How to Deal with Critical Mothers, Demanding Daughters and the Super-Mom Myth
If you’re a daughter and a mother to a daughter you sometimes feel you’re getting the same messages in stereo from both sides of the generational divide. These messages can sometimes be the most cutting, hurtful and critical messages which can leave moms feeling depressed, lonely, underappreciated and exhausted.
This Mother’s Day I want to send a shout out to all those moms who are working so hard to raise daughters to be self-confident, ethical, technologically and street-wise while providing their own mothers with the emotional, psychological, physical and financial support as they get on in years. The percentage of mothers working full-time is now up to 74% and 66% work either full-time or part-time. Many women feel like they need to be perfect in all areas of their life. Since this is an impossible task they constantly left feeling less than. Unfortunately, there is still the pervading myth that moms need to still provide a home-cooked meal each night, arrange play dates for their youngsters, check up on their child’s Instagram and Facebook statuses and then plan all the thousands of details that go into running a household week-in and week-out to be considered a “good mother”.
So many mothers end up feeling guilty if they aren’t doing what their stay-at-home mother did for them when they were growing up with their own children while they’re holding down a full-time job. In my office each week I hear from mothers and wives who feel like failures if they can’t cook up a Betty Crocker-style birthday party with a homemade birthday cake and creative gifts to hand out to the children in their loot bags as they walk out. Trying to live up to the Mom Myth of being the “super-mom” who does everything perfectly causes moms to feel more depressed than those women who reject that notion.
Now if you’re one of those moms who happens to be trying your best to balance work outside the home, home-making, parenting and marriage, you know the challenges you face in terms of trying to find time to check off all the items on your list. Most women feel more anxious about trying to push ahead at work or feel worried to “lean in” at their job outside the home as Sheryl Sandberg discussed in her most recent book, for fear of it requiring more time away from their families. I hear working mothers discuss how fatigued and stressed they feel because they’re trying to give to everyone else but leave very little time to re-nourish their bodies and spirits. They talk about how their libido has left them and they feel badly for their spouses who are more interested in sex than they are.
Many of these same women discuss how guilty they feel when they listen to their own mothers who may give advice on how to run a more elegant, efficient or frugal household. When visiting their mom, one of my clients might hear that her children are acting out of control and then be given tips on how she
should really discipline them more effectively. What these moms and you might be experiencing are feelings of inadequacy and self-criticism that may at times overwhelm you. Since most mothers of past generations did not have to balance a job, a household, e-mail, texting and technology policing responsibilities themselves, they are not attuned to the overwhelming informational overload of today’s mom.
Then, on the other side of the generational bridge today’s mom may be berated, wined at or ignored by a tween or teen daughter who is not satisfied with her clothes, or the meal that her mom cooked while her daughter sits on the couch texting or posting on Instagram or Snapchat with her friends and rolling her eyes if her mother attempts to ask a question about how her life is doing or ask her to help out with the household chores. Yes, some of these exchanges are as old as time itself when girls become teens but I do feel the technology provides more fuel to the fire and frankly, cell phones are this generation of teen’s new drug of choice in my opinion. Even if your daughter hasn’t hit her tweens or teens yet, there are a myriad of online games that need to be monitored so that private information is not given in error. So the new job title for a parent is that of techonology cop! And yes, one needs to keep up with learning and monitoring every new app that comes up in order to educate your daughter on the consequences of sending a text or posting an image while perhaps learning how to follow their movements through new monitoring apps.
Moms in the middle have my utmost empathy because they were sold a bill of goods fantasizing that their moms and daughters would understand them better than their spouses or sons would, due to the simple fact of having the same gender. Even mothers in that stage of early childhood when your daughter runs up to you as you walk in the door of her daycare or nursery program with a huge hug and kiss, the manual chores required can be physically fatiguing. Moms give, they plan, they remind, they cajole, they comfort and they empathize. What most moms are not good at though is asking for help because they think others will see it as a chink in their perfect mom armor. They have difficulty demanding that their spouse contribute an equal 50% to the household chores. They also feel like they could not possibly let their mothers know how demanding their day-to-day lives truly are for fear of appearing like a failure.
What I’d like to say to you moms out there is that this is really a new age and the old parent manuals do not always apply. So for this Mother’s Day I encourage you as I do to my own clients to:
• get over believing in the Mom Myth, you’re not perfect (nor is anyone else) and you’re on the frontier of re-defining what a good mom is on your own terms.
• make a list of all the homemaking jobs you do (including planning, calling for doctor’s appointments, calling or e-mailing for playdates), have your partner or spouse do the same and sit down to divide up the chores in a more equitable way.
• Make one on one dates with each of your children doing something simple like a walk in the park, watching a movie or playing a game so you and they feel like they can reconnect.
• Have a few talks with your mother to explain all the hats you are wearing and let her know in direct actionable behaviors how she could be most helpful while letting her know that giving advice when it’s not asked for can be experienced as critical. Let her know that you are carving out new territory as a 21st century parent.
• create a weekly time that’s just about your own nourishment, whether it’s having coffee with a girlfriend, going to a yoga class or reading a book.
• make a date time with your spouse/partner to keep your libido engaged.
Happy Mother’s Day to you. Please share this with your friends and let them know they can receive my monthly blogs if they ask to be put on my mailing list. Please like my Facebook page and/or follow my Twitter account @asksaricooper.