Nothing makes you more aware of your relationship with your mother than the moment you become engaged.  My relationship with my mother would no doubt be considered unusual to many – but surprisingly, I have met several women in my life in exactly the same position as me, and so, I approached Annabel to ask about writing about it.  Now I have to be careful what I say as she often reads my articles, but in true Love My Dress spirit, I also have to be honest.  So here goes…

My parents divorced when I was nine years old, and I lived with my mum for the first year.  She wasn't financially comfortable back then, in fact it would be fair to say she struggled with four children as a single mother. Looking back, I could see she was tired, stressed and a little bit anti-men after dad left – so as you can imagine, not a whole lot of fun to be around.  But at 9 years old you don't understand any of that – you just feel sorry for yourself because you aren't allowed sleepovers or coca cola and because mum had 4 of us including a small baby, it was hard to get her attention with everyone vying for it at the same time.

By contrast, dad had a peaceful life with his new wife and had all the time in the world to hear what we had to say.  We were sent in pairs so the boys then the girls alternate weekends and so I had a much better ratio when it came to his attention.  It was with dad that I had friends to stay, Gladiator posters on my wall and Coca-Cola.  We would watch telly on Saturday evenings: Barrymore then Blind Date and play Monopoly, staying up late to watch Ready Steady Go – I used to love singing with him to the sound of the sixties.  So when Dad asked me to live with him I accepted and told my mother I would be 'better off'.  I'm not quite sure where I learnt that phrase but I don't think in her heart she ever forgave me for it.

Don't let mother make you feel like this....

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I lost touch with my mum over the years that followed, and began to see her again in my late teens.  Of course by then, our relationship was different to most mother/daughter relationships, because mum had missed out on 10 years or so of my life.  I had never spoken to her about periods or boys, about my dreams or my worries for instance, so in rekindling things, she became more of a 'mate' than a mum;  we'd have a few cigarettes together and talk about the men I was seeing and have a bit of a laugh, but it was all very light.  I was aware at this point I needed her in my life but unsure to what extent.

Over the next 10 years, I invested in building a mother-daughter relationship.  My little sister who never moved to be with my dad was much closer to mum and they had something natural that I just didn't possess – but wanted badly.  They found the same things funny, shared the same beliefs, looked the same and acted the same.  I am the polar opposite to both of them: whereas they are pale and redhead I am fairly dark and brunette.  They are both fiesty (fighters they call themselves) and I joke that I'm a lover – though my sister has been known to call me a hippy!  Therefore creating a bond with mum was harder than I thought and certainly didn't come naturally.

I had it in my head that a mum should be and do certain things, but through the process of planning my wedding, I've learnt that it's simply not true.  For example, I thought that a mum should be more excited than ever when you get engaged.  In reality, my mum laughed and asked if the ring was from Claire’s Accessories! (it isn't by the way, I don't think!).  When I wanted to go dress shopping, mum wasn't really fussed.  I took bridal magazines to look at with her and she would flick through and comment on how extortionate everything was and what a waste of money.  I started to feel upset reading Mother of the Bride stories when I felt like I was missing out.  Around this time a friend of mine was getting married and kept complaining that her mum was beginning to take over the planning, choosing colour schemes and acting like it was her own wedding.  Even though it sounded pretty frustrating for my friend, and not what I wanted at all, I remember feeling envious of her having a relationship with her Mum – and wishing I connected with my mum like that.

I've talked to my mum about the way I feel, but obviously, she is who she is, and to a large extent I've had to come to terms with that.  It doesn't help that her and her own mother were never close, in fact they have a fragmented and fragile relationship at best.  I was aware that if I hugged mum, she would pull away a bit and act uncomfortable – and she doesn't remember things the way that I do either so in her mind, she agreed to go dress shopping (true) but from where I'm standing I asked her four times and her responses ranged from being hesitant, to not at all interested.  In her defense, she was recovering from a pretty intense operation at this time and was concerned about mobility but I would have been more than happy to ferry her from shop to shop – and she knew that – all she really had to do was sip champagne and join in!

I need to get across that I'm not blaming my mum for anything that has happened and she is the way she is due to her own upbringing and life experiences, plus it didn't help that I left her as a child to be 'better off', but in a way, I feel that the little girl desperate for some love and attention from her mum is still in there.

During the course of planning my wedding, I tried to get a bond with mum, asking her opinion, inviting her to wedding fayres and talking to her as much as I could but I realised quite quickly that she just wasn't keen – she just did't get it. In contrast, my Stepmum was the opposite – very excited and keen to be involved.

And then, something happened.


Suddenly, my mum’s husband walked out on her.  It was awful and really unexpected, and for the first time ever I saw a vulnerable side to her.  Surprisingly, in response to this, it was me she turned to for support.

