Book Discussion: “How to Manage Your Mother: Understanding the Most Difficult, Complicated, and Fascinating Relationship in Your Life” by Alyce Faye Cleese and Brian Bates

(Book available at the store)

After reading books with such titles as:

  • When I Married My Mother
  • I Am My Mother’s Daughter: Making Peace With Mom – Before It’s Too Late
  • You’re Wearing That? Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation

…whose titles really intrigued and spoke to me, I was underwhelmed by this book’s title:

  • How to Manage Your Mother: Understanding the Most Difficult, Complicated, and Fascinating Relationship in Your Life.

It seemed more mundane. I almost returned the book to the library unread. But, instead, I renewed it and sat down to read it anyway…I’m really glad I did!

This book had so much interesting and helpful information. I found it fascinating to read. While it didn’t focus solely on the mother-daughter relationship, that didn’t really matter. I discovered that men can have mother issues too!

The main conclusion from the book is that the way to “manage” your mother is really to learn to manage yourself. It’s what we do that is really the most influential in the mother and adult-child relationship. In fact, the authors suggest that we should try to reexamine the fundamental way we think about our mothers and ourselves in order to reevaluate our attitudes toward our past experiences with her. It is then possible to reshape these views and move forward. As they note, “we can’t change our past, but we can change the way we think and feel about it.”

The authors write about how we create an image of our mother in our childhood which becomes fixed in our minds. We then remember everything that happens from then on in the framework of that image. This view of our mother becomes very difficult to change when we become adults. It may not even be an accurate view of her anymore now that we are adults and she, too, has “grown up” over the years. It is helpful to find ways to change our image of her and, ultimately, our interactions.

This book covers many different mother-child scenarios, including some terribly abusive ones. When reading about one such relationship, I felt uncomfortable about it at first. It was so extreme (it seemed more like the story-line of a movie). But I felt differently once I processed the information and compared it to my own much less dramatic circumstances. As the authors comment, “If we look at what happens when a mother-child relationship goes as seriously wrong as this, it puts into perspective the more moderate experiences most of us have had.” In fact, seeing how this grown daughter was able to make amends with her abusive mother, it can give hope for others of us.

The authors point out that loving one’s mother is not an obligation, but, rather, an option. They go on to say that while, of course, most of us would prefer to have a loving relationship with our mother, knowing that it is not a requirement, but actually a choice, can help to ease any guilt one might feel if things are not as they would like them to be.

There are several strategies for helping to improve the mother and adult-child relationship discussed throughout the book. One of the main ones is mentioned again and again in other books on the mother-daughter relationship as well; trying to get to know and understand your mother as a person and not just as your mother. After all, she had a life before she became your mother and had her own struggles and challenges. This is an important and often helpful strategy.

Other strategies the authors offer as part of their ten steps toward a better relationship with your mother include:

  • Remember your mother’s age – not just in number of years, but also in terms of her psychological and physical state.
  • Keep a sense of humor about your mother
  • Decide what personality traits you share with your mother
  • Confront the difficult issues that divide you.

I found that in reading this book, I discovered direct comparisons to the relationship I have with my own mom, and gained some new insights. This has helped lead me to a better understanding of both my mother and of myself. Well worth the read!

Note: One of the authors of this book is well-known psychotherapist, Alyce Faye Cleese the wife of the actor, John Cleese. I didn’t realize this until I was well into the book, but it’s an interesting note. She had access not only to John and his relationship with his mother, but was able to speak with several other celebrities as well about their mothers. While this certainly added a bit of interest to the book, it was not its main point.

Even More Updated Note: I recently found out that Alyce Faye Cleese and actor, John Cleese, divorced in 2009. She is now the ex-wife of John Cleese. Really, though, this has no bearing on the book one way or the other! Just wanted to keep everyone abreast of the situation.  🙂 Homepage

6 responses on “Book Discussion: “How to Manage Your Mother: Understanding the Most Difficult, Complicated, and Fascinating Relationship in Your Life” by Alyce Faye Cleese and Brian Bates

  1. AvatarLisa

    I am the mothr of a 19 yr old daughter. we dont get along. i cant count the times in the last 2 years thats she hurt me. 2 months ago was the icing on the cake. she hurt me so badly i disowned her. shes not only hurt me but her little sister and her step dad as well. she has be come a striaght up liar. i cant believe a word she say. And always blames everything that messed up in her life on me. as i said i have disowned her. the sad thing is she has a baby girl whos just 11 mnths old. i cant see her because i disowned my daughter. she holds the baby over my head. i have a great husband who supports me threw all of this mess.i just dont know what to do wit my daughter anymore. She told me to stay out of her life. So i have done what she asked of me. i just dont know what to do. there is so much more than i have typed here. i need help…

  2. adminadmin Post author

    Lisa, this sounds like a very complicated and difficult situation you are in. If none of the information on is helpful in your particular situation, you may want to seek out individual one-on-one help from either a therapist or clergyman. Hope you can come to some healing and peace.

  3. AvatarS. M.Reid

    Just let her go and live your own life. You have a husband and another daughter. Don’t whine about the one you can’t have; concentrate on your husband and daughter that you do have. Your existing family should not have to deal with the grief.

  4. AvatarT

    I understand that your hurt. I do, and I understand that our family has been hurt. But,I’m sorry to say this, but have you looked at her side? I was told I was a horrible daughter, a liar, an idiot, and a complete failure growing up. It wasn’t until I stopped trying to please my parents, that i started getting better. I have a better handle on my self-esteem, straight As, and hopefully a better future. I hope to improve, but I know I have to let go of some resentment first. My mother doesn’t admit to anything. And that hurts.

    I think if you really want to move forward, reach out to your daughter. Have you and your family, let go of your pride and your hurt.
    Write a letter for yourself, all the ways your daughter has hurt you. Be as specific as possible. Keep that letter somewhere hidden for now.
    Write a letter to your daughter about all the things you’ve done o hurt her, tell her to keep it, tell her you love her…tell her if she would like to write a few letters as well…all the things she’s done TO hurt you (example. I didn’t get bad grades to hurt you, I got bad grades because I had low self-esteem and felt hated, betrayed, disowned, and forgotten – so that wouldn’t count) and all the ways you’ve hurt her.

    Afterwards, you guys can choose to forgive, and start mending your relationship. Therapy is really useful (again let go of your pride). When you have truly moved on (don’t rush it) you can burn the letters and start anew.

  5. Avatarmel

    First thanks for the article and review. Until i found this site today i have really felt alone in my struggle to finally become friends with my mom after a long strained relationship.

    Second to the woman who has disowned her daughter i was that 19 year old girl over 20 yrs ago who felt basically disowned by my mom and brothers, all i really needed and wanted at the time was thier love and acceptance. Dont waste 20 years like we did. Hold your precious daughter and tell her how much you really love her and how much you really care. If she is anything like i was at 19 she is probably scared and feels alone and unwanted.

  6. Post author

    Mel, we’re glad that you no longer feel alone after finding this blog. We thank you, T, and S.M. Reid for your honest comments and for sharing such helpful advice.
    elcigaret, glad you found us! Have you checked out the website as well?

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