One Mom Burning Out; One Mother-In-Law Barging In

Jun 29, 2023

In this week’s Monday Kickstarters, we addressed some challenges associated with mothering and smothering. (We love a little word play at CWH!)

Our Name It – Flip It – Frame It enthusiasts Zoomed in from Canada, Texas, New Jersey, California, Michigan, Missouri, and Utah – just to name a few places – and shared two issues that have fantastic potential to be Conversations Worth Having!

We invite you to read on!

Positive Frame #1

Name it (the Challenge):  I have mom burnout and need to know how to talk to my family about it (some resentment is building).

Flip it (to the Positive Opposite):
 I’m not burned out, and I’m having good conversations with my family.

Frame it (the Positive Impact if the flip was happening): Everyone chooses to contribute (by doing chores), and we enjoy each other!

 Other suggested frames:

  • Chores are shared fairly.
  • Choosing how to help my family makes me excited to do so.
  • Everyone volunteers to do chores.
  • Duties are shared and do not fall to one person.
  • Everyone is responsible in the home.

 Generative Questions

Once the selected frame was in place – Everyone chooses to contribute, and we enjoy each other – this talented team of conversation change agents offered generative questions to help Mom move toward it. Cool Tip: Sometimes it’s valuable to preface a conversation with the purpose or why it’s important. For example, in this case, Mom might say: I’m feeling “Mom burnout” and want to move through it so we all really thrive together.” Then ask the first question. Setting the context helps the family understand what in the world you’re talking about.

  • When have we felt most excited about our events and tasks as a family?
  • Name a time when we worked together and loved it.
  • What can we do more of to make our task list more fun?
  • What family activities have left us more energized and ready to take on life?
  • What would a productive conversation look like?
  • When’s the last time we did something for someone else in the family without being asked?
  • What chores do we each like to do the most (I love vacuuming!) + What chores does each family member enjoy most?
  • How can we bring more laughter into our home?
  • What brings me energy with my family? (Question for self)

Positive Frame #2

Name it (the Challenge):  Our daughter’s mother-in-law is overbearing, and we want to support our daughter without creating a rift.

Flip it (to the Positive Opposite): We have what we need to support our daughter in dealing with her mother-in-law without escalating the issue.

Frame it (the Positive Impact if the flip was happening): My daughter has created a strong relationship with her mother-in-law and is able to have generative and successful conversations with her.

Generative Questions 

To foster a positive approach, the group created generative questions for the parents to pose to the daughter:

  • Tell me about a time when you had a meaningful conversation with your mother-in-law.
  • What interaction do you enjoy with your mother-in-law?
  • What life experiences may have influenced your mother-in-law’s perspective?
  • What is the greatest outcome we could have?
  • What would healthy boundaries be that would enliven your relationship?
  • How can you “hear” your mother-in-law most productively?
  • How can you support yourself in these conversations with your mother-in-law?
    • Cool tip: substituting “might” for can suggests there is more than one way. ‘Can’ often leaves people trying to find the one right way.
  • What would a strong relationship with your mother-in-law look like?
  • What might we do for you to best support you in taking next steps? + What can I do to support you in having a better conversation with your mother-in-law?
  • When have you felt comfortable and safe in a conversation with your mother-in-law?
  • What would it look like if your interactions were supportive and enjoyable with your mother-in-law?
  • Have you had a vulnerable conversation with your mother-in-law about how these (interactions) may hurt you, i.e. does she know how you feel?

And generative questions the daughter might ask of her mother-in-law:

  • What shared activities can we do together to generate meaningful conversations?
  • If it was next year, and things were at their best (between us), how would we have gotten there?
  • When we were at our best in our relationship, what was happening?
  • What is a unique strength of our relationship?
  • What values do we share as a family?

Cool Tip!

When reframing a conversation, it’s important to have an open mind and to create a frame that will inspire everyone involved in the conversation! Once you’ve created a frame – or vivid picture of the positive impact – reflect on it to make sure that it will resolve or dissolve the original issue.

Remember – the frame is based on desired outcomes, what would be happening or what would be the results from the flip (positive opposite).

Resource: Learn more about the Flip in Chapter 4: Two Simple Appreciative Practices in Conversations Worth Having: Using Appreciative Inquiry to Fuel Productive and Meaningful Engagement

Monday Kickstarters

These topics came from our Summer 2023 Monday Kickstarters series, which are working sessions to practice creating a conversation worth having when faced with a tough situation, challenge, or problem. Do you have a tough situation you’d like reframing? Join us in September for Monday Kickstarters. Register at The Center for Appreciative Inquiry.

Shared by: Kelly Stewart, a certified Conversations Worth Having and Appreciative Inquiry Facilitator and Strategic Conversation Facilitator

Photo by James Wainscoat on Unsplash


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