Sometimes celebrations have an underlying edge of unfinished business that sits like a bad meal in the pit of the stomach. When it comes to family there is always unfinished business! This is not bad. It’s merely is an important point to consider.
Holidays bring up the past. No, most folks don’t think about last year or the year before or the year before that consciously. Yet, there they are, our ragged emotions about giving and getting.
I was reminded of a Mother’s Day when I was in my late-twenties. I had a job that kept me going full throttle and to boot, I was in that worst part of pregnancy when all thoughts of food made me turn green.
I sent a caring and loving card, a Hallmark extravaganza, to the woman who had been a marvelous and gentle mom, the kind I wanted to emulate, at least in most ways, when my own daughter would enter my life.
We called, my husband and I, from across the state to say “hi“; the icy voice on the other end of the line spelled trouble. I asked what the problem was and got a sourly sweet “Nothing dear” response. It was the sound of a martyr who had worked and slaved and now wanted compensation.
The rest of the day was a bummer. I called again later and got the same bland reaction. I gave up. This was the part of my dear, kind, mother that drove me nuts. She rarely said in words, “Look at all I did for you.” I had been fortunate to get schooling, clothing, and vacationing at no cost as I grew up.
Well, there was no financial cost. However, as with many giving, loving, put myself on the back burner mothers, there is always a price to pay. I thought I had paid with the card and the call and the “we’ll go out to dinner next week-end when we see you“.
Nope, not enough; weeks later, in a moment of truth telling my mother rattled off the names of her friend’s children, those who were in the A class for consideration. Her buddies compared notes; they had all received beautiful bouquets of spring flowers in designer vases.
Except my mother; oh, she told me to relax, she had covered for me, extolling the virtues of her second mother’s day with a dinner included that had been set aside for the following week.
My whole grown up life I have had to tackle this pattern, the tendency to be a martyr and put myself last and then let that ugly side of me show up wanting, wanting, wanting, a recognition often way beyond what the situation warrants.
At work, as President of my company I have to watch this ingrained pattern from taking over. My husband reminds me that I did whatever I did for him, (her or them) because I wanted to, and it is unfair to ask for anything back. He will say, strongly or sweetly, depending on the mood of the situation, “You are not your mother” and then might add “unless you want to stay a martyr.”
So, right before each Mother’s Day I remind my two grown daughters that the best gift I can get are spring flowers. They know the grandma story and they also work diligently not to repeat the old family pattern.
This is a great time for women to observe the patterns handed from mother to daughter and how you have learned to transform what did not support you. I’d love to hear about pattern transformation and what you have done differently with the next generation, either your children or those who you lead at work.
I will send a complementary copy of “Don’t Bring It to Work: Breaking the Family Patterns that Limit Success” to the first three respondents with a good story to tell.
Oh, by the way, Happy Mother’s Day!!