I decided to spend some time making sure she was ok and found an amazing spa: Fistral Spa in Newquay where they specialise in Mother-Daughter breaks.  Spending some time in their relaxation room, eating delicious meals and enjoying treatments from head to toe was just what we both needed. We both had a lovely pedicure in the spa which it turns out is something we have in common – the love of foot massage, and spent an evening in one of their best rooms – really talking to each other.  These past few months I've really got to know her on a different level as a person and not just as a mother.  I accept that she is flawed (who isn't?) – many of her decisions I shake my head at as I would never even contemplate them but I see now that she isn't such a tough cookie after all, that there is love and vulnerability behind the facade that I never saw before.  She still isn't going to be that mum (she's recently bowed out of doing a reading during the ceremony for example),  but at least I'm finally getting a relationship with her where we talk about things that matter and we can both work on strengthening our relationship.

I wish the magazines would talk more about the truth rather than the ideal.  I know I'm rare (how many 9 year olds leave their own mothers then spend 20 years trying to mend the cracks?!), but surely, I'm not the only one who doesn't have a picture-perfect size 10 Ian Stuart model as a mum?  I have a real mum;  she is blunt, often tactless actually, hedonistic and also impulsive.  She's tone deaf, extremely opinionated, strong willed and stubborn.  She's not as smart or imperial as I thought she was when I was a little girl, because I've learnt that parents are just people, not deities.  But she has a good sense of humour, she's courageous and honest and really quite a lot of fun – she's a real person and not a fantasy.

I guess the point of my post is that, the experience of planning a wedding, whilst joyous and exciting, can also be an emotional rollercoaster at times, with issues like difficult family relationships suddenly thrust under the spotlight and demanding you deal with them – when all you really want to be doing is enjoying the moment. Learning to plan your wedding whilst keeping the peace between family members and staying sane yourself can be hugely challenging at times, but we shouldn't feel alone, or inadequate, or let these experiences throw us off track from our ultimate goal – that is, planning the union of two people who love one another.

I know that for now, I have to put away my Osmond obsession for the perfect all singing, all dancing family and learn to be grateful for what I have.  Some of my friends don't even have the chance to have their mum with them on their wedding day which is tragic.  And for all her flaws, my mum is one of the strongest most incredible women I know.

Thanks for sticking with me on this one and reading this far.  I'd love your thoughts on how planning your wedding has led you to examine your own relationships with your parents.

Jess

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18 thoughts on Mums the Word: Overcoming Expectations, by Jess…

  1. This is a great post
    when you get engaged you expect everything to go smoothly, but life nor engagement is like that.
    I got engaged over a year ago, it has been the most stressful, heart-breaking experience. My fiancee’s parents became particularly difficult and as a result have tried and tested all relationships to breaking point. I really never imagined this would happen.
    The wedding is yet to be planned and if i am honest i yet to regain the thrill of planning. I just want to be married to the man i love not really bothered about the fanfair which surrounds.
    As you mention there are always people who are worse off many couples would have fallen at the first hurdle let alone the 10th 11th or 12th, but we havent – in someways i feel thankful that we have had a testing time, life was too easy prior, and although difficult will hopefully set us in good stead for times aren’t so good in the furure.
    I hope that one day we can look back and realise how rediculous it has all been!
    I love the blog even though it sometimes draws me to tears!!

  2. This is a brilliant post, so well written and it’s been really interesting to read your story!
    My parents aren’t the usual type of parent, they were very young when they had me (mum was 18) and have always left me to do my own thing.
    As soon as I was 16 I was an adult and made my own decisions, so I couldn’t imagine them becoming involved in my wedding plans.
    They are awesome parents (we’re more like friends really, especially my mum, who even shares my clothes!) but we aren’t an emotional family at all, we never hug or say ‘I love you’ so I often wonder what it would be like if I got married. My Dad isn’t the kind of person to make an emotional speech and I couldn’t imagine my mum crying in the front row! They aren’t even married themselves!

  3. Very well said! Thank you for your post! It let me know that I’m not alone! =)
    As for my own planning my dad is deceased so it’s difficult to plan without thinking of him and missing him terribly! I have changed my Father/Daughter Dance to my 2 sons dancing with me! (They are very excited over this!) My mom is 72 y/o & has limited mobility, so I can’t take her with me to look for dresses or other mother/daughter things for the wedding like I want. BUT we do all of our looking on the internet together! (Thank the Lord for the internet!) This has caused us to become closer like the mother/daughter we once were after my dad passed. You know–where I depended on her more. My sisters and a best friend (& maid of honor)living 250 miles away has put a pause on some decisions. I send pic messages or instant messages everytime I find something that I need an opinion and in return I hear back…which can be trying at times. (Gotta love modern technology!) However I do have one that I can take with me for an honest opinion on anything I decide whether it’s as sweet as I’d like to hear or not. That’s my lovely, teenage daughter! This has gained a closeness with her that I can’t explain. Something of which I love and am enjoying! With everything that has happened in wedding planning there are many pros and cons, but I wouldn’t change any of it! It will make it even sweeter when the big day gets here! =) <3

  4. Wow, I actually found myself getting quite emotional reading this. I had some real troubles with my mum whilst planning my wedding and it’s reassuring to hear other people’s stories.
    Thank you Jess.

