Sometimes cleaning the slate isn’t quite enough. Sometimes we are better off trying to get to the root of an issue so we can stop it from growing. Otherwise we engage in constant editing, constant erasing, constant weed pulling.
Before I go into what I mean here, I want to be sure to write that I love my mother, and I hope what I write here communicates this. But my childhood was not a happy one, and the facts of that are too important to gloss over. The lessons here are too needed today. But I do love her, dearly.
When we were growing up (I am the oldest of three siblings) our mother was a very difficult, demanding, and critical woman. To be honest, there were times when she was the source of a lot of pain in our lives, in my life. I don’t want to get into details because the details have been forgiven.
The thing I love the most about my mother is that she changed. She was nearing 60 when she realized how her behavior towards us had been hurtful and made up her mind to be better. And for the most part, she has lived up to that promise.
But I can only imagine the constant struggle that is, because unfortunately, she’s never dealt with the root of the problem: her bitter resentment at having responsibilities. She doesn’t even see it as a problem.
If you’ve seen the movie “Parenthood” (not the TV show) you might recall a scene at the beginning where Steve Martin’s role is being played by a child as he recalls being at a Cardinals baseball game. He’s talking to the usher about what his father is like, and says that he views parenting as “a prison, rather than a playground.” That would sum up my mom.
She communicated this in all kinds of subtle, yet effective, ways when I was a kid. I had a host of things I was almost never allowed to do because it meant having to clean up afterwards. I had paints I wasn’t allowed to paint with, legos I wasn’t allowed to play with, she wouldn’t even buy a light bright. The focus was always on the responsibility that came with something, never the joy.
I really notice this as her grandchildren are now entering adulthood. Her constant commentary on their lives is, “They have their whole life to work, their whole life to be married, to have kids, they’re so young…”
When I was a teenager I desperately wanted a job. I wanted that feeling of pride of contribution and earning money. But I wasn’t allowed to get one. My mom’s reason was, “You have your whole life to work, just enjoy being young right now” (this implies my mother was concerned about me enjoying my life but trust me, at the time that was not the case). My point is that there is an insidious message hidden in this kind of thinking: that adulthood and responsibility is not a source of joy. That anything that comes to us by way of obligation is devoid of joy.
This is the root she planted in me that I have been working to weed out. See, she never has taken any joy in raising children, or paying bills, going to work, or keeping a home. She doesn’t take joy in paying for the water she drinks, showers in, and let’s her wash her clothes. She doesn’t take joy in the air conditioning and heat that keeps her comfortable. She doesn’t take joy in paying for her home and almost 2 acres of land (that could be quite beautiful).
This lack of gratitude comes out in some interesting ways. She has a very nice property, but she plants no gardens, doesn’t have a pretty lawn, or show it any love in any way. Often times it doesn’t even get mowed until the city threatens her with a fine. Same with the house. When I was 17, and my parents were still married, they built an addition onto our home. I’m almost 47 and it still isn’t done. She resents having to spend money on it. And most of all, she can’t make a decision about how she wants it, and she can’t embrace a decision once she has. Because then she is responsible for that choice.
Why am I writing about this as a branding expert? Well, mindset issues are a huge part of success as an entrepreneur, and about 90% of my audience are small business owners. And this idea that being a grown up with responsibilities is some sort of drag is a huge problem.
If you receive my newsletter, you know that my January theme is “tabula rasa” which is Latin for “clean slate.” This is part of my overall intention for 2019, which is “wholeness”, to show up at all times and in all places as authentically me. And rooting out this bitter poison is necessary to do this.
I can’t imagine how hard it is for my mother on an everyday basis to maintain her outer kindness when inside she is still filled with these bitter thoughts. She is the only grandmother I know that hates to babysit. But then, this leads me to a short little anecdote of why I do love her so much.
My mother, daughter, and I were coming home from a baby shower about 3 years ago. My daughter was probably 12 at the time. She is already thinking about things like how much college should she complete before she gets married, how many years should she be working before she has kids, etc., and my mother said the oddest thing to her. She said, “You’ll never have to worry about having kids interfering with your career because if there was ever a grandmother that will love watching her grandkids, it will be your mom.” And then she looked at me with such tenderness and pride. She knows. She knows parenting is a playground for me, not a prison. She knows I love even the hard stuff because it means I am a mom when I’m doing hard things.
As you get to know me better, you’ll find out how this bitter root was removed from me when it comes to parenting. And trust me, it was the hard way. Now I’m rooting it out when it comes to all the other wonderful things about being an adult.
Honestly, I didn’t realize this was even an issue for me until last year. I signed up for a Money Mindset course (this IS an affiliate link, so yes, if you sign up I get a percentage but it does not cost extra for you). I realized that by resenting the bills I pay instead of appreciating what they pay FOR, I was creating subconscious blocks that kept me from having money. That realization has been a huge shift for me.
Can you see how it all ties together? Don’t play with things that make a mess no matter how much you love it. Don’t get a job, then you can’t enjoy life. Don’t have more money because it just means bill paying. Enough already!
And it matters so much. Because we have stopped being invested in things that matter. We don’t truly invest in our families, our churches, our communities, or even our country anymore. All we see are the flaws, the mistakes. And investing in that would be too much actual WORK. And that mindset all starts with a parent out there who thinks it ruined their life to have kids and be responsible for them. Or some adult who resents having to get a job and pay their own way in the world.
I know people fall on hard times and need help. I have been one of those people! That’s not my focus here. My focus is that we live in a world that is always giving us messages that we should dislike being a grown ass person. We’re only “living” when we drive the fast car, drink the cold beer, or wear the newest clothes. You know what? I am living when I sit down to do the work I enjoy and brings an income to my family, and value to my clients. I am living when I write a check to the power company. I am living when I send an invoice. I am living when I do my laundry and put it away. I am living when I make my bed (ok, I’m still working on that one).
We all need to let loose once in awhile. I get that. Every year on our anniversary, my husband and I go to this famous local place, “Fast Eddie’s Bon Air” for lunch and linger all afternoon. If you are under 21, you can’t even get in. We love it. No kids. No work. Our phones don’t even get service inside. It’s glorious. And I always get something alcoholic to drink. And my daughter goes and spends the night at my mom’s. Ben (my husband) and I need that. It is part of our self-care and relationship care. But it’s all of these things working together that lead to a life worth living. A life I’m proud of living.
My mother only sees the obligation, so she has yet to be able to really surrender to the joy that children bring into your life. The sweetness of having them fall asleep on you. That warm trusting way their little fingers curl in your hair. All she sees is that she can’t be doing something else. What is it she’s missing out on? Who knows. It’s nothing specific. She’s just positive she’s missing something because she’s “tied down”.
I’m sad for her. She is obviously a good woman deep down, or she wouldn’t be so proud of me for loving being a mom the way I do. And she is certainly missing “something.” But that something is the joy of the moment. The joy that comes from seeing the return on your emotional investment. The joy that comes from committing to something that matters.
So go commit to something. Anything. Join a community group and invest in your town. Join a church and invest in your faith. Create that business you’ve always wanted and invest in yourself. Have that baby. Marry that person! Don’t focus on the “work” it will be. Don’t let the hard keep you from the good.
When you realize the joy that comes from being a grown up, you’ll realize it’s pretty freaking awesome.