Who wears shoes in the house??
I have a hard time saying how I really feel to my mom. I’d rather keep my mouth shut, be agreeable, seethe about it, and move on.
So with blood boiling and a calm voice I asked her for the third time during her visit to please take her shoes off in our house.
Mom: You want my sweaty feet all over your floor instead?
Me: Yes. I don’t know where your shoes have been.
Mom: Okay, Sam. (This was a dig at my husband because he is known for being a bit of a clean-freak-germaphobe.)
This exchange was infuriating for the following reasons:
- When I met Sam he was still wearing shoes in the house. It was me who converted him.
- You’re making a dig at my husband for being clean???
- Regardless of which of us cares more (we care equally about it), this is our house and we asked you not to wear shoes. You’re being disrespectful and inconsiderate.
Instead of saying any of this, I huffed and walked away.
I realize this is unhealthy and I’m contributing to the problem. I need to set boundaries.
Brene Brown explains why people are uncomfortable setting boundaries:
“We care more about what people will think and we don’t want to disappoint anyone. We want everyone to like us. But [boundaries are] the key to self-love and the key to treating others with love and kindness.”
Addressing issues head on with my Mom is a new approach for me. I wasn’t sure how it would go. I was dreading it.
But now that I’m a mom I need to set a good example for my son. I need to face difficult situations and be willing to have hard conversations. Because if the Bleecker family is anything, we’re a long-term thinking family. I couldn’t appease my Mom just to avoid an uncomfortable moment. I wanted to look forward to her visits - not dread them.
The old me would put off having a conversation like this for as long as possible. Like forever. The new me sees this as an opportunity for personal growth.
As soon as I made the decision to call her the next day it was all I could think about for the rest of the night. I wrote down some bullet points of what I wanted to address. I lay awake in bed thinking how the conversation might go. The following morning I paced around the back porch and practiced my lines out loud.
And then I called my mom.
I was nervous. The spiel I had planned was not what I ended up saying. I wanted to tell her to be considerate and respectful. When I was practicing it felt totally reasonable, but in the moment it felt too aggressive.
I did say my first line as I had rehearsed it: “Please don’t give us grief about not wearing shoes in the house.” To which my mom immediately replied, “Okay, no problem.”
It didn’t feel defensive or hostile and made it easier to keep going. I told her it was really hard for me to say this to her, and I shouldn’t feel uncomfortable asking her for something so minor.
Mom didn’t directly address this comment. Instead she explained that she was worried about my Dad’s feet - he wears shoes all the time because of some pain. I told her he could wear sneakers in the house as long as they were new. He could even leave them at our house for all his visits. Mom thought this was a great solution.
I hung up the phone and exhaled. I did it and survived. That wasn’t so bad.
Could Mom be complaining about me to my sisters right now? Could she be saying how ridiculous she thinks Sam and I are for asking them to not wear shoes in the house? Maybe. But that’s outside my control. I said how I felt and made our stance known. I drew a boundary and set the expectation for their next visit.
I felt lighter. I felt great.
Now I just need to figure out how to tell my parents that food is to be eaten in the kitchen and the kitchen only.