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Does The Need To Please Your Mother Ever Really Go Away?

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Even in my forties, I still feel the need to please my mother.

When I see or hear that she is proud of me, especially when it comes to my parenting, I want to cry tears of joy. I made my mother proud! My mother is proud of me! Does this need to please your parents ever really go away?

It’s not that I seek out the approval or that I ask her for advice on the decisions I make in my life. I do things first and then tell her afterwards. So why the need to make my mother proud?

Just the other day, my mother sent me a text, after celebrating my nephew’s Bat Mitzvah. It was a huge celebration with all my parent’s friends and relatives in attendance, along with my two children. This is what my mother texted me: ‘I think everyone had a good time. Holt was very well behaved and my friends were all charmed by Rowan.’ I couldn’t believe how much her words affected and touched me.

I read it and re-read it, my heart bursting with pride, not only about how my children acted, but because my mother noticed and commented. What I read between the lines of my mother’s text was, ‘You raised your kids right! You did it! You did something right to make me proud!’ I already feel pretty confident in how I’m raising my kids, which is a lot different from how my mother raised me. Still, not many other people actually tell you that you’re doing a good job parenting. So, when your own mother tells you you’re doing a good job, you must be.

I think a large part of the reason why I still need validation is because I’ve always been the ‘black sheep’ in the family. At the Bar Mitzvah I heard one of my relatives say, ‘Look! It’s the prodigal daughter!’ (Defined as someone who has ‘left their family in order to do something the family disapproves of and has returned home feeling sorry for what they have done.) This is not true at all, aside from perhaps doing some things my family might disapprove of.  But I’ve never ‘returned home feeling sorry for anything I’ve done.’


My mother got married when she was 21 and my father was 27. They would have four kids in five years. Unlike my mother and my brothers, I have never been married, have no urge to get married (although I do feel bad that my father hadn’t the opportunity to walk his only daughter down the aisle.) My first born was conceived on a drunken night. My second born was conceived after a reverse vasectomy. Aside from looks and a love for travel, my mother and I lead very different lives.

They have lived in the same area for my entire life. I have lived in Maui, Scottsdale, New York, Calgary, never once asking their opinion, because I didn’t really care. I just did it. Years ago, when I decided to move to New York and I told my parents, my mother looked at me and asked why, as if I were telling her I was going to walk over hot coals for fun. My response was, ‘Um, because it’s New York!’

Bedtime hours at my house are a little loosey-goosey. I don’t care if my kids go out in public with marker stains on their hands. I’m super silly with them. My mother, possibly because she had four kids under the age of five and worked, kind of had to be a drill sergeant to keep all of us in line and alive. So, yes, to her and her friends, I may indeed be the rebel, along with definitely being the black sheep in the family. And maybe, if you’re a black sheep in the family, you need your mother’s validation even more, even if you don’t ask for it, simply because you’re so different. But that doesn’t mean you don’t want to please your mom and make her happy.

The reason I was the most proud of my parenting that day was because my parents were proud of my children, and since I’m the one raising them, it had to mean she was proud of me too. I liked the feeling, what can I say?

Interestingly, when I told my mother I was writing this, even she agreed that the feeling of pleasing your parents never goes away. Even though both her parents are no longer with us, my mother told me that she still finds herself thinking, ‘What would my father say about this?’ Or, ‘What would my mother think about this?’

Who knew that pleasing your mother can be passed down from generation to generation? Do you still feel the need to make your parents proud, even though you’re an adult? And does the need ever really go away?

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