Dear Vicki: My mother had been living on her own ever since my father passed away three years ago. She finally moved in with my family last year and at first, it seemed perfect. My husband and I both work full time at the small architectural firm we own, so the extra help around the house has been a gift. The kids love having her here, too. But a problem has developed that I’m not sure how to address. Mom is a real Earthy person and loves to cook, but she refuses to honor our desire for a healthy eating style. When she first moved in, she seemed willing to do so, but lately she’s constantly making the kids sugary treats even when I’ve asked her to avoid sugar. I understand it’s her way of showing love, but it goes against everything we’re trying to accomplish with our family’s health. How can I get her to understand that it’s our house and we set the rules? I’ve tried to lay down the law, but she finds ways to ignore me. Signed: Healthy in Harrisburg
Dear Healthy: This is a common and surprisingly difficult issue. You are correct: Earths love to show love through food. They also love to make people feel special and important which, in our Western culture, usually involves sugar. Think: Christmas cookies, a favorite dessert, the birthday cake. We’ve all been there. It means that you aren’t just fighting your mother, you’re fighting our whole culture. But the good news here is that you seem to be a Metal. Wanting your mother to honor your rules is very Metal, as is a profession as an architect. If any one of the Five Elements has the structure to buck a system, it’s Metal. And while we’re not going to take on our culture’s addiction to sugar here, we are going to help you work with your mother to keep peace in your home and honor your wishes.
First, remember that you and your mother relate on the Nurturing Cycle, her Earth feeds your Metal. That means you expect her to support you and are probably surprised when she doesn’t. It also means that the presence of her unchecked Earth in your house has possibly fed your Metal to the point where you might have an excess of Metal energy these days. And while too much Metal can lead to many problems for you, it also exacerbates the situation you’re having with your mother.
When you respond to your Mother’s abundant expression of her Earth with a myriad of rules and structure, you are using your Metal to set limits. In truth, you’re asking your mother to be more Metal. But more Metal isn’t what your mother needs. It’s actually the opposite of what she needs. The answer to too much Earth isn’t Metal, it’s Wood. You want your mother’s Wood to show up and help manage her Earthy desire to show love with sugary foods. But by exposing her to lots of Metal, her Wood has probably been depleted (Metal controls Wood). She might have had balanced Wood when she first moved in with you, which would explain why it was easier for her to honor your requests back then. But now, after three years of living in a Metal world, it’s possible that her Wood has been over controlled to the point that there isn’t enough of it to keep her Earth in check.
There are several ways to help bring balance back to your household and a bit more conformity to your desired eating styles. The first step is to help balance your mother’s excess Earth condition. Earths with too much Earth energy not only need to be needed, they will crave sweets. This means your mother may actually be making sugary desserts for herself as much as your children. But there are other ways to feed the soul of an Earth. Do you have a garden, or can you create one for your mother if she is interested? Time spent in a garden can be very healing for an Earth, especially one who is probably still feeling the deep loss of her spouse. Pouring her love and attention into helping plants and flowers grow could be a suitable replacement for the sugar-focused attention she showers on your family.
You can also help your mother balance her Earth energetically by building her Wood. Surround her in green (clothes, plants, paint, etc.). Buy her a malachite or amber crystal to wear against her skin. Encourage her to eat lots of green leafy vegetables. You can also have her spend two minutes twice a day resting her fingers lightly at the outside corners of her eyes. There are acupressure points there that help balance Wood.
Another important way to help move your mother out of an excess Earth state is to address her emotional need to be needed by others. You are surely very busy, but finding quick and easy ways to express your appreciation for her will help. You might include her in planning meals or other household activities, too. In truth, there’s no better place to include your mother than something that involves food. Help her understand your dietary wishes and why they matter to you. Explore low sugar desserts that she can try for the whole family. The popularity of ketogenic diets these days will guarantee that the opportunities for these kinds of treats are boundless. Earths thrive on family connections and just feeling included often balances them. This may go contrary to your Metal tendency of doing things for yourself, but including her when possible will make a huge difference for your mother.
Finally, chipping away at the abundance of Metal in the household will help everyone. Does your family have time set aside just for fun? If not, you might consider building that into your schedules. Fun sits in Fire and is one of the best ways to help keep Metal balanced. Equally important is the fact that fun times now will be a gift to your whole family. Your children will incorporate memories of family fun into their own parenting styles. You and your husband will have the opportunity to connect over something other than business. And your mother’s Earth will revel in being part of something happy and upbeat instead of struggling against the Metal daughter she loves. And who knows? Working together, you and your mother could make life a garden for your family (metaphorically speaking). Your Metal can provide the structure and her Earth can fill the garden with the flowers of beauty and joy. Good luck!