The mother. Historically rooted in power and duress. Power to feed. Power to nurture love, creativity, and overall development. Duress to endure all odds, starting from enduring her body’s morphing during pregnancy through the lifespan of her child. The one responsible for her children’s education, behavior, and social etiquette.
The cause of all future suffering in relationships. The most talked about protagonist in therapy sessions worldwide. The one who does it all, for all. The one to sacrifice herself for the sake of her children, lest she be deemed selfish and arrogant to pursue her own childhood dreams.
What a bunch of ego crap.
No wonder moms are depressed, overwhelmed, exhausted. The motherload is based on a lie, unrealistic motherly expectations. On an egotistical lie that feeds into the insecurities of both men and women who become parents. For the woman - finally. A validation of her worth through power over another being. For men, a cop out when they feel unfit to cope with the pressure to set standards for their child.
A lie. Mothers don't have any more control over their child’s life than they do of their own. Control is in the palm of our hands and our dexterity ends where our fingers end and the space between begins. That’s it. We have no more control than that. It becomes obvious to the divorced mom faster than to other ones, perhaps because of the physical separation between her and her children. And blow after blow she realizes that she has a choice. Either to fight back for control over her children’s lives. Take a stand. Tell someone off. Show them who’s the boss. Or succumb to the heart-battered, gut-wrenching feeling that this whole time she believed she was in control, was actually a fallacy. A fantasy with rose-colored, cracked glasses that didn’t allow her to see clearly.
The only way that we, as mothers, can be in control is if we spend every waking/sleeping moment with our child. But even then. That is a lie. Our child has his/her own body, mind, spirit- influenced by the environment, by genes, by generations of experiences deep within his/her DNA. Hence, futile fights around mealtime take place. Because in our delusional egotistical mind we believe that we can control another being’s hunger, palate, and speed of digestion. And our child, stuck in tug of war between love and acceptance and identity and independence will react according to which side he/she aligns with more at that moment.
Do we have an influence? Of course we do. We influence. But do not control.
Relinquishing the idea of control is by far the scariest, most anxiety-provoking thought exercise. Especially for a recovering perfectionist turned into perfectionist mom. Yet, grasping for the quicksand idea of control is just as bad, or worse, because there is no end.
Tis the season to be jolly – or flabbergasted that yet another year is about to end? Where does the time go? And, during this time of the year, time seems to fly by at lightning speed. Between deciding on and budgeting for holiday gift guide for teachers, daycare directors, co-workers, family, and friends, to circumnavigating the heavy snowbird induced traffic (we do love tourists in Miami) it can reach to a snazzy level of suspenseful exhaustion and exhilaration. You may find yourself like Riley from Inside Out feeling all types of feels all at once. And top on that your regular daily to-do list, you are in for a treat!
Holiday season is quite difficult for the perfectionist parents, because, well, we want it all and all done well. We tend to over exert ourselves on the daily and tend to stretch every millisecond of the day to include one last item from our to-do list. So, holiday season is that on overdrive. The focus of the holidays to take care of everyone else (gift giving, meal prepping, outfit shopping) and perfectionistic parents can get a tad overwhelmed with keeping up with the daily needs of everyone on top of getting the holiday prep done just right. How many of you for the sake of holiday cheer end up yelling or snapping at your loved ones just before the photo shoot for that dazzling holiday card only to feel guilty about it later? Or fall into the the Elf on the Shelf trap?
Our kids feel our angst, too. So, in any attempt to try to assuage your perfectionistic tendencies from going a bit haywire, take note of the following:
Happy holidays. Sending much love,
Dr. Eva Benmeleh is a child psychologist in North Miami who specializes in psychological evaluations, gifted testing, parenting help and child development. Call (786) 383-4942 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or consultations.
As a “recovering perfectionist” my aim in life is to make everything nice for everyone, but also to my liking. As a mom, that desire has multiplied tenfold. As a single mom, it has the propensity to exponentiate to a degree unheard of. As my children acclimate to new living arrangements, I need to keep my desire to fix their problems at arm’s length and away from them. Because, in my desire to fix the problem, I create more issues.
Make sure to check out my other blog post about how the "perfect mother" is an antiquated idea that has been ingrained in us from past generations.
Here's what I mean: By trying to fix their problems, I rob them of so many life skills that they will at some point need to learn. First, I rob them of the chance to take responsibility for their actions and their words. If they express a feeling such as “I miss you, Mami,” and I jump in to offer solutions to their saudade or longing, I inadvertently teach them that they just need to express something and someone else will take care of it. Kind of like the people who say, “It’s hot in here,” instead of, “Can you lower the AC?” It also teaches them that people, (or perhaps more specifically I, their mother), are mind readers and can assume what they meant or what they want with these statements. Talk about the start of communication issues and relationship drama! If you think that the other person can assume what you want from a relationship by making a blanket statement, you set yourself up for disappointment and resentment when they don’t meet your expectations.
Secondly, I send a message that when they make a comment in the realm of sadness, longing, discomfort or anger, it is perceived as a problem that needs to go away. The other day, while in session, I was sharing with my inspiring zen-like psychologist, the need I have to fix the “problem” of them missing me by asking their father for time to see them during the weekends that they are to be with him. She helped me explore my tendency to view this as a problem instead of a learning experience for them, and for me. This is our new reality. Time will be shared with each parent, for the most part, exclusively. I got the lesson intellectually. However, it was not until the next day when I was with my daughter and her grandmother that the lesson hit home.
My daughter had slept over her grandmother’s house. They spent the day together, then later her brother and I joined them. When it was time to say goodbye, my daughter became upset and my thoughts went immediately to “fix this for her, Eva. How many separations must she go through in one week?” I asked her if she wanted to call her grandmother to feel better or if there was anything she or I could do for her to feel better. Her response, “Mami. You can’t fix this. Let me be sad. Let me miss her.”
I was floored. Was she somehow tapping in my conversations with my psychologist? Was she reading my books on compassion, acceptance of as is, and flow? She’s seven- years old! And, as it is for me in many of my areas of personal growth, my kids are my biggest teachers. She was right. The message registered in my heart and in my mind. And before you knew it, she was fine again. I thanked her for that special moment; she smiled, and we moved on.
We can’t fix our kids’ lives. The more we try, the more we fail. Life is meant to be lived by each individual. And as moms, we want to protect our babies from pain, especially if that pain is caused by our decisions that have both nothing and everything to do with them.
No, it’s not fair that they are casualties of divorce. But would they be considered casualties of an unhappy marriage, as well? Our perspective that divorce is bad and being married is good also sets our children to grow up feeling pity for themselves. If we want to teach them well, we must let them sit with the feelings of sadness and anger. We must let them express themselves. We must teach them to be direct and honest so that their relationships can be healthy and mutually satisfying. There is a major caveat to this lesson – and that is boundaries. Our children can be very angry about something but that does not give them the right to become physically aggressive with anyone for the sake of letting out their feelings.
That is how we deal or fix the problem: by letting them live it and go through it. Much in the same way as we as moms, single or in a relationship, have had to go through our uncomfortable moments to get to the other side.
Talking through these issues with professionals and loved ones can help. When you are so in it, and especially when everything is still raw and new, it is so easy to get sidetracked and fall back into unhealthy patterns. If any of this resonates with you, and you need someone to talk to, know that you can reach out to me. Give me a call at (786) 383-4942 or email me at email@example.com.
Dr. Eva Benmeleh
I am a licensed clinical child psychologist in Hallandale Beach. I hope you enjoy the site!
221 West Hallandale Beach Blvd., Suite 202
Hallandale, FL 33009