Trigger warning: This discussion covers personal experience with abortion.
Mother-daughter relationships go deeper than any other connections and even transcends into education, politics, elections, and misogyny. These topics often lead to tensions and arguments, and this calls for healthy boundaries. Whitney Lauritsen chats with Karen C.L. Anderson about having fruitful disagreements with her own mom, particularly when it comes to abortion. The two expand their discussion on why difficult mother-daughter relationships are a major issue that often happens in the context of patriarchy and white supremacy. Karen and Whitney also talk about using shame as a protective mechanism, how the Nazis influenced poor parenting approaches, the decision not to have children, and how younger generations handle social issues compared to older people.
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How To Set Healthy Boundaries With Your Mother With Karen C.L. Anderson
I’m sitting here with Karen. This episode does not have much to do with politics, although that may come up a little bit in our conversation. It is, however, Election Day, the day that this episode comes out. I was chatting with Karen about the intersection between that and her personal life as well as her work and how I feel like politics impact a lot of us.
The United States has been an interesting six years or so that we have experienced a lack of unity as a country or a lot of division for a number of different reasons. Our conversation is around mother-daughter relationships. We can see the impact of different opinions, perspectives, education, lifestyle, and all these different factors on tense relationships.
One of the things, Karen, that I know you like to speak on in your work is what does it look like to set and maintain healthy boundaries with your mother? Certainly, that can come up during politics. We might as well start there because that was what you and I were talking about. Addressing the time of year that we’re in as of the time this episode comes out, you were sharing with me some details about politics with your mother. I’m curious. How did you set boundaries with her? Have you been able to maintain them during periods of time when a lot of people are speaking about the president of the country and other political leaders?
It’s interesting because it is making me think a little bit about my history going all the way back to childhood and how my mom was always interested in politics. She was vocal about politics and engaged. In fact, at one time, she wanted to run for local office in the town where she was living at the time.
When we first started talking, we were talking about the 2016 election. Something more topical came up in a phone conversation that I was having with my mom. At the time, it was the leaked Supreme Court decision on abortion. She had called me or I’d called her. My mom lives in Maine and I live in Connecticut.
She brings up the fact that the Supreme Court thing had been leaked. I didn’t say much, and she started to talk about it more. I said, “This is a subject that we don’t agree with, and that’s okay.” That is how I maintain a boundary. She brought it up several more times and I said that same exact thing several more times. I was like, “This is the subject that we don’t agree on.”
I don’t remember what I said, but we then had a conversation about abortion. Since we’re going to be talking about everything and it might get uncomfortable, I had an abortion when I was 21. My mom was keen on me having this abortion. She wanted me to have the abortion and I wanted to have the abortion. It was a decision that I do not regret. It’s a decision that I have never regretted. In fact, I’m rather proud of that decision.
It was interesting, given the conversation with my mom, because she brought up the fact that I’d had an abortion. I said, “That surprises me that your opinion about the fact that Roe v. Wade will be overturned is you don’t seem to care and or you think it’s good.” She was like, “When I was a kid, that’s what we had to deal with, so everybody needs to take better responsibility. I was like, “I hear you. We have different opinions, and that’s okay.”
I would say that before I had boundaries with my mom, the conversation would’ve devolved into screaming, yelling, or name-calling. It was all the things. One of the boundaries that I have with my mom is that there are certain subjects that I don’t want to talk about and it’s okay for me not to want to talk about them. One of the ways that I define a healthy boundary is that it is about our behavior, not about the other person’s behavior. My mom gets to ask questions. She gets to say things that she wants to say, and I get to decide if I want to engage it or not. That’s how I maintain the boundary.
A lot of times, the trouble we get around boundaries is that we are trying to tell other people what they can and cannot do. It is a lot. It’s much easier to maintain a boundary when you’re not trying to control them. You’re, in fact, giving them permission. You’re like, “I don’t want to talk about this. If you want to talk about this with your friends who agree with you, go for it, but it’s a conversation I’m not going to be having.”It is easier to maintain a boundary when you're not trying to control other people. Instead, you are giving them permission. Click To Tweet
That’s such a helpful framework. That goes beyond a daughter’s relationship with her mother. It’s helpful for people, especially when it comes to politics or something going on in our government. I appreciate that framework and that definition. A lot of people do get triggered when they feel like they’re being told what to do. The government and politics bring up a lot of that for people. It’s probably at the crux of it that people are wondering how they are being controlled and whether they align with what other people are doing.
