This is the second of what may be a series of posts about the complicated relationship between my mother and me, to explore how it affected my self-image and possibly, my anxiety. As I said in my last relevant post, I’m not out to “trash” the dead, and I’m not writing this out of self-pity.
The notion of maternal love is largely positive in our society, and speaking against it seems taboo. Unfortunately, not all of us experienced the mother love that I believe is important to one’s development. Blogging about this subject is a way for me to heal, and ultimately, to forgive my mother.
I discovered the book, Daughter Detox: Recovering from An Unloving Mother and Reclaiming Your Life by Peg Streep, on E’s blog, A Brave Mess. I bought a copy, and am now working through the exercises at the end of each chapter with my therapist. (The book suggests that if you’re seeing a therapist, to work on the exercises with him/her.)
Streep describes 8 different types of maternal patterns (my mom fit 6 of the 8), and one of them is controlling. When I think of the word “control,” I’m immediately reminded of Janet Jackson’s song by the same name — especially the line, “let my mother mold me.” Despite having memory problems because of ECT (and age!), Daughter Detox has served as a mnemonic to jog certain memories from my childhood:
- As a little girl, I was a tomboy. My mom wanted a girly-girl. I hated dresses and playing with dolls, but I’m sure you can guess what my mother tried to do: make me wear dresses as much as she could, and buy me dolls. I preferred my Legos, Tinkertoys, train set, and electric race cars, the latter 2 of which I played with my dad.
- When I was 9, some deliverymen showed up one weekend, and brought a piano. My mother wanted me to take piano lessons, which we never discussed. I had no desire to learn, but I had no choice. My mom’s mind was made up. As for the music I played? My MOM chose what songs she wanted me to learn — songs that SHE liked, not what I wanted to play.
- I’m not going through the whole laundry list of my life she tried to control, but I’ll share this: it’s no surprise that I rebelled as a teenager, which caused many fights. But I finally got to play the instrument of my choice: the drums. During my senior year of high school, I wanted to be a music major in college. When it was time to enroll, without consulting me, my MOM chose not only what classes I’d take, but my MAJOR: music business. I wanted to be a performance major. When I realized I was signed up for an accounting class (my mom happened to be an accountant), I dropped out. I felt tricked, and even worse, I fell for it.
My mom had a vision of the type of daughter she wanted, and did everything she could to mold me into that ideal. It didn’t stop when I grew up. I could never meet my mom’s expectations of what a daughter “should be.” I didn’t realize it while it was happening, but I do now, and it’s had negative consequences: being a perfectionist; my lack of self-worth, self-acceptance, and self-confidence; the irrationally high expectations I continue to place on myself; and my deep-seated need to make her proud, even though she’s been dead for 2 years. These are qualities I’m now trying to reverse.
Did your mom try to control aspects of your life? If so, how did it make you feel?