Wednesday, 24 April 2013

When Mom Nags

One of the absolute worst things about the Single life is having one's own mother nagging one about being Single. It is a betrayal on a massive scale because Mom/Mum is usually the person you instinctively go to when you are feeling down and out or sick. This sometimes has absolutely nothing to do with the woman herself, but some infant instinct in our brain that still occasionally wails "Maaaamaaaaa!"

So it is awful when you are having a good day, or a lousy day, and you are enjoying your proximity to your mother, your first home, and suddenly she starts in on you about being Single. It's bad enough if you intend to be Single and are purposefully Single; when you don't want to be Single, it's a knife to the heart.

For the record, my mother did not nag me about being Single after I got divorced, even when I got my annulment and was theologically Single again with papers to prove it. She did second-guess my decisions to end dating relationships, however. Not being a mother, I am not sure why mothers do this. Maybe it's caused by an overflow of worry or resentment for having been in the orbit of yet another younger-generation drama.

I am trying to put myself in a mother's shoes, and see Singleness from a nagging mother's perspective. I never had any children, but I have twenty-something friends whose mothers are near my age, so I can imagine having a twenty-two year old daughter, at oldest. And frankly I would not give a darn if my twenty-two year old daughter were Single. In fact, I would rather that she were Single--especially Single and not dating---and concentrating on her university courses, her apprenticeship program or her fledgling business.

I would be much more annoyed if she were wasting her time chasing boys, or dating some happy-go-lucky simpleton, or (worse) a snarling control-freak, and that is where the temptation to meddle would probably get the better of me. I would write long blog posts for her, pretending that they were not for her, should she actually bother to read them. ("No, darling, what are you talking about? I was writing generally.")

But I like to think that once my darling daughter was established in her career, trade or business, that I would leave her alone, and hold my counsel, unless she came timidly to me for advice, and then I would let her have it, both barrels.

Sitting here in my imaginary mother-chair, I am open to the idea that mothers sometimes know what they are talking about. I know this is a radical idea, so I will quickly state that mothers very often haven't the foggiest clue.

If your mother married at twenty and had six children and her world is mostly church, the family business, the supermarket, the library and the mall, she very likely does not have a grasp of what it is like to be a Single woman your age. She thinks she does because she watches TV, but she doesn't because TV is not real life. Cute physicists with great jobs but lots of time just to hang out do not live across the hall from you. Nor is there a man at work who looks just like Angel, that is, David Boreanaz.

I think about what Single Life means for you every day, and yet I do not quite know what it is to be a Single woman your age. You are the experts on that.

However, mothers do know a lot, so it is absolutely worthwhile to listen to what your mother says as impartially as possibly and sort out the sense from the nonsense. For instance, it is nonsense to think that men would fall at your feet if only you cut your bangs (fringe). However, if your mother says you have pretty eyes, than it is indeed possibly that you do have pretty eyes and should show them off.

Meanwhile, since it is one of her principal jobs, your mother is aware of how your moods, behaviours, relationships and choices affect the rest of the people in the household. That can always be a big ol' shock to a young woman: the fact that her personal life, which she thought so private, actually has an impact on those with whom she lives. I can see how a daughter's ignorance of, or indifference to, this would drive a mother crazy.

It can be hard to grasp this, but mothers are just other women. They happen to be the women who affect you more than any other women in the world, but it is helpful to remember that they are really just women with lives of their own. They form their own impressions of the world, and they repeat them if they think this won't get them into trouble. Sometimes these impressions have great merit, and sometimes they don't.  Some mothers have great advice, and some mothers do not. Some mothers feel confident about their place in the world, and some tyrannize over their kids because this is the only way they feel any power.

Anyway, sound off in the combox. What advice has your mother given you that was really great? And what advice has she given you that was utterly lousy? Feel free to be anonymous today.


Anonymous said...

Best advice ever by my mom was to go to a specific job interview. I didn't really want the job, but I went anyway and got my dream job!
Worst advice ever: "All men are bastards, just don't get married." However, I can gladly say that now, several years after her annulment, she's cautiosly optimistic about finding a good man herself.

Seraphic said...

Yay, re job! Oh dear, re: men. Further evidence that mothers are not goddesses and at least sometmes they say stuff to daughters they should say only to friends/counsellors/beauticians/kindly strangers in the loo.

Anonymous for this comment said...

I have a complicated relationship with my mother. I don't often go to her for advice, because I don't consider her particularly "rooted in reality," as you would say.