Even that word control is interesting. Looking at different perspectives on politics, all these ideas around the freedom to choose are fascinating. To your point, it’s interesting that you could simultaneously encourage a behavior yet not want other people to be able to choose to do that. I’m curious if I was understanding that correctly because it sounded confusing. You said your mother supported your choice to do that and encouraged you to do it. It also sounded like when it came to making a decision for the law, your mother didn’t seem to be in support of other people being able to make that choice. Is that right?
It appears so, yes. I’m not having that conversation with her, so I can’t speak for her, but that was my impression.
I like that you’re saying that it appears so and that was your impression. Even that shows so much emotional maturity. You’re encouraging in this situation that, “My mother can speak for herself.” It is that she’s being invited to our conversation, but you’re not speaking on behalf of her. That in itself comes up so much where we interpret somebody and then pass it on to others when that person’s no longer in the room.
It’s so easy for things to get misconstrued. We see this in the media all the time with all of this gossip that goes on or he said, she said. You being able to say, “I am not able to speak on this because my mother’s not here. I didn’t even have that conversation with her, so I don’t know exactly what she would say,” you knew you didn’t want to go there with her because of your own boundary.
I could tell you what I guess she thinks, but I don’t know if that’s useful here.
That in itself is useful to me. We often have a tendency when we disagree with somebody or assume that they think differently than us to project a lot or to talk about the past. You’re describing that perhaps your mother’s perspective has changed over the years. There has been a time that’s passed since you went through that experience. Maybe she has a completely different perspective. Maybe a political figure swayed her opinion. There is a lot. It’s interesting, too, because so much of what we’re going through as individuals is we’re constantly changing. To assume that somebody’s going to be the same as how they were however many years ago is not even necessarily fair.
What sparked it was when you talked about how we might disagree. From a macro perspective, there is a whole country or two countries that don’t agree about something or two political parties. On the micro level, it could be you and your mom and I and my mom might not agree on something. I’ve done a lot of work in the past few years, especially on understanding trauma in the nervous system. I’m no expert, but I do have a nervous system. I have become intimately familiar with my particular nervous system and also from the perspective of development as a child where you are born into a family and, hopefully, have your mom.
There is almost a biological imperative that we belong to our mothers. If we don’t and there’s something there that is interrupting or affecting that, we might die. We want our moms to like us, approve of us, think we’re okay, and agree with us so that she continues to feed, clothe, house, and take care of us. 40, 50, or 60 years later, that still lives inside. It is being able to understand that my nervous system is attuned to whether or not my mother agrees with me. If she doesn’t, it feels dangerous, and vice versa.
This is my perception. It is my experience with my mom. I say this with a lot of compassion. When she is triggered, she goes into fight energy. If we look at nervous system responses of fight, flight, freeze, and fawn, we all have a tendency, when triggered, to default into one or another. We experience all of them. My experience is that my mom goes into fight energy or fight mode. I tend to freeze. I say this not as someone who is trying to please her or fawn at her but more, “Do I want to trigger my mother right now? No, I don’t.” There are times when my brain says, “Let’s do it,” but that’s up to me. That is a boundary with myself.
There are a number of things I can relate to there. My mother seems to go into that fight mode. I’m more of a freeze. I don’t like fighting. Although in some experiences, I will fight. I don’t find it safe to fight, especially around somebody else who likes to fight. I’ll fight to a certain extent and then I’m like, “I’m not waving the white flag. I’ll rather walk away.”
That’s also something my mother does. She has a tendency to leave uncomfortable conversations, so there’s not even an opportunity to get into it deep. That trigger side of it’s an interesting question. If they’re standing in the same room where my mother is in the foreground and my father or sisters are in the background, they’ll do one of these, “Cut it out, please. Simmer it out.” They’re begging me.
My mom and I, out of all the family members, tend to butt heads more than any other dynamic in my immediate family. It’s interesting because I don’t think I’m trying to trigger my mom, but from the outside perspective, they’re picking up the triggers. For me, I’m like, “I need to stand up for myself.” That’s my version of fighting. At a certain point, if it gets too deep into a fight, I’m out. My brain has this thought, “This is only going to get worse. There doesn’t seem to be a way to resolve it. I’m triggered, so maybe it’s best to walk away.”
