Thoughts On My Mother/Daughter Relationship…

I’ve had a difficult relationship with my mother for as long as I can remember. And it seems from speaking to all my women friends over the years that I am not alone. I’m not a psychologist (although I did major in psychology in college) so I can’t give you all the reasons why mother/daughter relationships are so challenging, but there are certainly plenty of articles and books out there on the subject. Maybe it has to do with the fact that we’re the same sex (so there’s competition or jealousy involved???) or too alike? I just know that many of us learn to push each other’s buttons from a very early age and it doesn’t seem to stop.sulky-girl-with-mother final

Admittedly, I was probably no joy to deal with as a teenager, but isn’t that the “job” of a teenager??? Aren’t we supposed to exert our independence and break away from our parents? Of course, it’s hard for them to let us go. Maybe that’s not really so different from when we become adults…we’re still trying to break away from our mothers and become our own person with a career, family and our own life, but our mothers are still trying to hold onto us! And then things get even more complicated as our mothers age, maybe become widowed and alone, and face their own declining health and eventual mortality. Often the roles then become reversed as, frequently, the daughters become the caregivers. The daughters are still trying to handle their own lives while helping their mothers and the mothers are feeling vulnerable and like they’re losing control so they try to hold on even harder. It’s a recipe for some very difficult times indeed.

My father died a few years ago and since then I have become my mother’s new “husband.” I’m unmarried with no family of my own and live locally, so it made sense that I would be the one to take on this role. I want to be there for my mother as she was always there for me growing up (even if not always in the way I wanted) and I love her, but sometimes too much togetherness is not a good thing. I’ve been struggling over the years with how to handle this relationship in the best way possible.

There are times when there just seems to be no solution and we both drive each other crazy (while I’m the one writing this, I’m sure if you asked my mother, she’d say I am difficult too!) and just can’t seem to get along. And then there are other times when things go much more smoothly. But is that because she’s more rational at those times or I’m more patient and tolerant…or both? In any case, it would be so much nicer to have those times be the norm.

When you’re in the throes of a fight with your mother, though, and you feel she’s being critical, judgmental, argumentative, controlling, anxious, or any other number of feelings, it’s hard to think that there is any kind of solution. But in quieter moments I have tried several different strategies which I have found helpful for me.

businesswoman with pen finalI once read a self-help book that suggested that you write a letter (not to be sent) to your parent (in this case mother) telling them what you would have liked to have told them as a small child and then to also write a letter to yourself as an adult talking to your child self. This may all sound silly, but I actually found it helpful. Your mother may not have been the mother that you wanted or needed when you were young, but you can now “mother” yourself. The key is trying to heal old wounds so you can move forward.

The book also suggested trying to look at your mother as a person and not as your mother. What challenges has she dealt with in her life? What was her own mother like? After all, that’s where she learned how to mother. What difficulties might she have been dealing with when you were small? She might actually have been doing the very best she could do at the time and in those circumstances. In fact, she may still be doing the very best she can. Taking the time to understand who my mother is as a person and what journey she has taken to this point in her life was helpful to me in looking at our relationship as a whole.

Another thing I have found helpful is constantly reminding myself of how lucky I am to have her in my life. I know plenty of women who have lost their mothers many years ago or just recently and I feel grateful that at the age of 50 I still have my mother around and at the age of 88 she’s still pretty healthy and vibrant. There was a time many years ago when our relationship was in pretty bad shape and I often looked ahead to the future and was scared of how I would feel when she died. I was terribly afraid of being left with regret, guilt, all kinds of feelings. Now I’m more afraid of the loss itself…of not having my mother here anymore. I got a taste of that feeling when my dad died…there was something very profound about losing my “daddy.” I no longer had a father and was no longer a dad’s little girl. I felt like I had lost my childhood and innocence as well as my father.

There’s something very special about family and the fact that they are the only ones who knew you when…as far back as you go. So, I remind myself that this time that I still have with my mom is precious and I try to be less impatient and less annoyed and more grateful. Do I do it all the time? Of course not! That’s just not possible. But as my boyfriend often reminds me, “The grace is in the trying.” And to me, it’s worth it.

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7 responses on “Thoughts On My Mother/Daughter Relationship…

  1. Wanda

    You hit the nail on the head, as they say. I know my mom bothers me more than she bothers my husband at times and I think it is because of our past baggage. I love her but can be around her for only brief periods. I feel guilty because I don’t really like being around her (or my dad, actually). She would NEVER be a friend of mine. AND yet, she really was (and is) a great mom!

  2. Anonymous

    Very glad I stumbled upon your blog. You ladies are very insightful and tackle difficult situations with much tact. I just got into an argument with my Mom, and am sitting here feeling very guilty, frustrated, sad and though I’m 49, I feel like I’m 10 years old. Reading your blog has lessened that. Now what do I do about my mother?

