(Book available at the Motherrr.com 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. 🙂