Shame is a whole other subject that I’m fascinated with. I’ve done a lot of work on shame. One of the things that were very helpful was recognizing that we tend to shame ourselves for our normal, natural bodily responses, which include fight, flight, freeze, and fawn. All of these are intelligent responses.
They have a lot of intelligence and wisdom in them, but we have a tendency to shame ourselves and others. We’re like, “People shouldn’t fight,” or, “You’re running away. You’re a wimp,” or, “You’re frozen. What’s wrong with you?” It could also be, “You’re people-pleasing.” These are intelligent responses. When we can un-shame ourselves, un-shame them, and un-shame the response, there is so much humanity in that. It sounds like you’re already doing it.Many people shame themselves for their normal bodily responses, like fight, flight, freeze, and fall. If people can unshame themselves from these intelligent responses, there is so much humanity in that. Click To Tweet
I’m trying. One thing I was noticing from your website is that you did the Dare to Lead. Is it a certification program? I don’t want to call it the wrong name, but that’s through Brené Brown’s work. The Dare to Lead program, is that started by her?
Yes, but let me clarify and say that I didn’t do the work with her.
It’s through the program. It would’ve been cool to do it with her.
I did it with a woman. I always get her name wrong because she has two last names. Is it Nicole Lewis-Keeber or Keeber-Lewis? I can’t remember. Nicole did the work with Brené. She is certified to run these programs. I did it with Nicole.
Did your journey through understanding shame develop through that program or was it already there? How was your journey in better understanding shame shaped by being part of a program like that?
I was doing the work before that. It was in 2009 when one of Brené Brown’s TED Talks went viral. It was about shame. I started following her work at that point. I have done lots of different programs and personal work. I’ve had coaches work with me on it. I have a million stories I could tell you about un-shaming myself. In fact, I am meeting with a representative from my publisher because they’re like, “When are you going to write a book about shame?” I’m like, “Here we go.”
That is amazing because that’s a topic that I feel like I can’t get enough of. It’s interesting, though. One thing that stood out in our communication about doing this show was how mother-daughter relationships are a feminist issue and how it often happens in the context of patriarchy, misogyny, and White supremacy. It’s an interesting time to talk about that.
I’ve been noticing a bit on social media that some people are looking at people like Brené Brown and wondering, “Is this a person that feminist women are into? Does she speak to somebody who’s not a White woman?” I’ve been reflecting a lot on that because it seems like that’s her target audience or someone she naturally attracts. I’m curious about your thoughts on that. Afterward, I would love to get into more about that statement around mother-daughter relationships.
I’m not going to speak for Brené, but I know she announced on her social media platforms that she was taking a sabbatical. I didn’t pay much attention to it, but I did see some conversations about how she has the privilege, money, and all the things that allow and make it okay for her to take a sabbatical. I mentioned this before we started recording. I feel like I came to a lot of this stuff relatively late in life. I respect and admire the younger generations, seeing what they’re doing, what they’re saying, how they’re saying it, and what they are choosing to highlight.
Years ago, I started following more Black women and other women of color, wanting to broaden my horizons. Nobody knows who I am, but I am a Boomer named Karen. I am a White Boomer named Karen. I’m right on the cusp of the Boomerhood thing. I came late to it, relatively speaking, in regard to feminism and understanding the systems of oppression. I also think that for many of us, no matter how old we are, we are learning the real history of our country.
There was what we used to call the first wave of feminism back in the ‘70s when I was in middle school and high school. I went on with my life. I was a happy-go-lucky kid being a young adult in the ‘80s and ‘90s. All of a sudden, it’s like, “Look at what’s happening. Look at everything that I had no idea was happening.” I was in my safe, White, and little New England bubble.
That’s something we share in common. It’s interesting whenever I visit New England to look at it through a lens like that and try to understand. I’m like, “What was it that caused some of my ignorance? How was I able to stay so blinded to a lot of these bigger issues that have been going on for so long?” That in itself is a huge privilege. It’s amazing.
I expect someone like Brené Brown, based on her past behavior, that she will acknowledge some of these things. I watched the way that she handled everything that went on with Spotify and Joe Rogan early in 2022. She received a lot of pushback, yet I thought it was done with so much eloquence. I don’t know if she has addressed it, but I imagine she wouldn’t shy away from it.
