Ask Tim: Over-mothering Adult Children
Q. I have three wonderful children, two are adults and one is in his late teens. We are about to become empty nesters! With my adult daughter in particular, I worry about her when she travels for work. My husband says I nag her and send her too many texts or voicemails. Sometimes I think she is ignoring me. I just want to know if she is OK, and hear about her day. Am I smothering her? I’m worried that I am pushing her away. What should I do?
A. Tim asked if I would respond to you since I can definitely relate to what you are experiencing in this letting go stage. I am convinced that Mothers are connected to their children at the heart. We spend 18 years anticipating and meeting almost all of their needs and then when the time comes for them to take off and be totally responsible for meeting those needs, it’s like we’ve had open heart surgery. And it takes time and a willingness to reprogram our hearts and brains to re-craft our relationships with our kids when they become adults. Cut yourself some slack because this isn’t easy but also remember that a lot is at stake as you establish the new guidelines for your relationship with your adult kids.As with every decision we make regarding our kids, we must keep in mind that preserving a good relationship with them is the most important priority. More important than knowing where they are, what they’re doing, even if they are OK. Obviously, if there is clear and present danger, you can’t ignore that and I know you or your husband would be there in a heartbeat. But, we have to give our kids a lot of space as they establish their own identity and world apart from us. This is a healthy and necessary step to them being good spouses and parents themselves.
I can testify that it hurts sometimes to feel like they are getting along fine without us and even might be ignoring us, but this is actually a good thing if we are allowing it to be a product of them establishing their own life. It can end up being a bad thing if they feel like they have to actually push us out of their life because we are crowding them.
I’d just encourage you to limit yourself to a text or two a week and maybe one email to her. Make sure you are upbeat, encouraging and relating as one adult would relate to another. If she’s traveling, rather than checking up on her, call or text to say that you and her dad just went out to dinner or watched a ballgame with your son and were thinking of her. Let her choose to reply. The less she feels pressure from you to communicate, the more she will initiate communication and look forward to yours.
This letting go stage is a huge adjustment, especially for Moms, but looking at it from the other side now, I am so grateful that Tim really encouraged me to entrust our grown children to God, adjust my expectations and enjoy the wonderful, young adults they have grown into.
Written by Darcy Kimmel