My relationship with my mother has been through a lot of ups and downs. Whose hasn’t? Sure, there are those few (strange and unusual) mother/daughter pairs who have always gotten along and been best friends. They should be studied. Perhaps they should be medicated (just kidding). I really don’t know—but I know it’s not the norm. As for the rest of us, most women out there have a relationship with their mothers that is a slightly-less-tumultous version of Lorelai and Emily Gilmore’s in “Gilmore Girls.” Many daughters I know feel that they’re always having to reset boundaries with their moms, that their moms just go on to re-break. Most women I know feel that their moms give too much unsolicited (and sometimes insulting) advice. Most of my female friends would say that their moms don’t entirely approve of their lives, and have no qualms with stating it often. If you are a mother like this, and have been craving a closer connection with your daughter, I have some advice. To moms everywhere: here’s how to repair your relationship with your daughter.
Praise her for being independent
Rather then critiquing her for making less money than you’d hoped, praise her for being independent. Try to understand what a huge accomplishment it is that she simply doesn’t need your financial help and supports herself. Don’t focus on the fact that she could have a larger home or nicer car.
Focus on her happiness
Be happy that she is happy. And if she isn’t happy, ask her questions that get her thinking about changes that would make her happy. Don’t focus on changes that would affect her appearances, status, or any outside factors. Focus on her joy and she will always feel close to you.
Including her relationship happiness
When it comes to her romantic partner, just ask yourself: does her partner make her happy? Does he seem to genuinely care about her? Do not judge her partner’s job or his past. Jobs change. The past is the past. If your daughter’s partner has her back and aims to make her smile everyday, consider yourself lucky.
Listen to why she loves her job
Maybe your daughter isn’t in the profession you’d dreamed of for her–let that GO. Invest in understanding her current profession. Try to understand why she loves it–what parts of her character it nourishes. If you listen to her, you may come to also love what she does for a living.
Be open to her hobbies
Don’t just make her do the things and go to the places with which you’re comfortable. Be open to visiting her favorite watering hole or going to the restaurants she likes. If you’re willing to do the things she likes, you’ll get to spend more time together.
Get to know her friends
When you get to know your daughter’s friends, you get to know her. So let her bring a girlfriend or two with her next time she visits. Don’t get caught up worrying about hosting an extra guest and washing extra sheets. It’s a small price to pay to get closer to your daughter.
Get to know her friends without judgment
It’s important to add that you shouldn’t judge her friends. She loves them for some reason–perhaps it’s hard for you to see the reason–so don’t be quick to suggest she chooses other friends.
Never assume her intentions were bad
If your daughter drops the ball on something (like chooses a restaurant with a menu full of foods you mostly cannot eat) don’t jump to the assumption that she was purposefully negligent. Nobody ever responds well to that.
Ask what her thinking was behind her actions
When your daughter makes a mistake that upsets you, ask what her thinking was. If you’d just hear her out, you might find that you’re not very angry with her after all. For example, she may have chosen the restaurant with the problematic menu because she was focused on the view of the beach (something she knows you love).
Recall your mother’s mistakes
It could really benefit you to think back on your relationship with your mother. What did she do that made you not want to spend time with her? Or not want to confide in her? Is it possible that you are doing some of those same things to your daughter?
And recall your mom’s best actions
Also recall the things your mom did that really impressed you and made you want to be around her. Are you doing those things for your daughter? Could you?
Don’t meet her with agendas
When you see your daughter, don’t go in with an agenda (like get her to leave her boyfriend or get her to change careers). She can sense it and it makes her not only not want to share information with you that day, but also not want to see much of you in the future.
Focus on her kindness and generosity
Don’t approach her with the mindset “What more could she be doing for me?” Instead, think about the nice things she has done. Did she take care of your dog when you traveled? Visit you when you recovered from surgery? Recalling these events can make you realize how close you already are. Look for evidence that she does love you–not that she doesn’t.
Don’t take her shortcoming personally
Not calling enough, not visiting enough, failing to ask how your new husband is doing…don’t assume she does this intentionally to hurt you. She is young, in the middle of her career, and distracted. It isn’t personal or intentional.
Don’t begin phone calls with accusations
Don’t let the first words that come out of your mouth be, “You haven’t called me in a long time” or “Have you not been wondering how your mother is doing?” I promise you that never sets you up for a loving, positive phone call.