That gives an opportunity because by speaking out against those things, she’s teaching all of us who have had a similar privilege. It’s maybe not the same in terms of fame, money, success, and all of that, but to have the White woman in upper middle class or whatever class status, she is teaching that privilege there, to an extent, is we’re just looking at things through a different lens.
If someone like her can address that openly, she has the opportunity to teach other people who look like her or who grew up like her and welcome those who don’t look like her or didn’t grow up like her. She’d say, “This is a safe place for all of us because we’re not going to ignore the elephant in the room.” I agree. To the people that are younger than me, I’m like, “I would never have thought about Brené Brown through that lens.”
Let us go back to the question about mother-daughter relationships happening in the context of all these things. I’ve read a lot of things. There are a lot of people talking about this in one form or another, but this is based on my experience as somebody from New England in the upper middle class. Did I have some things that were difficult? Yes. My parents got divorced when I was two and a half. My mom married a man when I was five who was an alcoholic. I don’t know if I would call my mother an alcoholic or not, but there was violence. There was stuff.
My mom is 82 and my grandmother, her mom, was born in 1917. She died in 2015 at the age of 98. I was my grandmother’s legal guardian for several years because my mom and her did not get along. There’s a history there. There are patterns. This is me reading a bunch of things, listening to a bunch of different things, and putting some connecting dots. My grandmother was born in 1917 at the end or the middle of World War I. Her family was German. She got married to my grandfather in the late ‘30s. My mom was born in 1940. Did you know that Nazis wrote a lot of the parenting books that were written back then?
I did not know that. I did hear a lot about the evolution of parenting books from a different book I can reference later, but I want to hear more about this first.
I don’t know if it was a lot of Nazis, but there were a couple probably. What you’re talking about is probably similar where for whatever reason, psychology at the time, which was not where it is now, was like, “Here is this blank slate child that you have. You can mold it, form it into what you want it to be, and train it. Don’t love it too much. Don’t spoil it. Put it on a schedule. If they cry, let them cry.” They were not happy, nice things.
Let me also preface all of this by saying that one of the things that I have learned to do and is something I love to work with others on is the idea that you can tell a story in a way that you like how you feel when you tell the story. It doesn’t have to be true. I don’t know if it’s true with what I’m about to say, but I like telling it this way because I like how I feel, how I show up, and how I am when I believe it to be true.
My grandmother did not want to get married and have children. She wanted to be a movie star or a model. She wanted to go to Broadway and be an actress. She wanted to have a different life than the life she ended up with. My mom was her eldest child. She was born in 1940. Based on what I’ve heard from family, my own mom, and other people who knew my grandmother, my grandmother was like, “I don’t want this child around.” My mom was sent away when she was little.
My mom has told me that my grandmother didn’t let her have friends. She told me the first real friend she had was when she was twelve. There’s the context of why mothers and daughters struggle so much. I know it’s different across different races, different backgrounds, and all the different intersections that there could possibly be.
From my perspective, White women born between 1920 and 1980, but it’s probably even longer than that, were born into White supremacy, patriarchy, and misogyny without knowing. We didn’t see it. It’s like a fish in water. If you say to the fish, “How’s the water?” The fish is like, “What do you mean?” There we all are in this water, not knowing we’re in the water.White women born between 1920 and 1980 are so deep into white supremacy that they don't even know they are swimming in patriarchy and misogyny. Click To Tweet
When you grow up a little bit, you have a little bit of life experience and you are like, “I was swimming in some water that I didn’t realize I was swimming in.” A lot of women tend to see it as, “It’s my mother. She’s the bad evil one. Why did I get this particular mother? Why is she so awful? Why doesn’t she have boundaries? Why is she an alcoholic? Why is she bipolar? Why is she this? Why is she that? Why is she?” This also comes back around a little bit to the un-shaming piece because the German-Nazi psychological thing was like, “We need to pathologize everything. There’s something wrong with you versus the water that we’re swimming in.”
That is such eye-opening information to take in. I found an article from Scientific American for anyone who wants to read more. If you have other resources, feel free to send them over. The little summary at the top says, “The Nazi regime urged German mothers to ignore their toddler’s emotional needs, the better to raise hardened soldiers and followers. Attachment researchers say that the harmful effects of that teaching may be affecting later generations.” I have some German heritage, too. It’s interesting to think about what got passed down, whether through epigenetics or child-rearing.
