We’ve all heard horror stories about meddling mothers, who get in between a husband and wife just because they just cannot let their babies grow up. This problem has been a key reason for numerous divorces. In most of these cases the problem is real, but in the other cases what is thought of to be meddling is actually an offer of advice. I know what some of you are thinking. What are the differences, and how do these concern writers?
I will answer the second question first. As writers, we need conflict to help propel a story forward. When you’re writing about a married couple, nothing provides an easier source of conflict than a meddling mother. In order to make your story ring true it’s important to recognize the characteristics of a meddling mother. I also feel it’s important to know the opposing characteristics for perspective.
Now for the second question. A meddling mother is extremely judgmental of her child’s spouse. They will even go so far as to try to undermine the confidence of the spouse by using insults, and using every opportunity to make them look bad. OF course, they feel some ownership of their child and they can’t let anyone take that away. On the other side, the non-meddling mother recognizes that their child is an individual, and can make decisions on their own. They view the spouse as a welcome addition to the family, and not an interloper, who will drag their child away from them.
A meddling mother forces her opinion on the couple, whether they want it or not. This is a control issue. She has raised her child, controlling (or so she thinks) her child’s life, and when her child grows up, she can’t give up the control. The non-meddling mother waits for the chance to help. She knows that she raised her kid right, and that if the couple needs her help they’ll ask for it.
If you’re walking toward a cliff, a meddling mother will forcefully yank you back. She assumes you don’t have the brains enough to stop before you get to the edge. They try to take responsibility for your actions, and won’t give you the breathing room to make mistakes so that you can learn from them. A non-meddling mother will hold out her hand and let you make the decision to take it. She has enough confidence in your upbringing and common sense, to realize that you will stop before the edge, but she will be ready to catch you if you start to slip.
A meddling mother comes at you from a position of insecurity and low self-esteem, and a non-meddling mother comes from a position of strength and love. If you want to see a good fictional example, check out the movies “Monster in law”, and “Because I said so”. These are two different types of meddling mothers, but they both go way over the line.
Challenge: Find other types of characters that cause conflict, and write down the characteristics, and the opposing characteristics as well.
Ps. This is also true of meddling fathers.