Dear Auntie,
I’ve been following your columns for a while and found you to be very helpful. In the 18 years of my parents’ marriage, I’ve never seen my mother at peace. I’ve always seen her crying. She is very careful in how she deals with family members. She takes care of minute details when she talks and never misbehaves with anyone.

But things between my parents are not going well. Despite living together for a long time, they are always fighting. My mother always tries to share events that hurt her, but my father refuses to listen. I love both of them and want them to share things like real friends, as husband and wife.

When I was young, she had nobody to share her problems with so she started sharing them with me. I was pushed into family quarrels. I feel like my childhood was ruined. I feel very sad and depressed whenever I see her crying. I want to see her smile. I want my mother to live a happy and prosperous life. Sometimes she beats me and I let her. Maybe beating someone mitigates her stress. I want to do everything for her.

‘How can I help my mother?’

I couldn’t find anyone, so I am turning to you. Please guide me on what I should do. One-in-dilemma

Dear One-in-Dilemma, Thank you for reaching out to me and your kind words about my columns. I can sense your deep concern and love for your mother and it’s commendable that you want to help her find peace and happiness. It is unfortunate to hear that your parents’ relationship is strained, which has impacted your own well-being.

Firstly, beating you up out of frustration is not okay. Is there an adult you trust and can talk to? It could be a family member like a grandmother or a khala? If not, is there a teacher or school counselor you can tell, who can then talk to your mother about this?

Secondly, it’s not your responsibility to fix your parents’ relationship or to bear the burden of their issues. Your mother’s confiding in you and relying on you as a therapist is unfair and inappropriate. To all the parents out there reading this (including your mother hopefully), burdening your children with your problems can have significant negative effects on them. It burdens children emotionally, can create anxiety and can also make it difficult for them to focus on their studies and future careers. Children can also end up feeling guilty about pursuing their own goals and forming relationships because they feel responsible for their parent.

Breaking this unhealthy pattern will be challenging because your mother might resist the changes. However, you can support your mother to create a more positive environment for yourself as well.

Start by talking to your mother about how her emotional state and your parents’ conflicts have affected you. Let her know that, while you love her and want her to be happy, it is difficult for you to be caught in the middle of their disputes.

I would strongly recommend that you and your mother both seek professional help separately and your parents to seek couple’s therapy if they are open to the idea. Professional counselors can provide guidance on improving communication between all family members.

It is essential that you start taking care of your own physical and emotional well-being especially since the home environment isn’t conducive to that. So focus on your own growth. Do what you enjoy and make friends. If you take care of your health, you will be in a better position to provide support to those family members who need it.

I wish you and your mother all the best and I hope she finds the peace and happiness she deserves.

Disclaimer: If you or someone you know is in crisis and/or feeling suicidal, please go to your nearest emergency room and seek medical help immediately.

Auntie will not reply privately to any query. Please send concise queries to: auntieagni@gmail.com

Published in Dawn, EOS, May 21st, 2023

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