Do We Ignore Mommy Issues?

January 10, 2012  |  

On last week’s episode of “Love and Hip Hop” Kimbella hinted that she had mommy issues that accounted for a lot of the choices she made when it came to men; and on last night’s show, she confronted her mother about the example she set for her growing up and the effect that has on her as a mother now.

I can’t lie, it was difficult to feel bad for Kimbella, mostly because she’s such an unsympathetic character. I really wasn’t trying to hear how Kimbella’s mother sticking it out with her cheating father led to her posing nearly naked in black men’s magazines, but after a while I thought, if we can blame daddy issues for the reason strippers are on the pole, why can’t Kimbella’s mommy issues account for at least some of the dysfunction in her life?

In my own personal experience, I’ve always said the presence of my mother had a much greater effect on me than the absence of my father. It’s just sheer math. I was around my mother much more and that was my primary example—luckily, for me, it was a positive one. When I wrote about Kelly Rowland wanting to reconnect with her father, a few commenters brought up the idea that society is much harder on deadbeat mothers than they are absentee fathers, but I don’t think that’s always the case. Sure, the women in headline-grabbing stories who abuse their children in some way or even take their child’s life are crucified by the media and the public, but what about the everyday mother who just isn’t setting the best example? There’s a lot of sympathy for her. Her inability to be “the perfect mother” is usually excused by the fact that she had to work so much to provide for her family, or she was walked out on, or she never got over a bad relationship.

That dynamic was evident with Kimbella and her mother. Her mom said her husband liked to gamble so she had to make a living but Kimbella still blamed her mother for investing more time in her father than in helping her develop as a young woman, particularly when it came to relationships. My inclination was to roll my eyes, but again, if an absent father can explain why women get in bad relationships, why can’t the bad example set by a mother?

Reactions on Twitter showed a lot other people weren’t buying Kimbella’s terrible mother excuse for her bad choices either. And while I’m also skeptical of people who reduce all of their poor decisions in life to the lack of a male role model, I think society is much less inclined to believe that a poor female role model could have just as much of an effect.

There’s also more of a sense of guilt attached to admitting your mother may not have done everything right. There’s nothing novel about not having a father. You’re more likely to get a surprised reaction if you say you grew up in a two-parent household than if you were to say “I hate my father,” or “my dad wasn’t ish,” but mamas? People don’t like to talk about their mothers, especially if they did try their hardest under harsh circumstances and you still feel they failed you in some way. It’s not easy to admit the anger you hold inside about some of your mother’s poor choices and it definitely isn’t easy to talk to your mother about where she may have gone wrong despite having the best intentions.

Granted, there is seemingly a large difference between trying your best and failing and not trying at all—which is what seems to be the case with a lot of fathers. But I think the very shortcomings that plague mothers are the same ones that affect fathers—the parents just react differently. For men, it’s easier to run and escape the situation while women are typically more adept at figuring out some sort of way to make it work as best they can. This doesn’t excuse the male behavior but I think it explains it in some ways. Even as I watched the show with my own mother last night, she said Kimbella couldn’t keep holding on to all that anger about her mother and she needed to let it go, but I wondered if my mom would feel the same way if Kimbella was talking about her father.

Do you think people have more sympathy for less-than-ideal mothers than they do fathers? Do you think it’s harder for people to admit they wish they had a better mother than a better father?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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