Black Women and Our Mothers: Love Vs. Guilt by Oshun/Aphrodite

A stellar comment by Oshun/Aphrodite:

You are being manipulated.  Ask me how I know. Just ask…  LOL

Because I have been in your shoes!  Literally! My mother did a lot of right things by me, but she also did some bad things by me.  I think when you grow up and you have been taught to respect authority you equate your parents with God.  They are not, they are human just like everyone else and sometimes act with selfish intentions.  Your mother is being very selfish right now.  She is only thinking of herself.  Also you have an attachment to her and want to please her.  I can raise my hand on that one too because I have had to go through people pleasing deprogramming bootcamp myself.

Monae, when my mother discovered I was leaving home to complete my undergrad she threw herself across my bed sobbing and crying in a hysterical fit and told me she didn’t know how she was going to make it, she couldn’t live without me and I was mortified.  Add to that she has had health issues and I started concocting all sorts of scenarios in my head of my mother dying and me feeling responsible etc My mother became alternately passive aggressive, openly hostile, and even got in a few attempts at sabotage. She enlisted other folks to side with her…you name it- I went through it.

The other similarity that we share is that your mother is grooming you to be the caretaker/burden bearer in your family. It is that “raise” the girls, but “love” the boys meme in the so called Black community.  I can tell from what you shared that you are responsible. When I worked I also chipped in and paid bills and bought groceries.  But since I was an ambitious yet unskilled worker- low wages and mind numbing work chipped away at my self esteem.  The thing is this will only grow to become a larger burden that will be difficult to get out from under as time passes. Your family will come to rely on you more and more as you are the “responsible” one and if you can be easily guilted and manipulated now because of a desire to please and avoid conflict – they have your number.

Tell my why you are buying a new computer when you weren’t the one that broke it? When someone damages someone else’s property they compensate that person for it.  Your cousin should be at whatever store buying you a replacement or at least having it repaired.

At any rate your mother:

1. may not be prepared for you to grow up
2. may not wish to see you surpass her accomplishments
3. may wish to leech off of you emotionally and financially
4. may be using you as a crutch to avoid facing deeper psychological issues she is not addressing
5. may want to live vicariously through you and your youth

Whatever the reason, it is not your responsibility take care of her and work through her issues.  Parents raise children not the other way around. If you are 24 then your mother is young enough and wise enough to navigate through life and care for herself! Unless she is missing all her arms and legs and has been declared mentally incompetent by the state your mother can and will survive if you leave.

And even if she wasn’t wise enough to plan for her health issues or her old age that still isn’t your responsibility. You have to plan for your own health issues and retirement! If anything your mother should want you to be as successful as possible so that should she really need you – when she is 74 and really can’t do for herself you will be able to assist her if you are so inclined.

My advice to you is to work through your attachment issues. Address your fear of leaving and work though that now.  Until you do you are setting yourself up for being exploited. They can always play on that.  Do not discuss your plans with her or others and if you do slip up, do so in vague terms so she can’t employ psychological warfare or sabotage to derail you.  If you mother is that intense, then give her the okey doke just like she is doing to you say, “mother, I am doing this for the benefit of all of us” or whatever you have to to get the space to do what you need to do.

Major life changes are stressful even if you have tons of support, but since this is something you lack you need to have clarity at all times to stay centered and keep your emotions on an even keel.

If you don’t do what makes you happy you will have regrets. If you don’t do what makes you happy you will develop a seething resentment towards you mother that may have you considering homicide! LOL

Ask me how I know…LOL

You may develop resentments even if you go on and do what you want much later than intended because you will have to play the catch up and unlearn game and neither of those are fun.  So don’t give your power away.  Seize the moment!

I want to tell you that despite my mother I left anyway and had some of the most fabulous years of my life.  And you know what?  My mother got over it and kept on living.  All those things I was responsible for – they got done in my absence.  And your mother will do the same. My mother did not fall apart – if anything my separation redefined our relationship for the better. I think she now sees me as an adult/whole person – separate and distinct from her. There is a dramatic difference in the way she relates to me now in both speech and action.

I know that the whole process seems overwhelming, but ask if you need advice or info and I wish you much success.

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3 Replies to “Black Women and Our Mothers: Love Vs. Guilt by Oshun/Aphrodite”

  1. Yeah, I’ve been in this same situation, but with BOTH my mother and my grandmother trying to keep me in the house. I grew up with my mother and grandmother living in the same house, and they were doing their best to keep it that way on a forever basis.

    It’s bad enough when the one woman you love more than anything is working on you and trying to manipulate your emotions, but it seems like your head is going to explode when you’re getting double-teamed by the two women you love more than anything.

    Oshun/Aphrodite, this is superb guidance for young BW in this situation. I hope every young woman caught in this sort of suffocating mother-daughter dynamic reads your advice.

    Not all, but many BW are extremely close to their mothers because, like a lot of black children, they grew up in a one-parent household, and “Mom” was it – that’s all you had. She was everything. Consequently, it’s very tough to go against her.

    I saw an interview with Alicia Keys a couple of years ago in which she said that her hit song, “I Keep On Falling”, which I always assumed was written about a lover, was actually written about her mother. She said that she and her mother have always had a very complex relationship, and that the song addresses the relationship she had, and still has, with her mother.

    I then went back and listened to the lyrics in the song again, and yeah, it also rings true for the relationship I have with my mother.

    My mother loves me, and I love her, but just because someone loves you doesn’t mean that what they want you to do is the best thing for you to do. Sometimes you have to make your own way in the world, and please yourself first. My mother was hurt when I left, but I think that even she would admit now that it was the right thing to do. She respects me and what I’ve become, and she is proud of my accomplishments. But, I couldn’t have achieved what I have if I had just stayed home with her.

  2. Really excellent advice.

    My mother tried to talk me into going to a local school so I could live at home while I was in school, despite the fact that I got a half-scholarship to a school that was known for my major. She said the money I would save by living at home would make up for the scholarship, then said she needed me there to help with my little brothers, and then finally just said she would just fall apart if I left.

    I said, well, which is it, and she said all of those reasons. I almost gave in, but I’m glad I didn’t. As you say, life continued in my absence.

  3. Thank you Goldenah! I am actually speechless – for once. 🙂

    @ Been there before
    You are right. My father died and my mother never remarried so we were very close and over time I started to feel smothered to death. It was hard for me to be me or figure out who I was. We would have arguments where she would ask, “Who has been putting ideas in your head?” As if I couldn’t have an idea of my own that disagreed with hers and she was talking to an alien.

    I can believe that about the A Keys song. Mother daughter relationships can be challenging in the best families, but when you factor in the cultural failings of the so called BC there can be much more dire consequences regarding safety, security, and quality of life on the line.

    @ Beverly
    I am glad you pursued your desires! It takes strength to not allow mothers and other family members to put you in the box.

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