The other resource I was thinking of is from this book that has such an intense title. It is called A Generation of Sociopaths: How Baby Boomers Betrayed America. I read this book in 2021. I was deeply impacted by it. It sometimes feels a little biased, but it has all this interesting research to back it up. Some of it gets into parenting books from the 1940s.
There is an author named Dr. Benjamin Spock. He promoted permissive parenting, some of the other things that you’re talking about here, too, and how the ripple effect of those parenting styles has impacted all these different generations. Part of what you’re getting at here is it’s easy to point the finger and want to blame parents. I felt that many times.
My relationship with my mom is interesting because, in some ways, more on the surface level, we have a good relationship. In some ways, on the surface, people can see the tension and the challenges that we have. The older I get and the more I learn about myself and about things from people like you, I start to wonder. I’m like, “There’s a lot of work to be done, but I don’t know how to get there.”
I do find myself feeling resentment. I do find myself wanting to blame even though, on another level, I’m like, “I can’t fully blame her, but I do feel like there’s so much there that is the impact of her.” When you’re saying things like this, I’m thinking, “What about her relationship with her mother?” I haven’t understood enough of that relationship. This conversation’s inspiring me to talk to her and better understand what went on with her mom.
I wanted to say something. One element of looking at mother-daughter relationships is context. There are also real feelings that we have, like resentment, anger, grief, or disappointment. It’s all of the emotions that we would experience when things aren’t perfect, not that they’re ever perfect. It’s like walking on a line between, “Here’s the context. It’s not your mother’s fault. You shouldn’t be blaming her. You shouldn’t be upset. Get over it,” and then there’s, “I had experiences as a child and maybe as a young adult.”
I would say that even though my parents’ divorce was a hugely impactful trauma in my life, it wasn’t until I was a young adult that my relationship with my mom became what I think of as unhealthy. Although, at the time, I didn’t. My point here is that there’s the context of all the systems of oppression and why they are the way they are or why they could be that way. It’s both and. It’s like, “They did the best they could.” That is a language that a lot of people like to use. It’s also, “I suffered,” and, “Are they humans?” Yes. It’s like, “Do I have some “healing” to do because my mom can’t heal me?”
Abuse, traumas, or anything that happens at the hands of somebody else can’t be healed at that person’s hands. We are responsible for that. It’s nuanced. We’re taught not to blame, shame, and find fault. At least, this is what happened to me for a while. I was like, “I’m not supposed to blame my mom, so I’m going to blame myself.”
How can we take the blame out of the equation altogether? It’s like, “There’s this over here. Sometimes, I’m still triggered. I wish it was different. It hurts sometimes still. What’s important to me now? Who am I now? What are my values? What do I stand for? What do I want?” That is what healthy boundaries are based on. They are based on our values, not on punishing somebody else.
Boundaries can include estranging yourself from someone. Boundaries can also be used to prevent estrangement. I work with a lot of people. Some of them want to be estranged, and it’s the best choice for them. Most people are like, “I wish she would die. It would make things easier.” Speaking of which, there is a book by a woman named Jeanette McCurdy. Are you familiar with it? She wrote a book called I’m Glad My Mom Died. I know it’s a provocative title, but the book is beautifully written and does speak to the idea that we love our mothers and hate them sometimes.
I’ve been wanting to read that book, and you’ve further inspired me. It’s being discussed a lot as we’re recording this at the end of September 2022. It came out in August 2022, but it’s been talked about a lot. People seem to be moved by that book. The context of this conversation is a little incentive. I wondered, “A) Is it a provocative title? B) Is it mostly written for people that were fans of her work as an actress?”
It sounds like there’s a lot of depth there, especially for a woman who’s maybe in her late 20s or early 30s. I’m not sure. I remember when that book came out. She’s been doing a press tour and talking about some tough things. I don’t know if she’s a Millennial or Gen Z, but that age range that she’s in does seem like they’re leaning into these tough things and speaking openly about them. They’re moving through some of the shame that we’ve been addressing here. That’s part of what is inspiring. I wonder. What is it about younger Millennials, Gen Z, and beyond that don’t seem as impacted by shame as older Millennials and older generations? Do you have a perspective on that?