  5. Enjoyed reading this post. Wedding planning has been interesting, I get on very well with my mum& dad but am still sometimes suprised by their opinions. They have pretty much left my Fiance and I to plan our wedding the way we want, which is lovely, but I totally understand that sometime you just want someone to give an honest opinion rather than say- its up to you!! On the other hand my mum has recently told me she thinks it is “cheeky” to have our honeyomoon as our giftlist and is adamant we shouldn’t do it, but we don’t want any gifts or money from our firends or families and thought it would be a nice way of them contributing to something we would really like to do but will never be able to afford on our own. Funny how things suddenly suprise you!

  6. This is a brilliant post, and it takes a lot of guts to write something so personal where everyone can see it.
    I agree, when planning a wedding, a lot of issues that can be swept under the carpet or just be avoided in day-to-day life become visible and unavoidable when planning a wedding.
    My dad has a new wife, while my mum is single, and although my parents get along very well (I am lucky in that respect), his wife is an outsider to the family and it makes some aspects of the wedding (e.g. doing a table plan) quite difficult. There are also other issues, like some family members being really religious, that make planning more difficult, and I do wish more wedding magazines or articles would address that, rather than just assuming everyone’s family is out of a picture book, with friends to go along with it.

  7. Thank so much for writing this it all sounds so familiar I am so glad to read its not just my mum !! When I told my mum I was engaged she replied ” oh you managed to persuade him then ” not the stuff of wedding dreams !! I am just concentrating on having a good day and leaving them to their own opinion !!

  8. Thanks for your comments – I’m sorry to hear you’re struggling with in-laws. I think to be honest, if we did it again we would run away and have the honeymoon of our dreams, tying the knot alone while we were at it! I didn’t know there would be this much stress planning a wedding or that people would be as rude/cold/selfish as many of our relatives.
    I have also realised marrying that amazing man is all that matters and the other stuff is all just that – “other stuff” I hope you get your passion back for it all and maybe do something intimate that is about the two of you xxx

  9. Thanks Leah, I think I’ve reassessed my own relationship with my mum/dad during this time also and realised that maybe they aren’t the “ideal” or the stereotype but I’ve started to understand and respect them as people as well as “parents”. xxx

  10. Hi Pamela,
    Thanks for sharing this, how lovely to share the experience with your own daughter – what an amazing thing for her to live through and remember. I saw photos of my own parents wedding day recently for the first time and I adored my mums outfit – the sort of thing you would see people wearing on Love My Dress, it was adorable! I would have loved to have been there to witness it and have a moment like that with her! xxx

  11. Thank you Natalie, it’s nice to not be alone and share it together – like I said, not everyone has the mum from the Ian Stuart advert and I think it helps to acknowledge that xxx

  12. Bizarre how weddings bring out all sorts of opinions in people – the amount of people who’ve got involved telling me what they think about things is crazy – people were actually telling me they didn’t like my invites as they were too OTT?! Not very constructive once they’ve been sent out! xxx
    ps we’ve having a list through Buy Our Honeymoon and we love it – people don’t have to donate but it’s there if they want to so don’t feel it’s cheeky, if you have everything you need and can’t afford a holiday like us then why not? Sure beats a toaster! :)

  13. Thanks Nina, it does take a lot of guts! When Annabel said it was live I panicked and thought Oh God, is it ok?! I’m not sure I proofed it properly! All of your lovely comments have calmed me down a little. I agree with your point about magazines and wish they were less “glossy” it is more interesting to me to hear a real brides story than 50 favours for under a fiver! – we’ve had some similar issues to you also: partners parents are religious and none of their sons had a religious wedding so I think they were disappointed that we chose not to also, we also have a stepmum who doesn’t really know my mum etc so it’s all really awkward (who is travelling with/sitting with who etc)
    Thank you for taking the time to comment xxx

  14. Thanks Sandra, well done you on coming to that conclusion! It’s taken me almost 18 months to reach that verdict and I feel that planning a wedding has been the time I needed to work it all out in my head. Thank you for your comments xxx

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