Grab a cup of tea or a cold beverage with a kick to it and let's talk about this one.. it's going to be a longish one but it's worth it.
There's a page I follow on Instagram called Our Diary Entries and my understanding of it is that it's a platform that allows people to direct message whatever is on their mind and that will then be posted anonymously on the page for people to help/advise etc. Check them out here. One of the posts was a young lady that was having trouble talking to her mother about the pressure that her mother is putting on her in regards to marriage and the disrespect she now feels from her mother and the people around her as a result of how her mother speaks to her. This is what inspired me to write this and I'm hoping it helps even one person.
Not everyone has a difficult relationship with their mother and I know that. Some are blessed to be really close to their mother without having had any major issues because communication was okay with them growing up. Some, like myself, have had to really work for the relationship they now have with their mother.
My mother and I, for majority of my teenage and young adult life, fought so much and never could seem to agree on a lot of things in life. I didn't understand her and vice versa. It became unbearable for me and I moved out even when it would have made more financial sense for me to stay at home. So it cost me. My sister was the one who helped to calm me down and begin dialogue with my mother so we could get to the point we are at now. It's not perfect but its far better than what it used to be.
Now I'm not saying that my mother and I are BFF's and we talk about everything under the sun, no. Some people can have that with their mother whilst others can't but you can find other mother figures to have that with. My mother and I are now in a place where we can effectively communicate even if we don't agree and I will be honest, a lot of the work that was done came from my side. I had to be the one to speak up when I felt things weren't right and I had to do a lot of emotional leg work to get to a point where having sit downs was more of a thing for us. I find I am usually the one who does the "I want to talk about X, can we arrange a time or is now okay" line and I can count on my one hand the amount of times my mother has done that and it is honestly okay with me.
Why it was important to learn to talk to my mother?
Learning to communicate with my mother helped me in ways that I'm only now understanding and didn't realise until marriage and having a child. She is now someone that I really rely on as a source of strength and encouragement especially in the motherhood & marriage departments and she's also a great care giver to my little one when needed. The ability to be able to effectively communicate with someone you deem as challenging is a skill that will do you a world of good in all your relationships. I have found this to be especially true with my husband, in-laws and friends. I've personally noticed that a lot of the techniques I used to try learn to communicate with my mother are techniques I now use on a regular basis in my life. If you are able to get to a point of understanding with your mother (who was my most challenging person to communicate with) then you are putting yourself in a position where anything else that comes from different sources can be handled a lot easier.
I am now able to see why my mother was the way she was with me at times. It really took me digging deep and learning to see my mother as a human being and not just my mother of whom I have a lot of expectations. Meaning that she is someone that makes mistakes, someone who doesn't always know what is right or wrong and a person with a lot of fears. That last one was the eye opener for me. Understanding my mother as a human meant understanding her past, her present and her fears. It meant understanding that, in my mother's case, a lot of what I saw as 'over reactions' and sometimes 'disrespect' was actually my mother responding to her fear and her own past traumas, her not wanting me to go through what she went through. This doesn't mean that it made it right but it helped me to understand her and how to break things down for that communication process to happen.
When I married into my husband's family, I struggled initially with communication. Due to my own past traumas I struggled to bond with my father- in-law and mother-in-law. The pressure to immerse myself into their culture also did a number on me and for all this I turned to my mother. We talked, we discussed my upbringing and the things I was struggling with, I heard her side of things and we came up with an action plan to help me move on from what I had gone through as a kid. It's still very much a work in progress and I am still learning to develop a relationship with my in-laws. I would dread to think what it would have been like for me if I did not have my mother (and other mother figures) to help with such things. As I mentioned, my mother is not someone I talk to about everything but two things that I turn to her for are marriage and children advice. Marriage is a lot harder than people care to be honest about and my mother has been married for 34 years so it only makes sense.
I also learnt how to deal with the difficult aunties and uncles that seem to think that everything will happen on their time frame. Do not for a minute think that once you are married, the pressure conversations stop. NO. After, where is your husband came, where is the baby and now where is the sibling. Listen, it doesn't stop and you have to learn to effectively communicate what you will and will not continue to discuss with people. If I hadn't taken the time to learnt to communicate with my mother, I 100% know I would not have the confidence and the skill to communicate with these people while still being respectful. Everyone would have been blocked and deleted from my life because it can get very overwhelming, especially if they catch you on an already difficult day.
