My living room was filled with generations of mom-archetypes recycled through the years. We have the neurotic, dramatic, helpless, professional, altruistic and cool moms all intermingled as contenders for the spot of “No.1 Best Mom in the World” this past Mother’s Day. And then there’s me, realizing that, inevitably, as science and pop culture have taught me, I will become one of these archetypes - presumably my mother.
In some over-dramatized universe it is woman’s greatest fear to realize she is turning into her mother, despite years of nurturing, teaching and wisdom obtained from her. The feeling freaks you out enough to spend days quietly analyzing yourself, tallying checkmarks every time you use one of your mom’s catchphrases. It hits you the hardest growing up and celebrating an event like Mother’s Day where everyone serves to remind you to forget the fear of the unknown because your mom is your future, like it or not.
It’s not an uncommon fear to have. I’ve grown up all my life with my family calling me “Lupita,” my mother’s name, before catching themselves and correcting it to a version of “Luplaudia.” I exaggerate this fear, but my mother is a great woman. I couldn’t have asked for a better biologically assigned role model, and yet, this fear of becoming her exists. In a meditative moment, I remind myself that I am an individual, completely separate from my mother. I obsessively repeat individualistic affirmations in front of the mirror until I believe they are true, and somewhere in that fanatical meditation masking an intervention, I realize that becoming my mother is not the end of the world.
The once-a-year celebration (though that Hallmark card says otherwise) reminds you that you are getting older and so is your mom. Granted, maturing brings all sorts of crazy cognizance about super important things such as the cycle of life and what vegetables are in season. Think of your mom as the measuring rod that wouldn’t let you get into that sketchy roller coaster at the fair when you were a kid.
Every year you would hope to meet its standards, and every year that cardboard clown cutout reading “You must be this tall” laughed in your puny face, until you made it your mission to ride that roller coaster (in this case, live up to your mom’s aura of greatness).
Somewhere a long the way, you decided as an angst-ridden teen that you were going to break free and become an individual. You dyed your hair pink, listened to punk rock and insisted on having the weirdest clothes you shame yourself for wearing today, clothes your mother bought you of course. You grew up with your mom watching over you, trying to teach you lessons, reminding you of your curfew, the importance of planning ahead and personal hygiene.
Then, one night clubbing with your girlfriends, your friend’s car gets towed and your stranded in Midtown in miniskirts when suddenly, she surfaces through you: “What did I tell you? We should have never …”
Catching yourself in a mom-moment is normal, and just because you were the responsible downer doesn’t mean your friends haven’t felt this way before. We tend to pair fears of turning into our mothers with only the negative quirks of ourselves, which we may have learned through childhood.
They’re small things we wish to change, but we blow them up even in comparison to our moms. When they do it, it’s OK because they’re the mom-figure and we’re anything but. It all goes back to the measuring stick that your mom is. Looking up to her will mean that you have a chance of feeling like her shadow – a follower, mimicking at best. Next time you fear becoming your mom, rework that feeling into empathy.
If there’s a little thing you wish to change, do it. Having less anxiety about your friends calling you to check in might be a start. If the quirk is something minor and nonintrusive to the way you live your life, embrace it. It’s a little part of your mom that you’ll always carry with you, no matter how far apart you are.
This year, be kind to you mother and to yourself. Also, would it kill you to call once in a while?