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Are you dreading Mother’s Day again this year and worrying about what to do for your mom? Perhaps you have never been close or are now estranged and feeling angry. Have you cut the mother-daughter ties and ignore the day, but remain resentful and sad? Or do you pretend everything is OK and give her a gift anyway? Even though the media lead us to believe that all mothers deserve flowers and chocolates, if you don’t have a good relationship, this ‘special’ day can be agonizing.

Not all mothers are lovable. In fact, there are those who are hurtful, critical and even destructive. These heartbreaking truths can be related to your mom’s severe psychopathology or a character disorder, her painful life circumstances or personal crisis. Maybe your mother is narcissistic, bipolar or suffers from alcohol or drug dependency. And you very well may have vivid memories of physical abuse or emotional neglect.

Are you fed up with trying to win her approval and be accepted for who you are? Or sick and tired of feeling guilty and blaming yourself for the problems in the relationship? Here are some ideas that can help you take better care of yourself, on Mother’s Day and throughout the year:  

 1. Let go of the dream of having a loving mother and a relationship that is emotionally healthy. It’s not easy to face the fact that your mom is self absorbed and has serious problems - or to fully acknowledge your pain in not having a ‘good enough’ mother. Once and for all, stand up and step back. Now is the time to shift the focus away from her. And begin to protect, nurture and mother yourself.  

 2. Feel more empowered as you practice self love.  Make a list of all that you have achieved without the support of parental encouragement and assistance. Realize that these assets belong to you and you alone. If you’ve spent a lifetime trying to be taken care of or consumed with rage about not having that kind of love, it may be hard to see yourself as the valuable person you really are. You will come to know that you are not defined by your mom, but by what you envision yourself to be.

3. Focus on the positives of the life you’ve created. When you were young, your mom’s actions or attitude may have made you feel worthless or invisible. Did you fantasize about getting out from under her control and moving far away? Now that you are perhaps married, with a family of your own and a successful life, you‘re no longer that helpless little girl. Admire and respect your grown up qualities - how responsible you are, being able to laugh at yourself, your fierce independence, common sense and good judgment.  

4. Be clear about what you‘re willing to do.  Perhaps your mother is older and still has unreasonable expectations of you yet doesn’t value what you do for her. What you get in return may be criticism, arguments or tantrums. Try your best to stick to your rules by writing a list of what you will tolerate. And don't assume that you have to do it all alone. Talk honestly about how you feel and encourage other family members to pitch in and do their share. Maintain firm boundaries as you handle these challenges. Some women have to work it out by walking away.

5. Refuse to respond to unrealistic demands - or even realistic ones that you can’t meet because of how you feel or other commitments. You can create a more balanced sense of wellbeing by setting limits, especially if your mother is verbally abusive. You don’t have to continue to identify with the role of the victim. Although you may not be able to change what happens to you, you can change how you handle it. Consider the possibility of seeing a therapist. Learning how to self soothe and manage your moods will help you feel more in control of your life.  

As you continue to work on getting what you need and want, think about the possibility of offering forgiveness. Granted, your mom may have been incredibly damaging, making it difficult to accept yourself or trust others. But know that forgiving your mother for who she is and what she did to you doesn’t necessarily excuse her actions. And starting to extinguish the feelings of rejection and resentment can mark a new beginning for you - a Mother’s day gift that you give yourself, freeing you from the past.  

 2010, Her Mentor Center

We‘re Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. and Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D., family relationship experts with a 4-step model for change. Whether you‘re coping with stress, acting out teenagers, aging parents, boomerang kids or difficult daughters-in-law, we have solutions for you. Visit our website, [Link Removed] and sign up for our free newsletter, “Stepping Stones,” and complimentary e-book, “Courage and Lessons Learned.”


Mentors, Your links have been removed, please consider upgrading to premium membership.

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Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Lisa Brown wrote May 1, 2010
    • Very interesting article!



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Kerri1985 wrote May 1, 2010
    • I thank you so much for your words it has really help me see somethings in my own mother daughter relationship with my Mom...thanks again

      Kerri



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Veggie wrote May 2, 2010
    • Great article and thank you.

      Mother’s Day is very difficult for me.  Loosing my mother at 7yrs old and having that ‘wicked step-mother’ within 6 months of my own mothers death brought on 5yrs of severe physical & emotional abuse.

      For many years after I became a mother for the first time, my need to have a ‘mother’ figure in my life (actually any parental figure), I spoke to my abuser for hours at a time on a daily basis.

      Can’t remember what actually stopped it, but eventually I cut all ties with her.  Thank God!  That in itself was self abuse.

      Unfortunately, I adopted and held onto that abuse and continued it in my own mind for many years to follow.  It created nothing but distrust, expecting hurt from others and resulted in passing on those feelings onto my own two daughters.

      Today the tables are turned where my 2 daughters have, let’s say, unfavorable feelings for me.  It’s sad, it hurts but I’ve learned that I must first mend the relationship with myself before having any chance of mending my relationship with my daughters.

      Off & on throughout the years, I’ve let my own guilt bring me down.  At the moment I’m back on the upswing on focusing on mothering myself.

      At times it is a matter of self preservation and first things first.  You can’t be there for someone else if you are not there first, for yourself.  Can’t give what you don’t have.

      My daughters are now young women and one is married with children.  Although someone inexperienced with past abuse may not fully understand, just as I have had to deal with my demons (no one can do it for me), they too have to deal with theirs... real or imagined.

      I’ve offered amends trying to lessen their hurt and have been met with attacks - sometimes and understandable.  I accept and totally understand.  My abusers never took the responsibility or validated my hurts so I am well aware of the anger it creates in a ‘child’ or in an adult stuck in that child’s mind.

      Being willing and open to the process of release is not always easy but necessary 1.) for your healing (taking responsibility, for YOU and 2.) The most important, helping another to heal.

      Through my own experiences, I know that I can make amends till I’m blue in the face but if they don’t do their part for themselves, unfortunately, they too will sit in their stuff for many years to come.

      Forgiveness!  The answer to all my problems!  I must first forgive my abusers.  Than, forgive myself.

      I love my daughters but I will not be a door mat for my abusers or them any longer.

      I’ve always said, I should write a book tongue out



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Lisa Middlesworth wrote May 2, 2010
    • hmmm, this is food for thought. I love my Mother dearly, but it has not always been easy. Will have to read this one a couple of more times. Thanks for sharing..



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Denise Richardson wrote May 2, 2010
    • For those of you who still have your mom, love on her regardless of any issues you may be having that is MOM!!!! I wish I had my mom here to love on she passed in 1991.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. wrote May 2, 2010
    • This subject always generates a lot of discussion and there is no one right way to deal with these painful issues.  

      Veggie, it seems as if your insight is helping you make some decisions that are in your best interests - best of luck to you!



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. wrote May 2, 2010
    • I just had another thought - you may want to read the Q&A last Thursday that we posted on our blog,  [Link Removed] featuring Gary Zukav and his recently published book, “Spiritual Partnership.” While there, sign our email list and download a free ebook, “Courage and Lessons Learned.” It could help with the “mom issues” that are challenging you right now.


      Mentors, Your links have been removed, please consider upgrading to premium membership.



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