Relationships between mothers and adult daughters can be such a source of joy, but also at times deeply challenging. This post is full of honest feedback from both sides, so we can understand each other better — and love each other well.
Recently a young mother said to me,
“I realized how much I want to please my mother. I long to hear her say, “You’re a good mom. Your children are wonderful.”
An older mother commented,
“I wish my adult daughter would tell me some things I did in raising her that were good and helpful to her. Even though I’m the adult now, I still feel like I did so many things wrong in raising my daughter.”
What I hear in both of these comments is the cry for approval.
We older Moms long to know that we did and are doing some things right. We desperately want to please our adult daughters. And grown-up daughters want their mothers to admire them for what they’re doing now.
Sometimes we mess up in trying to communicate our approval. We don’t mean to do this. Both of us want to have a good relationship with each other. Yet often we don’t understand one another, or we misjudge each other. Simply put, we don’t know how to build a grace-based relationship.
What we wish for
In an effort to understand what mothers and daughters long for I asked some women what they wished their mother or daughter knew about them. Here are some responses.
From daughters: I wish my mom…
- “I wish my mother knew how much I need to hear her say, ‘You are doing such a good job as a Mom.'”
- “My mom and dad are always together. Sometimes I want my mom to myself.”
- “My mother is really great at doing things for us, but sometimes I wish she’d use words to say how much she loves me–words like: ‘I love you;’ ‘I like who you are becoming;’ or ‘I’m proud of you.’”
- “I wish my mom would share more of her heart with me, who she really is, not just mom.
- “I wish my mom would seek Jesus.”
- “I wish she would remember how hard it is to be a parent.”
- “I wish my mother talked less and asked me how I am more and then listened. Then I’d feel I could trust her more.”
- “I wish she would just listen to my thoughts and emotions rather than always jumping in to give me her thoughts or advice.”
- “I wish my mom would tell me that when I was little our home was not always perfectly clean. That would take the pressure off me to have a perfectly clean, decorated, organized home when she visits.”
From moms: I wish my daughter…
- “I wish she understood that even though I have an old body I still have feelings of inadequacy just like she does.”
- “I wish she knew how important Christ is in my life. She believes but doesn’t seem to be growing in her faith.”
- “I wish she would let me know the inner world of her heart and that she would want to know mine.”
- “I wish my daughter would see me, would care to know who I am and who I am in the Lord. To know I want God’s best for her, that I’m not just who you call for babysitting or to help out for her needs.”
- “I wish my adult daughter didn’t have a vision of me as ‘perfect.’ I’ve shared my struggles with her, but she still thinks anything she does that’s different than how I would have done it is wrong.”
- “My mother is in heaven now, but I wish she could know that all the effort she poured into me was not wasted and it fell on good soil.”
So, what can we do to grow a grace-based relationship with one another?
- Realize that because this relationship is so important to us, we are both fragile and unusually sensitive to one another.
- Determine to grant grace by not taking offense at something said that was hurtful. Instead, respond with “I don’t think you realize it, but when you said it made me feel .” (There’s a good chance she had no idea). Going further in this conversation might involve: “I am so sorry I made you feel that way. Tell me another way I could have put my comment.” Remember, some comments are better left unsaid.
- Keep in mind other factors. Look at the home in which your mother was raised. She may have wounds from her family of origin which have left a deficit in her ability to mother. Or your daughter may have wounds of which you are unaware.
- Focus on and verbalize what the other does right. “It meant so much to me when you .” Be as specific as possible. Occasionally do this in writing. Then it can be re-read!
- Learn each other’s love language. Ask her what hers is! (Check out 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman). Then love her in the way she needs which may be very different from what you need.
- Recognize that even though our longing for approval from each other is natural our deeper longing is for our heavenly Father’s approval. We can be assured of this.
“For there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1
I also asked these women to tell me what they appreciated in their mothers or adult daughters. Here’s what they said.
- “I’m thankful that my mom did not pressure me with worry when it became obvious that I wouldn’t marry right away. I was struggling enough with singleness and her concern would have made it worse.”
- “I’m thankful my mother is willing to do errands and go places with me when I’m home visiting her, and that she has begun to relate to me adult to adult. This was awkward at first but good for both of us.”
- “I am thankful that she spends time with my kids, that she babysits and helps with all the doctor’s appointments.”
- “I am so thankful for my close relationship with my mother. Now that I’m an adult with my own family, my mom has truly become my confidant and friend.”
- “My mom has a servant’s heart and always encourages us to look at the positive side, no matter what.”
- “I’m thankful that my Mom makes a point to ask me how she can pray for me.”
From older moms:
- “I’m thankful that my daughter continues to enjoy reminiscing about growing up and our experiences together.”
- ‘I’m thankful that my daughter has always been there for me, especially since my husband died.”
- “What I really appreciate about my daughter is that she is teachable.”
- “My daughter is gracious and kind. She looks to my needs and has a gift of love.”
- “I appreciate how my daughter loves others, puts the Lord first in her life, and turns to Him in times of waiting. She’s more relational than I am.”
- “I’m thankful for a daughter who loves her friends well.”
I’ve learned some valuable tips from these honest comments. I hope you have as well.
As Mother’s Day approaches this is my prayer for each of us:
Lord, help us to focus on the good in our mothers and in our daughters. Enable us to overlook an offense–to choose to bless rather than to criticize. Show us tangible ways we can communicate love to them. Help us to assume the best of one another. And to believe that with you “nothing is impossible.” (Luke 1:37).
Here’s a blog from my young adult friend Cambria that you will enjoy! 10 Ways to Be a Good Mother to Your Young Adult Daughter
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