For many women, surviving Mother’s Day with a challenging mother-daughter relationship can create anxiety, stress and guilt.
Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate the special bond between mothers and children. There’s an expectation of loving kindness, happy smiles, warm fuzzies, family togetherness. The dream, though, doesn’t often match reality.
Causes of Mother-Daughter Conflict
For mothers and daughters with a complicated relationship, Mother’s Day is a challenging time when anxiety and guilt surface, revealing deep hurts which go back many years.
What causes these difficulties? Mothers and daughters may have different expectations of each other, which can lead to disappointment, frustration, and resentment. Social researcher, Brene Brown said that “Disappointment is unmet expectations. The more significant the expectations, the more significant the disappointment.”
When a mother and adult daughter have relationship difficulties, lack of communication and misunderstanding is always present, leading to tension and conflict. This gives rise to mothers and daughters commenting that they have very different personalities which makes it hard for them to understand each other and appreciate another’s viewpoint.
Generational differences also contribute to a difficult relationship. Not understanding why each thinks and does things differently to the other. Think of this – you both were born in different eras, and born in different families, which means you were raised differently to the previous generation of daughters.
Major life events such as divorce, illness, or loss of a loved one can impact the relationship between a mother and daughter.
Increased opportunities and freedoms in an adult daughter’s life also impact the mother-daughter relationship. A daughter fulfils many of her career and personal goals, whereas her mum has unfulfilled dreams. Her daughter becomes her mother’s uncomfortable mirror, reflecting back what the mother feels she missed out on. There is grief, there is loss.
The need for control over an adult daughter’s life creates tension, resentment, and can even lead to estrangement. As an adult, your daughter has the right to make her own decisions and live her life according to her own values and goals.
It’s important to remember that healthy relationships are built on mutual respect, trust, and support.
Navigating The Mother-Daughter Relationship
It can be challenging to navigate a difficult mother-daughter relationship, especially around occasions like Mother’s Day.
If you don’t feel comfortable communicating with your mother this year, there is likely a valid reason.
It’s ok to not be ok leading up to Mother’s Day, and on The Day itself.
If you don’t wish to see your mother, yet feel obligated to do your ‘daughterly duty’, send a card or text her with a simple message, “Happy Mother’s Day”.
Here are some tips that may help:
- Acknowledge your feelings: It’s okay to feel frustrated, hurt, or angry about the relationship. Recognise and accept your emotions, and try not to judge yourself for having them.
- Set clear boundaries: Resist the need to explain or defend your position. If your mother or daughter’s behaviour is causing you distress, it’s important to establish healthy boundaries. This might mean limiting the amount of time you spend together or being clear about what topics are off-limits.
- Communicate effectively: Try to communicate your feelings and needs to your mother/daughter in a calm and respectful manner. Avoid blame or accusations and focus on expressing how you feel and what you would like to see change.
- Opt out of marketing: More brands are offering the option to opt-out from Mother’s Day marketing. Turning off email notifications is helpful.
- Stay away from social media: Give your phone to your partner or a friend to look after for the day.
- Seek professional help: If the relationship is particularly challenging, it may be time to seek a professional who specialises in Mother-Daughter Relationships who will provide a safe space to explore your emotions and work on boundaries and communication strategies.
- Take care of yourself: It’s essential to prioritise your own well-being, both physically and emotionally. This may mean engaging in self-care activities, spending time with supportive friends and family, or pursuing personal hobbies and interests.
- Let the day pass: Let it slip by and not celebrate in any way.
- Plan ahead: If you know from your history that it can be overwhelming to spend too great a time with your mother or daughter, spend a specific time with her. It may be one hour, it may be a bit more, or a bit less.
Therapist and author, Lori Gottlieb, asks: “What if there is not a change in her, but a change in you? …. What if you showed up authentically, and there was a change in you, not expecting anything to happen differently, so that if she falls to pieces, you don’t have to put her back together.”
What would this be like if you effected change? If you were the change-maker in your mother-daughter relationship?
Remember that healing your relationship takes time and effort. Be patient with yourself and try to focus on the small steps you can take to improve the relationship.
If any of this blog sounds familiar to you, reach out to me and we can work on effecting change together.
Image: Janice Williams
Janice Williams is the only Certified Mother-Daughter Relationship Specialist in Australia and the South Pacific region.
Sessions are available across Australia and worldwide.