The snow was coming straight at me through the headlights. I needed a break and swung into Dunkin Donuts for a cappuccino. As I was leaving, I spotted Romy, all balled up and hunched over her coffee, as if to make herself invisible. Romy is Demeter incarnate: self-sacrificing, kind though fiercely angry when pissed off. She brimmed with mother love, but the hurly-burly of her daughter Suzanne’s adolescence was derailing the life she was valiantly creating since the divorce from her only child’s father.
She opened up about her state of distress: “I’m waiting for Suzanne right now. Weekend over, time to return to mom. I feel the weight of tremendous guilt bearing down on me every weekend that comes to a close with Suzanne coming home. God knows how much I love her, but my good will evaporates as I anticipate a week of fighting over homework, sports schedules, shared responsibilities around the house, and that damn cell phone.”
She further explained: “During the 2 days that Dan has Suzanne, I’m charged by catching up with friends, tackling the ever lengthening to-do list, catching up with my parents needs, and housework. Always catching up, never quite finishing.”
“You can’t be the perfect mother to everybody,” I cautioned her.
We would have talked further, but at that moment Suzanne sulked into Dunkin’ D’s with Dan. I bailed.
Once outside in the dark I sat in my car sipping the warm froth, watching a brightly lit scene unfolding inside.
When I called Romy the next day, she ruminated: “ Where have I gone wrong? Did I put too many limits on Suzanne’s behavior, didn’t teach her enough self-control? Raged too much with my own frustration when Suzanne’s demands for attention coincided with my own needs to spend extra time at work? Did I try to make a friend of her too soon, when Suzanne still needed a mother? Too much structure, not enough? Should I have initiated the divorce from Dan? Should I have had more kids so Suzanna would have a confidante at home to share the tough times with?”
Romy finished: “I’m really scared I messed up. And now that she’s in high school the stakes are getting higher. Boyfriends sniffing around. Pot offered up as an initiation rite. How does this guilt and fear ever go away?”
The woman influenced by the Goddess Demeter is filled with meaning – to nurture others gives her great joy. Once her bounty is being demanded, unappreciated or challenged, she feels disconnected from her own inner youthful spirit.
Here’s how I advised Romy. If you have some Demeter in you, study these pointers:
- Now, take a deep breath.
- Know that you have always been a really good mother.
- Your energy is depleted – you’re giving it over to guilt and fear.
- Take stock of your true worth.
- Grab your mojo and have a talk with your daughter. Use your leverage to set limits on how much of yourself you will spend on her. She must take increasing responsibility for her own happiness anyway. And you might find yourself glowing with new possibilities.