    1. BarbBarb Post author

      We’re glad you stumbled upon our blog as well and that you have found it helpful! What do you do about your mother you now ask? That’s the same question we asked and that’s why we created this blog and our website, Motherrr.com. If you haven’t been to it yet, we hope that you will visit Motherrr.com where there is information on specific strategies that may address your situation. We hope you find the info helpful. Hang in there and realize you’re definitely not alone!

  3. Kassandra

    Dear mom,
    I’m sorry if this letter contains hurtful words that may benign your view of me. What I’m writing here comes straight from the heart. I, hereby would like to resign from being your daughter. Life with you as a mother has been really tough for me and extremely trying. I’m tired of the constant bully and verbal abuses thrown in my direction. Growing up with a mom like you truly hurts my feelings and stunts my growth emotionally.
    I’ve been trying my best to be at ease and ignore the hurtful words you hurled my way every time things do not go your way. I’m tired of being your punching bag and the outlet for you to vent out your anger. You never motivate me, you value others more than your own flesh and blood. I tried to be a good daughter but you have been testing my patience over and over again. Please understand that I am only human and am not without faults. Same goes to you. You are not perfect. I truly don’t understand why you always think that you sacrifice yourself for us when in reality you are a very demanding and difficult person to be with.
    I wish you would grow up and stop making my life a living hell. I am tired of making excuses for your behaviour. I tried to understand why you behave such. But there’s just so much that I as a person can do. I wish that God will show you the right path and make you realise that you are not the person you think you are. You think you are this rightful person and everyone loves you. Reality check! You’re not sincere, you love being in the centre of attention, you are very selfish and show-offy. I wish you would realise how others view you in reality and not how you perceive they view you.
    Please realise that people see right through you. You love compliments and are constantly fishing for it from others. The people around you realise that and use it to their advantage. You fail to realise that your so-called “advice” to your flesh and blood are often self-projections. You kept telling me that family should come first while you put others before your own family and is willing to sacrifice me just to make others happy. Please realise that you are often being used by others for their own benefits and gains. Your constant need to be complimented is your greatest downfall. You claim whatever you do is out of sincerity but if you truly analyse yourself, your situation and is truthful to yourself, you will come to a realisation that you are nothing but a fake and is on a relentless pursuit to please others except those whom you really should be pleasing.
    After trying and failing countless times to please you, I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way I can please you and make you love me is if I am not your daughter anymore. Due to this, it is with heavy heart that I am forced to make this decision. I, hereby resign as your daughter. I wish you well and hope you are finally happy that I am no longer your daughter. May you find a daughter that will suit you, serves you well and makes you happy since I am none of those things since the day I was born although I tried really hard to. I’m done being your daughter. More often than none, I wish endlessly that I am not your daughter.. I’m sorry for being such a disappointment to you but please know that you have never failed to disappoint me, time and time again. I’m tired of being your daughter as there is no pleasing you anymore. I can’t keep on doing this and keep silent on all your wrong doings. I hope this letter will find its way to you and I pray you will realise the sort of person you really are.
    Good bye and may God bless you.
    Your ex-daughter.

    1. motherrr.commotherrr.com Post author

      Kassandra, Thank you for sharing your letter to your mother. It’s very powerful in its honesty. We have posted it on our forum in the Estrangement section as we feel it might be very helpful to others. It sounds like your mother is a classic narcissist and we wonder if you’ve spent any time on the Motherrr.com Narcissistic Mothers section. You might find it helpful. We wish you peace and healing.

  4. daylilly

    Hi,
    I read here a lot about daughters having problems dealing with their mothers. I am 58, and my daughter is an ex-Marine who stopped talking to me almost a year ago. I am not sure why. I know that she has a lot of anger issues. We haven’t lived together in seven years, and of course that’s fine. She is a grown-up.

    But it seems like when you’re angry with a family member and become estranged with no notice of why, then that is a type of cowardice and manipulation that doesn’t serve anyone. Above all, it is hurtful. We have lost family members, and grieved over that loss. One thing that many of us have learned is that the time that passes time will never be given back, and it is easier to love, and express that love than to ignore and hurt those we love most. I do not know why my daughter won’t talk to me. I have apologized for anything I may have done wrong, but get zero response. My daughter actually DID show up for a family reunion, but did not talk to me or make eye contact with me.

    It is easy to say that we’re responsible for our own feelings and behavior. It is accurate. But I think that mothers love their children more than they will ever love anyone in the world. To have a child just shun their mother with no explanation is more hurtful than a mother can bear.

    Perhaps it is a love, and a pain, that adult daughters won’t know until they have a child themselves.

    In any case, don’t any of us take the coward’s route of just exiting a relationship with no discussion with the other person. Especially when it is a mother who loves their daughter very very much. As a parent, I am heartbroken. I welcome communication. I have unconditional love.

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