Dr Kennelly and Associates logo
"Finding solutions...together"
Business picture

relationship with mom

Question: Today my mom found out that I have a tattoo and she threw a tantrum. She is so angry that she’s not talking to me anymore and she said she doesn’t want to talk to me again and for me to do whatever the hell I want. I got the tattoo because of all the things I’ve been through in the past and it’s very important to me. She says that if I really cared about her and wasn’t, then I would not have committed this ‘mistake’. For 18 years, I’ve listened to everything she said and done everything she wanted. I admit I am a rebel sometimes only because if I want something so bad, I’ll go for it no matter what. I tried to explain to her that getting the tattoo was the best thing that happened to me and that I’m really happy. She’s mad because I didn’t wait for a few years and because I hid the fact that I got a tattoo. I told her that if she’s mad about it now, she’s going to be mad about it later on as well. Please, I need help. What do I do?

Answer: Thank you for your inquiry. Your situation is not an uncommon one in this day and age. There have always been issues like this between the generations based on each generation’s upbringing, culture, values, etc. First of all, your mother’s reaction is an immediate one and not one to be taken literally. What your mother is saying is that “I’m shocked; I can’t believe this; I didn’t raise you this way; how could you do this without consulting me first; do you realize that this tattoo will live with you for the rest of your life and that there may be people who would think poorly of you because of your tattoo; you are being young and impulsive and not thinking about your best interests and your long term future.”

Your mom clearly loves you and is concerned about the current and future impact this tattoo will have upon your life. Your mom wants the same thing you want, a successful future based on decisions which are in your best interest. To you and others in your generation the tattoo has different meaning than it does for your mom. For you this tattoo is a source of pride which adds to your sense of self and makes some type of statement about you and possibly enhances your attractiveness to others. Whereas it is likely that your mother views this tattoo as a defacing of your body and you are viewing the tatoo as a statement about who you are to the world.

Your mother is taken aback and hurt. In her mind her children would not make the choice of “defaming their body” or making choices which may hurt their image and jeopardize future career possibilities. She feels that she raised her children to make good decisions and live according to the values she instilled in you. This tattoo, to her, may raise the question that you have turned your back on her and possibly the family and therefore her immediate reaction is to lash out in a hurtful way by stating that this choice of yours breaks the relationship and her commitment to you. Your mother loves you, that is why she is reacting so strongly. She will remain committed to you, although it may take her a while to understand and accept your personal decision.

The best thing to do first is to understand where your mother is coming from; secondly attempt to withhold your own hurt and anger towards her at this time. It is important to maintain your connection to your mom, to treat her respectfully and to allow her to vent. She is the one feeling that the tattoo has created a break in the relationship and obviously you are not feeling the same way. You are at a point in your life as an adult to make decisions about how you are going to react to others when they lose their cool. My advice is to take the high road and indicate to your mom that there was no intention of hurting her or turning your back on her or the family and its values, although you were likely aware that this was something she might be disappointed in. You can tell her that you understand her reaction and that your hope is that over time she will come to understand and maybe accept your decision and that it would be a shame to allow a single decision to adversely affect your relationship long term.

It is important within yourself to reinforce the fact that you had reflected on this decision and had made a decision which you felt was in your best interests. Your mother’s reaction to the tattoo should not lessen the meaning and/or pride you have in it. Going forward, it is important to anticipate the possible reactions by others who are close to you. In the future it may be helpful to inform the people in your life who may be affected by a controversial decision to explain how you came to your decision. Although this might not change the other person’s reaction, they will feel respected that you consulted and informed them ahead of time.

Hopefully this response is helpful to you. If you have any follow up questions or if I did not address some of your concerns, please feel free to ask another question. I hope that you and your mom can view this as a bump in the road and not a fork in the road. If you and your mom remain at odds you should consider go to counseling with her to work out this conflict.

Response by Dr. Patrick J. Kennelly

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 7.8/10 (5 votes cast)
relationship with mom, 7.8 out of 10 based on 5 ratings

This post was submitted by fabi.