Yeah. Let me say that I had no idea who she was. I know there was a show called iCarly, but I had no clue. I don’t have children of my own, so I’m not aware of any of that kind of stuff. Something I have realized is this is the thing that gets passed down. If you think about it from the perspective of many years ago, it is when patriarchy came in as a system. There was tribal living. I’m not a scholar. This is just me connecting the dots in my own head.
If somebody wasn’t okay or was not doing their part, or was not well in some way, they needed to go in order for the tribe and the other members to survive. What started to happen is women were deemed not equal to men. They were less than men. They were overpowered. They were seen as property. As such, women started to learn in order to survive, especially if they had their own children. To have their children survive, the children need to toe the line. Whatever it is, the narrow definition of what’s okay, you need to fit into that. If you don’t, I will shame you as a protective mechanism to keep you in that narrow definition of what’s okay. I call it protective shaming.Women started to learn that they had to shame their children as a protective mechanism so they could survive. Click To Tweet
This conversation is vague. I’m sure there’s much more nuance. If we go back in history, there are all kinds of things that we can look at. I’m taking this one nub of, “How did we get here? Why do we do this?” I imagine that it is this ancient impulse that lives within us, women especially. If we are not okay, according to society’s definition, then we stay connected to resources to shame ourselves so that we stay in that definition.
It’s continuously fascinating to me. I don’t know if that’s because I identify a lot of shame within myself. It seems like a lot of people do. My question keeps coming back to, “Is that a generational thing? Is it something that we’re slowly working through?” There’s so much female empowerment. There’s also so much awareness around gender, in general, in non-binary people that are a different gender than they were born into, and the impact this has on us as we started talking off about the political ripple effect.
Something I mentioned to you offline that I had seen you post on Instagram is what’s going on in other countries and how women are treated very differently. In a lot of cases, it is much worse in certain countries. They’re punished for it in ways I could never even imagine. For this conversation, we have to take into account the country that we live in and grew up in and how things can be different for women, genders, and races in different parts of the world. That’s part of expanding our lens and saying, “This is not a human experience.”
We’re not all living an equal experience because it depends on who you are, where you grew up, where you live, and what’s going on at that time. It sometimes can feel overwhelming and heartbreaking. Going back, something that you and I have in common is growing up in New England as White women. More and more, I’m recognizing the privilege of not having to worry about some of these things and then the privilege of even thinking that these things are easily overcome. In September 2022, we’re seeing horrific things happen in other parts of the world. My brain can’t even believe that’s going on in 2022.
I grew up without the internet. Having the internet has allowed me to listen to other people. I follow a lot of Black women. There are several of them. I love listening and reading what they have to say because it’s from a perspective that I don’t have. In some of the other countries where some of the horrific things have happened to Black women, specifically, or other women of color, I sense a maturity in them. I’m not saying all White women are immature, but I sense maturity and a sense of healing in them with the work that they’ve done because they had to that White women haven’t had to do. I’ve heard the term used that especially White women are infantilized. That’s how we are kept helpless and hopeless. They’re like, “Don’t worry your little head about that.”
That gives me chills. It’s so disturbing. If you start to look at all these systems that are created to oppress people, sometimes, the oppression is right in your face. Sometimes, the oppression is so subtle or buried that you don’t even recognize that you’re being oppressed. Maybe you can say that about most human beings with the exception that White men may not experience that quite as much. Also, there’s classism and ableism.
There are so many other factors that go into how people are treated, how they’re raised, what they believe about themselves and the shame that’s instilled. Conversations like this are so big. I was curious about some of your resources. I would love to hear more about the women if you know their names off the top of your head. I’d love to pass those on to the audience, too.
There is Desiree Lynn Adaway and Erica Hines. There’s a lot. I’m also going to mention somebody who’s not a woman of color. She’s Jewish. Her name is Kara Loeweltheil. She has a show called UNF*CK YOUR BRAIN. She continues to do an advanced certification in feminist coaching, which I did earlier this 2022. There are so many. I feel like I should go online and look, but I won’t.
As we begin to wrap up this conversation, I feel like there are so many places we could go that we haven’t gone to yet. I imagine you’re covering so much of the subject matter on your show, so I’d love to hear more about that for the audience, too, who’s curious.
