Most Mother's Day cards and commercials celebrate all the beautiful things about moms and their kids. But the truth is,
mother-daughter relationships also come with lots of struggles, and many women end up with regrets about how they behaved toward their moms — and the way their moms behaved toward them. So that we can learn from these to improve our own relationships, I asked women what their biggest regrets were.
Our society idealizes mothers as selfless, caring, and devoted to their families. This ideal can get problematic when women are punished for putting their careers above their families or
not having kids at all. It can also get problematic for people whose moms don't have these qualities. Moms, just like dads, can be toxic, absent, or abusive. Like all people, they're multi-dimensional, and they're not all the same.
The same goes with kids. Although we often talk about how to be better parents to our children, we don't always talk about how to be better children to our parents. Maybe some of these women's stories will teach you how you can be a better child. And maybe others will just let you know that your own experience with your mom is valid and it's OK to have regrets. Perhaps May 14 is a good day to start rectifying them.
1 Kitty, 33 "My biggest regret in my relationship with my mother is that I didn't put down boundaries around her alcoholism sooner. I feel like my enabling it and normalizing it at family gatherings has allowed her to fall deeper into her mental health issues, including hoarding. We don't speak at all anymore because of that." 2 Billie, 62 "My biggest regret is that I wasn't by her side through the last night of her life. Because I lived 100 miles away, I couldn't be with her as often as I would have liked after she became ill." 3 Sharlrita, 34 "The biggest regret about my relationship with my mother is that we didn't tell each other we love each other as much when I was growing up." 4 Jen, 35 "My biggest regret is that we didn’t have that closeness we gained after my son was born before, especially during the nine months I was pregnant." 5 Cameron, 32 "My biggest regret about my relationship with my mother is the unachievable high bar I set for her. Before becoming a mother myself, I never looked at my mom like a human being. We're all doing our best and we're all imperfect, and I expected her to be flawless. I didn't see her as a woman, with her own needs." 6 Carol, 67 "My biggest regret is that we never enjoyed a close relationship. Whenever I see other women and their mothers hugging and enjoying each other, I still feel the loss." 7 Sarah Lin, 69 "My biggest regret with my mom is perhaps that I have never been able to not let the 'slights' slide off my back! Whenever my mom did something that upset my dad, he would let it slide. He never seemed to get upset with her... always saying, 'that's just the way she is!' I think I missed out, never knowing what it was like to have a close relationship with my mother." 8 Alaina, 35 "If I had to pick one thing, it was allowing the 'reality checks' of my mother to stifle my creativity. I wanted to be a screenwriter, and instead of my mother putting me in touch with other writers or helping me find out what a screenwriter actually does, she would make small comments that eventually extinguished not only that flame but many flames for years to come. It hasn't been until I entered my 30s that I learned that my mom was wrong. I can — and will — be anyone I want to be." 9 Kateri, 36 "The biggest regret is probably over the past seven years, I live in LA now and she lives in Jacksonville, FL. I wish that we could spend more quality time together, as I always see her and my dad for Christmas, then they come out to LA once a year. Two weeks is never enough out of the year. I do talk to her a few times a week, even if it is just for a few minutes, and it is nice to have that support system and stay connected that way." 10 Anna, 28 "I'd say my biggest regret is not appreciating our time together as much as I should have in my early 20s. As soon as I turned 18, I had a one-track mind of getting out of our small town, so I went to college in another state and later moved across the country. Now that my visits are reduced to a few times a year, I've realized how much I took for granted, being able to drive home for a weekend and just share simple moments together." 11 Anetra, 40 "My biggest regret in my relationship with my mother is not remaining neutral during the divorce from my father. I was completely on my father's side, and it wouldn't have mattered what she said. As far as I was concerned, she was wrong 100 percent. I've learned better over the years. Even my father shared what he did that contributed to the divorce. I wasted so many years being angry with her only to shorten the amount of time we are experiencing in a great relationship." 12 Jenny, 43 "My biggest regret with my relationship with my mother is not thanking her enough every day for everything that she does to make my life easier and especially thank her for her bluntness in the advice she offered me, even though I took it as criticism. It was criticism but meant for bettering me. Looking back through my life, even though I want to do things my own way (and she let me), I always poo-pooed her input. She always offered me advice that was wise and in my best interest, mostly from her own experiences as a woman. I am lucky to have an independent and strong mother who raised me and encouraged me to be the same way — with no regard to limitations in this life." 13 Abigail, 26 "I’d say my biggest regret about my relationship with my mom is not telling her how awesome she is enough when I was growing up, and how I’m super lucky to have a mom like her. She’s not only one of the nicest people I know but also one of the smartest. I think as you get older, you gain perspective that makes you appreciate your mom more. For example, coming home after work and trying to cook dinner for myself is hard enough, so for her to do that for a family of five was way more impressive than I realized at the time. I guess I just feel like a bit of a brat for not being more appreciative, but I’m trying to make up for it now!" 14 Fallon, 34 "The thing I wish I could change in regards to my relationship with my mother is that I wish I could shower her with an abundance of exotic vacations, lavish gifts, and money. My mother is the most honest and most loyal person I know. She ALWAYS gives a 100 percent of herself whenever she does anything. My mother deserves the best of everything. She's my heartbeat." 15 Fabianna Marie, 39 "When I was younger, I never thought of my relationship with my mother other than the title Mom. Mom to me meant Wonder Woman. She worked a full-time job, made dinner, and then worked long hours with my dad at night. I always wondered how she remained happy and healthy and never missed anything I was involved in. When I became a mother, I realized what the title of being Mother truly meant. The title of Mother falls into many categories: supporter, caregiver, broken heart healer, teacher, chef, angel, sunshine, comedian, peace keeper, cheerleader, confidant, but most importantly, best friend. My biggest regret about my relationship with my mother is not spending the time with her that she so much deserves. It can be so easy to take a great relationship for granted. We forget that fostering the love of one of the most important relationships should take priority. I was my mother’s priority for my entire life, as is my daughter to me now. In the end, we only regret the things we didn’t do. I don’t want to be filled with regret of time not spent. My mom deserves my time as much as I deserve to spend the time with her. So, cheers to moms everywhere who put their children first and the children who truly appreciate and reciprocate."
As these show, a wide range of regrets are normal, and it's OK to have them. But we also shouldn't beat ourselves up over them. The version of mother-daughter relationships depicted in sitcoms and greeting cards isn't always realistic. The reality is that they're complicated and messy — but often worthwhile anyway.