Many of us have an idea of how we want our relationship with our mothers to be. When I imagine the dynamic I’d want to have with my mom, I look to Gilmore Girls’, Lorelei and Rory and Grey’s Anatomys’ Meredith and Zola. Their relationships weren’t perfect, but they truly were best friends, in an authentic parent child type of way. The daughters could tell their mothers things, be open, and most of all, come to them. They wanted their moms around for not only their highs, but to comfort them in their lows.
When You Don’t Get Along With Your Mom
I don’t remember a time past 5th grade when—in any situation good or bad—I wanted my mom. An underlying fear of her reaction to not only situations, but showing her the real me, was always there. It went beyond the usual angsty teen emotions and secrecy. I created a box inside myself that held all the real parts of me, the dreams, the depression, the doubts, wanting to be anyone other than myself. When I would take little parts from the box and show them to my mother, she’d either sweep them under the rug, veil them as disrespect, or confuse me into thinking they weren’t real. I constantly felt like I was juggling two versions of me, the one she wanted me to be, and who I wanted to be.
I thought having my daughter would bring us closer… it didn’t
When I got pregnant with a daughter of my own, I thought that might be the thing that brought my mom and I closer together. Every time I looked at my daughter with the immense love I felt for her, my heart broke at the same time because I never really felt that from my mom.
The emptiness of the broken relationship was almost always hovering somewhere in my mind. When I saw my friends’ Instagram posts shouting out their moms, or having a dinner date with their mom, it hurt. Not because I couldn’t grab dinner with my mom, but because doing so would destroy my peace. I’d go home questioning how I look, the decisions I made, how I was raising my daughter, or be reminded of mistakes in my past. I always felt hollow after leaving a conversation with her, wanting to shatter every part of me and begin again. Even though I loved myself and my life. I used to pray for all the things I have now. Sometimes the sadness turned to resentment, especially when I attempted to communicate these feelings to her, which almost always ended in a heated argument.
A few years ago, I decided to get a therapist to help work on myself, trauma, and deal with the strained relationship I had with my mother. Through therapy, I learned at some point, you just have to leave people where they’re at, accept it, and move forward. Some relationships are fractured in ways that aren’t able to be repaired. As a society, I think we are so conditioned to stay in toxic relationships, especially if that person is family. For me that’s no longer the case.
Moving from sadness to strength
I started finding strength when I realized I was no longer in a place to try and mend the relationship with my mom, especially when I’m the only one trying. Nor should I suffer through it in silence. Working through it with my therapist, I was finally able to put my mental wellness ahead of feeling like I owed it to my mom to continue to live in a cycle of hurt. I was able to let go of guilt and let go of the child in me that felt like a disappointment—as though every speed bump in life was a catastrophe that my mom would never let me live down.
Once I set boundaries, and fully accepted that this relationship was harming me, I was able to silence the voice in the back of my head that echoed all the things she said that made me doubt myself. I know I’m a great mother, my daughter is thriving and I know she feels unbelievably loved.
Once I limited contact with my mother to strictly seeing my daughter, I stepped into my authentic self. I let go of the ache in my heart that our relationship wasn’t going to be what I wanted it to be and became more confident in my parenting. I could release my shoulders and live without walking on eggshells, worried about the next interaction with my mother that I’d have to recover from. And I no longer felt shame associated with my mental illness. I didn’t have to be perfect, and gave so much more grace to be myself.
Where I am now
I love my mom, she’s my mom, she made many sacrifices in life for me and molded some of the things I love most about myself. But she also created many things I don’t. Now, I don’t have the capacity to grow and love myself unconditionally with her deeply ingrained in my life. But, my daughter loves spending time with her so I still allow them to maintain a relationship. My daughter can call her from her tablet when she wants to chat, they have playdates where my mom picks her up, and they go on an adventure. I would never limit the love my daughter receives, and they have a great relationship, even if my mom and I don’t.
I would never limit the love my daughter receives, and they have a great relationship, even if my mom and I don’t.
So for now, I will love my mother from a distance, and that’s not saying it has to be like that forever. But in order to protect my peace, prioritize my mental wellness, and be the best mother I can be, I can’t have my mom in my life. Sometimes it stings, sometimes I want to pick up the phone and call my mom to ask her something about motherhood, but I know it’s because I want to call the version of her I need, not the version of her she is.
Sometimes I want to pick up the phone and call my mom to ask her something about motherhood, but I know it’s because I want to call the version of her I need, not the version of her she is.
Some people aren’t capable of loving you the way you need to be loved, family included.
I’m proud that I finally prioritized what I needed from the relationship, and stood firm in removing myself because that’s not what I was getting.
I know I’m not the only person who has a strained relationship with their mother. There are numerous support groups on Facebook and personal stories shared across the web. Some days are more difficult than others, like holidays or seeing movie with a close knit mother daughter duo. But there are ways to help with the sadness. I try to summon the strength it took to take a step back from my relationship with my mom.
Therapy also helps me deal with these emotions. For anyone who also has a strained mother-daughter relationship, I encourage you to reach out to your support system when things get heavy, and know this experience will only make you a stronger person and a better mother. The relationship I have with my daughter, other people in my life, and myself are better because of the boundaries I’ve set with my own mom.