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What About Daughters on Mother’s Day?

May 5th, 2011 by Melinda Blau

My Daughter, the Mountain Climber

I am in Paris (where Fetes de Meres is not until June 7).  This coming Sunday, May 7,  is the first American Mother’s Day (if memory serves me,which it often doesn’t!) that I haven’t been with at least one of my two children.  I suppose I’m fortunate to have had so many other Mother’s Days with them  Or maybe I should consider myself lucky this year.  We all know that it’s just a Hallmark holiday.  And isn’t every day supposed to be Mother’s Day?  Yeah, right.

Cynicism aside, this can be a hard day for mothers and daughters.  Those of us whose mothers have died feel the loss even more acutely.  And some women can’t stand being with their mothers, not even for one day.  But even close mother/daughter duos have “moments.” Who needs the pressure to have a “good” Mother’s Day?  As the family grows and changes, you also step parents and in-laws and all their ideas, potentially making the day more strained than celebratory. Plans bump up against prior traditions: “Mother’s Day has always been at my sister’s house” is met with, “But our family goes to the Pancake House.”

The good news is that any relationship can shift toward a more positive direction.  In her “5 Ways to Strengthen the Bond with Mom”– just published on The Buzz — relationship expert Terry Orbuch directs her advice to daughters.  Here’s a few points we older-generation mothers ought to remember as Mother’s Day approaches.  After all, now it’s their day, too!

1.  Make a gratitude list. Just as Orbach advises daughters not to focus on what Mom does wrong, it’s a good idea for mothers to “take 10 minutes and write down a handful of things you really appreciate” about your daughter, too.  No one is all bad all the time, and humans have an unfortunate tendency to elevate the negatives. Consciously listing the good will help you gain a balanced perspective. And by the way, if you have trouble thinking of what’s she’s “given” you, just look at your grandchildren!

2.  Figure that your daughter is doing the best she can. She’s got a life, and you’re no longer a big part of it. If yours is anything like mine, she’s busy from dusk ‘til dawn, what with the car-pooling and kids’ activities, her husband and their obligations, her work and her workouts (see above, which is the least of it!). When she sounds rushed or preoccupied, she probably is. I try not to it personally–often, but not always, I succeed.

3. Bite your tongue. Don’t say the first thing that comes to mind–and this includes something about yourself.  Whatever your thought–an observation, advice, and certainly criticism–sit with it for a while and ask yourself, “Will our relationship improve if I say this to her?”  It’s one thing to share honestly about your own life, quite another do it with the expectation of solace.  Even though your daughter is now an adult, who knows what it means to be a mother, it’s still inappropriate to burden her.

4.  When she does or says something offensive, admit that it hurts. If this seem to contradict point #3, it’s a matter of walking that line between being an oversharer and doormat.  Neither will do much to further your relationship. But check in with yourself  first–or even better, run it by a friend who’ll tell you the truth–to make sure you’re not overreacting. And if you decide to talk to her about it, give her the benefit of the doubt and let her know this is your perception, as in, “I don’t think you did this on purpose, but I felt …..”

5. Encourage your grandchildren to respect and honor their mother. Have them make a gratitude list about all the good things she does for them.   Also, help them think of, and execute, a surprise that their mother would really appreciate.  One year–not even sure if it was for Mother’s Day–my older two helped me clean out their mother’s car.  It was a three-generational win-win-win!

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