Complex feelings after Mother’s Day…


I feel like I need a vacation after this Mother’s Day weekend. My husband put up a valiant effort to make it special: Starting with flowers on Friday (totally not expected!) and a new Moleskine on Sunday (totally asked for). He took care of the babies, all day every day, and I even got out of the house for drinks and lunch twice this weekend. I woke up on Sunday and made my own breakfast (I wanted eggs benedict and homefries, two dishes that my husband could probably manage, but with issues…), and then we packed up the boys to drive the hour to get to my mother’s house. She wanted to get her feet done, and treated me to a pedicure as well. The boys, not knowing that it was Mother’s Day weekend, were high energy, highly snotty (thanks, tree pollen), and a little grumpy (thanks, teething!).

I don’t know if I can fully articulate the complexity of the relationship with my mother. I want to say that we are similar, and thus are relationship is tenuous. Maybe there is a strange mutual admiration and yet criticism between us that makes the relationship tense? Perhaps its because both of us are anxious people who over think our interactions with others, thus we have put our relationship under an unnecessary scrutiny? I don’t know what makes our relationship odd. But it is. I don’t know if i would always call it warm–it isn’t coldI know that she loves me….I just don’t necessarily think that my mother likes me. I think that when she chooses to hang out with me, it’s an effort on her part. Like there are just things that she’d rather be doing, or things that she rather I’d be/talk about.

I know that I’ve made decisions in my life that have made my mother uncomfortable. The first probably being bringing my all American White Boy home in high school as a serious candidate for my affection. I remember her and her friend sitting down with me and telling me that dating him wasn’t necessarily the next thing for me. Indeed, one of them said “White doesn’t always equal right.” I remember going down to the HBCU that I attended for freshman year, and how much I hated it, and how much she didn’t want to hear it (my mother and father both graduated from that HBCU). I remember the day that I got my acceptance letter to UMBC, how happy I was that I was going to be able to transfer. My mother said the meanest words that she’s ever said to me before or since:

“You know, [Kay], you’ve been avoiding Black people all of your life. You never toko an Afro-American History class, you’ve never done anything to learn about your people. You need to stay down there and learn what it means to be a Black person.”

It was hard to know that my mother just didn’t respect my experience, my narrative, my decision.

and then I was a senior at UMBC and got into Harvard, I called my mother as soon as I got the email.

“Why?” She asked. “Why do that if you are just going to be a teacher?”

She then told me that she wasn’t going to pay for it. I told her that was fine, that I’d figure that out on my own.

I moved in with the same All American White Boy that had stuck with me all the way though undergrad. We had a great year together here in Boston.

and he presented me with a ring the Monday after I graduated with my master’s degree. I called my mother.


The only time that my mother has ever had a sincerely happy reaction to a milestone/decision in my life was when I told her I was pregnant with Ursa Major. She hugged me close and cried.

It is hard to live a life that you know only half pleases your mother. I know that she loves me, and that there is pride in there…but pride doesn’t mean “liking.” I think that, to a degree, I embarrass my mother. When I tell her that I enrolled Ursa Major in an all White school, she simply says “well, you made that decision.” and then she says “if you want to move back to Maryland, where it’s diverse, you’re young enough to do that. You can make decisions because you’re still young.”

There are also the not subtle hints, like “when you go back to work, you’ll feel better.”

Operative word: When.

I don’t fully know where I am going with this. There is a lot of talk this week about us Millennials and our issues. That we’re over confident, that we’re lazy, that we’re coddled. The great irony of these criticisms is that whatever we Millennials are, we’re a result of the generation who chose to birth and raise us.  We’re a direct reflection of the parenting choices 0f the generations that came before. I don’t want my mother to affirm every decision that I’ve ever made, nor do I want her to call me princess and hold my hand. I just think that sometimes older folks forget to say “I don’t always like everything you do, but I trust that you are making good decisions that work for your life.”

It would make these seemingly pleasant interactions, like getting a pedicure and trying to talk about our lives, a little less strained. I want to admire my mother and garner wisdom from her as we both get older and our relationship continues to change. I understand that one day I’m going to have to be the dutiful daughter taking care of her mother. I’d love to do it out of an abundance of love and respect and admiration, not simply because it’s “the right thing to do.”

The mother-daughter relationship is dynamic. I feel like we’ve had much happier stages and much more contentious stages (the teenage years were awful. I can’t believe that we both survived). It may very well be that in a year or two our relationship will change again. I am often jealous of other women who I know that go off on trips with their mothers, go shopping with them, often lunch or coffee with them…women who seem to have airtight relationships with their mothers. I’ve never had that. I don’t think that I ever will. I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t need that kind of relationship with my mother, but I think that I’d like a better one than what I have. I don’t know if it is just that we are in weird spaces in my life, or if it simply is that, if we were not related by blood, that I’m not the kind of person that my mother wouldn’t choose to hang out with.

And that’s a hard thing to wonder.

