Seven Tools For The Adult Daughter Who Pines For a Better Relationship With Her Mom

May 14, 2021

This Mother’s Day article is dedicated to all of my girlfriends who pine for those beautiful social media picture perfect bonds with their mothers.

Let’s not be ashamed to admit the hard truth, Mother’s Day is not easy for everyone. It is a day that some of us dread because it is a reminder that our bonds with our mothers is not what we so desperately long for. It feels like it is our birthright to have these bonds, and when they aren’t there, we feel hurt and cheated. 

A study of 35 families led by a US San Francisco psychiatric researcher showed that the structure of the brain circuitry known as the corticolimbic system is more likely to be passed down from mothers to daughters than from mothers to sons or from fathers to children of either gender. The corticolimbic system governs emotional regulation and processing and plays a role in mood disorders, including depression. The study was published in the Journal of Neuroscience on January 27, 2016.

The findings are in perfect sync with an earlier study which found that:

  • 88 percent of adults say their mother has had a positive influence on them.
  • 92 percent say their current relationship with their mother is positive.
  • 53 percent of adults say their mother had more influence on them than their father had.

Psychology Today,  published May 1, 2001

Taking in these and similar studies, it is not surprising that most people feel bonded to their mothers and this is why mothers are celebrated with so much love and admiration which saturates social media on Mother’s Day. Before you think I’m resentful of good mother-child relationships, I think it’s important to share how much I absolutely love being a mom. If I focus solely on my relationship with my children, I feel absolute joy around Mother’s Day. But, Mother’s Day is not just about my relationship with my children, it is also about my relationship with my mother.

I’m a professional life coach, so shouldn’t I have relationships, especially a relationship with someone as important as my own mother, figured out?  I wish I did. My relationship with my mom reminds me that some relationships are placed in our life to help us gain a better understanding of ourselves. If all relationships were easy, we’d never grow. These tough relationships beg for introspection.  

Through difficult and honest  introspection, I’ve come to realize that feelings of anger, anxiety, or sadness, are my signs that I’m feeling stuck, a victim of a situation. For years,  I felt this way each time Mother’s Day came around. I’d feel anxiety leading up to the date, I felt resentful, upset that the day wasn’t the joyous day that I wished it was, a day that I could focus only on my bond with my children and not my failed bond with my mother. This thought process became a habit for me, not just on Mother’s Day but any time I had to interact with my mother. I was blaming her for our fractured relationship and not taking any responsibility for my own actions. I finally arrived at a place where I was ready to take responsibility for my role in the relationship. It is a constant work in progress for me and because of this work, I’ve had some really good visits with my mother and I’ve been able to see her strength and resilience.  Mother’s Day is now a holiday that I can celebrate without the angst, resentment, and anger that plagued me and prevented me from being able to fully enjoy the beauty of my own journey as a mother.

I’ve developed tools that I continually use to help redefine my relationship with my mother. Here are the 7 tools from my toolbox. Pick up one, two, or three – interchange them, or feel free to set them aside when not needed. Design your own toolbox. Let’s take control of our relationships with our mothers and find peace, joy and grace this Mother’s Day.

Shari’s toolbox:

  • Give your mother the grace and space to allow her to grow and change.  
  • Recognize your own growth and change. You are not the child, teenager or young adult that you once were. You have choice and strength; you are not a victim to your past circumstance.
  • Before visiting with your mother, decide to look for 3 positive or new things that you can experience or learn about her. This focus will take away from the “waiting for the shoe to drop” anxiety that you may have gotten in the habit of feeling each time you see her.
  • During your visit, look for something that makes you laugh. Humor can be found in anything. Even if you find that you’re saying, “Can you believe she said that to me?” Find the humor in the situation.
  • Thank her for giving you life, the greatest gift of all. Or if you are adopted like me, thank her for raising another woman’s child. This doesn’t have to be said out loud if that is uncomfortable. But say it to yourself before you see her and after.
  • Recognize that the broken relationship you have with her may come from her own relationship with her mother. She may be carrying not only her own scars, but the scars of her mom, her grandmother, and even further generations back.
  • Take away the title of “mom” and let go of your expectations that the title carries. Start seeing her with the grace and humanity that you view others with – recognizing  her vulnerability, flaws, and amazing strengths.

Mothers are important. And its never too late to change a relationship for the better. I hope this Mother’s Day can be about peace, joy, and grace.  Happy Mother’s Day.

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