In order to form a better relationship with my mom, I recently had to set firm boundaries with her. While I love her, her attempt to control certain aspects of my life became too much. And thankfully, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was there to let me know I’m not alone.
As a Jewish girl, I find that Rachel Bloom’s show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend speaks so many truths about the American Jewish experience. For me, no episode rang more true than the 7th episode in season 4, titled “I Will Help You.”
In this episode, Rebecca finally confronts her mom, Naomi (Tovah Feldshuh), about her meddling.
Rebecca thought she’d finally come clean to her mom about her recent life struggles with mental illness, when it turns out — thanks to the media — she already knew everything. Regardless, Naomi feels it is her duty to ensure Rebecca maintain her job as a lawyer, despite her daughter never having a passion for that field.
“What matters is, despite all the schmegegge chazzerai, you still made partner. You got your name, finally, on that door. So somehow all that meshigas made your career even better,” Naomi told Rebecca.
“Um, Mom I’m not a lawyer anymore,” Rebecca finally tells Naomi. “It was always something you wanted for me. It was never what I wanted for myself.”
Naomi then bursts into song (this is Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, after all), singing about how Rebecca’s choices hurt her. Throughout the episode, she continues to be a nudnick, trying to get Rebecca’s law job back herself.
It’s not until the end of the episode that Rebecca gets the courage to stand up to her mom and tell her enough is enough.
“The old Rebecca let you manipulate her, but not anymore,” she firmly tells Naomi. “I don’t want your opinion anymore. I don’t want your opinion on my career, on my hair, on my clothes, on my love life. Nothing. They are my choices, and as of right now, they are off-limits to you.”
Say what you will about the trope of the overbearing Jewish mother, but as someone who has one, this scene really spoke to me.
In fact, it reminded me of my own difficulties with my mom and my recent need to set boundaries with her.
Since I moved in with my partner, Daniel, in the summer of 2016, my mom has been struggling with empty nesting. And unfortunately, this transition period led to a lot of guilt tripping.
In a typical fashion, I went along with a lot of what she wanted of me. After all, I obviously want to make my parents proud! When I graduated college, my mom basically told me that my voice isn’t nice, and that I wouldn’t be able to get a job because of it. Being raised in the Bronx, I have a bit of a Bronx accent and I know I can get loud sometimes (a thing I definitely inherited from my mom — a boisterous Brit). So, she signed me up for voice lessons. I went twice to appease her, before finally telling her I didn’t want to do it anymore. Needless to say she was hurt and disappointed.
I still live in the same city as my mom, just a half-hour subway ride away. So I actually do see her more often than most people I know see their moms. Regardless, she’s asked me, “Why can’t you ever tell Daniel that you want to spend the night at your mom’s house? You should want to spend time here!”
I am 24, almost 25. I have no desire to sleep in my childhood bedroom.
“Why don’t you call me ever?” she would ask. Nevermind the fact we text almost daily — as a Boomer, she doesn’t consider that a valid form of communication.
Things really blew up when she signed us up for a mother-daughter counseling session.
Sharing my truth, I cried. Having grown up with a very high-strung single mother like her, I developed neuroses. I discussed how I hate when she guilt trips me into doing things (like the vocal lessons, or going on Birthright — another thing I did to make her happy even though I was miserable the whole time).
The counselor took what I was saying to heart and called my mom out on these behaviors. My mom did not like that and blamed the counselor for “dividing us further.”
After this session, I recognized my dire need to set clear boundaries with my mom.
I told her that, if she wanted to have a healthy relationship with me, she would need to commit to going to therapy regularly. She would also need to respect my choices and not attempt to control them. For example, I told her I do not appreciate her telling me how to wear my hair when I come to gatherings at her place.
And when she does text me something rude or inappropriate (like when she sent me a middle finger emoji because I wouldn’t be her Facebook friend), I just don’t reply. She has to know she can’t get my attention by being mean.
You can’t always teach an old dog new tricks. And for the most part, my Jewish Baby Boomer mom is set in her ways. Still, I think I’m finally getting through to her. For one thing, she’s seeing a new therapist. Slowly but surely, she is starting to respect my autonomy. I know it’s hard for her — I am her only child. But being in my mid-20s, it’s finally time to adjust our family dynamics. And at least I am not the only Jewish millennial doing so.