I wonder what kind of relationship you have with your mother? Not the one we see on social media on Mother’s Day, but the real, daily one. Is that a relationship filled with love, admiration, kindness, empathy and respect? Or is it filled with resentment, blame, emotional distance and unresolved anger? Maybe something in between or a little bit of both? Now, let’s go deeper and ask who is responsible for the kind of relationship you have with your mother? You? Her? I personally feel that a loving relationship with my mother is present every time I am the daughter I want to be instead of expecting her to be the perfect mother I want to have. This said, let me share with you that I am a work in progress when it comes to choosing love and taking the full responsibility.
This past month, for example, my mother (she lives in Brazil) has sent me a few messages complaining that “I don’t talk to her anymore” and that “I have been so distant.” Because we talk over the phone every week, her messages occurred to me as dramatic and exaggerated. I thought how unfair and unreasonable she was by blaming ME for not calling her as frequently as she would like (everyday?). I couldn’t stop thinking of how she doesn’t understand how busy I am between the kids, my husband, the house, the blog, Zumba classes, and studying for my citizenship test (YAY!! I will soon become an American Citizen). I decided to call her to defend myself against her “accusations.”
She answered and I spent the whole call convincing her of how busy and unavailable I am. I asked her to stop blaming me for not reaching out to her – “why don’t YOU reach out when you feel like talking instead?”. When the call ended I was left with the feeling that something was missing. The missing part was that I was not being the loving daughter I would like to be or would like to have. It took me a few minutes of reflection to understand that “You don’t talk to me anymore” is my mom’s way to say “I want to talk to you. When can we talk?”. It is her way to say “I love you” and “I miss you”, which she almost never says and instead shows me her love with acts of service.
For the past 4 years in a row, she has visited us in the U.S. and spent at least a month with our family. She came when Sophia was born to help us when I had no clue about all that motherhood requires. She visited again when Phillip was born, and he seemed to cry non-stop for the first three months. She traveled 9 hours to be here and assist us the way she could and knew how. She left behind my father and my brothers in Brazil because as she likes to say “I was the one who needed her the most”. She cooked us the best meals (a lot of rice and beans as a good Brazilian), she cleaned the house, she took care of the babies when I thought I couldn’t anymore, and when I was SO sleep deprived. She has been supporting me through motherhood just like wonderful mothers can do.
Somehow, sometimes I lose contact with this big picture, just like that day when I received her “accusatory message”. I ended up stuck in a “fantasy world” where I imagine my mother behaving and communicating with me in a very different way. In that world, I create the perfect mother I wished I had, the one that when missing me, sends the sweetest messages: “I would love to hear your voice today and know how you and the kids are doing. I miss you and love you all so much. I know you are so busy and I am waiting for you to call me when you are available.”
As if the fantasy world was not enough, sometimes I go to the “differences world”. In that world, I think of how my mom and I are so very different. Starting by our appearance to the food we like to eat. I am tall. She is short. I like eating healthy, she likes comfort food, sweets anything fried. She likes Soap Operas and I almost never watch TV. She likes talking about people, I prefer listening to people and talking about myself. She likes cleaning the house, I am not a big fan of it. She talks loudly, I prefer talking softly. She is religious, I am spiritual. The list is long and, sometimes, I use it as a perfect excuse to not share my life with her assuming that she either will disagree with me or not understand what I have to say. And right there I miss the opportunity to focus in on our biggest similarity: we are very dedicated mothers. We both take motherhood very seriously. We both love our children with all our heart and chose to stay at home to raise them. We love cooking for them and sharing how awesome they are to whoever wants to listen. We love being there for our children, always.
When I focus on our biggest similarity, it gets easier to love my mom for who she is rather than who she is not. It opens space for me to focus to keep working on being the daughter I want to be for my mother. Not the other way around. Because at the end of the day, maybe she wished I was still living in the Brazil, 15 minutes away from her house, so she could be present in my life and in her grandkids’. Maybe she wished I was more playful, watched Soap Operas with her or even get involved in some gossip here and there. Maybe she wished I would compliment the comfort food she cooks so well instead of lecturing why we should not eat it. Maybe she wished I had a cleaner and more organized house. This list could go on.
We are who we are and I am not willing to change her anymore. I surrender! I chose from now on to be the daughter I want to be. So I have been calling her more often, sharing my life with her in a way she is able to understand, making her feel important and loved, and letting her do what she knows best: being a mom the way she knows how to be.