How To Live In Peace With Your Mother

I was never one of those girls who enjoyed playing dress-up with my mom when I was a kid. My memories of my childhood with her are dotted with mental scenes of screaming, tears and even hatred. Not kind.

I was an only child to older parents. The energy my dad used to spend on spoiling my mom transferred to me the moment he laid eyes on me, and she became filled with jealousy. This wasn’t a hazy memory. My mother spat these words to my face when I was 12 years old during one of our frequent fights.

So from the time I was born until I turned 45, my mother and I were constantly at each others’ throats. We never agreed on anything. But my father’s illness changed everything. He suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and died after a 10-year battle. My husband and I took care of mom from that time until her death five years later.

Illness can have many effects on people. Some can’t handle it and run away. Others give up their lives to be caregivers for the afflicted. And still others are changed by it forever. In our case, my father, who we both secretly targeted as the impetus for our broken relationship, was also the impetus for our healing.

In mom’s case, losing dad was a punch in the gut. They had been married for 50 years. She realized – and I did too – that our decades of fury were senseless and stupid. The most important thing was family and you may never get a chance to say “I love you” and “I’m sorry.”

You hear this again and again: communication is crucial to healthy relationships. And ours was no exception. The problem was, until dad died, we rarely communicated in a rational way. I would do something and mom would assume it was done with vengeance or hostility and start an argument. We always seemed to be battling for dad’s attention. Now with him gone, there was no one to battle over.

We started to talk more. She loved to hear about my job and its gossip and challenges. She wanted to see movies, so we took her. I discovered she loved rock ‘n roll drummers and Patrick Swayze. These were facets to her personality that I had never known before because we were too busy fighting. And neither of us even remembered why. Something to do with jealousy … and still in the end, my dad died. And we were left behind to repair our relationship.

Whether you have the perfect mother/daughter relationship or you haven’t spoken to your mom in months, consider this: she’s your mom and one day she’ll be gone. And you’ll hate yourself because you let petty things get in the way. Reach out. Forgive. Reach out again. If she doesn’t respond, it’s not on you. “I love you” softens the mistakes and pain of the past, even if you never hear back from her.