I am an only child and the single mother of one. As such, moving in with my parents has had several practical benefits: VERY affordable rent, the comfort of knowing my daughter is in good hands when I’m away, the sharing of household responsibilities, not to mention on-call access to my daddy’s famous macaroni and cheese.
There are, however, a few drawbacks as well- a litany of which are directly related to the fact that even as an adult and most importantly, a mother, it’s almost impossible for one’s parents to see you as such. ESPECIALLY when you’re sharing living quarters with them. My own personal experience has led me to believe that this is particularly challenging for the maternal parent, thus, the tug of war (and love) between me and my mother.[pullquote type="2" align="right"]“Try as I might to set rules for my daughter, my mother has found an exception to almost every one.”[/pullquote]
Aside from intrusions into personal space, my mother’s restless sleep schedule, and the myriad of rainbow-colored post-it notes she leaves for me (yes, she is single-handedly keeping that brand afloat), the biggest source of tension is exercising my individuality as a parent.
Now to be clear, my mother is the kindest person I have ever known. All of my friends think she is so sweet and thoughtful and intelligent and the best hostess (I like to refer to her as the Black Martha Stewart), and she is indeed all of those things. But adhering to boundaries is… well, difficult for her. Try as I might to set rules for my daughter, my mother has found an exception to almost every one. This, as you might imagine, has led to some very heated discussions about undermining my authority, differing parenting styles, and mutual respect… as well as really important things like not letting my daughter eat Cap-N-Crunch for breakfast everyday this summer.
Listen, the mother-daughter relationship can be a tenuous one. From a daughter’s perspective, my rough and over-simplified version of the evolution of this relationship goes something like this:
“I love and adore you, mommy. You make everything better, and I want to be just like you when I grow up.”
“Please get away from me. You are so embarrassing!”
“Mom, stop trying to control me… I can make my own decisions!”
But from a mother’s perspective, perhaps the most difficult (albeit joyous) transition can be watching her baby become a mother herself. It just screams “I AM A WOMAN!” in a way that nothing else does. Now add sharing the same roof to that and things get a little tricky.
How do I exercise my independence as a woman and a mother? How do I maintain a healthy relationship with my mother while also setting limits on her parenting advice? How do I ensure that my daughter understands these boundaries without interfering with the relationship she has with her grandmother?
I would imagine these questions are sometimes easier to answer when mother and daughter and granddaughter aren’t living in such close proximity. Having said that, there are a few things I’ve learned about managing this delicate situation.
First, understanding and acceptance are key. My mother is who she is and she’s not likely to change. As much as I want her to understand my frustrations, I have to also understand that whatever unsolicited advice she offers generally comes from a place of love. Secondly, communication is absolutely essential. I have often found that writing my mother a note (not a post-it) or sending her an e-mail when I’m frustrated is a good way to get the ball rolling. My mother and I are both writers of sorts, and sometimes we simply communicate more effectively that way. Third, I try to remember what a blessing it is for me to have my mother in my life and how great it is for my daughter to have such a close relationship with her Grammie. Last, but certainly not least, weekend excursions to spend some time apart are GOOD, VERY GOOD.
Note to self: When we move, find a place with a spacious guest house… love you, momma!