Healthy Rebellion, Part 2: Why You Must Disobey Your Mother if you Want to Survive
I am a Springfield, MO Psychologist and published author. But, I am also a mother. I get it. Mothers create structure and nurture. We tell you what to do. We train, disapprove, lecture, and reward. Because we adore you. Because it’s our job. But at some point, our love becomes smothering and what was appropriate when you were two turns into nightmarish over-control when you are ten or fifteen. And what kept you safe at fifteen robs you of your life at thirty.
Everyone must differentiate from mother: even your mother must differentiate from mother.
Maybe you find yourself editing your thoughts or ideas when your mother is around. Maybe you limit yourself physically, socially, or intellectually when you’re with her. Or maybe you take a little guilt trip when you think of her? Alone in her house with the phone not ringing?
…and maybe you feel depressed or ashamed
…and maybe you have a hard time enjoying yourself if you think she’s not okay
…and maybe you say, I could never move away because what would she do?
Blame this dilemma on some big forces. Religion and commerce deface the idea of Mother: http://www.mothersmovement.org/books/reviews/mommy_myth.htm
They teach us to treat mothering as both a shopping imperative and a life-long martyrdom, a sacred role, a covenant, a debt to be repaid. She gave us life, so we owe her everything. Which of course means we must be loyal and sweet and give her perfect grandchildren.
In reality, mothering is time-limited. Anyone with a fourteen-year-old can tell you this. It’s intensely, deliciously hard for a few years. We hold that toddler and think, how could this ever end? Then we start getting clues about the limits of our ability to mother. The teen says, “I’m not wearing that. It makes me look like a momma’s boy.” We start to really know. Part of mothering is the job of letting go.
But many mothers have huge difficulty letting go. They fear being alone, so they hold onto a child for comfort, reverse the roles, forcing the person into lifelong servitude. They get so far into the role of Motherhood, they can’t find themselves anymore – much less see their children for who they really are.
…We don’t have to destroy our mothers to thrive, but we do have to prune them back a bit. Our job = pruning. Her job = grieving, changing.
The natural process of rebellion – becoming separate and fully who you are at the deepest levels – threatens your mother. Maybe just a little bit. Maybe a lot. This is natural. Although it’s her grief, she sends you signals that your independence is unacceptable. She hints. She goes silent. She triggers huge guilt bombs that go off in your body and distract you from the important work you were meant to do in this world. It’s not personal, it’s just the process.
You need disobedience like air and water. Here are some ideas for healthy insurgency.
- moving a little further away
- challenging the family religious tradition
- wearing thrift-store clothes
- speaking your mind
- taking a mini vacation by yourself
- painting your house purple
- selling your possessions and living in a camper
- sending Mom a note, thanking her for raising you, stating that you are fully raised now and you have good sense and can go climb Mount Everest
If you haven’t read it yet, check out my first blog about Healthy Rebellion: