My dad died as an alcoholic. My mom raised me and paid for my expensive education abroad which I have not yet repaid. Recently, I got to know that she is seeing a married man who is estranged from his wife and she is hiding this from me. I am conflicted between empathising with her loneliness as a woman and her financial challenges, as well as angry with her for putting me through more social embarrassment of her being viewed as a house-breaker of a married man. I don’t know how to resolve this within myself. Please advise.
Even if you are unable to condone your mother’s behaviour, perhaps you could make an attempt at understanding where she comes from. This can happen by emphasising with what you currently share with your mother. You both share the grief and the vacuum left by the demise of your father. Perhaps, you all even grieve him in your own ways. Maybe you share that sense of abandonment over a protracted period while feeling at odds with how life has panned out for you all. She without a husband. You without a father.
Is it not possible then – that you all may have felt like an incomplete family in some way? Every human being has a right to grieve the loss of a dream, loss of a partner or even the loss of time.
Talk to your mother about her needs so that you are more cued in to what she is looking for. This will help you empathise with why she may have felt like it was a good idea for her to seek out a companion to feel complete. Her current situation with a married man who is estranged with his wife may be a culmination of her heartfelt desires that she may not have shared with you or that you may not be fully privy to. Before she was your mother, she was just a girl. As a young lady, your mother may have looked for love, purpose, passion, adventure and excitement in her own ways before you were born. This is likely to be continuation of her individual journey that you are now old enough to understand.
Perhaps in her mind, she has done the best she could as a mother and now it’s time for her to address her needs as a woman. Your mother’s struggles while trying to make ends meet to support you all may also have taken a great toll on her emotionally over the years. She certainly deserves a break from ‘her role’ as your mom so she can just be a girl again.
When you say that she is ‘putting you through’ social embarrassment, it would imply that she has acted in a premeditated way to deliberately put you in a bind in front of other people. Any perception of your mother as ‘a scheming embarrassment’ is inconsistent with your opinion of her as a widow who struggled to make ends meet and give her daughter access to the best opportunities abroad. Why would your mother plot against you? What does she stand to gain?
Embarrassment is not a natural consequence to the pursuit of companionship. Embarrassment is an emotional choice that you have made and it’s a choice you can ‘unmake’. When our needs are unmet or our ways are not upheld, we must adapt to the changing paradigms since other human beings do not simply exist in service of our plans for them. Everyone has plans for how they want their life to pan out. Your mother has plans too.
By adding ‘moral colour’ to your mother’s situation, you risk standing in judgement of her. No parent is perfect and no life journey is blemish free. Society has a short term memory and their discussions about your household or mother are few among many topics that they can choose from based on what catches their attention. Is it then fair to try to mold your mother’s life and choices based on the fleeting attention of people who don’t play a day to day role in your lives?
It would serve you well to respect your mother despite her choices which you don’t agree with. Her need for her freedom and her need for intimacy are independent of her role as a mother. As an adult, you need to be responsible for and take care of your own emotional needs without tethering them to what your mother does in her personal life. Your social stature is entirely your business. What you do to build and nurture how you are seen in society is independent of your mother’s efforts at integrating with society as an individual. How she manages her own social image – is strictly her business.
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