When I went crying to her because my exboyfriend who joined the seminary was LEAVING the seminary and my head was kind of spun around, she asked me if I thought I was still in love with him, and if so, if writing to him saying so would be a good idea. Um... no. No, no, no and no. It boggles the mind just considering such a thing.

My mom seems really worried about me never marrying. I realize now that she always has been, but I was so programmed as a teenager (and younger) to assume that I would get married, as she did, in my early 20s, that it wasn't until I reached 20 with no boyfriend in sight that I realized she was wrong in considering the married life (especially at so young) such a foregone conclusion for me, and how that impacted my life.

For example: I was home schooled and am, to this day, woefully inept at math. This is largely because my mom thought it was okay that I spent all my time with my head in history books, novels and poetry, and almost none in my math books, because I would be a mother and wife someday anyway. She actually said that. Well, I'm not a wife nor a mother, and I'm still not sure if I ever will be, and now I have many, many career options cut off from me because I can barely manage Algebra I.

Ah, well. I'm starting therapy soon to deal with depression. I'm sure I can get some of my mommy angst out there.

Nzie (theRosyGardener) said...

Good advice: I was struggling feeling like God had pulled away from me, and she said, "God withdraws so that you learn to seek him. Are you seeking the God of comforts or the comforts of God?"

Bad advice: She used to think I'd miss out on the "marriage market" if I didn't find someone in college. But she observed the trend towards marrying later among those who go for post-secondary education and changed.

To be honest, I had to scrape the barrel for that bad advice. She's not perfect, but she's exceedingly wise. :-)


Girl on the scary side of 25 said...

I think mother-daughter relational issues are related to communication problems--we aren't appreciating each other's point of view or as good as we should be in politely thanking them for their input and respectfully disagreeing. More often than not, when I call Mom up over something, the conversation ends in exasperation (her whining she doesn't know what to tell me; me not understanding why she can't simply commiserate: "why yes, insurance should be cheaper for you; let me call a Congressman" instead of "just leave that job you love and get more money"). My much older sister (by 12 years)can be more helpful.
Though, I must admit it's extraordinarily frustrating that their common theme about dating now is that I have to be more "open-minded" (date non-Christians, maybe let go of The Speech, etc.), otherwise it'd be like looking for a needle in a haystack. My retort to that was that I was quite happy to put on jeans and stand in the very tiny haystack looking for my chaste Catholic guy, and yes, I would be happier if that didn't happen then to throw everything I value (faith) into the wind and marry someone who couldn't lead the kind of family I'd want.

Ally said...

Best advice/gift? My mother pushing me (without really nagging though) to let her pay for me an eharmony subscription (and to give it a try again after I moved) - I don't think it is for everyone, but one of my best friends got engaged last weekend to a fantastic guy she met on there, and I'm currently dating a fantastic guy I met on there as well (though I will admit there were a lot of duds first in my case) - between living 3 hours apart and his very busy schedule (he's in medicine) there is no way we'd have found each other otherwise really. Is he the one? Too soon to know, but lets just say this Protestant gal is not opposed to the idea or to the idea of raising little ones with him in the Catholic Church....

Worst advice? I wouldn't say there has been any, but my mom seems to think that since she was 24 when she got married (and that was older then to be) and didn't have me until she was 30, she thinks she has a better sense of understanding than she really does at times...

That said, my parents would never have pushed the issue to any point where I would feel I had to find someone regardless of whether it was the right one, because they would much rather see me single and happy than married to a jerk! But they would like some grand kids eventually (I'm an only child... Actually my aunt never had any kids herself, so she's pushed the issue a tiny bit herself! Wants some great nieces or nephews I reckon!)

n.panchancha said...

Aw, this was a good post.

My mum's given me tons of good advice (from very serious to gently supportive). There was a period of a few months, when I was younger, when I was going through a bit of a depression, and I told her it left me unable to sleep. I kind of expected her to give me lots of how-to-sleep advice, but instead she sent me a book of writing prompts called "The Three AM Epiphany" - i.e. things to write about when you can't sleep at night. That was fun.

One of the most troublesome pieces of advice she's given me comes from her own experience with dating. My mum dated a lot of men as a teen/twenty-something, before she married my dad, and I think she believes that this is the best way to do things: she even told me once that it's useful to have had unpleasant boyfriends, so that if ever you're married and in a bit of a pouty mood re: your husband, you can think about how awful it would have been to end up with any of those other fellows. I think that probably if I read that advice back to her she'd be a bit startled at herself; perhaps it didn't come out the way she wanted it to. But still - I have no intention of dating for the sake of banking up unpleasant memories.

