Christmas Day, 2018
On a day that would normally be filled with busyness and family, my husband was in bed with what we thought was the flu (it wasn’t…and he’s fine) and I was zoning out on Facebook.
A message request came through from a woman who wrote: “Have you ever thought of writing a book called Great Mothers, Difficult Adult Daughters? I feel there is just far too much mother blaming and mother shaming in this world today.”
She had a few other choice words for me, and an accusation: “You are preying on vulnerable adult daughters who aren’t taking responsibility for their appalling behavior to their mothers who love them unconditionally, who gave their all for their beloved daughters.”
I noticed feelings arise in me. Defensiveness, anger…fear, even. A heavy weight on my solar plexus.
I took a deep breath and responded. Kindly but honestly. I explained my work and how it isn’t about blame or fault for mothers OR daughters. It’s about taking responsibility for oneself.
She had more accusations for me.
I responded with a recommendation: Dr. Joshua Coleman is an expert on family estrangement and is the author of When Parents Hurt.
She replied, “He’s okay, not that good.”
(Which I suspect is because, like me, he asks his audience to consider looking inward and to take responsibility for themselves, and many mothers and daughters are not ready to hear that or do that…and I know this because I used to be that daughter).
I wasn’t sure what to do or say next. So I shared this: An Open Letter To Your Mother.
She replied, “You have to realized that I am both a mother and a daughter.”
“Yes, I do realize that.”
She went on to say that going no-contact is always wrong. I disagreed.
She shared her painful story. I shared mine. She asked about my family. I asked about hers.
And just like that, we became two women sharing Christmas Day in an unlikely way.
Which isn’t to say that we ended our correspondence on a happy note. She was scared, hurt, and angry. And her fear, hurt, and anger wasn’t mine to address. But I could hold space for it.
Here’s what I perceive: current generation gap(s) are seemingly greater and more drastic than prior gaps.
With the rapid evolution of technology is the rapid evolution of personal development, empowerment, true discipline, and justice, and a move away from shaming, fear, authoritarianism, punishment, “shoulding,” control, and binary ways of thinking.
What was considered normal and okay (and maybe even good parenting) in past generations is now known to be traumatic and abusive.
The transition is so very necessary and it’s hard both on families and in societies.
As Randi Buckley so aptly put it: we “are planting seeds in ground that has never held these types of seeds before.”
Both mothers and daughters are human beings and that human relationships are sometimes complicated and messy and uncomfortable.
It’s when we make space for the complication, messiness, and discomfort that the healing and transformations we wish for can take root and start to grow. Sometimes that looks like conscious estrangement. Sometimes it involves shadow work. All the time it involves healthy boundaries.
It comes down to being ready, willing, and able to take responsibility for yourself: your thoughts, beliefs, opinions, values, emotions…all of it. Your whole, wonderful, and precious self. Whether you are a mother or daughter, difficult or otherwise.
Much, much love,
As seen on the internet: “Your wound is probably not your fault, but your healing is your responsibility.” This is great news for those who are able to receive it.