Tuesday, July 19, 2011

When Mother means best

Surprisingly, in my journey to becoming a mother, the relationship that sometimes causes me the most stress is the one with my own mom. I think we have a pretty typical adult mother-daughter relationship: I aim to please and want both independence and her approval, and she just wants what's best for me. That's what moms are supposed to do, right? But sometimes, her efforts don't have the effect I know she's hoping for.

In our very first cycle of trying, long before anyone knew we were, I was on the phone with her one day and mentioned something about due dates because a friend was pregnant. She asked me, "are you pregnant?!" and when I was all, 'pshaw, no,' she said "oh good, I was afraid you were going to tell me you're pregnant." Ouch. Especially since I was currently in the 2WW and hopeful that I was. I, of course, was in the middle of Target with Buddy and got upset and that's just bad. It really stung that my mom would have been afraid, disappointed, upset, whatever to hear I was expecting. Here I was, 28 years old, married with a good career, and far more stable and ready than many expectant moms, and my mom wouldn't have been happy?! That sucked. More than I would have imagined. Since then, I've been fairly guarded with what I tell her, and that's made our relationship feel less close at times.

Originally, we kept TTC completely under wraps, but that only lasted about 8 months, at which point I accidentally let too much slip one night and my mother-in-law overheard and told my mom. Neither my mom nor Buddy's mom ever had trouble getting pregnant, so for my mom to understand all that can go into making a baby - or the low chances each cycle, the need for perfect timing, etc. - is kind of difficult to fathom. Add to that that I'm not comfortable talking bodies and sex with my mother (nor have I ever been) and it can make for a frustrating situation for me, especially since I feel the need to keep some things private. It's hard for me to draw lines without her getting defensive at times.

Infertility has changed things with us even more. I know that she's just trying to be supportive because she knows I'm sad, but I feel smothered some days. I know that as my mom, it's her job to be concerned for me and to show me love and support. However, I also don't know how to ask for space without making her feel bad. She sends me a text every day (which she didn't used to, before all this) to let me know she's thinking of me, which I do appreciate. But (I know, there's a 'but') it always asks how I'm doing. And when I talk to her, it's always "are you okay?" or "how are you doing?" in a suggestive sad tone. The problem? I feel like I can't win with my answer. I have two options: either I tell her truth - that many days I have sadness at some point, or worry - and she tells me I need to be positive or that we don't know anything yet. Basically, that I should cheer the hell up. Or, I say I'm fine, and then she asks "are you sure?" Fudge. Got me. I'm not fine, back to telling the truth. A vicious cycle if there ever was one.

What really gets me is the pity in her voice. If I'm having a good day, it reminds me I have something to be sad about. If I'm already feeling down, it puts me over the edge or makes me even more cranky. Me being cranky plus her being defensive about how she's trying to be thoughtful equals a recipe for disaster.

And yes, I know she's just being my mom. I'm so lucky to have a mom who is loving and supportive and just wants me to know I'm being thought of and worried about. I feel like an ass venting about it, but I've painted myself into a social media corner and I have nowhere else to talk about it. Surely, someone else has had a similar experience too, so maybe I'm just trying to not feel so alone in having this difficulty in my relationship with my mother. If feels downright crappy to feel this way.

Has anyone experienced this with their own mom? Did you talk about it to her? How do I get myself some more breathing room without hurting her feelings?


Jenni said...

Honestly I think you are dealing with this so much better than I did when I was in a similar boat. I made the mistake of telling my mom even before we started TTC and she was constantly asking me how I was and (even worse) if I was pregnant yet. (She, of course thought I would get pregnant instantly.) She also never had to try for either me or my sisters, so she has no idea what feels like to see negative tests and be discouraged every time your period comes (or doesn't, as was my case with my irregular cycles). Her advice was always "be patient, it will happen" and that I just needed to relax. You know of course how that was received!

My approach was probably not the most healthy one. I flat out told her to please not ask me anything baby related because it was stressful for me, and that I knew it would happen someday but I needed to deal with it on my own for a while. I probably could have been a bit more sensitive about it, but I didn't know how else to get through to her.

I don't think you're being an ass, and I don't think you should feel guilty about it. There is a disconnect because she does not understand what it feels like to be in your shoes, otherwise she would know not to be so smothering, even if it's unintentional. I think if you are frank with her and let her know that it just makes things more difficult when she checks up on you in that manner, she may be put off at first, but I would hope she'd respect that you are going through something that isn't easy and as a mom she should try to give you the space you need to get through this time as positively as you possibly can.

I don't know that anything I've said is even remotely helpful, but I wanted you to know you're not alone in having that experience with your mom. ((hugs))

Vanessa said...

I just want to say that I think it is wonderful that you have started this blog. I think I have misunderstood your tone on TB, for which I apologise. I understand acutely the things you describe in relation to your mom. I also struggle with the balance of wanting to be independent and needing approval. I am also 28, married, with a good job, and when I told my mom we wanted to TTC, she said we should wait a few years. In fact, even before we got married (when I was 27) she said 'make sure not to get pregnant before you're at least 30'. That hurt so much. When she asks me whether I'm upset, I realise that it is always me who ends up having to reassure *her* that I am fine or that things will be ok, rather than the reverse, and it makes me so angry. Just when I need support I find myself being the one who is constantly doling it out. I know she is concerned though, so I feel guilty for being frustrated. I don't know that there is a solution, but I try to pay her lip service and make my discussions with her on TTC much more limited and, when they arise, as superficial as possible. I brush off the subject or do whatever I can to make the conversation shorter. You are not alone in feeling the frustrations of the mother-daughter relationship you do, and the dichotomy between feeling frustrated and guilty about it. Thanks for your honesty and I'm sorry if I've needlessly rambled on. Wishing you much luck in the journey.