Celebrating Mother’s Day When You Don’t Get Along

The Mum-Daughter Dilemma: Celebrating Mother’s Day When You Don’t Get Along

As both a mum and a daughter, I know how hard it can be for both sides to be “Hallmark card perfect” and maintain a happy and healthy relationship.

I have many friends who absolutely idolise their mum. They hang out together, live by their mum’s every wise word and consider them their best friend. They’d be pretty lost without them!

But I also have loads of friends who don’t particularly get along with their mums. Some have strained or frustrating relationships and others are downright difficult.

This is where the ‘guilt-stricken daughters’ spend most of their emotional head space. You feel guilty because your mum drives you bananas and yep, you sometimes want to scream down the phone at her, but you know you should put her on a pedestal for all she has done and sacrificed for you. Bringing you into the world, raising you, loving you, teaching you … mums dedicate their lives to creating better lives for their children. And, as a mum yourself, you know how damn hard (and thankless!) it can be.

My mum and I do not, sadly, depict the poetic version. I don’t scream down the phone at her, but we ‘agree to disagree’ about a lot of things! I’ve even been known to resort to my childhood default and stomp my feet and walk off on occasion! But of course I still love her, even if we don’t have the “Hallmark card perfect” relationship.

When I look back on my childhood and the sacrifices my mum made for myself and my siblings, I’ll be forever grateful – and bewildered at how she did it all.

The Mum-Daughter Dilemma: Celebrating Mother’s Day When You Don’t Get Along

Mother’s Day card, Able and Game

Related: Mum’s New Brush Stroke Eyebrow Tattoos

Having almost lost my life in a fire at just 17 months-old, my mum commuted for around three hours every single day to the hospital to sit with me, for months at a time and for much of my childhood.

I had two older brothers and a sister at home, too. I can’t even begin to imagine how emotionally, physically and financially difficult it must have been on the whole family – especially since my dad was a vegetable and cattle farmer and during corn season, he’d work from 2am to 10-11pm seven days a week. (And still manage to visit me every morning in his truck after selling corn at the Footscray markets! He’d leave and soon after mum would arrive!).

My mum was selfless, self-sacrificing, highly independent and extremely generous. She’d bring sweet corn in for the nurses and take whole roast dinners to our neighbours because they were “worse off than us” – even after mum and dad divorced (when I was five) and she was a single mum raising us on the pension!

The Mum-Daughter Dilemma: Celebrating Mother’s Day When You Don’t Get Along

Mrs. Lichtenstein Mother’s Day card by Sally Swain, Blue Island Press

She still is extremely generous – just one of her many positive traits. When I fly down from Sydney to visit her in Melbourne and my friends come around to see me, mum will gift them with whatever she has – load up their car boots with plants dug out from her garden, feed them homemade desserts, whatever. She has little, but always finds something to give. She even recently gave her washing machine to a family friend’s daughter because the young girl was moving out of home for the first time and had no whitegoods for her flat. Seriously. Now mum is using my sister’s washing machine! And she’s creative, arty, a great cook, super green thumb and many more shades of awesome that I am NOT!

But like every interesting character, my mum is also highly opinionated and doesn’t take crap from anyone – authorities, bosses, shopkeepers, relatives … no one. Just one dirty look from my mum can cause a life threatening injury. If she doesn’t like you, you’ll soon know about it. She didn’t like a few of my friends when I was growing up and boy did she let them have it! She even chased one down the street with a whip (OK, it was a teenage boy and I was only 14!). I wanted to die from embarrassment on many occasions during my teen years.

The Mum-Daughter Dilemma: Celebrating Mother’s Day When You Don’t Get Along

Mother’s Day card, Typo

When you’re a teenager living under someone else rules, you have to put up with what’s dished out. But when you’re an adult, the rules change – you’re free to form your own values, opinions, way of living and are no longer answerable to others. And that, for many teens transitioning to adulthood, is when the real parent-child trouble starts!

