Updated: Feb 16, 2020
Happy New Year, Everyone!
I hope everyone has been enjoying 2019, feeling confident, and hopefully using their Sankalpa to continue manifesting positive productive energy for this year.
Usually, my blog post every month is geared towards a different mental health topic. It is still my intention to do this, because I find that writing about different mental health issues with humor and compassion is therapeutic for us ALL. Beyond that, my hope is that these blog posts resonate with you and help you to identify and understand the different aspects of mental health that may be affecting your life.
This month though, I decided to do something a little different. I wanted to open up my blog to hear from my readers about the issues and problems they may be struggling with. In this post, I will do my best to offer support, compassion, and any appropriate techniques and resources that may be helpful. Thank you to everyone who submitted; I loved hearing from you. I also feel I got some great ideas about future blog posts! Your submissions and my responses are below.
Dear Water For Your Garden,
I am writing because I am beyond frustrated. I used to think the Jennifer Lopez movie Monster in Law (MIL) was funny and outrageous, now I seem to be living it! Long story short I married the youngest son of my MIL and we have had a beyond chaotic and dramatic relationship. Throughout the years, I have done my best to be patient, kind and thoughtful, however she never seems to appreciate me, my efforts to make her son happy, or how I commit myself fully into raising our two children. She always has had some animosity with me, however now it seems intensified she has been talking badly about me to other family members, including my other sister in laws, who I have good relationships with.
Not that long ago I was on a phone call with my MIL and was talking about how I was had dealt with a problem and worked it out with my sister in law. My MIL was being very aggressive on the call, and seemed to be fishing for me to say something negative about my sister in law. I was cool and collected, thankfully because I later found out that my MIL had three wayed my sister in law into the phone call without me knowing. When I found out she had done this in secret, I felt beyond hurt and betrayed. I now feel I am at the place of not caring or investing anymore in this relationship? Do I have that choice? How can I cope with feeling so manipulated?
Thank you so much,
Daughter in Law in Distress
Thank you so much for being so open and vulnerable in sharing this upsetting story. As a therapist, I encounter a lot of familial issues that center around a difficult mother-in-law, or other family members, and I know how it can strain and drain the family.
First, I want to validate your feelings of feeling manipulated. You were! It seems unacceptable to me that, from what I am hearing from you, she so blatantly disrespected your boundaries. Not only did your MIL not respect your right to privacy, she also appeared to triangulate you and your sister-in-law.
I want to acknowledge the way you handled yourself on the phone call, and also in the aftermath. You seem to have great awareness when it comes to the way your MIL -manipulates, and I praise you for your calm demeanor.
Your question about whether or not you are able to invest less in this relationship is a fair question after what you have been through. There seems to be no rhyme or reason for the way she feels and acts towards you. It is not logical, and surrendering to simply not knowing why she is treating you this way might make this process easier. Accepting that you have no control over how she treats you will allow more space for you to respond and recover, which in fact is the only thing you have control over.
In fact, your cool, calm behavior in response to the way she has treated you is a testament to how much you are in control, and logically responsive instead of coming from a more heightened emotional and reactive space. At the end of the day, learning how to cope with her outrageous behavior with the knowledge and boundaries you have is what will ultimately serve you.
Again, you have insight into how she thinks and acts, and you are capable of coexisting with her, more from a place of detachment-- without feeling so invested. Is this easier said than done? Absolutely, but you seem to already know what works best for you, and understand the dynamics of your family. My advice is to continue to deal with your mother-in-law in a non-reactive way, without investing or engaging in her toxic energy. Again you have the power in responding in a way which thathonors your boundaries and does not match her need for dramatics and to triangulate.
Be the higher person, and approach it with Michelle Obama vibes- as she says, “When Others go Low, I go High”. Wishing you peace and ease as you continue to navigate this difficult relationship, with conviction and encouragement that you GOT THIS!
Dear Water for Your Garden,
The Holiday Season has ended. Gone are the pretty decorations, gifts, vacations, and parties. What now? What can I do to face the January Blues?
Holidays are a wonderful time of year, and they are enjoyable. Readjusting to life after so much celebration, merriment, and time off from regular life is always difficult. My advice when it comes to transitioning into January with less blues is to honor the time you spent over the holidays from a place of gratitude. It is about the quality of our life experiences, not the quantity. If we were to be celebrating all the time, we probably wouldn't enjoy it as much. Christmas will always come again, and you can start to think about plans for this year if that serves you. I would also encourage you to make use of the extra momentum most of us have when a New Year approaches, and to feed into the go-getter energy that January offers. Try to put yourself out there more, and try new things. If we focus too much on the past, we miss the opportunity to embrace the here and now.
Committing to seeing new opportunities ahead, while holding close your happy holiday memories, will help you to readjust with less of the blues. And lastly, if you do feel the blues about the holidays being over, let yourself feel them with the knowledge that these feelings are temporary, and that you still have lots of new, fun things ahead.
