Dear Barb – Building a new relationship with Mom

Dear Barb;

I am in my mid thirties and the mother of two young girls. My husband and I both work full-time and have a very busy lifestyle. I finally feel like my life is going really well except for one aspect. Through most of my growing up years my mother and I have had a tumultuous relationship. However, since I’ve gotten married we seem to get along better, but not as well as I would like. Do you know of anything I can do to improve my relationship with my mother? I’ll be looking forward to your reply.

Gretchen in Kentucky

Hi Gretchen. Mother/ daughter relationships are always difficult, as you will no doubt find out for yourself as your two girls grow up. In fact, it seems by nature these relationships are either really close, or as you state, tumultuous.

As little girls we all want to be just like our mothers. We love the way they smell, the way they put on their make up and do their hair just so. Our mothers solve all our problems and make our pain magically disappear. Through our mother’s eyes we see the person we can one day become.

However as we grow up this all changes, particularly when we reach adolescence. Suddenly we want to be anything but like our mothers. In fact one of the forces that shape a lot of what we do in our teen years is a result of our great desire to be the complete opposite of our mothers. Following years of power struggles we are usually able to reach a truce with our mothers. As we move through our adult years, our focus begins to change. Rather than wanting to be the complete opposite to our mother, the driving force is to have our mother’s acceptance of the person we have become. Perhaps this is where you are Gretchen. You feel content with your life and are looking for your mother’s acceptance and approval.

There are things you and your mother can do to build a stronger relationship, as conflicts are rarely one-sided. Perhaps you could begin by considering what each of you may be doing to add tension to this relationship. If you are looking for acceptance from your mother, ask yourself if you are also ready to give that same acceptance to her. Can you accept the decisions your mother makes for her life with no questions or judgments? Also, you both need to consider how you react to each other. You are both adults and can relate as two mature women. You no longer need to maintain a parent/child relationship, but rather give each other the same respect and consideration you would to a close friend. Remember neither person has any more control over the other’s life than what they are given.

Without a doubt the mother/daughter bond is an emotionally charged one in which conflict is unavoidable, but how much that conflict affects the relationship will be up to you and your mother.

Finally Gretchen let me end with a quote by Albert Ellis:

“The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.”

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E-mail your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality: your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.