So how can you celebrate Mother’s Day and let your mum know you appreciate all the sacrifices she made for you, even if you don’t get along or have a perfect relationship?

To help you find the right words – and know you are not alone – here is a collection of different mum-daughter relationships (some more perfect than others!) and their card picks. Here’s hoping you have a Happy Mother’s Day!

The Old-Fashioned Mum

My mum is… “Sweet but a little old-fashioned.”

Our relationship is … “I love my mum, but we probably don’t have the closest mother-daughter relationship. I find her opinions – while well-intentioned – a little overbearing at times, which means I’m quite reluctant to go to her for advice or support. But at the end of the day, she gave up a lot for her family, and being a mum myself, I think it’s important to acknowledge and be appreciative of that.”
Mother’s Day dilemma: “Mum likes to feel loved and appreciated, and I know she puts a lot of weight in cards and gifts and the meaning behind them.”
Card Choice: “A blank card with a nice illustration of something that means something to her. I usually go with a travel theme, as she loves to travel and reminisce about the places she’s been.”
Mother’s Day card message: “‘Happy Mother’s Day! I hope you have a lovely day and get thoroughly spoilt. You deserve it.’ I also include a drawing from my kids or a recent photo of them – she gets a kick out of those!” Victoria, Adelaide

The ‘Me First’ Mum

My mum… “Lives life for herself – her family has to fit into her way of life and her timetable, when she is in the mood for it. She is very independent too. She may be 60 but she’s not a mumsy type of mum or granny-like, even though she has eight grandchildren!”
Our relationship is… “Hard to explain. Because mum lives life for herself and largely puts her needs first, it affects the closeness we could have. However, she is there when I need her and I can talk to her about most things, within reason!”

Mother’s Day dilemma: “I don’t really have a dilemma. I just accept her for who she is. I usually take her out for a dinner or lunch of her choice, but now that she has moved interstate (away from all of her kids and grandkids!), she just gets a ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ phone call.”
Card Choice: “I avoid sentimental cards as they don’t really reflect our relationship or who she is. Instead, I find cards with a beautiful picture, drawing or some art work that I think suits her personality.”
Mother’s Day card message: “Always a short and simple message to let her know I love her.” Bianca, Brisbane

The Exaggerator Mum

My mum…“Is always immaculately presented – she would never leave the house without a full face of make-up! She is a bit like a Stepford Wife. She likes to present her ‘best self’ and thinks that everyone else should do the same. As a consequence, she often exaggerates – a lot. For example, my sister is studying beauty therapy at TAFE, but mum tells everyone she’s a ‘Beauty Director!’”

Our relationship… “Is frustrating. I know mum means well and because she had a very tough upbringing and was poor, she’s really proud of her achievements and her kids’. But it’s difficult to sit there and listen to her exaggerate stories to people.”

Mother’s Day dilemma: “I feel a lot of pressure from mum to spoil her on Mother’s Day – she expects the lot! Brekkie in bed, flowers, lunch, fancy present…”

Card Choice: “I always choose something soppy and loving because I know it will make mum happy.”

Mother’s Day card message: “Something sentimental and emotional. I always thank her for being there for us kids when we were growing up, and say something nice like her ‘lamb roasts are the best on the planet’ to stroke her ego a bit! I focus on her good points.” Rachel, Dubbo

The Role Model Mum

My mum… “Is the BEST!”

Our relationship is… “Very close. I try to be as awesome to her as she is to me.”

Mother’s Day dilemma: “I don’t really have one. But I do try to be like her for my own daughters – she is a wonderful mother and role model.”

Card Choice: “I usually give her a cheesy card that shows how much I love her and how grateful I am that she is so loving and amazing to me and my children. Honestly, I don’t know what I would do without her. She’s incredible.”