My show is bite-sized compared to yours. This is the way I am. I probably have ADHD. I have a show called Dear Adult Daughter. I also send out a newsletter at least weekly. Sometimes, it is a little bit more than weekly. I send those with things about boundaries and shame, but always through the lens of the mother-daughter relationship.
I don’t go and riff on things like what’s happening in Iran or racism, specifically. I do recognize from the macro perspective that these are all forces that have affected and can affect a mother-daughter relationship. My show is more geared toward answering people’s questions. Sometimes, they’re more inspirational. Sometimes, they’re more like how-tos. It’s like, “Here are five tips on setting boundaries.” My longest one might be twenty minutes. The shortest one is 1 minute. It’s called Dear Adult Daughter. You can find it anywhere.
You’re such a wealth of knowledge on the subject matter. The short episodes are so valuable because sometimes, somebody is feeling pain and they want to resolve it. That’s not what my show is designed to do. Mine are conversations that are deep. It allows somebody to drift in and out of these thoughts with us.
To have a solution, a piece of advice, a tip, or something to help somebody deal with these struggles, which are so tender and triggering, imagine how many people are leaning on you for support through something that they’ve been experiencing their whole lives. That mother-daughter relationship is a lifelong journey. One of you is going to experience it longer than the other.
I’m also curious. Before we wrap up, since I think so much about gender and broadening my perspective, do you work with some trans women or non-binary people who are also trying to explore their relationships? I imagine there’s a whole other level that I could never understand and might be extremely challenging.
I have not specifically addressed that. I have not worked with somebody who is transgender or non-binary. I have worked with gay women that identified as lesbian or bi. It’s not that I don’t think I could, but I’m also not sure if I’d be the best. There are other resources out there. There is somebody named Sam Dylan Finch. They do a lot of writing. I’m not sure if they have a show or not.
I don’t know if those coaches deal with it from a specific niche as I have, but there are more coaches. In fact, the school I attended, called The Life Coach School, has exploded over the years. They have taken diversity, equity, and inclusion. There are all kinds of coaches in different intersections that are from that school. I’m guessing that maybe if they don’t specifically say, “I’m going to coach you on your mother,” they would probably be better suited and could coach them on that than me.
It may be a partnership.
If somebody came to me, I would try to help them. If I didn’t think I could or feel like it was appropriate, I would recommend them to somebody else.
You have so many great resources on your website. You have the show, books, and a Boundaries workshop you are offering. I also love your, “Sign up to receive love notes,” email. Who doesn’t want to receive love notes? Somebody might not, but for me, that sounds so appealing. I feel a sense of care. Whether intentional or not, you exude this motherly love and let-me-take-care-of-you vibe that I felt throughout this conversation. Also, your website feels like a safe place to do some deep healing. That’s wonderful.
As someone who chose very specifically not to have children, I have heard that a lot over my life. It’s the result of the work I’ve been doing for myself, but it still takes me by surprise when people say that and I receive that. Thank you.
You’re welcome. That’s something else we could have talked a lot about because I’m at this point in my life where I feel a lot of pressure to decide about having kids. I keep leaning toward not having them. That’s a discussion that’s speaking of younger generations. It seems like Millennials and younger are finding more confidence in making that decision and then being proud of it.
I’m curious about your decision if you feel like touching upon it before we wrap up. You do so much work around mothers and you’re not talking about raising children. You’re talking about healing a relationship with your mother. Do you think that impacted your choice not to have children, or was it a separate thing for the most part?
My mom has told me this. She was like, “From when you were very young, you used to say you didn’t want to have kids.” There isn’t a time in my life where I ever was like, “I’m going to have kids.” There was a time in my life when I thought, “Someday, I’ll get married and have kids,” but not because I wanted to. Has there ever been something that you were so completely sure about?
I laugh at that question because I have trouble making decisions. I feel like a lot of that’s rooted in shame, people-pleasing, and not feeling a lot of self-agency. That’s a big part of my journey. I’m very passionate about my work and always have been, even when I was doing different work. That feels in a lot of alignment. I’m purpose-driven. That is usually when I feel more decisive.
I’ve done this for myself because I’m not decisive on everything either. Sometimes I’m like, “I don’t know what to do,” but because I have this one thing that there has never ever been any doubt, it was always boom. I love the idea that when I’m feeling doubtful about something, I can tap into what it feels like because I have had this experience of certainty.
