My 22-year-old daughter refuses to call me “Mom” anymore and announced, prior to Mother’s Day, that she would not celebrate the holiday with me. I am heartbroken over this, but I admit that I was not around much during her childhood. Her father had custody of her, and I tried to see her as often as I could, but other circumstances got in the way. I have called her repeatedly to try to apologize for my past behavior and to beg her to give me another chance to be a mom to her, but now she won’t even return my calls.
Your daughter is simply giving you an opportunity to practice being a “mom.” When a child is having a tantrum, a mature adult doesn’t beg and plead. After all, you can’t negotiate with chaos, right? So stop trying to manipulate yourself into believing that the title of “Mom” is vital to your self-esteem. And stop trying to manipulate your daughter into building up your self-esteem by granting you a title. She doesn’t have to call you Mom for you to behave according to the qualities the culture associates with motherhood. Be understanding of her choice, accept where she is in her life and love her as is. In the meantime, get into counseling so that you can heal the idea that you were a bad mama in the past. That belief compels you into desperately trying to be good in an attempt to make up for those lost years. This compulsion locks you in the past, always feeing guilty for what you have done and missing invitations to be present, genuine and loving right now.
When I was self-employed, I operated a business that was unsuccessful, but I was genuinely happy. These feelings extended well beyond my workday, so that whenever I encountered other people, it seemed that I always acted from the best of myself: kind, understanding, patient. I am no longer self-employed. Although I don’t have the stress of wondering if I will make enough to pay bills and I am free from the occasional loneliness, I’m no longer a nice person. I’m impatient and irritable, especially outside of work. I need this job, but I want to lighten up and enjoy life and other people again. What is the matter with me?
You are struggling under the tyranny of your oppressive beliefs about authority. Unconsciously, you imagine that being employed but not signing your own paycheck means you are enslaved by the whims of others. While it’s true that some workplaces are badly managed, most workplaces are adequately managed. You might run things differently, perhaps even more compassionately and efficiently. But real transformation requires visionaries. Since few human beings invest in the skills necessary to birth self-awareness or the values required for solid decision-making or the interior silence necessary to be creative or the capacity to embrace others as containing brokenness and brilliance, visionaries are scarce. Add the basic requirements of good management, like the ability to communicate, motivate, delegate and manage, and it’s easy to see why any workplace would fall short of its potential: because human beings do.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you should trudge to work like a droid. Instead, begin to see your workplace as yours. Yes, that means you report to yourself. Are you the best employee you can be, regardless of the circumstances? Look back at the skill set that can change a workplace, roll up your sleeves and pour your energy into developing those capabilities. Engaging in reflection and adjustment on a regular basis will assist you in shedding the stockpiled resentment that bleeds out as crankiness in your interactions with others.