Since the holiday season has started, I felt it was time for this post. Hopefully, this is more of a generational question that is working it’s way out of our society I hope, but in case it isn’t, no time like the present!
This is an occasional issue that my clients & friends in their mid-forties and up will mention, I’ve rarely heard it from younger people, that dreaded question that gets asked by parents, especially moms.
“I am/was a good parent, right?” How many people just cringed reading these words? I know I did, just writing them.
For many of us, answering that question involves one of three responses:
1. Lie- since telling the truth, would drag up more issues and hurt feelings than you or the person asking the question honestly want to deal with and the possible questions that may follow.
2. Tell the truth-if you are lucky you had/have good parents and being honest can be a positive outcome for both of you.
3. Avoid answering the question-which can be a safe alternative if you don’t want to lie and the truth may not always set you free.
Yes, I have had to deal with that question about ten years ago with my own mom and when she asked, it caught me off guard. My relationship with my parents has always been rocky, we aren’t close and never will have that type of relationship. What caught me off guard wasn’ t necessarily the question itself but a conversation I had with one of my clients earlier that week. Our conversation was about this very same question and how to deal with handling your answer and response.
The previous weekend my client had a visit with their mom and out of the blue, the question was asked. Never close to their mother, the awkwardness of both the question and how to answer, along with the whole uncomfortableness of the situation, had unsettled my client. Being embarrassed, they hesitated to answer and then stated, ” yes, you were a good mom.”
As the client told me about the incident, they further stated that they were bothered by the whole encounter, since they lied but also knew their mom couldn’t handle the truth and didn’t want to deal with the hurt feelings and fallout from their siblings if the truth had been stated.
Another issue that had my client uncomfortable, was the why this question would ever be asked in the first place? Which is a very good question. My only answers were that mom’s self esteem was lacking/still not a reason to ASK this question or/and possibly playing the guilt trip game (see my prior post “Guilt is not an emotion”).
The lies that we sometimes tell to spare family whether we are close to them or not is always a slippery slope. Do I tell the truth to get it off my chest? Do I lie to spare myself & the person asking the question an answer that probably isn’t pretty? Along with the fallout from others when it is found out what was said, no matter how you choose to answer this question. Or do I choose to refuse to answer the question, a third choice that is as valid as the first two options.
The other issue that this brings to the forefront is the question itself. Healthy self esteem is based on your own perception of self and should never defined by others in your life. Least all, putting that burden on your children, no matter their age & seeking validation where it shouldn’t be sought.
Healthy self esteem is based on a belief in oneself. Positive kudos from others is icing on the cake. But we should never go seeking it out from friends, families and others. It’s a difficult and often an unfair position that we put others in and once put in that spot it can change relationships forever. You may get lucky and get a positive response, but there are never any guarantees. I often tell people, if you ask a question, you must be prepared for the answer no matter what you will hear and be willing to accept what is said.
So, how did I respond to my mom? I was very shocked and angered by the question, to say the least. I stood there for a moment, with a shocked look on my face and walked away. Some issues are best left alone and for me that ship had sailed many decades ago. People might say I took the cowards way out, but some conversations are just not worth having or revisiting.