Like all holidays, Thanksgiving is about eating, drinking, and white-knuckling your way through tense conversations with conservative relatives. What do I think about Steve Bannon? I think I need to use the bathroom so I can GTFO of this conversation! But this Thanksgiving will be particularly painful for those who have to sit across the table from parents, especially mothers, who are grateful for Fuhrer Trump.
I thought about this the night of the election when my friend Jessica started tearing up. "My mom voted for him! How can I go to Thanksgiving? How can I ever face her again?" I had no answers, just a heavy heart.
No matter what your relationship with your mother is like, the mother-daughter bond is primal as hell. It goes bone-deep. Your mother owns a part of your heart that no one else can touch. And yet, post-election, younger, liberal women are likely feeling what may be the deepest disconnection they have ever felt with their Trump-voting mothers.
I called my friend Amy*, a 35-year-old journalist, who has not spoken to her mother since November 8. Amy is incredibly close to her sister, who is a lesbian, and was dismayed that her mom could support someone who would discriminate against her own daughter. "I feel broken. I feel like my mom died." The morning after the election, Amy's sister, who lives with her wife in a small Midwest town, woke up to a swastika spray-painted on her house.
"I don't know if I will have a relationship with my mother. I just don't know how it will resolve itself."
Amy can't get her head or her heart around her mom's choice. Forget Thanksgiving, Amy says, "I don't know if I will have a relationship with my mother. I just don't know how it will resolve itself."
I knew my friends weren't the only women affected by having a Trump-supporter mom, so I posted on a couple of private Facebook groups to ask women to share their stories. I was instantly flooded with messages.
One woman, Karina Carmona, a 24-year-old web developer, messaged me on Facebook about her mother, a Bolivian immigrant, who supports Trump. "She hates undocumented immigrants," Carmona wrote, "and I blame [this] on her trying to be 'American,' because she herself was an 'illegal.' It boggles my mind how she can point at them and say, 'I'm not like them.' Everyone she surrounds herself is an immigrant and most of them have been illegal. How could she be so blind?"
Although Carmona is deeply confused and saddened by her mom's politics, it hasn't changed her relationship with her. Carmona tries to understand where her mom is coming from. "My mom's mentality reminds of where I was in high school. Making jokes about my race, putting my people and gender down. I did that to fit in, to make it obvious that I'm not the typical Latina."
When it comes to the holidays, Carmona is definitely going to face an onslaught of Trump-supporting relatives. But instead of feeling daunted by them, she feels challenged. "I'm still looking forward to the holidays, but I find myself studying up on facts and numbers, gearing up for political debates."
Jamie grew up in a suburb of Washington state, which she describes as a "white bubble with no Jewish or black people," and her family is extremely Republican, her mother and father voted for Trump. "Democrat was a dirty word in our house," she says. Instead of listening to her parents praise the dawn of a new Trump era at Thanksgiving, Jamie decided to fly to North Dakota to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline. "For a long time when it came to politics and my parents, I shut my mouth. But this different now. We elected a racist, bigot, hateful person and I just can't sit idly by and not do anything."
"For a long time when it came to politics and my parents, I shut my mouth. But this different now."
Jamie is super close with her mom, but this election has weighed on her. I asked if it's hard to reconcile how someone she loves so much could support Trump. "The farm I worked for as a kid is owned by a Japanese family who were sent to internment camps back in the day. We're so close to this kind of thing happening again. This shit is real. It breaks my heart that this is a non-issue to my mom and that she's more concerned with making money and getting rid of Obamacare."
Natalie Baack, a woman's empowerment coach based in Los Angeles, is currently working with clients on how to handle Trumps-giving. She recommends three practices.
- The first is empowered action: go to a rally, go to a protest, phone bank, do something. She tells her clients that "finding connection with like-minded people is super important, because what's happening to them is that they're feeling isolated and alone and completely separated from the people that they're closest to." Baack connected a client to the Pantsuit Nation Facebook Group, for instance, and she went to a meetup and felt totally inspired.
- The next piece of Baack's self-care plan is practicing forgiveness and compassion. Baack says she has a mantra: "She is doing the best she can with the skills and knowledge that she has." Accept your mom as a fallible human being who is trying the best she can.
- And the third piece of the puzzle is to model behavior. Baack says, "We can't force or push our parents to change or they're just going to fight us. We have to model who we want them to be." So, instead of yelling, it might be time to practice compassionate listening, hear your parents out, try and be respectful. And hope that they will reciprocate.
If none of this works, just get really drunk, throw a tantrum, and then black-out. Your mom voted for a bloated racist Cheeto, so she can't judge you!
*Some names have been changed
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