Defining Your Role (Pt. 2)

This week’s post is a continuation from last week’s “Defining Your Role.” Feel free to check that out here:

Since upping my therapy sessions to an intense weekly regimen, the hot topic of conversation turned to the relationship I have with my parents. During my previous session, the discussion left a cliffhanger. How do I define emotional boundaries for a “son” and a “friend?”

I dislike leaving deep conversations like that open-ended. For the rest of the week, I constantly pondered what concrete qualities I could apply to both roles. I wanted somewhere to draw the line between the two. If “A” happens with my parents, then I am falling in a “son” role, while, if “B” happens, “friend” territory looks more promising. I like having those distinct, clear cut boundaries to give me direction.

This whirlwind of deep thought came to a head three days later. My mom called me up during the late morning before I went to work. “Hey, I’m in trouble.” Here we go again. “I need a hundred bucks.” My mom missed a traffic court date and had a warrant out for her arrest as a result. She needed the money to pay the court.

I am relatively sure my eyes rolled so hard that I gave myself a CT scan.

The time had come. Which side of me would win in this battle?

“The Son”“The Friend”
I love my mom to death. She has been there for me through thick and thin. Whenever I needed her, she had my back. Now, this was one opportunity to return the favor. Plus who wants to see their mom get arrested? Especially over something as silly as missing a court date?! My mom had a habit of asking for money. She was not the most fiscally responsible individual. However, she had a long list of traffic violations over the last few years and over silly things like not paying tolls. It seemed reasonable that she missed her court date too since they wanted her to attend it virtually on Zoom. My mom and technology never mixed well. I could spare a couple dollars too, knowing that she was getting paid in five days.
Where do I draw the line?

I ended up caving and meeting my mom halfway to give her the money. When I handed her money, I straight out told her, “You need to stop doing this. I feel disgusted doing this.” When I left, I only felt disgust. In the past, it was usually guilt. The guilt stemmed from not being able to save my mom from her situation and wanting to do more. This time it just left a bad taste in my mouth. It was also a bad day in general, which did not help.

When my therapy appointment rolled around this week, I shared this particular incident with my therapist. I informed her that I was also struggling with defining those two roles and how they conflicted with one another in this situation. It was at that moment that I saw the conundrum. How do you separate roles when they are played by the same person? They were two sides of the same coin. Rather than pinning them against each other, they worked together to make a good decision.

Hear me out. The “son” represented my more emotional side. With my mom, it pulled in my love as a motivating factor to help her. My emotions make up a strong part of who I am with friends, family, and colleagues. They keep me from being a stoic, robotic, boring hermit. However, the “friend” demonstrates my more logical, concrete side. It helps me examine the truth in situations and keep me grounded. Like with this particular situation, this side of me assisted in seeing the validity of my mom’s claims.

My black-and-white thinking was looking to stick these roles in their own distinctive categories when, in fact, it was quite the opposite. The two sides met in the grey area. They shook hands and worked together to steer me in the right direction. Rather than pinning the two against one another, it was a delicate balancing act.

-The Caring Counselor

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