What happens is we have this tendency to think, “I’m not allowed to be certain because what if I fail?” What if you can be certain, fail, and it doesn’t matter? You can choose to feel certain. You can use the experience of your work or passion. There’s no doubt in your mind that you have this passion. You know what it feels like. I don’t know if I’m making sense. You can drop yourself into the experience of that. It would be interesting to experiment with this other choice and try on, “I know what certainty feels like. What would it be like to apply that to this?”People need to feel certain about what they want and not fear failure. Click To Tweet
To clarify that exercise because that sounds interesting, is it that you are taking something you feel certain about and using it as a frame of reference? You’re like, “Since I know what certainty feels like, that should give me clarity about this doubt that I’m feeling.” Is it that you take that feeling of certainty and imagine that you felt certain about this other choice? Does that make sense?
Yeah. When you feel certain, do you act or show up a certain way? Do you do certain things? You’re certain that you have a show. You’re certain that it comes out every week, or I’m not sure how often it comes out. Your certainty has you taking the action of getting guests, setting them up, and doing all the things. It would be interesting to try on the feeling of certainty and see what actions you take as a result in regard to this other thing. It doesn’t mean you have to make the decision, but see what actions flow from being certain.
What would it be like to say, “I’ve decided I’m not having children. I know what certainty feels like, and I’m going to feel that.” See what happens over the course of a week. You could also say, “I have decided I am certain I’m going to have a child. I want to have a child,” and see what happens over the course of a week. I know it sounds vague and weird, but your brain will go to work on that for you. I don’t know if you have a partner or if you want to have a child without a partner. There are all these different options. It would be interesting to see what the feeling of certainty would have you do as an experiment. Does that make sense?
It does. I’ve never thought about it that way. It’s helpful. A lot comes up reflecting on that. I also feel like the audience can think about this. It doesn’t have to be about having children, but tapping into that. Your life coaching skills are coming into play here, which is so lovely. What amazing guidance to offer the audience and to me, too.
I’m so grateful for the time you spent with me, the explorations, and your willingness to get uncomfortable and vulnerable. It’s been so lovely. You’ve left me wanting more, and I hope the audience feels the same way. That’s why I’m so grateful that you have a show, too, but also all those resources on your website. I always try to make it easy for the audience. There’s a link to her website. We also mentioned books and other shows. You have all of your fantastic resources. Thank you so much for sharing them. I can’t wait to check them out.
Hopefully, you can take some action, or at the very least, give some reflection on these tender topics that we’ve explored. Know that you’re supported. There are safe spaces between the two of us to take the next step to look further or whatever you decide to do beyond this episode. Karen, thank you once again. It has been so wonderful getting to know you and hearing more about your work and perspectives on things.
Thank you. I had a lot of fun. I could do this all day.
Don’t you love that? It’s such a magical thing to be able to connect with one another through this medium.
- Karen C.L. Anderson
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- I’m Glad My Mom Died
- UNF*CK YOUR BRAIN
- Dear Adult Daughter
- https://www.Instagram.com/prntgdcolonized/ – Yolanda Williams
- https://www.Instagram.com/leesareneehall/ – Leesa Renee Hall
- The Burning Light of Two Stars: A Mother-Daughter Story
- My Grandmother’s Hands
- https://www.Instagram.com/rachel.cargle/ – Rachel Cargle
- https://www.Facebook.com/redtabletalk/videos/3261305984112390 – Red Table Talk episode
- https://www.Facebook.com/redtabletalk/videos/1451441258645947 – Red Table Talk episode
- https://www.Instagram.com/thenapministry/ – The Nap Ministry
About Karen C.L. Anderson
Karen C.L. Anderson writes for – and works with – women who want to take care of themselves in the relationship they have with their mothers. She is the author of several books, including Difficult Mothers, Adult Daughters: A Guide For Separation, Liberation & Inspiration and The Difficult Mother-Daughter Relationship Journal.
Karen recognizes that what’s possible personally is what’s possible collectively, and that “the Mother Wound” is not actually about mothers, but about systems that oppress all women.
She understands the adage, “hurt people, hurt people,” but prefers to say “people who are unaware of their hurts sometimes hurt other people,” while also acknowledging that cultivating compassion and empathy does not mean you have to hang out with hurt people, and that healthy boundaries (up to and including going “no contact”) are at the heart of healing.
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