Give Yourself a Mother's Day Gift
ReWrite Your Mother Story Guest Post Judith Ruskay Rabinor, Psychologist and Author
Recently Rosie, my neighbor’s mother, passed away. When I attended the shiva, I asked about Rosie's life. “I don’t know that much about my mother's life before I was born,” my neighbor responded, “She’s always been Rosie, just my mother. “
Rosie’s answer didn’t surprise me. Since publishing my memoir, The Girl in The Red Boots: Making Peace with My Mother (She Writes Press, 2021) I’ve given dozens of workshops and discussions on the topic of mothering. Everywhere I go, I find people eager to rehash their Bad Mommy stories- complaints and regrets about how they were mothered. But when I ask questions, it often becomes apparent many people know so little about their mother’s thinking, feeling and lives.
I began writing my memoir about my mother shorty after my mother passed away. I was eager to tell my stories, hoping to understand some of the unresolved difficulties in our relationship. In the process of writing, I was pushed to slow down and explore areas I’d never thought about. To my surprise, I unexpectedly learned so much about my mother’s life and in the process, I developed a deeper understanding of her. With understanding, my compassion developed, and my relationship to my mother and the Bad Mommy stories I’d been telling changed. Basically, I rewrote my mother-story.
In case you are wondering if you can you change your relationship to and with your mother if she is no longer alive, my answer is unequivocally: YES. Changing our relationship to anyone in our lives is an internal process—it doesn’t have to do with speaking to another person. All that is necessary are a few crucial ingredients: curiosity, determination, and the willingness to reflect on the stories you may have been telling a lifetime.
All of us are storytellers, and the stories we tell about our mothers often shape our identities and our lives. Our stories may empower or derail us. To illustrate: Think about a story you have told about your mother: what does this story say about your strengths, your vulnerabilities or your wounds?
If you are interested in digging down deep and understanding how your mother-story may impact you, you may find writing to be helpful. Writing helps us slow down and listen—to ourselves. Writing helps us reflect, and in the reflecting, we often expand our stories.
But rewriting your story need not involve pen and paper or using a computer. Rewriting involves using your imagination. It involves reflecting.
Take a look at the questions below. Use some or all of them as writing prompts—or use them to jump-start a discussion with someone you trust.
Rewriting Your Mother-Story: Questions to get Started
Imagine your mother telling you about the deepest disappointment of her life.
Imagine your mother telling you about something she was deeply ashamed of.
Imagine your mother telling you about an important regret.
Imagine your mother telling you about what has brought her pride.
What would your mother say is her biggest success in life?
Imagine asking your mother if there are any moments or decisions in her life she’d like to redo?
What did your mother see as her greatest strength?
What did your mother see as her greatest weakness?
If you are interested in my own personal responses, read The Girl in the Red Boots: Making Peace with My Mother. If you’d like to share any of your own thoughts, feelings or observations, write me at firstname.lastname@example.org
A Starving Madness: Tales of Hunger, Hope and Healing in Psychotherapy (2002)
Befriending Your Ex After Divorce: Making Life Better for You, Your Kids and Yes Your Ex. (2012)
The Girl in the Red Boots: Making Peace with My Mother ( 2021)
For some of us, the problem was that our mothers told us their responses to all of these kinds of questions — that is, we received much too much information, as kids, and felt ourselves overwhelmed by our mother's needs.