We are all born into this world as helpless little people, incapable of fending for ourselves. So the universe provides us with a set of parents, and sometimes just one parent. These people are meant to care for us, teach us, look out for us, protect us, and most of all love us unconditionally. I was lucky to be born into a large family with two parents and four siblings. I can honestly say I never felt lonely as a child. Our house was always bustling with people and activities, and I rather enjoyed it that way. I think it is the reason that I always encouraged my children to have their friends at our house, I am just used to the chaos and insanity. It is my normal.
In the center of the circus, which was my childhood home, was my mother. She was the ringleader and master of all. Nothing came in or out without her consent. She and I never really had much of a relationship. As far back as I can remember she always told me that she was my mother and not my friend. Looking back on it, those are very damaging words to a small child. When you feel as though you can't even talk to your own mother, it leaves you vulnerable to predators. Not a good place for any child to be. However, my mother always loved and respected my wife, so I was hoping that she had evolved enough as a human being to be a supportive part of my family’s transition. Again I was disappointed.
"WHEN I HAD TOLD HER THAT I HAD EVERY INTENTION TO REMAIN MARRIED TO MY WIFE, SHE FLIPPED OUT."
When I had told her that I had every intention to remain married to my wife, she flipped out. Screaming and cursing through the phone like an animal, I couldn't even understand what she was saying. Nevertheless the message was received. My wife, my children, and I would not have her support. That was three years ago. I can count on one hand how many times I have seen her since then. As I sit here today and write this I still have no idea what her real issue with transgender people is. Why was she so angry and upset? I am madly in love and happily married to the person of my dreams. Our children are healthy, happy, and successful. And, my family dynamic does not affect her life one bit.
All of the partners and spouses of transgender folks that I have spoken to about coming out to their mothers all have different stories to tell. It got me thinking about the different types of "mothering styles.” Why are some moms so supportive at the get-go, while others have no problem showing you the door? Not only was I curious to see what type of mother I have, I also wanted to see what kind of mother I am to my kids. So the "experts" say there are five types of mothers, the perfectionist mother, the unpredictable mother, the "me first" mother, the best friend mother, and the complete mother. Here are their definitions as written by, clinical psychologist Dr. Stephan Poulter.
The perfectionist mother - Typically, an over-controlling, fearful, and anxious woman for whom appearance is everything. Her children tend to be hypercritical of themselves, feeling inadequate and emotionally empty.
The unpredictable mother - Anxious, angry, excessively emotional, this mother is overwhelmed by feelings so her parenting style is based purely on mood. This type has the most chaotic of the five styles. She creates problems, issues and crises in her mind, through her emotions and relationships, and passes them on to her children.
The "me first" mother - One of the most prevalent mothering styles, me-firsts are unable to view their children as separate individuals and tend to be self-absorbed and insecure. Their offspring will learn from an early age that their role is to make their mother shine.
The best friend mother - She enjoys treating her children as equals in order to avoid the responsibility of setting boundaries. This mother believes her life would be over if she embraced motherhood so avoids that role. Instead, both child and parent assume the role of emotional confidante and partner, leaving the child effectively motherless. In this situation, the emotional needs of the mother are so consuming; she has to rely on the child to meet them.
The complete mother - This ideal is only experienced by about 10% of us. The complete mother combines the best elements of the other four styles. Emotionally balanced, she can see her children as individuals and help them achieve their own independence. She isn’t necessarily perfect herself but whatever her emotional circumstances, she is committed to motherhood — regardless of other responsibilities outside the home.
It seems that according to the definitions of different mothering styles, you could almost predict what type of response your mother will have when you tell her that your partner is trans. As partners we are all just trying to navigate transition in a healthy way for ourselves, our partners, and for some of us, our children. Having to deal with turmoil from our extended families is the last thing we all need. I am always heart broken when a partner tells me that their mom is unsupportive and that having a transgender partner has destroyed the relationship they had with them. Intolerance for your own children should be a crime. I don't always approve of my kids decisions, but I can never imagine turning my back on them for anything. There is no expiration date on the love that we give our children. It does not end at eighteen when they go off to college or out into the world on their own. It should be unconditional and eternal. I guess not having a real relationship with my own mother has spared me from some of this pain. Removing her toxic energy from my family was a no brainer. Yet, for some of us this wound still festers.