The relationship between mothers and daughters is complex and filled with nuances. And while some may enjoy a picture-perfect bond of warmth, security, and mutual understanding, most of us have had times when we just wish we knew how to connect without conflict.
Mother-daughter relationships naturally undergo major change when the daughter transitions to adulthood, and the changes can seem even more jarring as Mom ages. Sometimes, there’s a long history of conflict or disagreement that becomes enlarged as Mom needs her daughter’s help and care.
At times, when the roles of nurturing and care giving seem to reverse, both mother and daughter can be left at a loss with how to relate to one another. Here are a few tips on how to reset your relationship with Mom, and get started on building a closer, healthier connection this year:
“My mother tries to control my choices and my life.”
“My daughter has no respect for my wishes!”
Many daughters imagine that a mother should be a constant, unending source of support and unconditional love. Many moms tend to view their daughters as extensions of their own hopes and dreams. Remembering that both you and your mom are individuals in your own rights can help in maintaining realistic expectations of what each of you can and cannot do.
Sometimes communicating means having that tough conversation. “Mom, I feel criticized when you disapprove of my choice of career.” “Mom, I know you feel that I haven’t spent enough time with you lately. I’d like to apologize and explain…” Remember to discuss problems calmly and with sensitivity. If you’ve had an argument, try to resolve the issue quickly before it has a chance to fester and grow into a more serious rift.
Be quick to forgive.
When Mom seems to always be criticizing your lifestyle, your choices, or even your taste in clothing, keep in mind she’s doing it with your best interests at heart. A mother cares so deeply for her child that she will go to any lengths to give her the best of everything – even when what she thinks is best for you is eons away from what you actually choose as best for yourself!
Be a good listener.
As Mom ages, it can be difficult for her to come to terms with new limitations or dependencies. She may feel that you’re too busy for her, or that you’re moving on without her. She may be fearful of the future, sad over the past, or depressed that she can no longer care for herself.
Be sensitive to her feelings, and devote time to listening and validating her place in your life.
The only behavior you can change is your own.
As in every relationship, you can’t control what Mom says or doesn’t say to you – you can only control what your own reaction will be. When Mom makes an angry or insensitive comment, you can choose to reciprocate with hurtful words of your own, or you can make the decision to react with compassion and empathy.
Remember that it’s not easy to be a care recipient. Whether you are the direct caregiver or your mom is at a nursing home, she feels vulnerable and maybe even humiliated. This can cause her to react more strongly than she means to, and the ball is in your court to prevent it from escalating.
Balance individuality and closeness.
The basis of every rewarding relationship is healthy boundaries. Don’t be afraid of pulling back a bit if you feel Mom has overstepped hers – and at the same time, remind her that you will always remain her loving and devoted daughter.