Raise your hand if you’ve had a tricky relationship with your mom? Everyone? Great, let’s get started then. Talking to your mom about mental health, the current global scope of the world, or even working through childhood traumas can be daunting and easier said than done. I’ve been there far too many times. Feeling your shoulders tense, your breath tighten, and the world start spinning like you’re going in for the most important interview of your life are all common when it comes to starting these discussions. But it doesn’t have to be that way forever. I’ve gathered the three most important tips I’ve utilized when starting the hard to have conversations with the most important woman in my life.
Remember that your mom is human too. Mothers are scary because they’re so damn powerful. She raised you, nurtured you, prepared you for the world, and now you’re looking at her as your peer and potentially discussing something that doesn’t seem natural to talk to your mom about. I’m not saying to divulge every crude thought that’s ever crossed your mind, but I’m telling you to remember that she’s a human. She’s been where you’ve been so many times before. Michelle Obama’s book “Becoming” touches on how as she became an adult, she understood her mother as a human being with regular tendencies. Her mom would fantasize about leaving her father, but not because she was unhappy, but because it can be nice to dream about another life, had you made a single choice differently. Hearing this as an adult makes so much sense because if you’ve ever been in a relationship, you’ve probably pondered (alone) what life might be like if it were different. Sharing thoughts and fantasies like starting a new life humanizes your relationship with your mom.
Be open to disagreement and stick to the subject. Ahhh, adulthood. There’s no feeling like “agreeing to disagree” and leaving the conversation feeling like nothing was achieved. It sucks and to be honest, you and your mom might never get to a place of agreement but you came and you tried and hell, that might be enough for you. If that’s the case, then it’s enough for me too. My mom is brutally sensitive, she’s wildly smart, and she works her ass off. We’re so similar in our personalities that I can tell what she’s thinking or feeling just by looking at her. On the other hand, she can drive me absolutely crazy. We have similarities in our personalities and mannerisms, but that doesn’t mean we handle things similarly at all. We’re so alike that we often argue because I can’t understand how someone like me can’t approach situations the same way. Ironically, I don’t even know if I’m approaching them correctly and neither does she. We both will never know if we’re fully correct, but it’s okay to leave the conversation with a feeling of it being incomplete. Another sidenote: stick to the subject. If you’re telling your mom you’ve been depressed, if you’re starting a conversation about the BLM revolution, if you’re expressing uncertainty about the world in general, then make it about that and that alone.
Explain your feelings. Do you ever have a disagreement or uncomfortable conversation and then think “Why didn’t I just tell them exactly why I felt that way”? I do this frequently. I get so caught up in the moment that I don’t stop to ask myself about the explanation of my point. When you’re passionate about a conversation and you’re expressing your feelings, ask yourself why you’re so passionate about this. Come to the table prepared to be challenged. She’s your mom, after all. It’s one of her jobs to push you and challenge you. I recently got frustrated with my mom when we went to Target together and it’s so silly, but I was having extreme anxiety being in the store during a pandemic. I was being quiet and bitchy and instead of just explaining why I felt like this, I became even more guarded. It would’ve saved us both being upset if I’d just told her why I feel a certain way, rather than making it personal.
A Guide For Talking To Your Mom:
Make sure it’s the right time. Schedule time before to discuss something and potentially, give her context. Having a hard conversation after dinner might not work for her, so be mindful of her time too. Example: “Can we set aside 15 minutes today in the afternoon to talk? I have something on my mind.”
Use “I” and “because” statements. It releases blame or expectation that your mom might take on. Example: “I’ve been feeling extreme uncertainty about resuming social activities during a pandemic because this is scary.” or “I need to share my thoughts with you on Black Lives Matter and hope this can be a conversation where we both learn from each other because it’s important for me to share my feelings and learnings with you.”
Steer the conversation. It’s easy for things to become political, argumentative, or harsh. Example: “I hear you and I’d like to discuss your feelings further. Do you think it makes sense to continue on in the direction we were going?”
Allow silence. Silence makes us vulnerable. It’s okay to be vulnerable and emotional.
Wrap it up in a peaceful way. Example: “This was productive and I’m so thankful you were able to listen to me. I appreciate you taking the time.” Let your mom know it meant a lot that she listened to your piece.