Screwing up your courage, you try to tell your mother that something she did was hurtful, only to hear her come back with a defensive, “Well, I guess I’m just a horrible mother. I can’t do anything right!”
You had hoped for an honest exchange that could move you towards a closer, more authentic relationship.
Instead, you get defensive push back when you challenge the notion that she isn’t perfect.
Responding this way effectively shuts you down and dashes your hope for an adult exchange.
An authentic relationship, now, feels out of reach.
So you go back to walking on eggshells, censoring what you share with mom.
Mom, in turn, feels shut out of your life, and wonders why you don’t take her calls.
What is going on here?
Chances are, neither of you is fully conscious of the subtle but powerful, implicit cultural pressure you both feel to have the “perfect” relationship.
What are these unseen pressures co-opting your relationship with mom?
The patriarchal culture told mom, “natural mothers” are superhuman and self-sacrificing.
That same cultural programming says a “good daughter” is obedient brings her mother nothing but joy, and doesn’t rock the relational boat.
Many daughters, emotionally attuned to mom, feel the pressure to reflect that perfection in perfect appreciation.
Mom was told, in almost every possible way, that she must be a commercialized, sanitized, self-sacrificing superwoman, to be of any value at all.
Therefore, instead of bringing you closer, being real with mom sets off a culturally programmed trip wire that triggers her insecurity.
She knows she isn’t perfect.
She shouldn’t have to pretend that she is.
With no way to resolve conflict, much less be real with each other, the mother/daughter relationship finds itself in crisis.
What will it take to break this chain of artificial relating?
I say, start by throwing out the fake stereotypes that no longer fit, and replace them with a respectful dialogue that engages two real people.
When you stand up to your mother, you invite her to be real with you.
Speaking as two real, imperfect people is the most liberating thing a mother and daughter can do.
This is a Feminist Act. This is, in fact, true liberation.
Wonder, what this kind of liberation might look like?
What if, instead of burning your bra, you burn all the Hallmark cards full of sappy, unrealistic sentiment that bind, not your breasts, but you to mom in unhealthy ways that constrict you both?
What if you could talk freely, without worrying if there would be “hell to pay” for speaking your mind?
What if the relationship wasn’t oppressively burdened with culturally laden unrealistic expectations?
What if you could tell your mother what you think without feeling paralyzed with fear that candid conversation would hurt her irreparably?
What if you didn’t feel the need to censor or omit the truth of who you are with her?
What if your weight and your hair were not up for discussion? Yes, especially that one please!
What if you didn’t have to be the “good daughter” for mom, to make her look good?
This could be the liberated dialogue of two people, who were free to be who they are, not the insecure back-and-forth of people who feel themselves to be lesser.
If you could let your relationship become real, instead of buying into a Hallmark greeting card mentality that binds and gags you both, you could take your relationship towards liberation and away from masterminded control of the patriarchy.
If you could stand up to your mother, and speak your mind, you could engage her as one real, imperfect human being to another.
Even if your mother couldn’t go there (and some mothers can’t), you owe it to yourself and to her, to try.
This will be hard. This will be messy. But most of all, this will be worth it.
The way to make Feminism real is to bring Feminism home.