She's admitted to me that she and one of my aunts talked about how they "just want us to live happily ever after." I suppose that, as a married person (and as someone married in her 20's), she must have a hard time imagining I'm happy as a single person with no immediate marriage prospects. Parents take so much responsibility for their children's happiness, and I know she must feel as if it'll be her fault if I never get married because she never gave me the right advice.

These days I try to just let her say what she needs to say and be open to the possibility that it's something I need to hear. It's hard to reply at all without seeming testy.

Jessica Brewer said...

The best advice my Mom ever gave me was about a young man with whom I was in a dramationship. "He doesn't make you happy, sweetie. I really think you should break it off with him."

Of course, I in my 18 years' omniscience was convinced that she hadn't a clue...but what do you know. I broke it off with him and was so much happier and have never looked back.

What's more, I resolved shortly after that to never discount my family's - and especially my Mom's - impressions of potential suitors. It has served me well!

Anonymous said...

I suppose that in some ways I'm lucky because my mom, although she had many boyfriends, didn't get married until she was 32, so she's not pressuring me to get married. She's not too worried yet about having grandkids; the closest she's come is enthusiastically encouraging me to bless her with another "grand-dog."

On the other hand, I can relate to Anonymous above. I have a complicated relationship with my mom. I hardly ever go to her for advice. If I'm worried about whether it costs too much money to buy something, she always tells me to buy it. She gives lots of unsolicited advice about my job (I am a teacher), in spite of the fact that she has never taught and has not been in a classroom since she was in high school over 40 years ago. Her advice is always bad, like "If a student misbehaves, have that student teach the class one day the next week so they realize your job is difficult!" Sure, Mom, that's great.

My mom usually comes to me for advice. If she fights with one of my siblings (she fights dirty, too), she will call me and ask me what she should do. She definitely tells me things that she should only talk to a counselor about. To be honest, I am sick of feeling like I am the parent in our relationship.

At least she doesn't pressure me to start dating. Every so often she'll ask if I've had any "dating nibbles," but usually she acts as though she's given up on me dating. She'll point out her friend who has never been married and tell me that that friend seems pretty happy. Of course, my mother's marriage was horrendous and so I can understand why she isn't pressuring me to start dating or get married.

The best advice I get from my mother usually comes from looking at the mistakes she has made and vowing not to make those mistakes myself.

Like Anonymous above, I have recently started counseling, and I hope to deal with many issues, including issues with my mother, as time goes on.

Anonymous said...

Ohhh this time of year -- coming up on Mother's Day-- is so hard. You see, I lost my mom as a teenager (cancer) and like most teenagers, the relationship was complicated and I am *still* working things out.

I miss her so much and yet I know that losing her has given me the strength, character and faith that she always wanted me to have when I was growing up. I so wish there would have been an easier way to acquire those things, though.

The best advice she gave me was to make sure I was friends with girls who had good character. No "mean girls" or catty behavior!

The worst advice was to ALWAYS be hounding me to be thinner-- that nothing in life was as inmportant as your appearance.

She never weighed more than 105 lbs and she was almost 5'7". I could never get down that low, despite trying just about everything. I feel I would have saved myself from so much misery and pain if I could have heard, Make the most of what you've got! instead.

(I will be Anonymous this time. Thanks for listening)

MM said...

Like many ladies out there I think I have the greatest mother ever. The closest she has ever got to nagging was justifying buying me a pair of really expensive Italian suede shoes by saying she'll probably never have to pay for my wedding.

Jo said...

Neither of my parents were ever big into 'advice-giving.' In fact, the thing I most appreciate about both of them to this day, especially my Mom, is how 'hands off' they were while I was growing up. Not 'hands off' as in reckless or negligent, but they really just let myself and my sisters grow up without much nagging, prodding, etc., unless, e.g., we had forgotten to do the dishes after dinner. When I was in school I always thought it odd how much so many of my peers communicated with their moms more like friends, or how much they talked to their moms period (I am a super-introvert; my mother is a busybody). My mother has not once (!) bothered me about dating, marriage, etc., even though she was married to my father at 22. Young adulthood post-college has made me ever more grateful for this, as I am constantly hearing from friends who have very over-bearing mothers who are always nagging at them to go find a husband/how to perfectly plan their wedding/how to best wean their baby/use birth control/furnish their house, etc. I think I have learned more from my mother's 'silence' in this regard than any advice she could have given.

american (not) in deutschland said...

