FEB 07, 2023 AT 08:18 AM
Under normal circumstances, we love our parents and they love us. They brought us into the world, and usually, they leave before we do. Family dynamics can be challenging at the best of times, and there are many ups and downs.
Despite the connections we feel with our parents and siblings, our relationships with them change as we grow older. Our caregivers, become our elders, and often dependants, and our siblings grow from playmates, through adolescent squabbles, to our friends, confidants, our biggest fans, and critics as we grow to adulthood.
Mothers, in particular, are the ones we feel closest to. They have taken care of us from before birth. We shared her body for nine months, she fed us, bathed us, and took care of our bumps and bruises.
Was there during school sports matches and dance recitals to cheer us on. She may have given up something of her own, to help us realize our dreams. So why is it that as she grows older, and the generation gap seems to widen, we may not enjoy her company anymore?
Over the years, family dynamics, along with the way we live in general, have changed. For decades, life was lived in the slow and then the middle lane. Since the '80s and '90s, we are caught up in the fast lane. In our parent's and grandparents' times, although general living was, at times, harder, they were able to stop, learn and move on. In our crazy-paced lives, time is a commodity that is in such demand that not one minute can be spared to 'smell the roses'.
Mental health experts are constantly advocating taking time out to relax, unwind and recover. Our parents do not understand this fast-paced life, and in return, we become irritated or annoyed with them for forcing us to slow down while we are with them. How many young adults, executives, and business people have told their parents that they do not have the time to sit down and have a cup of coffee or tea and chat?
Everything is done on the go. We travel, eat, work on our laptops, and take phone calls, all at the same time. At night, we hardly have the energy to have a decent meal and watch TV or read a book. But we get things done, we tell ourselves. But at what cost?
With the extremely fast pace that information and other technology are evolving, it is understandable that the older generation is starting to fall behind. When they were growing up, telephones were fixed to a place in the house, and writing letters, postcards, notes, or gifts and Christmas cards were the ways to send and receive written correspondence. Now we have the internet, email, various computer programs, and apps that do a mind-boggling amount of what our parents did by hand.
Parent and Children Emotional Bond
The bonds between human parents and their children are lifelong. Unlike most other living creatures in the wild, once the nurturing phase is over, there is often little or no interaction between parents and their offspring. We remain important in the lives of our children and grandchildren, and even our great-grandchildren.
This emotional bond can be both positive and negative. On one hand, being with our parents even as adults strengthen the family bond, but reality also shows us that a once dynamic person is aging, and with that, they may start losing physical and mental capabilities. We are reminded of our mortality.
Guilt and Remorse
On Quora, Mary Anderson brought up some good points about why we may feel depressed after spending time with our parents. A feeling of guilt may plague us especially if one of them is alone. Our mothers frequently outlive our fathers. We worry that she misses us and we feel guilty about enjoying our lives away from her. If you were a difficult teenager or the relationship was strained while you were growing up, you may also feel sad or remorseful about that.
The Meddling Mother
Of course, not all parents will gracefully allow their adult children to live their own lives. Mothers, in particular, may be meddling, passive-aggressive, or try and come between their children and their significant others.
If she constantly tries to make you feel bad for leaving her alone or 'out of the action', deserting her, or not having time for her, it is no wonder we may feel down after spending time with her.
The Extended Family
Do you have a black sheep in the family? It may be a sibling, cousin, or even your father. No doubt your mother knows all the details of their mistakes and has her own strongly worded view on the matter.
As your Mom may not feel comfortable talking about family matters outside of the family, you may be her sounding board. It is very difficult to keep neutral when your mother is ranting on about the bad behavior of another family member.
Line Therapy makes note that no family is perfect. Unlike our friends, whom we choose, we are stuck with the family we have. Provided a family is not toxic, disagreements and differences help us grow in acceptance, empathy, and consideration.
To a large extent, how we are brought up shapes us into the adults we are. The relationships we have with our parents and siblings help to form the expectations we have in life. We may carry negative thought patterns until we can recognize them and work to change them.
How to Fix This?
There are various ways to improve relationships within a family group, but both or all parties need to agree somewhat. The first and most important thing to do would be to open up about your feelings about spending time with them. You can sit down with your mother, and have an honest discussion. Tell her that you do not enjoy her company when she starts complaining, being needy, or guilt-tripping you. It is possible that she may not even know that you feel this way.
If she refuses to see your point of view, keep your visits short and the moment she starts with bad behavior, make an excuse to leave. If she values you in her life, that may be the push she needs to keep your visits pleasant. Enlist the help of a sibling, who no doubt feels the same way you do, and speak to her together.
Another option is to make plans outside of the home. Take her out for lunch, to see a show, or into the country, and keep the visit interesting and active. This should help her stay off the topic of what your brother did this time. If this is impossible due to mobility or medical reasons, bring a book or some photo albums, and read to her or take her on a virtual trip down memory lane. Chances are she will enjoy telling you about her activities back then.
Family relationships are complicated and as we age, these relationships may become strained especially when a parent is no longer able to be as active and independent as they once were. Modern technology is progressing at such a rapid rate that our elders are being left behind. Old hurts and toxicity within family units can shape us into who we are today.
To improve these relationships we need to address our own feelings and make it known that you will not tolerate bad behavior. Try and keep visits short and interesting. Our parents won't be with us forever, so we should try to make these last years count.