A baby is something you carry inside you for nine months, in your arms for three years, and in your heart till the day you die.

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Untangling the Mother Daughter Relationship

Dr. Judith Balswick

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In the following article, Dr. Judith Balswick's tender insights into the highly significant mother-daughter relationship suggest we learn our mother's story. For example, go through things she's kept from her childhood or later and ask about them. I wish I had. When my mom died 4 years ago, up in the attic I found a scrapbook of get well cards from when she had rheumatic fever as a young girl. That ailment affected her health the rest of her 89 years. I wish I'd asked more about those years to draw out her story. One's story always contributes to a better understanding between people, and often goes further in promoting peace. I also picked up from Judy to remember that moms need affirmation too. I have a friend who told me "My mom worked and I was a latchkey kid. I resented it. I don't work outside the home for that reason. I'm waiting 'til the kids are older. But the resentment has lasted. This show helped me sort through some of that resentment." Good endorsement for the show. Hope you'll download it for the sake of the relationship with your mom!
~~~Phyllis Wallace

This year I could not send a Mother's Day card to my mother because she died at age 92 in 1999. I never realized how sad I'd feel on Mother's Day until I no longer could express my love for her as I normally did on such occasions. It is a painful loss for a daughter to lose her mother at any age. I was grateful for the many years I had with a devoted mother whom I loved deeply. It brings a profound sadness to my heart when I realize she is no longer here. I cannot hear her voice on the phone, or receive her warm hugs, or bring her to the grocery store with me to shop. It is a loss I must reckon with on a day we honor mothers.

Of course, I receive similar loving messages from my own children and grandchild on this day our culture sets aside to celebrate mothers. And, this takes away some of the sting of my loss. Receiving a beautiful card, a bouquet of flowers, having a meal together with family members, or making a connection over the phone uplifts my spirits like nothing else on this day. It's a day where we have the privilege of showing the love we feel throughout the year. In fact, I remember how my mother cherished such letters and kept them in her memory box to go over from time to time. She would write little comments like, "a beautiful thought!" or add a smiley face to a personally written sentiment.

Going through my Mom's memory box before she died was a precious time for us. We talked together about her frail body and the fact that she had just a few more years to live. We went through these cards that were wrapped up in a rubber band and so lovingly handled by her as she shared about what each one of her family members meant to her. The smile on her face reflected the joy in her heart. And, yes, there were tears as we talked about her homegoing. She was a woman of faith and had a strong belief that she would be in heaven with her Lord when she passed into eternal life. It was a comforting thought for her, and we could laugh together through our tears as she instructed me about her funeral wishes. She had decided on the songs to sing, the favorite Bible verses to be read, and even what she wanted to wear in the casket. She was a woman who knew her mind and clearly approached her death as part of her final act of life. I admired her courage, and I can assure you that each of her requests was honored the day of her funeral.

Mother's Day is not so easy for some of us. There are single women who don't ever get honored any day of their lives. Some daughters have had difficult relationships with their mothers, and this day brings forth more pain and frustration than happiness. Some are going through physical and mental anguish as a result of taking care of a mother who is not responsive, hard to handle, or even belligerent. The relationship with a mother can be complicated, frustrating, and confusing. And yet, our mothers are deeply ingrained in our lives and their indelible imprints leave a mark on us. So, how do we make peace with ourselves and with her on Mother's Day? This is indeed a challenge!

Whatever your situation, Mother's Day is an opportunity to consider ways you can care for yourself as well as care for your mothers, whether she is alive or not. Decide to make it a meaningful day. Be creative. Have a luncheon with a group of women who support and honor you as a single woman, as well as honor your mother on this day. Send a special card or make a phone call to a woman who has acted as a surrogate mother to you. Each year I send flowers to my two aunts who have supported and loved me in special ways throughout my life. Have others help you make plans for a mother who is difficult to be with and ask them to join you for the day to make it easier. Mending relationships comes through an active search for solutions and resolutions.

Just as each of our mother-daughter stories is unique, each one calls for a unique ending. Whether it's the last chapter or the beginning of a new chapter, we can do things because we know our actions and attitudes can make a difference. Use this day to reexamine your relationship with your mother and let it prompt you to see possibilities for the future. May you find greater hope for future changes that will strengthen, repair, and restore one of the most important relationships of your life.

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