It's very hard for me to recall advice my mother gave me because, as with the above commenter, she died when I was 15 and she wasn't really a pontificator/advice-offering type anyway. She made her expectations clear, but in terms of the romantic side of life we never got past "too young" and then "so embarrassing let us never speak of it."

Her love and expectations I carry with me: the memory of her delight and interest in my accomplishments, paired with the nagging disappointment that she didn't really understand them and she was worried about how I would fare socially (because of personality and because of weight -- appearance was huge for her).

But my mom was still a much more encouraging parent than my dad was or will ever be, so I feel that lack. I realize more and more often now how different my mother and I were, especially since I'm 24, the age when my mom married.

Anonymous said...

best advice my mom gave me was to not despair about being single beacuse "it only takes one". this was when my younger sister was about to get married, and i was in a funk. she was right. despite the many bad dates, and a handul of cads masquerading as boyfriends, i did find the one. i tell my little daughters that their daddy is a real prince charming. that was my mother at her finest. but she generally gave me an awful time about being single! she was not supportive at all. it doubled my pain. seraphic, you are an angel in your ministry to single women. i wish you were around when i was single.

Beth said...

Great entry, Seraphic! Similar to one of the above commenters, the best advice my mother ever gave me was to apply for this uber-competitive internship that I thought I had no chance of getting. Lo and behold, I was ultimately offered the internship, and it led to my dream job.

As I was reading through this entry, I couldn't help but think about my grandmother, who is the most traditional woman I've ever known. She married young, never had a job, and made it her life's mission to see every girl in my family married. Eventually all my cousins found husbands, leaving only me to fend off grueling "why don't you have a boyfriend yet?" questions from other intrusive relatives. My wonderful grandmother must have noticed how much I dreaded being singled out like that, because she started cutting off those questions by pointing out that I was focused on my career and didn't need any distractions from boys at the moment. It sounds like a small thing, and I suppose it's not exactly 'advice,' but it means so much to me that my uber-traditional grandmother has stuck up for me like that.

Roadkill Rhapsody said...

Great post! The best thing my mother ever gave me was a book of saints when I was seven, which I loved so much that it shaped my faith for the rest of my life. The worst? Well... I find now that the the cutting comments are actually too painful to write, and, to this day, I worry that I'm breaking a commandment by sharing them. whoever wrote the first Anonymous comment, - wow - I think our mothers must have used the same parenting manual. But please hang in there; things can get much, much better.

Rose said...

I'm in the "it's complicated camp". On the one hand, my mom hasn't ever pressured me to date or get married, but that's primarily because she hasn't really had much positive to say about marriage since she divorced my dad and left the Church ten years ago. Because of this, I avoid talking to her about relationships, or even about the fact that I want to get married someday, because I don't really want to hear what she has to say about it. I've noticed that now that I'm over 30 she seems more keen on the idea though. :)

anonymous for this one said...

I just think mother/daughter relationships are difficult! My mom is pretty darn wonderful and doesn't nag me about being single. But I still have a hard time talking to her about boys or the lack thereof. Her sympathetic outcries ("What is wrong with young men these days?") every time a guy breaks up with me or stops asking me out just annoy meas do her assurances that God has someone really special picked out for me.

I know this annoyance is my problem, not hers. I don't know if it's an oldest girl thing, but when life is really hard, it's difficult for me to discuss with her, so I guess I just prefer not to discuss singleness with her at all. Again, she's really great and not the nagging type, so I'm not sure why this is.

Kate P said...

I love my mom and she is very sensible and smart.

Best: She told me I "dodged a bullet" when my first long-term boyfriend broke up with me right after we looked at engagement rings. Even though I was sad and hating being alone for a long time, I had to agree and was grateful I didn't end up with him.

Worst: She told me my classmates would like me if I "smiled more." Nope, they were bullies and they only liked me when I was crying because of something they said or did to me. But thanks for assuming the best about people anyway, Mom.

Anonymous said...

I have a great relationship with my mom in just about everything EXCEPT my single status. She finally stopped trying to fix me up when I put my foot down. It's a little embarrassing especially as a woman who has been self-sufficient since her early twenties. She's stopped mentioning it to me, but every now and them I'll run into one of her friends who will try to "cheer me up" with anecdotes about women they've known in their 40's who got married for the first time. I mean imagine that, right? ;) I'm honestly fine with my life have lots of friends, and am active in my parish. It seems that she just can't help fretting about it.

