I am a mother. But that’s not the ‘mothering’ I want to talk about. It’s the one of other people. Because, it’s what I do. It’s what I’ve always done. I ‘mother’ people. It’s quite close to the word ‘smother’, and I guess that could be somewhat accurate too.
When I was younger, my Mum was my source of comfort. If I hurt myself or was sick, it was Mum who looked after me. Mum provided the answers when I couldn’t understand why someone said something awful to me etc. Mum was the one who built me up and made me feel better. Mum is always there for me, even now. Mum was the one who did everything for me and my siblings – cooking, cleaning, etc (not a good thing in hindsight).
Stories from my childhood include myself ‘speaking for’ my younger brother so often that he couldn’t get a word in, to the point he eventually hit me in the head with a hammer out of frustration. When I was 7 years onwards (she’s 6 years younger) I was giving my baby sister bottles, changing her nappy and putting her to bed whilst my parents worked (on the same property). I always had other people’s kids with me at functions. I loved kids, I think I was drawn to their ‘helplessness’ because they were so little.
During school I was drawn to the kids who had unstable home lives. I couldn’t understand their lives but I was fascinated by them. You don’t live with both parents? Your parents fight? Your Dad is in jail? What’s a step or half sibling? Fascinated. And also saddened. Sad because they didn’t have a family like mine. I don’t know that they were ‘sad’ but I felt it for them. Like I needed to protect them.
Same in high school. My best friend had an awful history of abuse. She’d get drunk and be all over boys, I pulled her out of some situations I wouldn’t like to see anyone in. We actually stopped being friends a few years ago now because we were out at a pub and she got into an argument with a male and I stepped in to calm her down, and she turned on me and said some nasty things. She’s never apologised, I don’t believe I did the wrong thing.
I’ve always felt a level of protection for people. That could be an ‘oldest sibling’ thing – I’m not sure. But if I care about you, you can bet I don’t want to see you hurt. Like a Mum. Like my Mum. When someone tells me their life story, and it’s awful, I find I am in awe of their resilience but I also feel like I need to wrap them in cotton wool and protect them. I think I have a bit of a ‘saviour complex‘.
When something stirs me emotionally I find it very hard to disconnect from it – or them. I could never be a successful psychologist because it’s really hard for me to detach. I emotionally invest, every time. But I’m investing a reflection of their emotions which have become mine. I cut myself off from people when I’m ‘down’, but I almost invite people to load their ‘down’ onto me. I can’t leave distressed alone.
I’ve always thought this was strength. But it can’t be, can it? Whilst it’s great to help people, if you’re left dealing with the emotional fallout and they’ve moved on, you’ve done yourself a disservice there. If you’re helping someone and at the end you’re angry because they didn’t take your advice or you’re angry because you don’t feel appreciated, then you haven’t really been helping them for ‘them’, you’ve been doing it for gratification – and that’s not the right reason to help someone.
Whilst I think I’ve been ‘mothering’ people I believe ‘good mothers’ give advice with the hope their ‘child’ makes the right decision for themselves and then she supports them regardless of their choices. Like my Mum did. That’s where I sort of fall down. I feel like I generally have the answers to friend’s problems or can point them in the right direction, and I struggle to see why they can’t see it. Seems so obvious to me. And it does piss me off, I’m not going to lie! If there’s a problem I can be like a dog with a bone – I’m not letting go of it until I’ve finished with it.
I know what I do comes from the right place inside of me, I know it. It’s not meant to be manipulative and it’s certainly not callous, but it’s like most things in my life – all or nothing. I generally don’t do things by halves – unless it’s house work, and that’s a whole other story.
Just thinking out loud, writing it down as I go, hoping no one is offended by my ramblings.
Image credit: http://magspace.ru/blog/oboi/221315.html