A lot of us can relate to dealing with the hot-tempered mother who is very opinionated, extremely nosy and puts her 2 cents into every conversation or life situation. These types of mothers are not necessarily European, but most will be. Here are a few tips to smooth over the most volatile of relationships and ensure that most of your visits with her will not end in tears.
1. Define the type of woman your mother is, what are her passions? Pet peeves? What kind of shape is her marriage in (if there's still a man around)? What kinds of things did/does she want for her kids? Mothers are real people with real problems and dreams and disappointments - just like us. If you can step outside the "offspring" role, you will be able to see this.
Once you've picked out a couple of major hot button issues - you will be able to easily navigate your time spent with her to avoid flare ups, arguments, embarrassing public displays and on a more serious note, creating rifts that might be regretful and harder to patch up.
2. Don't take it personally. Even if it is meant to be. She is fighting her own mortality and questioning her usefulness as a human now. Trust me, thinking of this after she says something abrasive will help you.
Does she love to cook and feed her entire family as often as possible? (my mother does).
This mother wants to continue to believe that your health and well being depend greatly on her and this act of feeding you is just another way to say: "I have no other way of taking care of you now, you're all grown up and I feel useless".
Problem: There will be occasions when you'll come over and not have time to, or be too full to, eat what she's serving up. If you flat out refuse to eat without defining why, this will result in hurt feelings and a bombardment of questions from her on where you've come from, where you're going, and what you will eat there or have just eaten. If you've eaten out or spent money to ingest this food, watch out! This is a trap. After asking you how much you spent on said food, she will then lecture you on how poorly you manage your finances and ask you for the ten millionth time, why haven't you bought a house yet!? But know that she's really just miffed that you didn't eat her lasagne.
1. Taste her food.
2. Better yet, bring a friend over and get them to taste it too.
3. Ask her how she made it.
All she wants is your admiration and the confirmation that she still makes the best pasta sauce this side of the Atlantic. Even though at first you'll feel like this is giving in to her, it will show that you can be flexible even while in the face of her epic unbending-ness.
The Wannabe Grandmother: (this is also my mother)
Most of her friends are having grandchildren and she wants to know when hers are coming and where from. This is not uncommon. They're bored and need some confirmation that they did not make a huge mistake by giving up their youth, their bodies and their aspirations in order to join the procreation parade. So, by seeing you do the same thing, they feel validated.
Warning: Do not inadvertently belittle their contribution to the human race by saying or hinting that you do not want kids to get in the way of your fantastic life.
Suggestion: let her know that:
1. You're trying to meet that right person but it's just not happening -you weren't as lucky as she was to have someone fall in live with her...or
2. You and your significant other are really trying but it's just not happening - the doctors just keep telling you that it'll happen or not. You're not as lucky as she was to have such good genes...or
3. You don't think you'd make as good a parent as her and don't want to raise kids if you have doubts about abandoning your ... great career/ ...dreams to travel the world/ ...research to cure cancer. Note: Only attempt this one if she is a little more advanced in her ability to control her emotions. Also point out that you're just not as lucky as she was.
But some mothers might be an 11 out of 10 on this subject and will not let up - accusing you of perhaps doing this non-childbearing thing on purpose, to embarrass her, or other crazy notions.
1. Avoid mall trips with her for a while; malls are bound to have a hoard of mothers pushing strollers, baby clothes stores, and pregnant women shopping.
2. Try not to divulge news of a brand new relationship too quickly. She will expect to know whether he/she wants kids and when the wedding is. Wait 3-6 months.
3. Talk about your baby years with her; she'll love reliving some stories about her time as a new mother. This way you can seem (a) baby-having-compliant and (b) like you need her for something - mothers can't resist this.
Advice Givers and Guilt Trippers: (you guessed it, also...my mother)
This needn't be a separate category because it seems that it has a place in every aspect of "the mother" persona. But some extra tips on this topic might be helpful.
1. Always remember that, at the heart of any unsolicited advice or guilt trip* (*there are various types of these - see list below so you can identify them when they start), lies genuine care and concern. This may help you stop the rush of blood that goes directly to the anger part of the brain, thereby saying something hurtful or dismissive.
2. **Listen and nod - sometimes not saying anything at all will let them fulfill the need to just say something...motherly.
3. Ask your mother for help with something from time to time - a recipe, a button, a hem, company while shopping - whatever it is should be genuine and not contrived as they can smell pity a mile away.
4. Use the other sibling decoy: as a last resort you may want to throw one or more of your siblings under the proverbial bus in order to save yourself from the moment - divulge a bit of juicy gossip or rat on them about a recent indiscretion - this will successfully get your mother into full rant mode about just what the hell "X" thinks he's/ she's doing and why can't they just grow up? When done successfully, follow up by doing #2 -above **
*Guilt Trips: detail
1. The round-about-trip: this is also passive aggression but that sounds so bad when you say it about your mother! This one will usually take the form of her letting you know she needed to go somewhere and then later saying that "it's ok, my friend Joyce will take me". This is meant to tell you that she didn't have to ask, for crying out loud, you should have just offered.
2. The Sunday-morning-trip: you've had your fun all weekend and now I want to know why you haven't called me or come by and, are you hungry? This of course is not what your mother will say but it's implied in the "so. What are you doing TODAY?" question she'll ask you.
3. Laundry-trip: BE WARNED - this is a gateway "favour" - she will use this opportunity to check your pockets, examine stains and also turn you into a "user" so that you'll be back for more once you realize how awesome it is that your laundry is neatly folded and smells like love. This will also be used as trade for things she'll want or need, thus turning your relationship into a trade-for-trade scenario, rather than one of mutual respect and love.
4. The baby-trip: This consists of her telling you that anyone she may know or she's heard of, has had a baby boy or girl recently or will be having one, and she'll take this opportunity to (a) tell you how happy they are, (b) tell you how cute the baby is, (c) prove how little money it costs to actually have a baby, or (d) point out that if a loser like that can a have a kid, so can you.
Suggested response: See #2 in previous paragraph **
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