Getting your mom to talk about herself, her life and her journey, may not be all that easy. She may be willing to share all of it, some of it or none of it. So what do you do if she won’t share?
I think one of the saddest things I’ve seen in my career and in my life is that many people are reaching old age and they aren’t happy, they don’t feel connected and they don’t feel they matter. I find this especially true for women.
That’s not how it’s supposed to be.
When we reach old age we should love life, be thrilled with what we’ve done, what we’ve accomplished. Unfortunately, not many of us are brought up to think about ourselves. Women are taught from a young age to look after others, make sure everyone else’s needs are met, then if you have any time or energy you can worry about yourself. The reason I’m sharing this with you is because this is key to why your mom might not share.
To really understand your mom, you have to go back in time.
First I have a question for you.
How much do you share about your life… with anyone? Do you have a good friend you talk to? If you have children, have you shared any of your journey with them? Have you ever talked with your mom about your life—the good, the bad and the ugly?
The truth is that many of us don’t. We might share part of it with someone but we often don’t go into what our hopes, dreams, desires, failures, mistakes, awful things that happened. We don’t share how it made us feel.
…sometimes it is because we want to distance ourselves from it,
…sometimes we don’t want to open up that hope of doing something different,
…sometimes we don’t see it as important,
…sometimes we feel guilt,
…sometimes we feel shame,
…sometimes it still hurts,
…we worry someone will take what we tell them and use it against us
…sometimes it’s because we don’t see ourselves as worthy.
Well, your mom probably feels the same way.
Let me take you back in time.
If you grew up in the 50’s, 60’s or 70’s, you grew up in a time when things were starting to change but in particular for women. It was becoming more the norm for women to work or be educated but it was still a small percentage of women who were doing this, (in the workforce in 1950’s less than 25% of women, to the 1990’s 76%; in 1950’s post secondary education for women <20% to the 1990’s 50%). So you know it was a time when people started wanting more, women started standing up for their rights and demanding and wanting more.
You were raised by parents who grew up in a different generation, it was back when really the main expectation for women was to marry, have kids and look after everyone else. So imagine your mom, she grew up with this role, this expectation. Even if she was one of those women who stepped outside the norm and worked or got educated, that belief was still very strong and part of the societal norm and expectation.
And your mom was raised by parents who grew up in a time of even more oppression for women.
What does that all mean?
It means that if you want to understand your mom and to get her to talk about her life, you need to understand what beliefs and expectations she grew up with. You need to go back in time to her time. She probably was taught that everyone comes first before her; that things like emotions weren’t helpful; that there wasn’t time to think about yourself there was work to do; that she was just a woman and her opinion wasn’t all that important; that you just don’t talk about yourself; that she had to get things right the first time.
This didn’t happen in all cases but there was still the prevalence of this mentality and belief. So your mom had a lot of stress with trying to make sure that everyone was taken care of, she became the peacemaker, the homemaker, the cook, the cleaner, the keeper of the house… whew that’s exhausting. Plus she lived in a time when there wasn’t time to do much else because that took all day and all the energy she probably had.
What did she learn?
That her journey wasn’t all that important. She could do things that would make positive change for others but don’t talk about it as that was ‘bragging’. So she didn’t learn to talk about herself and she didn’t learn to see the value in who she was. Her value was determined by how her kids showed up in the world. So she spent a lot of time, trying to get that right. She spent a lot of time looking after everything… but not herself.
So when you ask her about her life and she won’t share, know that it’s not about you, it’s about what she learned.
It might be up to you to teach her.
She’s not withholding because she wants to but she may not know how to share.