Psychologists and psychotherapists have known for decades that who our grandmothers were and what they experienced has an affect on us. We now have scientific proof for this, thanks to advances in epigenetics.
However, what I’m going to write about today is more to do with how your grandparents parented your mother, and how that can be useful to think about if you’re struggling in your relationship with your mother.
Our relationships with our mothers is understandably complex – you only have to look at the number of different theories there are about the mother-infant relationship to see that it’s something that fascinates us and we know that there is something incredibly important in it. As an adult, we are often able to make a good-enough kind of peace with our mothers, even if that involves moving to the other side of the world.
However, becoming a mother yourself can often raise issues about your relationship with your mother that you had thought were laid to rest, or at least you knew how to cope with them.
An odd paradox is that often when you’re becoming a mother you are also very much like a child in that you need other people much more than you might normally do and you feel more emotionally at sea. It’s at times like this when your own relationship with your mother might be thrown up into the air again.
It can be even more complicated if your mother isn’t there any more, or if you are estranged.
One of the things that a couple of women I’ve been working with have brought up with me in the last week is that they can both see that their mothers were the way they were with them (these women), because of the way they (their mothers) were parented by their own mothers (their grandmothers). They felt very upset by the way that their mothers had been treated and were able to understand why that had had an impact on the way their mothers treated them.
And this brought them a kind of relief, because this allowed them to acknowledge that they had different resources to change things, that hadn’t been available to their mothers. And it enabled them to feel more compassionate towards their mothers (whilst not diminishing the impact that their mothers had on them).
So if you are struggling in your relationship with your mother, I was wondering if it might be helpful to learn more about the impact of your grandparents on your own mother. I want to add the caveat that this is not to ‘excuse’ anyone, but rather to give you greater insight into why your mother is the way she is, which can sometimes make it easier to be able to create some sort of relationship with her (even if it’s in your own heart).
If you enjoyed reading this, you might be interested in reading this post about why counselling can be useful when you’re pregnant. You might also be interested in getting my monthly emails, which are a mixture of thoughts for mothers, resources, competitions and other things I think might be interesting or useful.