Life is messy
We feel conflicting emotions about our lives and the people in them all the time. Nothing is ever black and white, all good or all bad. These contradictions can be really scary, but life is far more rewarding when we allow ourselves the grace to feel all our emotions.
Mentor and coach, Sara Wiles, knows this very well. The area where this has become most prevalent in her life is the painful estrangement from her mother. Despite making the decision to remove her mother from her life, she speaks about her mom with compassion.
Becoming a motherless mother
Sara shares that it was her son's birth that caused her to realize her mother was a toxic force in her life. The decision was difficult but quick. Sara says she realized that “I didn't have the capacity to allow a one-sided relationship to work in my life anymore” after an especially difficult visit from her mom. At the time, she thought their estrangement would be for the short-term— Now, it's been five years since they've spoken.
“I didn't have the capacity to allow a one-sided relationship to work in my life anymore”
With time comes perspective
Sara realizes, upon reflection, she didn’t have the perspective needed as a child to identify that her mother's behavior wasn't normal. This led her to internalize all of the heavy, complicated feelings she felt about their relationship. “I held so much shame around it [the estrangement] for a very long time,” she says. She felt like she couldn't talk about her with anyone. Those feelings of isolation disappeared once Sara began to talk about her mom with other people. Once she started opening up about this story, so many other women said, “Oh my gosh, I have the same story. I'm always afraid to tell people that I have a really strained relationship with my mother because I feel like I've done something wrong.”
Relationships, like life, are complicated
Sara now believes her mother has a personality disorder whose symptoms include “an ongoing pattern of varying moods, self-image, and behavior.” Despite the hurt that this relationship caused her over the years, Sara refuses to stigmatize her mother. Relationships are complicated, and Sara's derived both joy and sadness from the one she had with her mother. One of her greatest traits, empathy, is something Sara attributes to her mother. This was a bit of a double-edged sword, however, because it led to remaining in an unhealthy relationship much longer than she should have. Nevertheless, Sara says “It is possible for someone to have really beautiful, wonderful, amazing qualities, and ones that are a deal-breaker in a relationship at the exact same time.”
Sadness and forgiveness
Despite the sadness Sara carries with her, she says she’s fully forgiven her mother. She didn't anticipate that her son's birth would shift her perspective about her mother's presence in her life. She just instantly knew that, in order to be a healthy mother to her own child, she could no longer remain in an unhealthy one with her own mother.
But a decision like this doesn’t come without sadness. It seemed that the birth of her child was also a rebirth of herself in a new and more aware way. She learned to extend the same grace she’d previously allowed her mother, to herself. “I have forgiven my mother so much for being an imperfect human,” Sara explains. “If I can extend forgiveness to her, I can also extend forgiveness to myself!” As parents, we are bound to miss the mark now and then. Giving ourselves grace and choosing to be resilient are the keys to being a loving, healthy, and effective parent.
Resilient and Ambivalent
In some cases, choosing to be ambivalent about something beyond your control is a fierce form of resilience. It’s almost an active form of defiance against a society that tells us we should own the feelings of others and behave accordingly. Today, Sara works to stand in her ambivalent feelings both for herself and for her family. This, she shares, is one of the things she’s most proud of.
Learn more about Sara!
Sara Wiles is a mentor and coach for entrepreneurs who seek to start online service-based businesses. She helps a breadth of people who call themselves everything from Virtual Assistants and Online Business Managers to Pinterest Managers. Sara offers a business course called The Start that helps aspiring Virtual Assistants get on their feet. She also runs a matchmaking service where she matches entrepreneurs to service providers. You can listen to her podcast about entrepreneurship, the Happy Thoughts Show, here. Also, be sure to follow her on Instagram and Facebook.