It always makes me feel a little uncomfortable to say, “I hate my mother.” It pains me to say, “My mother hates me.” There are many reasons a mom and daughter might find themselves in this situation.
In my case, I have two moms. To say our relationships were strained doesn’t cut it, but hate doesn’t seem like the word either. You might have a similar relationship with your mother and wonder if it is ok to feel this way. It is because your feelings are valid.
However, if you are looking for ways to repair the relationship, then try these things: be compassionate and open-minded, set realistic expectations, and be as forgiving as you can.
The inadequate mother you hate because she left you behind
My birth mother abandoned me because drugs were more important to her than being a mother. She ended up living a life filled with crime and poor decisions. She wound up in witness protection, right before my freshman year of high school, which led to my maternal grandma adopting my sister and me. As a child, my feelings for her were conflicted. I loved her and missed her all the time; I just wanted to be with her.
However, it got harder to feel that love with every broken promise and the realization that I would never live with her. I would get so angry at her for leaving me behind. I would wish she had just aborted me too, so I didn’t have to decide to live with that pain every day or end it myself.
I was 17, and about to start college when my grandmother took us on a road trip. I didn’t know that she had known where my mother was, or that we were going to see her. When we got there, it was a floodgate of so many emotions, and I was so young and had not really processed my trauma. I just knew that this felt like my one chance to repair this relationship and I had to take it.
We talked a lot during those five months I lived with her and I asked every question I had ever wanted to know. I asked her why she didn’t give us to our dad instead of ostracizing him from our lives (at this point I hadn’t seen him since I was 5.)? I asked her what he was like. I questioned if she had ever loved us at all.
I listened to her answers with an incredibly open mind because I was young and innocent then. I wanted to just take everything she said at face value. She talked about her complicated dynamic with my grandma and the abuse she had suffered. I asked her why she would leave my sister and me in that same environment, and she said that she thought it would be better. I believed her, and I forgave her with not much thought.
She was killed in a car accident right around the time I realized what a toxic parent she actually was. She had encouraged me to take part in things that were reckless and bad for me. I had gone along willingly because I wanted her to love me. I didn’t like how I was losing myself and had tried to behave in a way that was typical for me.
I am glad that I took the time to listen to her and get to know her a little more. If I had given in to the anger and sadness, I wouldn’t have had the time with her I did. I regret many things from this period, but not trying to forge a relationship with her.
I still struggle with complicated feelings about the type of mother she was, and her death itself, but being open-minded and compassionate led to us having some kind of relationship before she died, and I am glad for it. However, that time damaged the relationship between her and my grandma, and me and my grandma even more.
The mother you hate because of a history of abuse
My grandmother was emotionally, verbally, and physically abusive. That had been a driving force in the anger I felt for both her and my mother. I was mad at my mother for leaving me there, and it hurt me that my grandma could be so cruel sometimes.
When I stayed with my mom, my grandma stopped speaking to both of us. She refused to send my money that she had been holding for me, along with any of my belongings. When my mom died, I know she felt not only the anguish of losing a child but guilt that they weren’t speaking.
She blamed me for the rift between them, even blaming my mother’s car accident on me. She told me that had I not stayed with her, she wouldn’t have been trying to finish her route so fast to get back in time for my school event. Therefore, she wouldn’t have been on that road at night, and wouldn’t have died.
I know she said this from a place of grief, and I try to have compassion for her. I also know that she grew up in Europe during WWII and was from an abusive home. Her trauma is severe, so for years, I have tried to forgive and understand.
We are currently not speaking, not because I can’t forgive her, but because she is incapable of following any of my boundaries. I tried setting reasonable boundaries because I realize that at 80 years old she can’t change the person she is. There is a lifetime of agony that she would have to process.
I can be open-minded and forgiving, but not at the expense of myself. I told her we could talk about anything except for the events of the past that she wants to blame me for. I do not want to talk about the things I blame her for, and would rather we look forward. It is not something that she has done.
Setting realistic boundaries does not mean that you keep moving the bar lower and lower until your mother can reach it. It means that you compromise, but not so far that you cause yourself mental harm. I have extended as much as I can, and the ball is now in her court. However, she tells everyone that I hate her, and the way she treats me makes me feel like she hates me. It is the very definition of a toxic relationship, and I had to learn when to walk away.
To repair the relationship or walk away
Should you repair the relationship or walk away, can be one of the hardest questions to ask yourself. There is no wrong answer though because the way you feel is valid and only you can decide what is right. I would recommend a therapist to help you sort through your feelings if you feel you are struggling. Being compassionate and open-minded, setting realistic expectations, and being as forgiving as you can, is not always an easy road.
Compassion and open-mindedness mean you can understand, listen, and empathize with why your mother is the way she is. It means that you can accept that her feelings are also valid. It does not mean that you have to re-write your own story to see it her way. Psychoanalyst and emotions educator Hilary Jacobs Hendel, LCSW, explains “There is no objectivity in relationships, just subjective experience. There’s a strong likelihood that you and your mother see things from a different perspective.”
Ask yourself if you can see things from her point of view. Can you try to understand where she is coming from? Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, which requires listening and communication, can be the first step to healing a relationship. If you try that, and the other person is unwilling to keep an open mind and listen to your feelings, it might be time to take a step back.
Don’t be afraid to set those realistic expectations and boundaries. They are healthy and important. Accepting that the mother-daughter relationship is complex, and nothing like the perfect TV moms is a critical place to start. You will likely never take the broken pieces of this relationship and glue them together in a seamless way.
The cracks will be visible, and there might even be a piece or two that is missing. When I was little my grandma would always complain that everything in her house was, “broken, chipped, or glued.” However, sometimes that is the best that can be done to salvage something. If the other person is only willing to settle for an idyllic solution, it is ok to recognize that is not possible.
Search your heart and be as forgiving as you can, but know that forgiveness benefits you. It does not mean that you have to continue to have a relationship with someone. It means that you can let go of the anger and resentment, maybe even hate, that you have been feeling. It is about acceptance and release, not enabling someone to treat you in a negative manner.
Stay strong and stay true to yourself, repair the relationship if you can, but know it is ok to take care of yourself. There is no shame in getting help from a therapist, or even going to therapy with your mom to try and sort through the relationship. It can be lonely to feel like your mom hates you, or you hate your mom, but you are never alone. There are more of us out here struggling with this relationship than you realize, and we can be there for one another. Leave a comment below if you feel like sharing your story.