Interesting question over at “First Person Singular”– can you make your mother happy if you are single?
My mother had a couple of unhappy marriages and once said to me that if she had to do it all over again, she would not have had children (I recall a scene in the first Bridget Jones movie in which her mother says the same thing). And yet, all during my twenties and thirties, in every phone conversation she would ask if I was dating anyone. She would also frequently mention the weddings and pregnancies of my childhood friends. I dreaded our conversations.
She was unhappy when my sister got pregnant, however, as she was married to a man who didn’t make much money. In essence, I think my mother has unacknowledged conflicted feelings, and had I married, likely would have been critical of the man I had chosen.
She’s now widowed and unhappy, lonely, and bored, so I do think that a wedding, in-laws, and babies on my part would have brought excitement and distraction to her life and given her something to brag about. I do understand the desire of most mothers to experience those milestones through their daughters and to enlarge their family network, but I can’t add guilt on top of all the other emotional struggles I have gone through to establish a satisfactory life as a woman alone.
I truly wish my mother would become one of those senior women who are happy to be alone at last and who spend their days merrily gardening, reading, etc., but alas, in her seventies, she is still hoping to meet a man and partner up again. Maybe it’s unfair of me to judge her for wanting that, but it is draining to listen to her complain about loneliness and the lack of suitable dating partners.
I live across the country for a reason.
I don’t want to be rude about your mother – but that is appalling that she said to you “if she had to do it all over again, she would not have had children” ! That is an astoundingly selfish thing to say to a child (one of the reasons it was in Bridget Jones Diary – it was supposed to be so bad it was funny). I’m sorry your mom said that to you – and if she thought it, she should have kept it to herself As a parent. Quite frankly I don’t blame you for being tired of the other things she says.
I know you use Bitterbabe as a form of communication about your life/issues – and I don’t know you, but you seem to me to be a very successful, together, cool, skilled person. Marriage (which, as someone who is married, I feel is absolutely just down to luck at meeting the right person) and having kids is only one aspect of life – which is finite and really a phenomenal ride when you think about it. I think everyone has issues with their mom’s at time (!) and it is clear your mom is putting her insecurities on you. I just hope you know not to believe it.
Another friend of mine experienced her mom saying the same thing to her (that she wouldn’t have kids if she had to do it all over again) and it put her into therapy! I also once saw a Jezebel reader post the same thing. Sadly, it may not be all that rare.
I felt very guilty putting this post up, as my mom has done a lot for me of course and in many ways was independent for her day and age. She held several jobs, moved around on her own a bit, is politically opinionated, and is capable of doing a lot of things on her own.
I think she was disappointed by marriage and motherhood while at the same time not seeing any alternatives for women. This ambivalence gets laid on her children, I think.
My mother has never actually verbalised that she wishes she hadn’t had children, yet it was communicated to us in a hundred other ways when we were growing up. She says that she found being at home with three small children dreary and dull. I think she also suffered depression after my younger brother’s birth. She would admit to feeling proud of us when we achieved something ‘good’ by her standards i.e. school prize, etc. Yet we got very little support in any other way. Certainly none emotionally.
I was an excellent actress when younger (probably still am but alas another path never pursued) but when she came to see me in my theatre productions she always said she felt “embarrassed” (of what exactly???) and that the music was always too loud. Hence I began to lose belief in myself as an actress.
She also took me out of ballet school when I was very little (I LOVED ballet) because she said it was too far to walk to come and pick me up (it was a 20 minute walk either way).
I grew up feeling my existence to be a hindrance rather than a blessing on my mother’s life. Is it any wonder then that my own desire to have children was always luke warm? That I grew up not rating motherhood as the raison d’etre?
I wish that the understanding and self-knowledge I have as an adult now could have been granted to me twenty years ago, so that I could have made decisions based on how I felt and not based on my mother’s issues.
Yes it’s sad that self-knowledge takes years to develop but the fertility window is comparatively small.