How Will YOU Define The Year 2020?
I know that many people will call 2020 the Year of COVID-19. But that is not how I will remember this year.
I began the year living in Los Angeles to see how my health responded to the California weather. I loved it. My body loved it. I can see why so many people like living there. I also made strong headway on writing my first book. My goal for the year was to finish the book and find a literary agent. I completed the first goal but not the second. There were many reasons for not finding an agent and I have learned a lot through the process. But I left LA quite sad because I had a huge fight with my daughter.
I am the first to admit that being a mother isn’t one of my strengths. I never planned to have children because I grew up in such an abusive home and was terrified of being an abusive parent. I demanded that my husband promise to never ask for children when I agreed to marry him (fortunately, he broke that promise).
I've spent many hours in therapy discussing parenthood, both in deciding to become one and in working through how to improve my parenting skills. Due to the issues and the importance of having a strong relationship with my daughter, I ended up spending this year focusing heavily on my relationship with my daughter. I needed to figure out how I could improve it.
My daughter and I are very alike. We are creative. We love design and fashion. She chose to go into marketing as I did though our skill set and focus areas are different (Her design skills are much stronger than mine, though she doesn’t yet have my PR skills). She has a temper but she gets over things much faster than I do. Like any good Scot, I can hold a grudge forever. But we also have some big differences. She wants to learn by mistake while I always wanted someone to give me the answers to my career questions.
To improve our relationship, I went back to my Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) skills. I began by using mindfulness during any conversation I had with my daughter. What was she really trying to say? Did she need me simply to listen while she vented or was she seeking advice? My therapist commented about the high walls my daughter keeps between us. I don’t know why she has those walls but it was far more important to get her to lower them. I tried talking to her about them when I felt she was in the mood. I learned the walls had to do with her feeling I was trying to control her life so I backed-off being mindful of when I might seem overwhelming or asking too many personal questions.
One of my problems was that I wanted us to work together. Given our interests and the balance of our skill sets I felt there was an opportunity for us to collaborate. Particularly, after she lost her job due to COVID-19. I asked her to help me build a new website for marketing my book to literary agents. This project caused issues as we struggled to balance our mother-daughter-work relationship. So, while we finished the website, we re-damaged our mother-daughter relationship.
I learned from the literary agents I spoke to that I needed to increase my audience platform so I hired a social media manager I found on Upwork. This gave my daughter an opportunity to see how another person in her field performed and how we interacted. She came back to me and asked if we could try again. So, with some trepidation I gave her my social media program. She set the rules of engagement and this time it worked. In fact, it has worked so well, that we are now talking regularly and having the girly conversations I always dreamed of.
What had I learned? That I was a mother no matter the circumstances. That I needed to be a good listener and to offer my help but not be hurt if it wasn’t accepted. To watch for when the walls started rising and to find out the cause and focus on how to fix it in a manner that is comfortable for my daughter.
By the end of the year I found that I no longer worried about how often we talked and the depth of those conversations. I didn’t sit around waiting for a call but rather focused on what was necessary to keep me busy and safe during this pandemic. And while my daughter is important to my life, she can’t be the center of it.