As I travelled home from Christmas at my mother’s house I was bruised emotionally. There are many things about my mother that would take pages and pages to write about. I could literally spend thousands of dollars unpacking my thoughts and feelings about this woman to a professional. For the record I haven’t. I probably should, but I haven’t.
When I started writing this post I Googled “I hate my mother”. The search yielded things I didn’t expect. They ranged from accounts of physical and emotional abuse to women who are tired of a parent who is too self-obsessed to care. With a good smattering of self-help articles thrown in. Reading a couple of them was truly terrifying. Terrifying because they challenged me to consider where I sat on this spectrum of mother hate.
All my life I have been determined to not become my mother. I read some writing by an Australian author, Steve Biddulph, many years ago. In it he explained that as we grow up our parent’s methods of raising children are imprinted on our subconscious. As a result, when we become parents ourselves, our go-to method of parenting is that of OUR parents. Unless we make a conscious effort to change things.
Of course, we can’t change everything. And so, we work on the things that stick out the most. As a parent I like to think that I was successful. I have crafted two amazing humans who are confident to be themselves. The Unicorn is everything I was afraid to be, opinionated, creative, self-aware and able to express herself. My son is less out there, but himself nonetheless. Despite this success I still have moments of hearing her voice come out of my mouth and it scares the living hell out of me. Genetics has dictated that I look somewhat like her and my voice sometimes, to my ears, is hers. I hate it.
Recently I have become conscious of how much negative self-talk I give myself. What I didn’t realise until this Christmas just gone is exactly where this habit came from. I was aware that as a child and a teenager my mother rarely had anything to say to me that is positive. Any praise or recognition was always tempered with a criticisim. A classic example is when I received the results for my first semester of university. As a country child living away from her family and any support from high school days, I passed five out of six subjects. My mother’s friend was congratulating me when my mother interjected “but she failed maths”. It was never enough to just rest in my success.
This is one source of a very negative self-image. An ingrained habit to look for the flaws that has been instilled and re-enforced since birth. Recently I realised another. Every time something goes wrong my mother vigorously berates herself. She calls herself things like “stupid” and “brainless”. These are not things other people call her. Everyone has other adjectives when they are referring to her. These are words she gives herself. The challenging part for me is that I do that too.
Once in the staff room I referred to myself as an idiot. A collegue, who I respect as quite intelligent, said,
“I hardly think that is an accurate way to describe yourself,” I explained that I had neglected to book an experiment and now had a double lesson to deliver based on science theory to which he replied,
“Well, I can see why you berate yourself about that, but I think you took it a little far.”
And this is the crux of it. I do things that are not smart, we all do, but it does not make me stupid / a bimbo / an idiot or any of the words I use to describe myself. And so, I find myself consciously working on another habit imprinted on me by my mother as a young child. The things I do might be ill-advised or a little left of centre but recognising my error means I am definitely not stupid. As I consistently tell my students,
“It isn’t YOU I don’t like; it is the choices you are making and the actions you are doing.”
This post is part of 4 Thoughts or Fiction prompt #165 “Bad Habits” Click on the badge below to see who else is sharing.