Best advice: Actions speak louder than words.

Seraphic said...

Ah, yes. The Fourth Commandment. I wondered briefly if it would come up, but then I failed to address it.

I wonder how many people who would be very much helped by a counselor just don't go because they are afraid breaking their silence will be "not honouring their mother and father."

If you ask me, talking to a counselor (or anonymously, as an adult, on a post like this) about things your mother and father say or said that still hurt to this day is a way of honouring your father and mother because the essential thing is that you learn to be at peace with your parents for the human beings that they are, and forgive them for not being the infallible god and goddess you thought them when you were infants.

Most essential, I think, is ensuring that they are comfortable and cared for in their old age. But healing the relationship, if only through coming to grips with it--through counseling or whatever--is definitely also honouring.

1st anon commenter said...

Roadkill Rhapsody:

Yes, it certainly sounds like it. My mom has said some pretty rotten things to me, as well. Things I am too embarrassed to even repeat because I don't want people to think badly of her.

The complicated thing about any relationship where one person might be emotionally or verbally abusive or manipulative is that, most of the time, that really is NOT all there is to them. My mom is a wonderful person in many ways. If I were to tell someone without the same relationship to her about some of the things she's said ot done, it might change how they see her, because they don't have the natural daughter love or good experiences that help me.

Seraphic said...

For the record, I don't think I ever in adult life weighed less than 115 lbs, and I am 5'2". And that when I was super-athletic and almost vegetarian and a family member began to throw the word "gaunt" around.

I can't quite get my mind around the idea of a woman who is 5'7 weighing only 105 lbs. I have just googled around, and although I suppose a few women of that height just naturally weigh that little, it would be dangerously thin for most women.

Anonymous said...

When I was a teenager, my mom told me that she didn't want to hear about me being interested in boys. Now she wonders if I'm at all interested in marriage, and periodically pushes books about Catholic courtship at me. I know she just wants me to be happy, and she equates happiness with being married because she married a prince of a man, but she really doesn't seem to consider how hurtful it is to be reminded that I am 34 unmarried and unsought. Also, she isn't reading those courtship books or she would realize that all of them recommend letting the man make the first move!


Magdalena said...

My mother really never gave me any advice regarding dating or marrying. She married at twenty and at my age had 4 children, but always when I start wailing about my singleness (in comparison to her life) she says "your life is your life and mine is mine, and that is very good." But then she doesn't need me to produce grandchildren, as my brother accidentally started this when she was 45 and not at all prepared to being calld "grandma".

However, the best non-advice (=she just let me do my thing) was when I was going to do volunteer work in an indigenous village in Ecuador for three months and was absolutely panicking because I was going so very far away and didn't speak any Spanish. She is always very worried about us, so I really wonder why she didn't tell me to just stay at home. But she didn't, she let me go, and that was one of the best things I did in my life.

I can't remember if I ever got some really bad advice from my mother; before giving advice, she always tries to figure out what is best for us, not for her, and I am extremely grateful for that. But if I ever will require advice on my dating life, I think I would rather ask Auntie Seraphic - my mother is too modern for my old-fashioned way of thinking (living together before marriage is okay and so on).

Urszula said...

My mom is quite fantastic and my parents have never pressured me about getting married. Honestly I think they've heaved a secret sigh of relief when I've broken up with the 'wrong ones'. My very traditional grandma though got married at 19 and had 2 kids by the age of 22 - which she would bring up every few months, raising the number of kids with each passing birthday (she had 8). But whenever she brings it up, I just say "God hasn't sent me the right man yet, Grandma. You need to pray harder" which she happily does. Bless her, she was trying to set up my unmarried older cousin with a paramedic in the middle of a heart attack ;)

My mom's best words of wisdom (they are many - she doesn't say much, but when she does, it's worth noting):
1) Life sucks in your early twenties. You're trying to figure your life out, you feel pressure to make decisions, yet you don't really know what you want to do. But it gets better the older you get. (True - I've been getting progressively happier and more comfortable with myself after 25)
2) There is no such thing as a normal person. Figure out what is each person's place on a mental stability scale, and behave accordingly - your life will be much simpler with smaller expectations.
3) If someone is annoying you/cutting in line/making your life miserable at work, pray for them. Maybe that's the reason God put them in your life, and you're the only person who can say a Hail Mary for them (note: while this won't work in obviously toxic long-term situations, it's saved my temper many a time in traffic).

Verla said...

This is cool!