Monocycle, Episode 59
Cut Your Mom Some Slack!
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This month’s theme on Man Repeller is family, which is so all-encompassing it can seem overwhelming. Where do you start with a family dynamic? Where do you begin with the complicated relationships that engulf the word’s meaning? Are we even talking about the biological literals of a “family?” If we’re not, what constitutes a family? If we are, why are we doing that?

Our theme of the month announcement was met with some very intelligent content recommendations from you (the community!), which ran a gamut from the lighthearted and farfetched to the convoluted and deep-seated, but one particular remark regarding a reader’s relationship with her mother and her desire to, essentially, emancipate herself/make sure not to become her really stuck with me: I’ve been at that rodeo for the greater half of at least the past two years.

I’ve written about it at length.

And spoken a Monocycle episode that touched upon it.

Hell, we even dedicated an entire month’s theme to it.

So here we are, back again, talking about our moms, because one relationship that will never not be interesting to dissect as it evolves at the wildly rapid pace it does, is the one between girl and woman, woman and woman, daughter and mother.

Photo by Harold M. Lambert via Getty Images.

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  • Mallory

    I loved this episode. I also forget how much joy my mom brings to my family, and this episode was a great reminder. Great moms are definitely something we should be thankful to have. ❤️

  • CM

    When I hear things like this, it sounds so foreign and unrelatable, because my mom is literally my best friend. She is 100% the person I would choose to be my mom if I had a choice in the matter, and would choose to be my friend if I wasn’t lucky enough to be her daughter. She’s one of the only people in the world that I could be with forever and never tire of.

  • Jealous of all you guys that even have this problem. I miss my mama.

    • Leandra Medine

      🙁 I’m sorry she’s not here. Can we honor her memory by hearing a bit about her!?

      • Thank you so much for asking! Her name was Tina and she gave the best manicures, made a kick-ass lasagna and was so, so kind to everyone she met. <3

  • Beasliee

    I loved this.
    My mother is a PAIN. So is my MIL. But they have many excellent things about them that my rage with them often obscures.
    This podcast helped me see things their way a bit better. Maybe I will find some more patience from somewhere in time for our annual shopping trip this Friday…
    On another note. I love how Lendra speaks – her accent, intonation, self-awareness, reflection etc. Very soothing.

  • Anna Z

    Dear Leandra,

    Thank you so much for this! I have to say, for some reason I had overlooked this episode of Monocycle and only discovered it now (a month later) as I was doing some procrastination, i.e. manrepeller catching up at work (can it be the holidays already?!). And I need to thank you for two reasons – 1. for taking up my comment and, once more, engaging with this topic, and 2. for making the internet feel like an actual space for conversation. The latter point might sound superfluous and maybe a bit like “duh, what did you think we are trying to do here” and I know that manrepeller is trying to do exactly that – build this community and tree house, where you can come to have a conversation, to exchange about whatever big or small things are going on in your life. But somehow, and despite the fact that I have been a religious follower of the website for years, I never felt like taking action and actively engaging in the conversation (i.e. comments). It might sound slightly dramatic, but apart from the usual lack of self-esteem (“I am sure that I have nothing original/particularly thoughtful to contribute”) I guess I was afraid that I would get no anwer and it would feel like yelling into a massive room with no response. Which only would have confirmed my general feeling of being overwhelmed by the vastness of the internet. But, as I mentioned in my comment, I just felt so “hugged” by the furtuity of the announcement of the theme of November (having had a major moment of self-doubt and confusion about the relationship with my mother the night before), that I just had to comment. When I discovered this episode of monocycle around 15 minutes ago just now, I was intrigued, but when you, Leandra, made direct reference to this one reader’s comment on the “emancipation from her mother”, I was just completely taken by surprise! It’s such a nice feeling to know the comment was read in the first place, and that on top of that it was something that sparked you to take up the topic and that you could relate to.