You got this.
Dear Water For Your Garden,
I have multiple jobs and am having a really hard time keeping up. I would like to quit one of the jobs but don’t think I can do that now because of finances. I don’t think I can continue all this work much longer without running myself down. I feel exhausted and my mind is racing. What to do?
Burned Out and Feeling It
That is stressful. When we overcommit ourselves or feel like there’s too much on our plates, it can easily make us feel burned out. I think what would serve you best would be to find a way to prioritize your most important jobs and the ones that support you and make you feel aligned. Once you do this, it might become easier to make a decision about which job might be worth letting go— if you are able to. Making a PRO/CON list with all of your worries and what would happen logistically if you were in a position to do less might be helpful when it comes to making a decision.
Accepting that you can’t do everything or be everywhere will also serve you as you come towards making a decision. Whatever you decide is best for you, I encourage you to think about how you want to incorporate more self-care. Having a solid self-care routine keeps us in the flow and helps to prevent feelings of burnout. When we bring awareness to the factors contributing to our burnout, we may find ourselves in a place where it is easier to sustain our energy.
As you achieve this insight and come to whatever possible action you might take, remember to be kind to yourself. Sometimes, when we say no to things that don’t really serve us, we are not only practicing self-care, we are allowing ourselves to live with more ease and peace.
Dear Water For Your Garden,
I am at a crossroads because once again my mother has gotten into another unhealthy relationship and is once again reaching out to me to comfort her. This is not the first time. How do I love my Mom and be supportive for her yet not drain myself with all this? I’m so depleted!
No More Mama Drama
Thank you for opening up and being vulnerable about this problem you’re dealing with. It sounds like you’ve been dealing with this for a while, and have seen a pattern with your mom that makes you feel a bit triggered and frustrated, while also evoking sadness.
I often see people who only feel good about themselves when they are in a relationship, even if that relationship is harmful and doesn’t enhance their life. It’s good that you have compassion for your mom because she obviously is going through a hard time. You are allowed to be compassionate and loving while also maintaining your boundaries, and not getting sucked into a dynamic that ultimately stresses you out and does not benefit your mental health. Practicing good boundaries with your mom while modeling your own individuation skills is the only thing in your control. Having an that you don’t want to feel drained or depleted will help motivate you to not get overly involved in the situations that you don’t have control over. Focus on the things that bring joy to your life, instead of on the things that drain you.
Often people who have high codependent needs have problems maintaining their own individuation because they enmesh themselves with the person they are in a relationship with. More often than not, someone who is truly codependent has a hard time knowing where they start and end, and where another relationship starts and ends.
The best thing you can do for yourself is continue to be supportive in a more detached fashion. This will help you to maintain your boundaries, while also making it easier for you to see that this is ultimately your mother’s issue to work out, and that she needs to be the one to learn how to love herself fully without the validation of anyone else.
I understand your frustration and assume it is painful for you to witness these choices she is making. Again, surrender to the fact that this is how she chooses to show up in relationships, while you seem to have developed greater self-esteem. Be there for your mom in a more detached way, while protecting your own energy and sense of own individuation. This is hard work, I understand, but you have the ability to choose not to take this on, and to have healthier relationships. Sending my very best as you navigate this.
Dear Water For Your Garden,
My kids have taken over my life. I love them with all that I am but I can not find any time to feel like myself anymore. I have 3 kids and 2 are in school. Even with the school hours I find it challenging as I have the baby with me and I balance work and sitters plus after school activities and all our meals. So tired, I just want more time and to feel I have my own life. I love my kids and would never not want them but Is it possible to be me with my own life and be their Mom?
Burned Out Mama
Thank you for opening up about this. Mom/life/work balance is something that I often work with my clients on, and I can empathize with how overwhelmed you must be feeling most of the time. I can absolutely say that yes, you are able to have your own hobbies and interests away from your children that enrich your life. In practicing this form of self-care you are actually choosing to be more present and committed as a parent because you are taking care of yourself. Self-care is vital for us ALL, but especially for parents and MOTHERS.
In fact, a few months ago, I wrote a blog post about this very same issue. In this post, I discuss how it is essential for moms to be active with their self-care routine, and I provided some exercises to help you commit to taking care of yourself, which is often so hard to do when we have others depending on us. You can read the post HERE.
Self-care as a mother is so powerful because it reduces your stress and any anxiety so that it is not projected onto your children and the overall household. It is beyond essential. Time might be pressing, but when you add self-care into your daily life things become more manageable and you may feel less irritable. It's the difference between working smarter and not harder, with all the things that encompass day-to-day mom life.
I encourage you to think about how you can find a way to connect with yourself daily so that when you are connected to your children, you are coming from a place of peace and calmness.
Again, take a look at my past BLOG and see how you can start to incorporate more self-care. You will not only feel better, your children will most likely also benefit from this increased sense of empowerment… which you deserve, without apologies.
Wishing you the best on your Self-Care Journey,