Q: I’m planning a very small, laid-back wedding. I have a very small circle of friends, so I’ve only got two bridesmaids, and that’s perfect for me. I’ve also been perfectly fine with the idea of not having a bachelorette party. The closer of my bridesmaids lives across the country, and they’re both on budgets. I’ll be ecstatic just to have these two women in the same room for a drink. My mom, however, decided that was unacceptable. She would throw me a bachelorette party.
Knowing my mom, I knew I had to nip this in the bud. I still can’t believe these words came out of my mouth, but I said it very straightforward. “Mom, you can’t buy me a penis cake or a stripper.” In the end she agreed, however reluctantly, to throw me a “boring old” bridal shower instead. I didn’t think any more of it.
I didn’t even think of it when I excitedly told her a bachelorette party might be happening after all. A trampoline park just opened up near me that my inner child is dying to go to, and my bridesmaids happily agreed. Next thing I know, not only my mom, but my future mother-in-law, were totally cool with trampolines! It happened so fast I didn’t know what to say.
Now, I’m trying to be understanding. She’s always been a “cool mom,” which never bothered me, and now that I’m older, we do have a lot of fun together. And I know she just wants to be as involved as possible… but there’s got to be an age limit on trampolines, right!?
More importantly though, I just don’t want “cool mom” around right now. I don’t want another bridesmaid or a drinking buddy; I want my mom. The badass, mature woman I look up to, who I can depend on to help me get things done and support me on one of the biggest days of my life. I know she’s in there somewhere, but I can’t seem to reach her right now. At least, not without crushing her, she’s so excited.
My fiancé thinks I should just let it go. I can do the park with our moms one day and my bridesmaids another day, but I think he’s missing the point. Am I being unreasonable?
But I do worry you’re skating a dangerous line. Drawing some boundaries around a specific activity is fine. Asking someone to support you in certain ways, also fine. Just make sure you’re not trying to restructure your relationship with your mom, or make her someone she isn’t.
How do you know which you’re doing? See if you can develop some measurable expectations. For example, “go dress shopping with me,” and “listen when I’m feeling overwhelmed.” Those are fair things to ask your mom to do. Notice, unlike “be supportive!” or “help me!” these are more specific and measurable, meaning your mom won’t be confused by what you’re asking of her. They’re simple to explain, simple expectations to meet, and they won’t require your mom to be someone she isn’t. That’s a tricky line to walk and will take a bit of thought.
The bachelorette party is easy (you know, comparatively). Tell your mom and MIL that you were hoping this would be just your old pals, but you can’t wait to do something else with the two of them. “The more I think about it, the more I realized that (far-away friend) will be in town just this short time, so I’d like to just spend the time with her and our mutual friends catching up,” sort of thing. Their feelings likely will be a bit hurt, but what you’re doing isn’t cruel or exclusionary. Sometimes people are hurt by things we do without it meaning we’re making a bad or selfish choice.
Emphasize to your mom that you treasure your relationship with her. And make it clear that what makes that relationship so important to you isn’t that she’s cool mom who will jump on trampolines. What’s important is that she’s a comforting, encouraging refuge. It seems to me that cool-mom and supportive-mom aren’t mutually exclusive, and I’m hopeful she can come through the way you need her to. (Because there is pretty much no age limit on loving trampolines.)