My Mother’s Day card message… “I choose either a cheesy card or a funny card and then write how wonderful she is in my own words inside.” Alana, Sydney

The Hot & Cold Mum

My mum is… “Like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. She can be very nasty and hypocritical, but she can also be very kind.”
Our relationship is… “Strained at the best of times. I’ll always be there for her and am fiercely protective of her, but it can be very difficult to show her affection when she is being nice, because I feel like the next minute she will be mean again. I’m always on defence.”
Mother’s Day dilemma: “Our relationship is so strained that I even find it difficult to give her a kiss. I usually buy her a card and gift from my children to give her, rather than a gift from myself. Or I buy her a gift voucher for something practical she needs.”
Card Choice: “Something funny or a pretty illustration with no words. Cards are too soppy, but I do appreciate the good in mum!”

Mother’s Day message: “I just buy a card with a beautiful illustration and let the kids write their own message.” Kimberly, Surfers Paradise

The Young Mum

My mum is… “Very loving and hands on with myself, my sister and our children.”

Our relationship is… “Very close. Mum had me when she was 19, so people used to think we were sisters. She’s always been there for my sister and I, and despite working when we were growing up, she always found time to play, help us with homework and spend time together as a family. As a teenager, I thought she was too protective of us, but now that I’m a Mum I totally get it. She only had our safety and best interest at heart!  She’s now not only an amazing Mum who has always been there for me when I needed her, but she’s a wonderfully loving and attentive Grandma too.”

Mother’s Day dilemma:  “We live in different states so we don’t always get to spend Mother’s Day together. I also hate that my daughters don’t get as much time with her as I’d like. But she is often traveling around the country to catch up with us in Sydney and my sister’s kids in Canberra. So the regular trips mean we all get quality time with mum.”

Card Choice: “I usually choose a beautiful card with a simple but meaningful message and we tell her how much she means to us.”

Mother’s Day message: “There’s nothing she wouldn’t do for us and nothing I wouldn’t do for her. I feel so lucky to have the best Mum anyone could ever ask for. Happy Mother’s Day Mum!” Naomi, Sydney

The Smiling Assassin Mum

My mum is… “Lovely to everyone, but sneaky as she will give back-handed compliments and put you down in subliminal ways.”

Our relationship is… “Hot and cold. I’m straight up and say things as they are. Mum plays silly games and ‘implies’ a lot of things that always leave me feeling angry or upset!”

Mother’s Day dilemma: “Living up to her expectations. It’s hard to choose her cards and gifts as I always have her voice in the back of my head saying something negative about my choice!”

Card Choice: “Mum loves gardening and nature walks so I usually choose an Australiana theme illustration.”

Mother’s Day message: “I keep it short and sweet. The less said the better.” Diane, Fremantle

The Pokie-Loving Mum

My mum is… “Hopeless. I love her, but she lives from pay to pay (although she always has money for cigarettes and pokies!).”

Our relationship is… “Reversed. I feel like the adult – she behaves like a child! I guess I have a lot of resentment that she doesn’t really set a good example for her kids or grandchildren and continues to make the same bad choices over and over again.”

Mother’s Day dilemma: “I can’t give mum money because I know she will spend it on pokies, but because she lives interstate, I find it hard to buy and send her a gift out and post it in time! She doesn’t appreciate money being spent on things like flowers, dinners or fancy items, either. She is a minimalist and lives simply.”

Card Choice: “Mum isn’t into sentimental and soppy cards, but she does like to feel loved and appreciated, so I mix it up between poetic words and humorous cards.”

Mother’s Day message: “I let her know I appreciate her and then sign off with a simple Happy Mother’s Day!” Louise, Surfers Paradise

Main image Able and Game and stockists: Blue Island Press;  Hallmark; Typo; The Card Zoo 

Have a strained relationship with your mum? How do you handle it?


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  1. May 9, 2017 / 9:43 pm

    My mum was just perfect. I miss her everyday but Mother’s Day especially. Wish she was here so we could do lunch as we did use to. Love ❤️ here for ever

    • May 9, 2017 / 9:49 pm

      Oh that is beautiful. And yes, she was an amazing woman.