Dreading The Holidays Because Of Your Controlling Mom?
Controlling moms can drive you crazy. What should you do to improve your relationship? When you’re a child, it’s perfectly normal for your mom to want to manage every area of your life. But, if you’re an adult constantly triggered by a mom who simply can’t keep her mouth shut about anything, you have a relationship challenge. If you’re a loving daughter who brings your mom into every decision and welcomes her opinion, that’s great, but hardly universal. Most daughters need some space to be themselves. Those who don’t want mom’s thoughts on their job, friends, romantic partners, diet, exercise routine, style, or anything else, need boundaries to provide the space to feel free from judgement.
My mom used to pull the old, “I can’t help it, I’m your mother. That’s what mothers do,” card. She doesn’t do that anymore. But, I had to learn how to create boundaries, maintain those boundaries, and communicate them in clear and healthy ways to help her let go. It is up to you to manage your controlling mom, and you can do it.
Communication Is Key
We all get into a variety dysfunctional communication habits with our moms, and I will be writing more about that in the coming months. Today, we’re not trying to fix all that. We’re just trying to stay sane through the holidays.
It’s easy to get codependent with mom, meaning worried you’ll make her feel bad if you don’t say or do what she wants. Holidays are a great opportunity to be honest with your mom and tell her what you can and can’t do, and what you want and need. The trick is to tell her nicely. Let’s begin with the old adage, “Say what you mean, but don’t say it mean.” Give mom an opportunity to work with you.
Here’s an example. If you have limits you want to set because your parents are divorced and you have to get to dad’s house on time for the second Thanksgiving, tell mom. If you don’t want your personal life, or choices, discussed at the dinner table, make it clear. If there are things that you know will trigger you, prepare for them. Tell your mom you may need to walk around the block if someone makes your head explode. You can make your feelings known, but it’s up to you to start feeling comfortable doing it. I know it can be challenging to speak up when you aren’t sure of the reaction you’ll get. Sometimes the reaction is better than you anticipate, and sometimes it’s worse.
Boundaries Are What Make Relationship Better
Okay, so you’ve communicated that you don’t want to talk about your job at dinner, but mom has ignored your request. She is talking about your job with a captive audience. What do you do? What is your boundary? I am not suggesting you pick up your plate and throw it across the room, or do anything else that will cause a scene or a fight. But, this is where planning comes in. If you’ve been honest (and kind) with Mom and told her you won’t tolerate this conversation, now is the moment you can politely change the subject, or leave the table for a few minutes. You don’t have to sit there in a shame bubble. You can remove yourself until the table chat has moved on.
Remember, it’s not up to other people to maintain our boundaries, especially moms with habits they find difficult to break. We have to create and maintain these boundaries ourselves. Changing dynamics for a better relationship is neither easy nor quick, but it’s doable. One way this season is to prepare yourself with appropriate reactions when mom crosses a line so you’re not caught off guard and lose your temper.
There are all kinds of boundaries you can set with your mom to help both of you keep the peace and stay in your own lane. And the same goes for you. I have friends who talk to their moms in disrespectful and hurtful ways. Boundaries keep mom safe, too. So, treat your mom with respect this season and stay out of her business if you want her to stay out of yours.
Compassion Compassion Compassion
Holidays are stressful and bring up all kinds of issues for every family. If you know she’s anxious, or her family stresses her out, be kind. If your mom struggles with mental health issues, then expecting her to be able to hear your needs or respect boundaries may be out of the question. If that’s the case, you need to practice radical self-care for yourself and radical acceptance and compassion for her. I’ll be writing more soon about what to do if you have a toxic mom, so we won’t get into that today.
You may have a lot more information and coping skills than your mom does, so use the holidays as an opportunity to be grateful for your knowledge and treat your mom like a team member, not an enemy. I know some moms are incredibly difficult, but consider whether what she’s doing is really toxic and harmful or if she’s just being annoying. There is a difference and it does matter. A mom who bothers you about getting married or eating enough probably cares about you and is just worried. Allow her the space to have those feelings and intentions. If she’s hurting you with her actions or criticism, make note of it and try not to let her get the better of you. Remember, you can always leave.
Whatever the level of your controlling mom there are tools you can use at any moment to regroup and calm yourself down. For one, please remember that you can control how you react to things. Do not take anything anyone, especially your mom, says to you, personally. Try your absolute best to laugh it off if she’s pushing your buttons. In my opinion, so much of how we feel about life is dictated by our perspective and attitude. Are you able to come into the holidays with the attitude of being of service to your mom or family? That helps. Your mom might even be grateful to have additional support.
How’s your support system? Do you have someone you can call for emotional support? Do you have anyone who understands and can help you in moments of high stress? Let’s get them on board now. If you are a person in recovery, use your recovery community: meetings, sponsors, sober friends, exercise, therapist, all can help you find that pause and return to balance and serenity.
When you feel blue, it’s easy to sit around, eat, and be lazy. If, however, you know four days of sloth, plus mom, will make your head explode, plan activities to get you out and about.
After years of working on it, I’ve become a wellness person who knows that meditation works. It has helped so much with my anxiety and depression. Meditation and breathwork helps to keep you calm no matter what’s bugging you. Use apps like Calm or go to Youtube and find videos. Give your brain the gift of relief from anxiety, stress and anger with a few minutes of meditation whenever possible.
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