how to tell your mother to back off - image via Unsplash

Let’s kick this off with a clarification, shall we, a disclaimer of sorts. How to tell your mother to back off? Uh oh, Suger and her Mum mustn’t get along very well… Oh no. But that’s not the case. My mother and my mother-in-law are great! Both are in fact delightful in their own unique ways and have never found any reason to put me down or implied the plans I have for my life are crap.

This is for that girl I met one in the City Chic change rooms in Brisbane. I told you then that I thought you should tell your mother to fuck off. This is my way of expanding on that now that we’ve both recovered from the shock of me saying that! Eeek. This is because your mother challenges your confidence daily, judges and criticises your body and general appearance and because she is mean to you. It’s for you and every other woman out there who feels the same way.

Here’s the cold hard truth of it. Mother’s are people who make mistakes. While we love them they are not the be all and end all authority on all the things. For their generosity and love, mothers are working with the skills they have, the knowledge they have and the ideas they have. You’ll recognise them, you would have picked up a few of the same ideas along the way. But not all of them are right, or right for you or even helpful AT ALL.

Today for the second or third time this week women have told to me that they have run into issues with uninvited “advice” {criticism} from their mother that is impeding the development of their self-esteem and body confidence. If I was a mother I wouldn’t MEAN to do that. It wouldn’t be my idea of a good plan. But sometimes these things just happen.

But this worries me because mother’s have had the same issues in varying degrees relating to confidence, ambition and the ownership of their bodies for goodness knows how long. It worries me because if something is to change {and soon} we need to know when it is time to tell your mother to back off, step down or plain old get lost. Same goes for aunties, grandmothers and women of their ilk. Times they are a’changing and someone has to tell them.

Do you plan to allow your mother to speak to your daughter in a way the reaffirms the current, unachievable ideals of body shape and size? Well why let her do it to you? Maybe you think your Mother has THE WORST taste in men ever and the relationship history to prove it. Well would you then allow her to interfere or comment on your marriage? Probably not. It’s time to consider the advice you receive in the same way you would if it came from anyone else.

It is not about being disrespectful. It is about the changing of the guard. It might not ever be a conversation that you need to have to with you mother at all. Maybe your mother never even needs to hear the words back off come out of your mouth. Maybe there’s a conversation to be had… But with yourself. I suggest it going something like this…

“Self! Hi good to talk to you again, hope you’re well. I wanted to talk to you about Mum. She’s great and everything {or not} and she did a bang up job of raising us. But here’s the thing, she’s not always right and she certainly does not know everything. So from now on self, we are going to consider her advice and then decide for ourselves. If she pushes us, we will nod and smile and say thank you for loving me and move on. Do you think we can do that, self?”

And you either will agree with you or not. Easy peasy. It takes the power away from her and places it firmly on your shoulders. It’s your job now to decide. Your job to treat your mother in a respectful manner while still maintaining a life that YOU designed. Your relationship with your mother is going to thank me. I promise.

But what happens if there is a conversation to be had with your mother? What if no matter how many conversations you have with yourself to let her do her thing and you do yours she still manages to push your buttons? I’ve never had the conversation with my mother, but I have had it with out, more annoying types. Here’s what I would do.

Firstly, do the conversation with yourself again. Sure your Mum is a pain but like Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt said “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent” so some of it lands on you. Remind yourself your Mum is not the boss of you no matter what 5-year-old you thinks.

Then next time it happens stay calm and broach the topic with her. CALMLY. Mum, I feel like when you say that you are criticising me, please stop doing that. OR Mum, I have heard your opinion on this, I’m not going to change my mind, please drop it. And if she won’t acknowledge your request and continues with the same behaviour, leave. Always come back {another day, week even} but be clear that you are leaving now because you don’t want to discuss it or be spoken to like that. Full stop.

Over time by reminding yourself that your Mum is human AND reinforcing how it is acceptable to speak with you or contribute her ideas you will forge a new, shinier, adult version of interacting. If, and this is the big, she let’s go a little too. So if your Mum is like the lady in the change room’s Mum then I hope this works out for you. Keep practising, be assertive and you’ll find your confidence and self-esteem will thank you for it.

Tell your Mum to back off today and be the better for it.

Weird but I have this feeling like I might be getting some message from Mum’s sometime soon saying what the HECK Suger, what were you thinking… I urge you to read this post a few times and let it sink in. This is not a free pass to go and dump decades worth of hurt feelings on your mother. You’re a grown up now too. Move on. 

And as always, there are exceptions to every rule, you should consider your personal safety or mental health before tackling something like this is you feel it is outside of your capability right now. Speak to a professional, your GP can point you in the right direction.