Dear Dr. Norquist:
My daughter is grown and out of the house and even married. We had a rough relationship when she was a teenager but we have become increasingly close over the past few years. She lives in Florida but we talk on the phone often. Last week, after a conversation that included many prompting suggestions from me regarding things I thought she should be doing with her time, she asked me if I called to chat or if I called to nag her. This bothered me as I do not want to be hurtful to her. Still, I am bothered that she is not following through on her education or even looking for a job. She is taking care of household matters and letting her husband support her. Education and achievement have always been important in my family – along with having a good work ethic, being productive and giving back to the world in some way. (I come from a long line of Protestants!). I don’t see her doing any of those things and that really bothers me. On the other hand, I don’t want to be hurtful to her or our growing closeness. But isn’t it my job as her mother to instill these values? I’m very interested in your opinion in this matter.
Dr. Norquist responds:
Your daughter is grown and married. Although your values are admirable, she is the one who must determine what is important to her as she moves forward with her life. You cannot make her imbibe any values that are not innately important to her. She could interpret your message as she is not worthy or loveable unless she is productive, achieving (in ways that matter to you) and accomplished (again, in ways that matter to you). It is not up to any of us to determine the path that another soul should take. As a fellow life traveler and especially, as her mother, your job is to love unconditionally. Is she loveable even if she doesn’t imbibe these values of yours? This is what she needs to know. It is not your words that will convey this to her so much as your inner state of Being. She will know when your love is unconditional. It will be conveyed, heart-to-heart. In this way you can use this situation as a means for your own growth in the capacity for loving another as they are, unconditionally.
She must make her own decisions. Freed from self doubt at not meeting your expectations, her sense of her innate worthiness is more available to her. Armed with self-worth and loveableness, she is more capable of listening to her own soul’s yearnings.
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.)Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanya.com or by e-mail at email@example.com, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. 2012 Chaitanya Counseling Services