7 g. Learning to be a mother
I spotted Sandra and her son as I was setting up a communications exercise during a workshop about Reunited Families. They were not doing the exercise and the youngster looked tense and resistant to the mother’s efforts to engage him. I approached them and managed to convince him to give it a try. The youngest of two teenage boys, he was 13. His oldest brother, 17, had refused to come to the workshop. Apparently, soon after their arrival 6 months ago, things had gotten very difficult between them and their single mother. They had formed a united front against her, acting rebellious and disrespectful. They wanted to leave and go back to their country. The dialogue was very difficult at first, but the son managed to convey his anger to the mother, regarding how little time she spent with them. Sandra, like many of the other single mothers that I had met, was working two jobs to be able to make ends meet. The son also complained about how irritable and sour she seemed all the time, always yelling at them to help out with the home chores. Sandra, a young and very attractive woman, who until then had appeared somewhat cold and defensive, started to cry. She then admitted she had been very hard to live with lately and that her son was right. She did spend little time with them and the little she did seemed full of tension and anger. She then shared that she had never imagined it would be this hard to go from being a single woman, with all the freedom in the world, going out week-ends to dance with girlfriends, to becoming the mother of two very demanding teenagers. She felt tired and stressed all the time. She acknowledged to locking herself in her room sometimes because she felt like she was going to go crazy. Other times, she stayed at work late so as to avoid having to get home and face the mess and her kids’ anger. When I told her any woman would feel exactly like her under such conditions and that it didn’t mean that she was a bad mother, nor that she didn’t love her children, I could feel her body relax under my arm. When I looked up I could see how moved her son was too. It was very easy for him to follow my invitation to comfort his mother by putting his arm around her. She told him between sobs that it was not that she didn’t love them, but that she just needed some time to get used to being a mom and she needed free time. I had to laugh and say all moms needed that every now and then. She followed up on my referral to seek the support of a professional to help her deal with the enormous task she had undertaken. The tension between mother and child had subsided for the first time.