Rules, Conditions and Beliefs
The way a mother communicates, holds her child, tucks the bed corners in, cuts a sandwich or removes a stain will probably have been learned from her mother. We may continue to do things our mother taught us which are not helpful. As well as the practical teachings we also learn from her how to be a mother, daughter, sister, woman and caregiver. We may choose to follow her parenting style or completely go against it.
Almost half of the daughters who volunteered as case studies for my second book Mothers and Daughters , had mothers who were expected to help raise siblings as part of their duties as children. The unspoken message was there was something very selfish and impure about you if you did not want to be a hard-working wife and mother. Women who have broken away from the traditional daughter role have been frowned upon. Those daughters who chose to have careers and to stay single were cruelly called ‘old maids’ further impacting the beliefs about being a woman and who or what you could be or couldn’t be.
This highlights the changes in generations when women born in the early 1900s had much larger families and daughters were expected to help their mothers create a happy home for their fathers to return to. Quite often a, woman put a man’s needs first, before her own or, indeed her children’s. It is helpful to be aware how you may have learnt to put others ahead of yourself, believing that it’s wrong to make time for you, or say no to others’ demands.
Beverley Case Study
Beverley came to me for support with ill health, stress and exhaustion
Beverley shared with me she felt too guilty to sit down if things needed doing around the home, even after being at work all day it felt wrong for her to relax and take a breather. She spent no money on herself instead, buying lots for her children to somehow try and make up for the time she spent at work. Her mother had stayed at home so Beverley believed it was wrong to work outside the home although as a single mother she had to work for money. This conflict caused her extreme anguish and she questioned her ability to be a ‘good enough’ mother.
When we explored Beverley’s beliefs, she realised she was being unrealistic and quite hard on herself. Her father had provided financially for her family when she was a child and her mother had the help of herself and her older siblings to care for the younger family members. Beverley was now living in a different era with very little support from the father of her child or from family or friends and it was not possible for her to provide for her children in the same ways.
In our work together, Beverley was able to re-frame her beliefs about how much of herself she could realistically give to her family. Beverley realised in comparison, her mother’s family was much larger than her own and were on hand to offer help, her mother also had financial support from her father and the support from women in the extended neighbourhood as well as siblings caring for each other. She was able to cut herself some slack by creating new beliefs about her role as a mother and also as a woman independent of her children. She was able to enjoy life more and looked forward to taking some regular time out to rest and relax. In addition to our work together, Beverley learnt to ask for the help of her family to babysit and joined new groups where other single mothers talked over their concerns and also offer each other emotional and practical support. Beverley also invested in some after- school and holiday play schemes, when she was able to take time out away from her family, have time for herself and her personal interests.
Exploring your beliefs as Beverley did, understanding why they were formed, where they come from and how they might be hindering you rather than helping you, will serve you well. Updating your beliefs to those which are more realistic will support you further. Just because your mother had certain beliefs and may have done things in a particular way, doesn’t mean you have to follow in her footsteps.
Questioning your limiting beliefs will be one of the best methods of healing you can give to yourself. When you find a limiting belief popping into your head or out of your mouth, ask yourself the following:
What is it I believe to be true in this situation?
Is this my belief or one which was handed down to me?
How far back along my female timeline does this belief go?
How does this belief help me achieve my goals?
Up to now, how has having the belief limited me?
If this belief isn’t helpful, how can I change it to one which serves me better?
Knowing I can change any of my beliefs about myself, my mother and how to live my life, what else am I choosing to change?
Recognising my actions and behaviours which support these beliefs, what do I need to start doing, stop doing, or do differently?
What’s the one thing I can do today which supports new and healthy beliefs?
Elizabeth’s Words of Wisdom
‘‘I’m not certain my mother enjoyed her role as mother; she never indicated this to be true. Like her mother before her she was obsessed with cleaning. There were so many rules and conditions around keeping things clean and tidy and it took the fun out of playing. In fact I don’t remember playing with my mother at all. Creativity and play is important as a child and I regret not having more freedom to have fun with my mother. There’s nothing I enjoy more than playing with mud pies with my children, getting dirt between our toes and laughing at the tops of our voices.’’
It is our interpretation of the past, our limiting beliefs, and our undigested pain that stops us from being able to move forward with clear direction - Debbie Ford
Excerpts taken from Mothers and Daughters: The guide to understanding and transforming the relationship with your mother