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How I Cope With My Mother: Lessons Learned From My Most Challenging Relationship

by Vishnu


Gawd, You'll never get anywhere singing like that!

Welcome back to my friend Razwana! Take it away amica mia

Sometimes whatever you do, it’s never enough.

You could sacrifice everything for your family, but it wouldn’t even scratch the surface.

The demands never end.

When my (clichéd) arranged marriage was over and I finally decided it was time to live my life, I announced to my mother that I was moving to London.  Now, the first generation British-Pakistani community do not care for women living independently.

A woman living alone means one of two things – you are either hiding something, or you’re a whore.  I fell into neither category. But the truth didn’t matter so much.  It’s what my actions appeared to say that was the problem.

So I had a decision to make.  Do I do what I want, or do what my mother wants?

I decided to use a bargaining chip so we both get what we want.

‘OK, mother. If I don’t move to London, I will move out of your house and live on my own, but in the same city.’

Only, that’s not quite what I did.

Yes, I moved to a house a couple of streets away so it was just close enough so that she wouldn’t feel too lonely. Was I right in doing that? No.

Then, I would go to my mum’s for dinner 5 nights a week. Was that enough? Never!

So I sacrificed seeing friends so I could spend time with my family. Did I gain acceptance? Nope.

Surely she could see I was trying to make her happy, right? Wrong again.

The worst part was that the circle of misery was going round and round – seeing her disappointed was making me unhappy, so the more I did, the worse it became.

It was decision time again.  This time I did make my move to London.  And it was magical.

I’d love to say that this was the catharsis that transformed our relationship, Hollywood movie style.

It wasn’t.

Over the years, I’ve accepted my position as the eternal-disappointment.  This is perhaps one of the most trying, emotional, destructive, difficult, time-consuming relationship, ever.  But it has evolved, and taught me a few things along the way….

When it’s all over, they are still family.

That blood that you share?  It’s there forever.  They are your family; the one’s you didn’t choose, but the ones that raised you. They fed you, they clothed you, and were there when you didn’t even know you existed.

This doesn’t mean you must now sacrifice everything for them, but it does mean respecting the fact that you have a history.  This may be the only thing that keeps you together, but if you were going to leave them, you would have done so by now, right?

What will other people think?

Yes, dearest, what WILL those people think?  Do you care?  Do your parents care?  The two perspectives are very different.

Know that when your parents ask what the neighbours will think of you, they are simply projecting their issues onto you.  THEY are scared of what the Iyer’s down the road will think of you.  They want the Khan’s next door to respect you because what you do reflects upon on them.

But it is not your problem.  It’s their problem.  Let them deal with their problem. 

Look forward like you’re looking back

Consider your life in 20, 30 or 40 years. How will it play out if you follow one path over another? Will you be happy because you did everything in your will to please your parents?

Didn’t think so.

And the irony is that when you get there and tell them you are unhappy, they will agree and question why you listened to them in the first place. 

And if you DO decide to succumb to the pressure and do what they want you to do, then accept the fact that you will spend the rest of your life living vicariously through TV shows.

Just make sure it’s worth it.

If you want them to be different, start with yourself

Do you want them to show that they love you?  Love them first.

Do you want them to show an interest in your life?  Show an interest in their life first.

As difficult as it sounds, give them what you want from them.  Don’t do so because you want them to reciprocate.  Do so because it’s what we do for the people we love.  And if you DO want them to reciprocate, try communicating it to them.

That’s right.


Talk to them, in a language they understand (!) and explain exactly what it is you want.

The honesty will be worth it.

Over to you — what’s the most difficult relationship in your life? How do you cope?

*Razwana Wahid leads a movement for anyone who, professionally and personally, has felt jaded, exhausted and dull; for anyone who’s forgotten what it feels like to come ALIVE, do work you LOVE. She blogs at www.yourworkisyourlife.com

Photo credit John Barnabas Leith