Saralee Perel

Award-winning columnist, Saralee Perel, can be reached at sperel@saraleeperel.com 


Her novel, Raw Nerves, is now available as a paperback and an e-book on Amazon.com.



Like Mother, Like Daughter? Thank You!


When I see mothers portrayed stereotypically in movies, whether it’s a Greek, Italian or Jewish family, I cringe. Yet I love these characters. I thought that the over-the-top Greek family in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” paralleled my Jewish family, with their loud voices and exaggerated hand gestures. But parents of all backgrounds can and do speak loudly.

These moms are often depicted as people who pay more attention to their children’s lives than they do their own. But is that bad?

Most women I know have knee-jerk, “Not me!” reactions when told they’re just like their mothers. If my husband Bob said, “Those slacks aren’t flattering,” I’d just go change. If my mother said the very same thing, I’d snap, “These are fine, MO-THER.”

There comes a time when we learn that most moms are not being any more judgmental than our best friends. But we often interpret a mother’s advice as controlling and meddlesome versus simply trying to be helpful. What sounds caring and supportive from a friend can sound overbearing and insulting coming from a mother. And I’m talking about in our adult years!

Long ago, while visiting my mom, we had a big fight. She waited until we were alone and asked about my financial situation. She knew Bob and I were poor.

“We’re fine, Ma,” I said, dismissing her rudely.

“But that same old car keeps breaking down,” she said patiently.

I was embarrassed. Defensively I said, “Don’t worry.”

“I do worry.”

The reality was that she wanted to help. But I took her concern as a put-down and felt that she was meddling in my business, where she certainly didn’t belong.

I stormed off to the same bedroom that I had as a little girl and, still acting like one, slammed the door.

I was fuming when she slowly opened the door and sat next to me on the bed. “If you don’t have enough money to pay your bills, we can  –”

I interrupted and stood up. “I’m 28! I can take care of myself.”

Then she broke my heart. Quietly she said, “It hurts me when you’re unhappy.”

And although she had, in fact, said that before, I was always too wrapped up in my defensive anger to hear her. But this time I saw her sitting on my bed with her hands in her lap and I realized that the look on her face was not one of condemnation, but of pure maternal love. It was a pivotal moment when I saw the situation from her point of view rather than mine. It was then that I felt her tender compassion and finally understood what a mother’s love means.

So, I think we should re-consider our mothers’ true intentions when we think they’re being critical.

When mom used to say she was unhappy that I lived far away, I felt smothered. But the reality was that she wanted me nearer. Is that so terrible?

And when she gently offered to give us money that day, my response was one of foot-stomping resistance. I thought, “You think I’m a failure.” But the truth was that she didn’t want to see her daughter going without anything. And my happiness mattered to her as much, if not more, than her own.

Bob and I have rules we follow when we argue. One is - no sarcasm. Another is – no mind-reading; we need to explain what’s wrong. 

And one was that he must never say, “You sound just like your mother.” That’s no longer on the unfair fighting list because if he said that to me today, I’d hug him, thank him from the bottom of my heart and tell him he couldn’t have given me a lovelier compliment.