When I became a new mom I only knew two things for sure: I needed my own mom every hour of every day, and I needed her to leave me alone. Yes, I'm aware of the fundamental contradiction in these two truths, but that doesn't change their veracity. Mothers and daughters often have complicated relationships, and part of that dynamic is knowing there will be fights every new mom has with her mother.
It's easy for me to automatically accept that these fights will inevitably happen. What's harder to learn and digest, however and at least for me, is that it's OK to have these fights. It's OK to learn and grow as a new mom still trying to individuate from my own mother. Most importantly, it's OK to have these fights and still be madly, deeply, truly loyal to and loving towards my mother. In fact, as a therapist I'm kind of predisposed to know that the places where the wounds are, the places we misunderstand and conflict with one another, are the places that have the most potential for the flowering beauty of growth. This applies to individuals as well as the relationship individuals create and sustain.
So, if you're a new mother who feels like she needs her mom constantly, but simultaneously can't wait for your mother to leave you alone, know that you're not alone. In fact, please know that these are the fights you will likely have with your own mother, and that's totally OK:
The "It's My Baby!" Fight
"Seriously, mom. Give me back my child. "
That's just the first few months though. After that, it's like, "Hey, mom, please can you take my child? I need sleep! I need alone time! I need a shower!"
The "You Don't Know Everything!" Fight
The "You don't know everything" fight is often followed shortly by the tearful, "Please, mama, help me! I have no idea what I'm doing" apology phone call. Thankfully, and as you are well aware now that you have a child of your own, mothers are pretty quick to forgive. Usually.
The "If You Had Done It My Way" Fight
"If you had done it the way I'm doing it maybe I wouldn't have been so angry/sad/disrespectful as a kid!"
Another classic version of this fight is my mom saying, “If you had done it the way I told you to, the baby would be sleeping by now.”
The "You're Going To Spoil Them" Fight
Isn't it amazing how, to our moms, every little thing we do as new moms is going to "spoil" our kid? How did we make it through as babies ourselves if they really felt that picking up a crying baby was spoiling them? My suspicion is that grandmothers only tell us new moms these things so they can be the ones to swoop in and comfort our crying newborns.
The "Don't Feed Them That!" Fight
"I don't care if everyone since time began put rice cereal in their babies' bottles or whiskey on their teething gums. This is my baby and I said no!"
Raise your hand if you've said that to your mom at least 10 times in the first month of your baby's life. Oh, hello every mom ever.
The "Babies Need To Be Picked Up When They Cry!" Fight
I'm pretty sure my mom wore me around the house when I was an infant, so I'm not sure why we had to have this fight, but we did. Shortly after my partner and I decided to shove the "cry it out" method of sleep training out the window and never look back, my mom came for a visit. She was putting our newborn to bed and I became disturbed by the amount of crying I was hearing. I came into the room, new mom's ire blazing, almost yelling, "We do not cry it out in this house!"
Her response? "You're going to spoil them!" Ugh. I don't know why it was OK for her to wear me all the time and it wasn't OK for me to rock my baby to sleep. I told her just that.
The "Well, You Turned Out Just Fine" Fight
Whenever I disagreed with something my mom was doing or telling me to do, we'd engage in this peachy back-and-forth conversation. Which, really, when you think about it is totally meaningless for all parties involved. I mean, am I going to lay down all the ways I'm neurotic as hell right now over my squalling baby? Do I want to hurt my mom? Does she want me to tell her I'm horrible or that she's horrible? Nothing about this fight ends well. but it sure as hell ends with both of us feeling damn guilty.
The "Let The Father Parent!" Fight
As the second oldest of seven, my mom helped her own mother with the younger kids way more than her father did. My dad did not help my mother at all with us kids as infants. In fact, I'm pretty sure he still has never changed a baby's diaper. As a result, I'm sure it became second nature to shoo fathers away from babies for fear they'd mess something up.
My partner was a stay-at-home dad for the first seven years of our parenthood journey. To my mom's credit, she's mellowed a bit, but at the beginning she would often intervene and take over when he was holding, changing, rocking, or feeding the baby. I fully believe she was trying to help, but it ended up making him feel dismissed and defeated and like she didn't trust him to parent his own child. This fight was probably our most recurring over the first few years.
The "In My Day..." Fight
This is a ubiquitous fight all new moms have with their own mothers. It doesn't matter what comes after the first three words because, well, new moms stop listening after that.
The "Can't You Just Support Me?" Fight
There's no question new millennial moms want to do some things differently from their own moms. This is not new. Though I haven't actually done the research, I'm quite confident that this has been the story of new moms and their mothers throughout human existence. The truth is, more than anything I just want my mom's support. When we fight about my parenting it's often because I've heard something she said as criticism, whether it was meant to be or not.
I just want my mom to look at me, and look at my children, and say, "I support you. You're doing a great job. Your children are amazing." So, in that way, new mom fights are kind of the same fight I've been having with my mom my whole life. Above all else, I'm just glad I have a mom to fight with. If I do things right, my kids will feel the same way about me someday. I hope.