Mother? Friend? Which Way Do I Go?
Having your mother as your best friend is great! Or is it? If your nice enough, friends are easy to come by but mothers are a once in a lifetime relationship. Mothers who pal more than they parent can be very problematic.
Any parenting relationship that does not have balance can be dangerous, especially for the child. Traditionally, children spend their developmental years expecting their mothers to tend to their emotional, physical and social needs. Many moms think they are meeting those needs by being overly available as a friend because deep down, mothers want to be liked and admired by their children.
When a mother has experienced a troubled or disconnected relationship with her own mother, she may fear repeating history and make misinformed decisions about her own parenting style. While it may seem like the right answer, acting like a big sister or best buddy to your child robs him or her of what they need from most from us; structure, guidance, boundaries and an authoritative voice they can trust.
We love our best friends but we don’t typically think their opinions or decision-making skills are any better than our own because we see our friends as equals. No child wants to see their mother as an equal. If we do, then who do we turn to for help? We want our mothers to redirect us when we lose our way or set us straight when we’ve gone off our rockers.
How a woman mothers should change as her child ages. Some moms are strict disciplinarians in the early years but loosen their grip as their child show that they can handle more responsibility. Some mothers are carefree and go with the flow. And then others attempt to keep the reigns tight from childhood through adulthood.
No matter how you serve it up, trying to provide the best approach while keeping your relationship in tact is emotionally exhausting. Being a strict disciplinarian who rarely gives their child space to express their feelings never works out well for anybody. Being the “I don’t know honey, what do you think” mom can be frightening for a child because they innately desire guidance and structure.
Here are some steps to take in process of deciding what kind of mother you want to be:
Step 1: Be honest with yourself about who your child really is. Is he immature, responsible, lazy, adventurous, a liar, etc. Not being honest with ourselves about who we are raising is a surefire way to get it wrong no matter what path you take.
Step 2: Remember that you too were a kid trying to figure it out and not every choice was a good one. Heck! Your still figuring it out but hopefully you’ve got a better handle on things than your child.
Step 3: Change your parenting style as your child changes. Don’t be overly restrictive to a child who shows great responsibility and maturity just because they are a child. And likewise, don’t allow a child with poor insights and a lack of experience to make important choices without your guidance and firm instruction. Always reassess your child to see if your guidance and support are aligned with where they are developmentally.
Step 4: Explain your thought process and reasons for making the hard choices as a mother. This will allow for your child to learn by example about how to make the same sound decisions for themselves in the future. “Because I said so” isn’t usually a great teaching moment.
The bottom line is that mothering is an organic, ever-changing process. The job starts during pregnancy and it does not end. The harder you work in the beginning, the less work there should be later on. Pay attention to the signs and be honest with yourself about the person you are raising. Like you, your children will change as their life progresses. A mother’s job is to remain loving, truthful and supportive through those changes.
Having a real friendship with your adult child will be dependent upon your ability to be a mother first when they are younger. Regardless of age, children do better when their mother is who they need her to be and not who we want her to be.
La Shell Wooten is a NYC mother trying to stay ahead of the curve with her two children. http://www.lashellwooten.com