Dear Five Faces: Help! I work full time as an attorney, have a houseful of teenagers, a busy husband, and now my widowed mother has retired and moved in with us. In truth, it’s going well except for the fact that I find myself resenting her. She was not a warm and cuddly mother when I was growing up. She kept us clean and fed, played games with us, but beyond that we were on our own while she painted. Honestly, I never felt deeply “mothered” by her; she wasn’t like my friends’ mothers who baked them brownies. And now, here she is, expecting me to mother her. I’m having trouble with this. Signed, No Cuddles
Dear No Cuddles: You don’t mention what element you are, but to manage all that you’re managing and succeed as an attorney, I suspect you have a lot of Metal. And the fact that your mother was an artist who didn’t bake you lots of brownies growing up suggests to me that she doesn’t have a lot of Earth but probably does have plenty of Water.
Every child needs mothering, and every element can mother, but how that goes will be very different depending on the elements involved. As a Metal, Earth feeds you on the Flow Cycle, so you will respond positively to an Earthy kind of nurturing as long as it isn’t taken to extremes. But as a Water who desired time alone, your mother probably thought she was giving you a real gift by allowing you some of the independence she so valued. I suggest you consider the possibility that, while your friends may have had mothers who focused a great deal of attention on them, your Metal might have found that pretty suffocating. I’m in no way suggesting that your childhood was perfect, but if you examine it from the perspective of what your personality values, you may find that in some aspects it was a good match for you.
That said, what matters is how you relate to your mother now, and there are many ways you can work to improve that relationship. On the Flow Cycle, Metal feeds Water, so that may be why you’re assuming your mother is expecting you to “mother” her. But the way a Metal mothers is not the same as an Earth. Look at how you relate to your own children. While I’m sure you cuddle them, do you sew their clothes, bake and cook a lot, or garden with them? I suspect not, as these would be more natural to an Earth, but not a Metal. Instead, your probably offer them wisdom, insights, and structure, along with a lot of love.
Another point to remember is that as a Water, too much Earth will feel controlling to your mother, so it’s not likely she wants a lot of Earth from you. At a deep level your Water mother probably wants exactly what you as a Metal have to offer. As you know from your childhood, Waters aren’t good at boundaries, but Metals sure are. Waters need alone time, as do Metals. And Waters deeply appreciate wisdom that can help them forge their own concepts of truth. That are all gifts you can give her just by being yourself. Oh, and remember that as they age, Waters can take on the playfulness of a child. If she played games with you when you were young, that might be a great way to connect with her now. And don’t forget that a bit of compassion and love makes every relationship better. Good luck!