My new book, which released this week, addresses the sometimes complex mother-daughter relationship. But before getting into what I found, tell me, how would you finish this sentence, “I love my mother, but…”?
I asked women to email me their responses and what I found did not surprise me. I received everything from “but…she is controlling, critical, abusive, never there for me, self-absorbed, hard to deal with, always in my business,” to “she is an example of grace, my best friend, my true supporter and friend.” Let’s face it. When it comes to mother-daughter relationships, it gets complicated.
You can love your mom and still have issues with her. That doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you normal! We love to fantasize about having a more Brady-like family, in which we sit around a cup of coffee, sharing stories. There will be great talks, intimate times and fabulous memories. The acceptance and approval we long for will be given. Then, this momentary dreamlike trance is broken by her familiar voice, "Are you ever going to settle down with a real job and be like your sister?"
If you want to work on your relationship, you have to let go of idealistic pictures of family life. Mothers aren't all-knowing, all-powerful, or all-accepting. They don't anticipate your every need and make heroic efforts to meet them every time. This doesn't make them bad, evil, or even dysfunctional. It makes them human. I know this because I am a mother and had a mother! And I've learned, after 20-plus years of conducting therapy with mother-daughter pairs, that "change" has more to do with me than her.
It's too easy to blame mothers for all our problems and harder to change our own behavior. We know that mom can't be the perfect nurturer, but that rarely stops us from trying to make it true.
Maybe we daughters should practice a little more patience, forgiveness, and self-control when it comes to our moms. Perhaps we should revisit the biblical concept of honor. Even in the worst of situations, we should respect our mothers for giving us a chance to walk this Earth.
Next time you and mom butt heads, talk about it and see if you can work it out. The mother-daughter relationship is too important to ignore or cut off. Do what you can to improve your connection. You cannot change her, but you can change how you react to her and that will change the relationship. My hope for you is that after reading my new book, you will finish the sentence, “I love my mother, but we have issues we are working on and want to make this the best relationship possible.”
Promo: For practical help to get the most out of your relationship, get a copy of Dr. Linda’s I Love My Mother But…. Or enter to win a copy! To enter, just finish the title of the book in 50 words or less and submit your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org to win. Hurry, the contest ends March 15, 2011.