One of my mom’s most memorable phrases when I was growing up was, “I’m your mom, not your friend.” We were close, and she knew my friends and what I was up to, but she never tried to be one of my friends. And I grew to appreciate her wisdom in remaining an authority figure, not a confidante.
Friends try to please each other, and my mom never put herself in the position of lowering her expectations in order to keep me happy. There are probably great stories of moms and daughters who are best friends. If that works in your family, great. But I’m so glad I didn’t have a “cool mom” who tried to hang out with me and my friends. I had a mom I didn’t want to disappoint, and that kept me out of more than my share of danger.
When we would play-wrestle, she would tell me, “I’ll always be bigger and tougher than you,” and I believed that. Even now, I think my 5’3″ frame might be a little taller than hers, but she is still bigger and tougher than me. When she is 90 years old, she will still be bigger and tougher than me.
And I so appreciate that she made herself a figure that I will always look up to. By being my mom, she is someone I always believed knew more than me and could always protect me, save me, and back me up. She was never my equal. My equals could disappoint, fail, and have their own problems, but she never could.
Now that I have daughters, I know the innate desire to be their friend. I want to be someone they confide in; I want to be “one of the girls” with them. Now I know how hard it must have been for my own mom to leave the friendship to my peers and relegate herself to Mom.
When my daughters get mad at me, I want more than anything to make them happy and make them like me again. I want to be their friend, but I have to remind them – and myself – that I am their mom. I tell them that they are more than welcome to dislike me as long as they’re respectful toward me. I am bracing myself for years of arguments in which I’m the Bad Guy in their eyes, but I hope that they will someday appreciate that I cannot be their friend… yet.
I remember the moment that my relationship with my mom began to transform into a friendship. I was 22 and in college and had just broken up with my boyfriend, and I didn’t know what to do or who to turn to. So I called my mom.
After a wonderfully motherly consolation session, my mom asked me if I loved him. Wha??? I don’t talk about love with my mom! I would have died of embarrassment if she ever asked me anything like that before! But in this moment she dipped her toe into our friendship, and I told her how much I loved him and how heartbroken I was.
Fast-forward 15 years, and the boyfriend and I are now married and raising our own daughters. And my when my mom visits, I can still talk to her as a daughter to a mom. We chat about parenting and work and our homes. But what is so cool now is that I can pour us both a glass of pinot grigio and talk about life. She is now my friend. And all those years of a respectful distance while she was my Mom have paid off. Now I have the best friend I could have asked for, and it was worth the wait.