Mothers and daughters relationships are complicated. We love each other, we hate each other, we want to be closer and we can’t stand being smothered. What we want and what we have don’t always add up for us or if it adds up it doesn’t feel like we thought it would. We often have anger mixed with love and joy surrounded by disappointment. Like I said it is complicated, very complicated.
Look at Heidi Montag and her mom Darlene Egelhoff. The headlines that read, “My mom looked at me like a zoo animal after my plastic surgery” are so sad but what I find important is that Heidi — at 23 — did all these surgeries without even talking to her mom beforehand. And this wasn’t the first time in Heidi’s young life she made major decisions with out sharing them with her mom first. She eloped with Spencer Pratt in November 2008 without telling anyone in her family (she was then married in a legal ceremony, with her parents attending, after that). Darlene said she believed it was the biggest mistake Heidi’s ever made. Her mom also feared that Spencer was manipulating her daughter for his own gain.
As a mom, what do you do when your grown daughter makes poor choices for herself? How do you handle your fear for them and your anger at them so you can maintain a relationship and a connection that will hopefully weather any storm? First, you need to understand they are adults and will make decisions without you — but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a voice anymore. What it does mean is you have to be savvy with how you use it.
It can be so painful to watch our grown children make mistakes, especially ones we know will come back to bite them in the future. In the case of Heidi’s mom, it seems they have a dynamic set up already that cycles like this: Child is fearful of judgment of parent, so avoids contact and does not reach out to process big decisions. Parent is informed of said action and makes BIG judgments and reinforces Child’s belief that avoidance is best because there is no understanding coming from Parent. This cycle will continue — and I bet has been going on between Heidi and her mom Darlene from early adolescence if not before.
So what is a parent to do? You need to tell them what you think NOT what to do. You need to be respectful of them and their decisions and let them know you will love them no matter what, but you have some concerns that you want to share with them. You must talk to them like a grown up and as an equal. If you speak to them like an adult they may respond in a more adult manner as well. Each of these challenging moments is also about laying the necessary groundwork to have a reciprocal respectful relationship with your growing children. They may not listen to your concerns this time, but if you come from love and mutual respect you can at least trust they will come back to you in the future. None of us want to be in position of Heidi’s mom, where her young adult daughter is making major life decisions without at least sharing them with her first.