How to Accept That You Can’t Change Your Mom

Mom holding grass

Whether you have a wonderful relationship with your mom, a strained one, or even none at all, most people (particularly women) wish they could change their mom in some ways. Maybe it’s natural to wish that the relationship that begins as the closest human bond could evolve a little more.

What We Wish We Could Change About Mom

For most of us, our mother’s gave us life, nurtured us, cleaned, fed, put up with our whining. It’s important to recognize these contributions (almost always unpaid), and be grateful for their work and their love. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some things that get under your skin.

Here are some key issues that bother many people about their moms:

  1. Your mom still thinks of you as a child or young adult, with the same flaws and same preferences. E.g. despite your current impressive job, your mother acts like you are a ne’er do well because you had to repeat a year in middle school; or, because you dated guys in highschool, she finds it hard to believe that you are currently in a serious relationship with a woman.
  2. Your mom is judgmental about choices you have made, and doesn’t want to think about things differently. For instance, she doesn’t respect your career choices, or your choice of partner, or the way that you parent. No matter how you explain yourself, she is stuck on the idea that her way is better, that your choices are wrong.
  3. Your mom talks badly about people, including other family members (siblings, your dad), friends, acquaintances, even people she doesn’t know. While gossiping about other people with her was a way that you bonded earlier in life, you are trying to be more open minded and more tolerant, and you don’t want to hear negative remarks about others.
  4. Your mom struggles with untreated mental health or addiction issues, and will not get treatment. This can be because she insists she doesn’t have the issues, or because she insists that treatment will not help. Either way, it is difficult to deal with her issues, and you cannot rely on her anymore.
  5. Your mom doesn’t respect your parenting choices, and is a revisionist historian about how great she was as a mother. It may be stressful to talk with her about any parenting issues, and she notices your failures more than your successes. This is compounded if you rely on her for any child care help.
  6. Your mom acts more like the child, and you act more like the parent. She is constantly asking you for help, money, advice, and time. It exhausts you to deal with her demands or requests or both, and you envy your friends whose parents take a more parental, caretaking role.

Recognize Limits of What You Can Change

No matter what issues you and your mother are dealing with, it is important to recognize the limits of how you can change her. You desperately hope that she can one day realize your strengths, care for you, care for herself, or be on the same page, — this is a normal and understandable desire.

Unfortunately, there is a low likelihood that you can convince your mother to turn into someone else, whether that fantasy mother be more agreeable, more open minded, or more nurturing.

Paths to Acceptance of Your Mother

There are many paths to accepting that your mother will not change. One key to focus on is your mother’s strengths. What are the positives in your relationship? Ways in which your mother has helped you, taught you anything, made you into the person that you are today? Even if you have become stronger because she has not been there for you, that realization can put you on the path to acceptance.

Additionally, recognizing the contributing factors that led to your mother’s behavior can be very useful in facilitating acceptance. Learning more about her upbringing and the stressors she faced, in her own family and life in general, can help you understand why she acts in the ways she does.

Even if you know about her past, considering it more or asking her for more details (if your relationship is structured in a way that you can ask these types of questions) can be very beneficial in expanding the way you think and feel about your mother.

Therapy Helps You Make Peace With Familial Situations

Of course, therapy can be very useful in helping you make peace with your mother and any anger, sadness, or resentment that you feel. Talking to a professional can help you put your lingering feelings to bed and move forward in your life and in your relationship with your mom.

Published by

Dr. Samantha Rodman

Clinical Psychologist