Of course, most daughters love their mothers—but in the midst of day-to-day interactions, some friction is inevitable. You may find that in your dealings with your mother, certain traits or behaviors of hers can really get under your skin. Maybe her habit of interrupting is a recurring source of irritation or her veiled criticisms of your kids hurts your feelings, which in turn hurts your relationship. Here’s how to take the sting out of prickly parental encounters…
Recognize your fear of “becoming” your mother. What you like least or resent most about your mother may be the very same attributes that you secretly dislike in yourself. Her annoying traits—moodiness, nosiness, bossiness or whatever—are far more troubling to you if you suspect that she is a mirror of what you are becoming or could become. Remember: While you may indeed have inherited some unpleasant personality traits or learned them by example, you are not doomed to repeat your mother’s ways. You cannot change her, but you can choose to change yourself—and once you do, you’ll be able to tolerate Mom’s foibles more calmly and patiently.
Cultivate empathy for her past. Your mother, like everyone else, is a product of her own personal history. When she was a child, did her family struggle financially? Realizing this will help you understand why she might fret about your every expenditure. Did her father make her feel that simply by being a girl, she was inferior to her brothers? Not wanting to pass along that hurtful attitude, she may unwittingly go to the opposite extreme by endlessly pressuring you or your daughter to make it big in business. What helps: Ask your mother to share stories from her childhood, then really listen (even if you think you’ve heard them all before). As your understanding and empathy grow, your irritation will diminish.
Accept her for who she is. Just as you want your mother to accept you as you are—without demanding that you fulfill her expectations of, say, where you should live or who your friends should be—you need to see her as her own person. She may not join the gym to build her aging bones or start dating again after your father died as you would want her to do, but these are her decisions to make, not yours. Offering occasional encouragement or assistance is OK, but beyond that, let her live her own life—and you’ll see the friction between you ease noticeably.
Actively nurture appreciation of her. In Japanese Naikan therapy, a person spends hours in private reciting all the reasons that she is thankful for her mother (and father) for everything that was done for her. Try this, speaking aloud or writing a list and ignoring any mishaps or mistakes your mother has made. Examples: “Thank you, Mom, for helping me with my homework”… “Thank you, Mom, for telling me not to date that boy who treated me badly”… “Thank you, Mom, for caring enough to call me about my mammogram results.” You will naturally have more patience for dealing with today’s minor (and not so minor) annoyances when you pause to acknowledge all the efforts she has made for you throughout your life.