I would like to request some advice regarding my relationship with my mother. I have a very complicated relationship with my mother; she dominates very strongly without any compromise or understanding. I have two brothers who are also affected by our mother’s control, to the extent that we all suffer from depression, including our father.
I am a true believer in that we always have to be kind to our parents no matter how they treat us. I have tried my utmost to please my mother in every way possible. I have put my husband and children at the bottom of my list and given priority to my mother over every matter. This has led to many arguments between my husband and myself and has affected our relationship.
After having given 100 percent of myself to my mother, I recently had an argument with her where I told her that she was unfair and over-demanding. I told her that she always put me under pressure and I could not take anymore. I shouted at her and she pushed me out of her house, telling me that she never wanted to see me again. In reality, I was relieved at the sad prospect of never seeing my mother again. However, after some thought, I decided to apologize to her and continue seeing her, even though I was not in the wrong.
Now my mother refuses to call me or to speak to me properly. She behaves arrogantly and puts me down at every opportunity. She criticizes everything I do and the way I bring up my children. She is affecting me psychologically and physically, to the extent that I cannot get out of my depression. Please help me. I feel so guilty that I have to serve my mother no matter how I feel.
Is it correct that I should give her priority over my own family? My mother curses me and I am afraid of her curses. Please advise me as to what I should do. I would like to thank you in advance for this kind service you offer, it is greatly appreciated. May Allah reward you for your good deeds.
In this counseling answer:
• Depression is the result of a sense of powerlessness. Once you find that you are able to do something to correct the situation, you will no longer feel so powerless.
• Forgive your mother for her actions as I am sure that if she knew the effect of her actions on those she loves, she would cease to behave in the way that she has.
• Once you discover her interests, see what you can do to encourage her to take them up again as hobbies, through classes, short courses, or voluntary work.
As-Salamu ‘Alaikum my sister,
I am sorry to hear about your predicament which, in fact, is the predicament of the family that you were born into and the family that you helped to create. Parents have rights over the child, but the child also has rights over the parents. Muhammad Abdul Bari in his book, The Greatest Gift: A Guide to Parenting from an Islamic Perspective, tells the following story:
“A man went complaining to the second caliph, `Umar, about his son’s disobedience. `Umar spoke to the son, asking about the problem. The son replied, “Do I not have rights over my father?” `Umar replied, “Naturally.” The son asked to hear some of these rights. `Umar responded, “When a man wishes to marry, he should marry a virtuous woman to be the mother of his children. When Allah Almighty blesses him with a child, he should give him a pleasant name. He should teach the child the Qur’an and Sunnah. When the child reaches the age of maturity, he should arrange for his or her marriage….” Further rights were mentioned and the son responded by informing `Umar that he had had none of these rights, to which `Umar said to the father, “You have severed relations with your son before he severed relations with you.”
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In response to your outburst, you were temporarily relieved when, in anger, your mother said that she never wanted to see you again. However, and this is the beauty of Islam, your relief was temporary as you have been brought up correctly to honor your parents; therefore, maintaining the ties of kinship. You did not give into your lower desires and gave hope a chance to remedy the situation.
Who is the most deserving of good treatment? Prophet Muhammad (saw) told us,
“Your mother, again your mother, again your mother, then your father, then your nearest relatives according to the order of nearness.” (Muslim)
Forgive your mother for her actions as I am sure that if she knew the effect of her actions on those she loves, she would cease to behave in the way that she has. Your mother probably grew up this way, with not many alternative examples in her life to provide her with the necessary skills as a mother and as a wife. If this is the case, then as long as she is successful in making you succumb to her wishes, she will not have the opportunity to improve.
There are subtle ways of manipulation in order to achieve the same outcome, but with a more devastating effect on a person’s psyche, so give thanks to Allah that your mother pushed you to the point where you felt compelled to react. This might seem like a strange thing to say, but with your love of your mother, persistence, and patience, you are providing an opportune time to correct the situation.
You made the correct decision to continue relations with your mother even though you knew that you were not in the wrong. However, to maintain relations as they were before is wrong. In this way, nothing will change, and you will not only continue to be an ineffective wife and mother, but you will also help to perpetuate her actions. Be patient and loving with her, but also help your mother to face her weaknesses so that she can correct them. We are here to guide and protect one another, and it needs your strength and courage to help her through what will be a new reality.
As an example to the family, learn to be with your mother, but maintain your own self-respect. Do not criticize her, but find ways through distraction, through laughter, through comedy, to draw her attention from being so demanding. Suggest alternatives in a manner that will help her to listen, to see alternatives, to begin to learn how to compromise. A smile and a twinkle in the eye can go a long way. Even then, you might be faced with her ignoring what you say or finding manipulative ways to distract you so that you will submit to her will. This is when you need to remain focused. Be clear about the needs of your husband and your children, giving them your time, giving yourself time, and giving your mother time.
Maybe, from her point of view she has sacrificed much, so try to develop mother and daughter time where you can learn about her interests which might have been put to sleep a long time ago. Once you discover her interests, see what you can do to encourage her to take them up again as hobbies, through classes, short courses, or voluntary work. This may well help to provide her with balance in her life, especially if she has dedicated all her life to her family and has not worked outside of the home. If you can discover what will help her to create balance in her life, this might be the solution for everyone, including your mother.
Of course, this will take some time, old habits die hard, but if you can at least let the others know of your intentions, you might then get the necessary support to make it possible. Depression is the result of a sense of powerlessness. Once you find that you are able to do something to correct the situation, you will no longer feel so powerless. Make du`aa’ (supplication) for her and yourself, and seek guidance from Allah in your endeavors. Do not feel afraid to enjoy your family and enjoy time for yourself, but also make it known to your mother that you are still her loving daughter.
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