The other day, I asked one of my classes a simple question: Who is the most difficult person in your life? To my shock, the answer was “mom.” How could that be? These lovely young people vented until I heard their truth. And now, I understand the 3 things a fun mom never does to her adult child.
If I want to keep my own 20-something daughter close, there’s three things I must practice. Staying mindful on these three points gives my child what she wants from me. It’s also what she wants FOR me: She wants to see me as a happy, independent woman with a life of my own.
Ultimately, our adult kids want us to have what we need most: Self-care. Because if I’m happy, everyone’s happy. If I’m needy, everyone’s miserable.
By the way, if you wonder why we were talking about moms, this is one of my speech communications classes at Westchester Community College. Our course explores better ways to interact at work, home and play. My generous students said I could blog about our discussion, as long as I left out names and details. :)
1. “She never stops talking”
Humans spend 63% of our time listening, according to the class textbook. But difficult moms? “She never shuts up,” one student said.
Ouch. I used to say this about my own dear mom, who only shut up on her deathbed, which is when we finally made peace. And as a mom myself, I know how easy it is to talk on and on in too much detail. These days, I pour that stuff into journaling. Or, take it to my shrink. Or, my blog, haha.
2. “She always has to be right”
Many of my students hold down full-time jobs, help support their parents or have families of their own. But they resent Mom when she acts like the law. Mom has an opinion about everything. She gives advice when no one asked for it.
If this mom asks her child for an opinion, she ignores the answer and does whatever she wants. “Why bother asking?” a student wondered.
3. “It’s always about her”
Needy moms compete with their kids for attention. “My mom can take anything I say and make it about her,” said one student.
“Really, Mom? Does the conversation always have to come back to you?” added another frustrated student. Heads started nodding around the room — including mine.
The venting led to brainstorming for ways to cope. One student realized that he needs to say the words “thank you” more often. While he appreciates his mother, he rarely verbalizes his feelings.
Meanwhile, a few of these sons & daughters said they needed distance to improve their parent-child relationship. They talked about ways to save money and move out of their mom’s home.
We also identified triggers to avoid, or handle with great care. Like, asking Mom to eat out — on her dime. This question seems to send moms into rants, long explanations or conversations that young folks regret starting. This is definitely a tip I’ll put to use right away.
In summary, here are best practices adult kids want from us:
- Listen without interrupting.
- Show respect for boundaries.
- Agree to disagree.
- Limit the number of questions.
- Get on with our own lives.
- Let them go, with unconditional love.
I am really taking my students’ suggestions to heart. What about you, can you relate as either an adult child, mother — or both?