Dear Mom,

You call me and I don’t pick up.

Do you wonder why?

Is it that I don’t love you?  Am I a thoughtless, ungrateful, heartless child?

Is that true or is there something else going on?

Here is my truth.

I am sorry I am hurting your feelings but I think you are insensitive to mine.

Here is what I would tell you if I had the nerve and I had faith you would really listen.

1 -You expect a report

It is as if you are the FBI and have authority to ask anything you want. There is no topic you won’t breach. My time and privacy are yours for the taking. If you have questions, you expect me to provide you the answers.

How this makes me feel? Invaded and intruded upon. When you expect me to report in to you, it feels as if I am offering up my life for your inspection.  That my life is yours to fret over, manage and fix.

            There is always an air of judgment underlying your questions.

What you can do instead? Don’t automatically expect me to share everything with you. Approach me knowing that I have a choice about whether or not to share.  Know that there are some things I’d like to keep private, even if for only a while. When you respect my privacy, I will be more willing to share.

2- You overreact

If I’m worried, I don’t need you to pile on or freak out. Your anxiety doesn’t help me, it just makes me feel more unsure. Paradoxically, when you worry I feel the need to reassure you, which only adds to my burden.

How it makes me feel? Defensive. Like I am not seeing the seriousness of the situation. That it is so much worse than I ever thought and I might make it worse if I don’t have you to rescue me.

What to do instead? Listen and convey to me that I have what it takes to figure things out. Be my calm, steady safe place.

3- You tell me what to do

Before I can flesh out my thoughts, you jump in with your suggestions and take over.  When I am struggling and you jump in with your opinions, it makes me want to avoid talking to you.

How it makes me feel? Stupid. Like I don’t have what it takes to make it on my own. Like I’m not good enough. That you think I don’t have what it takes to handle the situation.

What you can do instead? Say, “I might have some ideas, would you like me to weigh in or would you like me to listen now?”

The pressure and guilt that divide us

I get it. Our culture tells you if you love me… you should fix all of my problems – even into adulthood. WRONG! That only leads to your overreach and my feelings of resentment. 

Then, I feel like my only option is to avoid you to avoid takeover, criticism and burdening you.

But then I walk around with this underlying sense of guilt, and you feel rejected. When we do talk and you tell me how much you need my engagement with you, you put me in an impossible position.

I feel an overwhelming sense of obligation. When I feel guilty, I will work to offload my guilt by fulfilling my obligation. And when I am operating on guilt and obligation – there will be resentment in the mix.

This is not the way to sustain a loving relationship. I imagine what you really want is my affection, not my obligation or guilt.

The power you have for the connection you want is right under your nose

You need to know the power you have. Because you have been a witness to my strengths and my vulnerabilities no one is in a better position to lift me up or put me down. I want to encourage you to use that power wisely. How you use it will determine how eager am to pick up the phone when you call.

I dare say it will determine the quality of our relationship.

How to use this power

1) Ask me if I am free to talk. Respect my time and privacy.

2) Be a calming presence in my life who reminds me of the times when I struggled and came through with a win.

3) Let me come up with my own solutions even if I struggle and fail. Let me own my failures so I can own my successes.

I need your loving solid presence.


Postscript *

For daughters of mothers who are Narcissistic, Borderline Histrionic or Addicted, this trap of intrusion, criticism, and boundary-crossing is especially problematic. If she is in the role of the Good daughter, this dynamic can be hell on earth.

Find out if you are experiencing the Good Daughter Syndrome here.