My Mother Doesn’t Understand Who I Am

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

From the U.S.: I am now a rising sophomore, but am being treated like I graduated elementary school.
My mother and I do not understand each other at all. Firstly, we have very different mindsets. My mom was raised in Somalia, so she was a teenager in Somalia. I’m a teenager in America, so when it comes to raising me I just feel as if she doesn’t understand where I am coming from.

For starters, my mother is way too attached, and I mean it’s outrageous. Every little errand she has to do I’m always being tagged along to go. I absolutely hate going out with her because I do it every single day! I can’t even talk to her, it’s just silence when she drives the car. But when I ask to go hang out with my friends, it’s such a problem. She automatically thinks my friends are all dirty hoes when that’s not the case at all.

A lot of my friends are black, and she’s super ignorant. She makes rude racist remarks and thinks they are going to change me who I am as a person. When I want to go out and be with people my age who understand me she takes my phone away and yells at me about how I’m such a disgrace.

Not only that, but I was recently punished for kissing a boy and having a boyfriend. My mom is muslim so she believes in no physical contact until marriage (she lives in the 1700s in her mind). I think it’s ridiculous to be punished for making a personal decision, because at the end of the day she can’t control who I am as a person.

She’s trying to mold me into another version of her- someone who has no social life, stays in her room all day and just degrades her daughters everyday. I am struggling with deep depression. My mother has made me very insecure and depressed about my life. She has denounced everything I’m passionate about- I have to FIGHT to do things that make me happy! Please give me advice on how to get her to understand me as a person- I really feel as if I don’t even want to live this life anymore.
Thank you!

A: You’re right. Your mother doesn’t understand you. But the fact is, you don’t understand her either. Your story is very typical of what happens when cultures collide. Your mother is trying to raise you as a good Somalian woman. You want her to be a middle American mom. Instead of trying to figure out how to navigate the differences in cultures, the two of you are locked in a battle. You are as much at fault as she is. (Relationships do go two ways, you know.) I don’t think she is trying to mold you into a version of herself. I think she’s afraid she is going to lose you to a way of life she doesn’t understand.

I suggest you drop your end of the fight. Talk with your mother about what it was like for her when she was a teen. Ask her what was expected of her then. Talk about why she chose to come to America and whether she understood that you would be growing up very differently than she did. This isn’t something to fight about. It’s something to be curious about. Show her that being Americanized doesn’t mean that you disrespect her or her values. Then see if there are some common goals you can work on together.

This will take some time and patience on your part, But if you take the high road and show her how mature you can be while you discuss these difficult issues, I suspect she will start to bend. You have time. Really you do. If you work on this gradually, you may be able to salvage your relationship with your mother and have a more typically American rest of your teen years.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 8 Jul 2014

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2014). My Mother Doesn’t Understand Who I Am. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/07/08/my-mother-doesnt-understand-who-i-am/