If we were acquaintances, would I be the person who mom would passively aggressively avoid? You know, ignore my call/texts, always have come up when we make a commitment to get together? What does that say about who we are and where we are? What will this mean for my relationships with my sons as they grow older? Is this the reason why I’m so nervous about trying for a daughter? Do mothers, generally, not like their daughters after a certain age?

An odd way to start my bloggy week, but this is what I’m thinking about today…

9 Comments Add yours

  1. Amber Perea says:

    My mom and I had a tough relationship growing up, albeit for very different reasons. She wanted me to be something that I never was because of a number on a chart. You see, I scored ridiculously high on an IQ test when I was young so she thought that that meant I was going to be a doctor or a lawyer and go to Harvard like most of her family did.

    I never -ever- wanted any of that.

    School and academic pursuits came easily to me but held little-to-no personal interest. So, we fought. We fought almost constantly. I went to state school. We fought. I wanted to pursue Psychology instead of the research field. We fought. I decided to take a few years off because I wasn’t interested in pursuing my PhD. We fought. I felt like I was always failing her but just couldn’t bring myself to live my life for her, either.

    Something about me being a mom brought her this tremendous joy, though, and as soon as I told her I was engaged and pregnant, she was ecstatic and we had a beautifully close relationship after that. Then she passed away when Jp was two weeks old. In fact, someone once told me that he was a preemie so she could see him before she passed.

    Find the thing, the one thing, that breaks down the complexity between the two of you. I wish I had some time back, more than anything I could ever wish for. I wish y’all luck and love. Mothers and daughters have a difficult road, but in the end, they really are the ones that are in our corner the most. Even if their wants for us get in the way of our relationships.

    1. K.C. Wise says:

      Thank you so much for sharing this, Amber. I know that you are right, that this time is precious, that we just never know. It’s hard to the initiative when you don’t know what direction to go in. I feel like the babies have made us closer…but we’re still at arms length. It’s a sad space to be in, and I hope I can crack the code some day. I can’t tell if this is a way that women try to empower their daughters. You know, a boot-them-out-the-nest kind of method…

      1. Amber Perea says:

        I know this sounds crazy…but have you ever considered letting her read your blog? She is obviously worried that you have lost touch with your heritage. But I read your blog and know that is the farthest thing from the truth. Maybe she just needs to know that from your heart.

    2. K.C. Wise says:

      I’m usually the first person to love a good radical idea….and I appreciate this one. But the thought of it scares me to no end. I feel like it would totally change the entire tenor of the blog if I knew that family members were reading it. While I know that there are identifiable things about me that are all over this blog, I’ve taken measures to make it so that I at least feel like I’m anonymous enough to right how I really feel and what I’m really thinking. I realize that this is naivete–if there was someone really looking for me, they’d probably be able to easily find me–nonetheless, the placebo effect works. If I invited my mother to read this blog and KNEW that she’d be reading it, this blog would turn rainbows and sunshine -immediately-!

      1. Amber Perea says:

        I feel you on that. No one reads my blog that knows me, either. Do you discuss the same things that you talk about here to her?

    3. K.C. Wise says:

      I try to, but sometimes in a more guarded way–I value my mother’s opinion and I know her tastes and annoyances, so there is often editing that is happening. There is also the editing that happens due to reaction–the faces she makes, the comments she makes, the follow-up questions….with a blog, you don’t get that kind of reaction. With a blog as young as mine (and with a very small, but happily consistent, group of readers), I don’t feel like I need to edit for potential offense because I don’t know the tastes of everyone who reads my blog. You either choose to read my blog or you pass me up.

      That being said, I’ve learned that I get more of a response when I talk about race and parenting rather than pure politics, so I’ll think about that in future posts… so I guess editing is already starting to happen…

      1. Amber Perea says:

        Oh, never edit, I certainly never do!

        I just wonder if she knows how proud you are of who you are and the struggles that you face raising bi-racial children. Sometimes a mom just wants to hear she was right. Mine did! But I don’t presume to know her, or your relationship. Just a thought…

  2. Sometimes I wonder if all mothers and daughters have issues. I know that my relationship is strained as well. I am so much like her in so many ways, and in other ways, so completely different. What keeps me up at night is the relationship I am forming with my daughter. I want her to not have mommy issues, but it seems like they all do!! Glad you had a nice mother’s day!

    1. K.C. Wise says:

      I think that part of the reason why I prayed so hard for boys is that I didn’t want to deal with this odd cycle of the mother/daughter relationship. I don’t want to burden her with my anxieties and self-esteem issues. I wonder if we project a lot of our “what ifs” on our children? I think that my mom views my staying at home with my sons as a comment on her own motherhood. I think that she takes it personally. But it really has nothing to do with her, and if anything, I try to honor her through my mothering. But i think that she tells herself “if I had stayed home with my children…” whenever I get to complaining about this or that. I don’t know I wish that I had an answer. The fact that you are thinking about it probably means that your lovely little girl won’t have the same issues that other women do. It must be so hard to draw the line between mother and best friend. I don’t know where the happy median is. Maybe there isn’t one?

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