Mariah Carey may be known for spreading Christmas cheer year after year, but her life behind-the-scenes hasn’t always been joyous. This year the artist decided to let the public in on her struggles that she’s faced throughout her life through her latest memoir, The Meaning Of Mariah Carey. 

One of the most harrowing experiences she’s shared in her memoir concern her mother, Patricia. Like many other individuals in the world, Mariah has a complicated relationship with her mother, one that hasn’t always brought fulfillment or hope to her life. Observing her mother’s behavior at different points in her life has shaped her own approach to motherhood and how she treats her kids. 

Mariah’s response to a toxic relationship is worth exploring at length, as it does contain some powerful lessons about how we can balance self-care against familiar obligations. Even the closest people in our lives can disappoint us with their nasty, spiteful attitude. Still, instead of choosing to overlook it over and over again, we can take those ugly moments and motivate ourselves into something positive and fruitful. 

Here’s what we can learn from Mariah’s response to her jealous mother. 

Mariah’s mother treated her like “competition” and hurt her deeply

Mariah grew up in a home that was rife with trauma, pain, and resentment. She has described her brother as “extremely violent” and her sister as “troubled,” but even her mom has failed to display affection for her most of the time. The singer revealed an incident where she nearly drowned at the beach at seven years old, but her mom hadn’t noticed what had happened despite Mariah’s “hysterical crying.” 

Patricia was a Julliard-trained opera-singer-turned-vocal coach, so she and her daughter had always bonded over their mutual interest in music. In the early days, Patricia had taken the time to nurture Mariah’s talent and even encouraged her to say “when I make it” instead of “if I make it.” 

But over the years, as Mariah’s career began to take off locally, a shift took place within Patricia’s mind. She started becoming jealous of Mariah’s talent as well as the fame she was beginning to achieve. In one such instance, when Mariah was merely a teen, her mother told her, “You should only hope that one day you become half the singer I am,” after a passionate singing session in their car. 

Mariah said that this comment from her mother “haunts and hurts” her to this day. She doesn’t know whether Patricia wanted to belittle her daughter or “it was her bruised ego talking,” but the impact had been made, and the relationship was never the same. 

Having people you love be jealous of you professionally comes with the territory of success, but when the person is your mother and the jealousy is revealed at such a tender age, it’s particularly painful.

Mariah Carey in The Meaning of Mariah Carey

Mariah added that her mother treated her like she was the “competition” as if she was some kind of a threat to her career. Over time, their relationship became a social obligation in the sense that Mariah only met her out of a sense of familial duty, not because she wanted to spend time with her mother. It’s hard to shake off biological kinship because the whole world tells you that family comes before everything else. 

That’s why Mariah Carey makes sure to “acknowledge” her kids’ talents 

Over the years, Mariah has learned ways to navigate the nuances of this “complicated relationship” between her and her mother. Her therapist encouraged her to reconceive and reframe how she thought about her family. Soon, as advised by her therapist, Mariah began calling her siblings and her mother by their real names rather than “brother” or “sister” or “Mom.” 

She also said that it’d taken her time, but she has finally accepted the “duality” in her mother. The beauty and the beast. The side of her that loves Mariah to death and would do anything for her as well as the side that would throw Mariah out of her life in a second if given a chance. Yet the pain can never be erased, so Mariah feels like she’s had to process through the trauma and find a silver lining nonetheless. 

Time and motherhood have finally given me the courage to honestly face who my mother has been to me.

Mariah Carey in The Meaning Of Mariah Carey

Mariah said that though she can’t change the past, she can take control of the future. That’s why whenever her kids show her some kind of artwork or dance, she ensures that she’s giving them as much support and encouragement as they could ask for. She makes sure that their talents are acknowledged, that their passions are respected, and that they walk away knowing their mother appreciates their skills. 

With my kids, I really try to acknowledge their talent and acknowledge when they draw a picture for me or sing or dance or anything that they do, I want them to know that it’s also all about them and their happiness. 

Mariah Carey in The Meaning of Mariah Carey

Mariah actively tries to become more supportive and grateful than her mother, but she hasn’t completely shut the relationship. Though a “cloud of sadness” will always hang over her because of their complicated relationship, she has learned to let her mother into her life occasionally. It’s never black or white; it’s a gray area that’s impossible to get right at all times, but at least she gives it a go when she can. Only by setting healthy boundaries can you make those relationships work, says Mariah. 

Creating boundaries with the woman who gave birth to me is not easy — it is a work in progress. 

Mariah Carey in The Meaning of Mariah Carey

Let your past guide your future

There are a lot of incidents and situations that occur in our lives outside of our control. Many of those things end up hurting us for good, so we’re left with a challenging journey full of emotional upheaval, frustration, and realizations. Usually, there are two options. You can either dwell on it, hold a grudge against the person who’s hurt you, and keep them out of your life as long as you possibly can. Or, you can move on, forget it ever happened, and start a brand-new relationship with the person irrespective of whatever’s occurred in the past. 

Mariah has chosen the third option, though. There is a way where you can still acknowledge the pain they’ve inflicted on you and keep them at arm’s length while still maintaining cordial relations with them to some extent. An ugly past doesn’t have to mean that you can’t salvage something out of the mess. Mariah exercises boundaries for her mother, but more importantly, she has kept note of her mother’s actions and uses it to drive her own approach to motherhood. She doesn’t want to put her kids in the same position and, therefore, will give it her all to appreciate and cherish them. If you can’t move on from the past, you can use it to guide the future. 

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