    Now to get to our MUMS – firstly, thank you very much for sharing your experiences with your mum! I think that you are very right that it is very easy to take our mothers for granted, to only be annoyed about what they do (basically caring for us – how dare they?!) rather than thanking them for the joy they bring, for their unconditional love, for forgiving our moods and for literally carrying us through (at least parts of) our lives. We really should cut them some slack and be grateful for them!

    I guess what I meant when addressing the issue of emancipation was really two things. One has to do with a phenomenon that was also addressed by another reader in the comments section, namely the fact that no matter how much we feel like we are living an independent life, slowly figuring shit/ourselves out, as soon as we are put back into the family context, we immediately feel like we are 15 again. And I would argue that this is particularly so in our relationship with our parents/mothers. It is interesting, because in my case, my mother actually always took me seriously and quite early on asked me for advice or my opinion, which made the whole relationship feel like it was on equal terms. I actually have a really good relationship with my mum, we are really close and rarely fight or are nasty with each other (apart from the occasional emotion/frustration dump that I impose on her, which I always feel terrible about immediately after). But I guess what is so frustrating is that the progress I feel I have made in other relationships in my life (with my partner, my friends etc.), whether it is setting boundaries or being a better listener or being less insecure about myself, does not translate into the relationship with my mother. I think this is largely due to the fact that the roles we play in our lives tend to stand in for who we identify as. And I have played the role of the daughter for the longest, therefore it seems like the hardest to redefine.

    The second thing is the “I don’t want to become my mother” thing. I actually don’t like to say it like this because it can be interpreted as “I don’t want to become like my mother as a mother”. Which absolutely is not true. Sure, maybe I would try to be a little less protective, but I have to say that I feel like the luckiest kid on earth having grown up in such a loving, supportive, fun family home and I can only hope to do half as good of a job when I become a mother myself. What I actually meant when I wrote this relates to the realization that our mothers are also “just” human, that they need us more and more (maybe as much as we need them, maybe even more than we need them at this point). I personally see that in how stress is eating away at my mother and how she is, if not completely unaware, completely incapable of changing this for herself. I only realized this about 2 years ago when I was told that stress is not something that has to be part of someone’s life, that is something that needs to be sucked up. I grew up watching my parents slaying away at work, at home, doing everything for their kids and family, never taking a break, never complaining. Hard work was the norm, complaining about being stressed out was not a thing, the exponential increase in burn outs being diagnosed in their surroundings was frowned upon (“90% of the people claiming to be burnt out actually just can’t handle normal stress”). I didn’t know mental health and taking care of it as part of your everyday life was a thing. Long story short, at 23 I was experiencing anxiety, stress and OCD without knowing that I did or that I did not have to feel like that. That I could try and change that. I learned this through many conversations with friends, my partner etc. and slowly took active steps (meditation, more sleep, exercise, relaxation etc.) to balance out the stress. I still have a long way to go (as I still feel a bit indulgent/lazy when taking me-time and focusing on these things), but I feel like I got the message. Having come to this – for me – life-changing revelation, it aches me to see that my mom is still in this hamster wheel of stress and worry, seemingly 24/7 and that she has been going through life like this for the past 50-something years. This is what I mean when I say “I don’t want to become like my mother”. Because even though I feel like I have had eye-opening moments about the risks of stress taking over your life, I see so much of myself in my mother. And to tie this to the first point raised above – whenever I talk with her on the phone, I fall back into the role, into the pattern and it’s like I’m back to square one. Not only do I feel like a baby again, I also cannot help my mum the way I would like to in sharing some of my lessons learned (they are few, but I want to share what I got).

    I guess the answer to all of this is awareness, mindfulness and compassion. Being aware that the role I play as a daughter does not make up my entire personality. Being mindful about how I engage with my mum, as much as I am trying to be mindful about how I interact with my friends, partner, colleagues. And being compassionate – with my mum by trying to support her in her own journey (not necessarily imposing meditation classes on her, but maybe sharing my perspective and what worked for me to inspire her to do more for herself) and with myself to not try and beat myself up when I turn into a ball of stress and feel like I’m 15 again after hanging up the phone.

    Apologies for this long comment and thanks again for listening 🙂