Things I try to do to help with communication.
Let me very clear, this is not everything you can do but it's just a few things I have used to try help things with my mother and a lot of them have really worked for me. If anyone has any other suggestions of things to try, drop a comment and let's talk about it and help each other out. The below are skills that I believe you can take and apply to any relationship within your life, it does not just have to be a mother-daughter relationship that this just relates to.
1. Be clear about what you want to communicate
This is very important as it helps with potential misunderstanding about what you are discussing. "Mom, x happened and I would like to discuss it as it made me feel x". She knows what the conversation is in relation to and why you want to have a discussion about said issue.
2. Use "I" statements
Not a lot of people can argue with how you feel. How you feel is how you feel but let's talk about it so I can make sure my feelings are in line with what your intentions were. "Mom when we spoke I heard X and I felt X" Saying it like this instead of "Mom, you said X and you made me feel X" is more likely to open up conversation. When you use the 'you' statements, it's accusative and more often than not you will get "I never said X, how dare you blame me for X", we want to avoid that.
3. Don't blame or label
"It's because of you that X happened, you're such a bad mother" or something to that effect will only cause your mother to get defensive and once guards are up, there's no way for effective communication to take place. Think about it logically, if someone is blaming you for reasons you don't agree with and is also putting labels on you that you do not agree with, its a problem!
4. Choose an appropriate time
Coming to talk to your mother after shes come back from a long shift, is looking drained out and maybe stressed is not going to result in a meaningful and open conversation. More likely than not, you will be met with aggro, snappy remarks or just the eye. You have to time difficult conversations right. So it could be that you schedule a specific time and day with your mother for a conversation. She would then know that she needs to block out that time specifically and there's less chance of conversations being cut short if she knows it's coming.
If you start a conversation though and it starts to go sideways because it's looking like mom isn't in a good space to talk, you can stop the conversation and arrange things with your mom for a time when she's in a better head space.
5. Take time to Listen
As much as you want to be heard, take time to actually listen to what is being said to you. For effective communication to occur, both parties need to feel that they are heard and it's not a one-sided conversation. What is your mom trying to say to you she doesn't seem to be articulating herself well. Sometimes you have to dip a little deeper and look beneath the surface of the initial words.
6. Check for accuracy/understanding
THISSSSS!!! Sometimes in conversation someone can say something and mean one thing but you will take something completely different from what they have said. Checking for understanding just means both parties know exactly what's going on. "Mom, you said x and to me it translates as X, am I correct in thinking that?"
7. Be encouraging and supportive
You have to stay with this throughout the conversation because it should not be about attacking and bringing her down at all. Words like "I hear you", "I love you", "I want to see things from your point of view" or something to that effect, should be coming up within the conversation. I personally always start tough conversations with my mother with "I love you so much and you are a good mother to me. I just want to understand X". This is because those are things I know my mother struggles with when we are in disagreement, feeling as though I do not love her and that she has failed me as a mother. I start and end conversations with that first line so she hears it and takes it in. Its encouraging for her and she understands that the conversation we are about to/just had is for the beneift of our relationship.
8. Be willing to negotiate
If you cannot do this then you need to work on it. It's not everything that you will agree with and vice versa so you need to be able to negotiate and meet in the middle for peace. Relationships are about compromise a lot of the time so if you cannot do this with your mother also then maybe you need to check yourself. "Mom, I don't agree with X but I hear you and why you would want X. Can we agree to meet each other in the middle so that we are both okay and no one is left miserable. I will do X, are you okay to do X so we can move on".
All that I have mentioned goes hand in hand with trying to get to know your mother as a person. Once you know a person, you learn their behaviours & mentality, their likes & dislikes, the way they like to be spoken to and the reasons behind all of these. Knowing this will only help in knowing how best to communicate with her and what she responds best to. Relationships aren't easy and of course each one is different. My hope is that this post will help even a handful of ladies with their mother-daughter relationships.
I'd love to know your thoughts on this topic, so please do leave a comment. I'm also still learning so talking about this could help me too.