, strive to “please our moms” because, deep down,  we know they are driven by that motherly supervision and confidence in our abilities? Or, do we fear their disapproval? At some level, do we know they’re right? Or, at times, do we just accept the fact that they are “boss?”

I wonder how many other daughters appreciate the supervisors they do have in their lives? Do you find yourself trying to please your supervisor the way you do or would try to please your mom? Do you have or miss that pat on the back?  Do you crave, as I do at times, constructive criticism from those with “supervisory” roles in our lives?

If she could see me now

20 Feb

I really wish my mother could see me now…preparing to paint my basement. My mother was a definite handyperson. I have a vivid vision of her painting and wallpapering our house in Old Bridge. I can remember mixed feelings about her work in the house. I was glad that all of our rooms, laundry to dining, looked fresh and clean. But, I can also recall the stress, such as deciding which wallpaper would look best and be most economical. Then, we all experienced the agony of making sure each job was done with perfection. Fortunately, she did not ask us to help much—I think she wanted to make sure the job was done right by doing it herself.

When I bought my first apartment, she immediately made a plan to paint. We spackled, sanded and got very frustrated! We ended up hiring someone to finish, but felt very good about trying and working hard together! Again, I had such mixed feelings—acute aggravation over a challenging paint job and also gratitude that my mother would spend so much time and energy to help me. Growing up with a mother who took on almost any household task with Type A ardor did cause some stress. I am sure I never imagined doing the same sort of work in my house. In fact, I was probably ruled by the trite teenage maxim, “I’ll never do that when I’m a mother….”  I wonder if she knew that one day I would be doing just the same things she did—from mothering to painting!

If my mother was alive, I think I would be excited and proud to call her and tell her about my afternoon plan to paint. At what point do we start taking on the tasks that we bemoaned our mothers doing while we grew up? Do we forget about the adolescent stress and embarrassment we experienced while watching or even helping our moms? Can we reconcile these mixed feelings and the evolution of becoming  “my mother” before it is too late, before she is gone? Do you share these newly discovered (or admitted to)  activities or even passions with your mom, if she is still alive?

Women Helping Women

17 Feb

Looking through a local paper today, I noticed an announcement for a meeting of the “Women Helping Women” group. How nice, I thought, here is a group of women getting together to discuss and, ideally, support each other’s work, parenting and even social situations. I then thought, isn’t that what a mother/adult daughter relationship is all about? That is exactly what I wish I had with my mom—a woman helping woman relationship. We certainly had a history of helping each other. The idea of a group of women meeting formally to help each other actually makes me feel more “normal.” It’s not just me, many woman need, or at least, desire, each other’s help. Both women who have and women who do not have mothers are looking for more female companionship. If women with mothers are seeking help, I must be doing okay. I have a few very good friends and we do help each other unconditionally and constantly. But, that is not even enough. These friendships do not usually begin or get maintained because we need help. I do wonder and might need to investigate this “Women Helping Women” group. How old are these women? Do they have mothers involved in their lives? Why are they seeking this sort of help?

Are good mother/adult daughter relationships strong enough to satisfy each other’s needs? How can we each set up our own network to compensate for not having a mother’s help?

Out of Practice

14 Feb

Does an active relationship with your own mother help you communicate with your in-laws? I came up with this question recently while trying to figure out why I feel misunderstood when I turn down my in-laws’ invitation to dinner. I certainly do not want my father-in-law and his wife to feel unwanted. Rather, I want them to inherently understand how busy my family’s weekend schedule is and how difficult it is to commit to dinner, even on a Sunday night. After it seemed like my “no” insulted them, I wondered if I would handle their invitation differently if I was used to making and breaking plans with my own mother. My own mother would probably feel comfortable expressing her disappointment. Or, at the very least, she would give me hints or transfer some guilt that would prompt alternate solutions. I would say something like, “Mom, you know how crazy it is…we just can’t count on coming over. But, let’s figure it out.” That would lead to a discussion of my schedule or a compromise about getting together. So, why can’t I be as forthright with my in-laws? I think my own mother might tell me to not worry about the meal. She might say, “You and the family have to eat anyway, so I’ll pick up a pizza and come by for a quick dinner.” Why is it so formal with my in-laws? I did not even think to ask them about bringing dinner to us—why was I assuming the meal would be so crucial? I am just not used to making plans with relatives/mom figures. I am out of practice and do not think of the right questions or offers.

Or, is it just different with in-laws? Is it too difficult to engage them in an honest discussion? Do their expectations get in the way of any good communication skills you develop with your own mom? Or, if you are like me, without a mom, should you ask yourself, “How would I approach that with my own mother?” And, would you then have the confidence and conviction to ask your in-laws to bring a pizza to your family?

Finding everyday strength

12 Feb

Do adult women derive strength from their mothers? I ask this at times when I would love a push to persevere, mostly with motherly duties. I wonder if my mom’s opinion or backing would encourage me to feel stronger when carrying out standard punishments and rules with my children. Raising my children without my mother in my life, I have no idea if her presence would make raising children easier. When I feel I must enforce the grounding of my daughter or take away xbox controllers from my son, I try to have my mother’s voice in my head, “just do it, of course it’s hard, but you must….” And, while these are typical, problems, even regular mothering decisions seem insurmountable sometimes. It’s easier to feel sympathy for myself, thinking that my mother would make my backbone stronger!

Do other mothers without mothers experience these same weak feelings? Do mothers with mothers in their lives feel stronger? Do they seek support from their mothers for those mundane decisions and needs? Are they stronger mothers because of their own mothers’ presence? Ultimately, the question is: How does a mother become stronger if she is not naturally receiving this kind of support?

Reflecting and evolving

10 Feb

I wish my mom was alive.   Of course, I do. Today is the 17th anniversary of her death and she is actually still a part of my life.  I think about her every day and, while it certainly is not the same or ever nearly enough, I do find her “presence” in my life reassuring.  My most frequent thoughts about her range from hypothetical to self-serving questions….” Would she be comfortable visiting and staying with my family? How often would she visit?” I can theorize, based on her/our history, that she would be a huge part of our lives. When she was alive I spoke with her almost every day, would I still?  I know she would have been a big part of her grandchildren’s lives.  I am sad for her and for them that they didn’t get to meet.  I wonder what she would think of the things I do and what she would remind me to be doing.  I also think about how different my life is as an adult mother without a mother.  I do not have to worry about her and how to help her, but I wish I could worry about her and I wish I could help her.  I think about how we would both feel, having each other, being mother and daughter.

Through this blog, I look forward to conversations with women about their moms. I invite women without mothers and women with mothers to reflect on their past and current relationships, their imaginary relationships.

This, being a significant day of reflection for me, I wonder, how would my relationship with my mother have evolved over the last 17 years? Do you think about that? How has your relationship with your mother evolved? How would it have evolved?