Less than perfect Mother's Day? Not all is lost

Mother and daughter. (PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES/GALLO IMAGES).
Mother and daughter. (PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES/GALLO IMAGES).

Mother's Day has come and gone, and for a lot of us, the less than perfect relationship we have with our mothers can weigh heavier on the heart than usual. 

In the Move! Magazine article below, Boitumelo Matshaba talks with two South African social workers from the Family Life Centre on how to deal with the underlying issues that often come between mom and child

A relationship between a mother and a child is said to be the most important aspect in one’s life, mainly because the relationship begins during the mother’s pregnancy. But when you and your mother have bad blood, it can have a negative effect on your relationship and your life too.

Move! spoke to various social workers about what to do when you and your mom don’t get along and how to deal with your issues.


Alessandra Newton, a social worker at the Family Life Centre, says it is tricky to be a mother to an adult because as a mother, you naturally want to nurture and protect your own – forgetting that they are adults who can now make their own decisions.

Mandisa Murunge, a social worker from the same centre, says there are various reasons why an adult child and their mom don’t get along.

Bossy behaviour

Your mother’s habit of telling you what to do all the time can make you feel like you are not able to make your own decisions, or that you always make bad decisions and need to be assisted.

"A parent’s role is to guide. However, once your mom makes you feel that your opinion does not matter, it can result in conflict," says Mandisa.


Alessandra says this can happen when your mom forgets that you are an adult and needs to draw a line in involving herself in your business.

She might want to make decisions on how you should take care of your child, what to wear, how to behave and who to date.

Living through you

Because your mom could not pursue the career that she wanted due to circumstances, Alessandra says she might want to live her life through you by pushing and demanding that you take the career that she wants you to take, regardless of your feelings.

Mandisa adds that times have changed and mothers need to understand this. "Mothers have to allow children to make choices that are appropriate for them, by dominating their children's choices, they can create conflict in the relationship," she says.

Old scars 

Some wounds are deeply rooted. For example, your mother might have left you in the care of relatives when you were younger and you might still be angry about that, especially if the relatives were abusive. "This often creates a feeling that your mother abandoned you and didn’t protect you as she should have," says Mandisa.


Alessandra says it is perfectly normal for a mother and her daughter to have different interests. The conflict may begin when you want your mother to enjoy your interests and hobbies, and vice versa. "You must do the things you love on your own and spend time with your mom doing things you both enjoy. You could also be the bigger person and learn some of the activities she enjoys and use it as a time to bond."

Sibling rivalry

Alessandra says you and a sibling may have had issues in the past that weren't properly resolved. Your mother’s sentiments may be to simply ‘get over it’, even when it is still hurting you. "It is good to speak to your sibling about the matter and iron it out. If that doesn’t work, go for counselling and deal with the matter with a mediator," says Alessandra. Parents can sometimes create rivalry between siblings. They might like the most successful child better, or seem to give all their money and attention to the least successful one. This can create distance between siblings and cause anger and hate amongst them.


Mothers can be critical even when they don’t intend to do so. Alessandra says this can be recognised by them saying, "When I was your age" or "In my time women did not behave like this." Mandisa says you may feel controlled and this can ruin your self-confidence.

Your partner

Your mom may not like the man who you're dating, either because of his abusive nature, his attitude towards you or maybe because you are no longer giving her all your attention like you did when you were single.

Alessandra says this might cause conflict between you and your mom, or with you and your partner. It’s good to make time for your mom even when you are involved with someone, but also let her know that you are in love and also need to give your relationship the attention it needs to grow.


According to Mandisa, mothers are usually a huge support system in their children’s lives. It can create a feeling of being alone in the world if your mother does not get along with you. This type of feeling can be a trigger for depression.

An impartial professional counsellor is often the best route to take in dealing with the situation. Alessandra adds that a bad relationship between you and your mom could cause you to repeat the same mistakes your mother made to your own children, creating a cycle of brokenness.

"Feelings and issues that are not dealt with can make you bitter, cynical and insecure," she says.


To restore a relationship with your mother takes maturity.

Alessandra says, "You really need to reach out to that mature side of you and not make it just about you, but about rebuilding a good bond. What can really delay the progress is if one of you is playing the 'poor me' card and focusing on your past.

"Progress can only happen when you and your mother are both ready to confront the issue. One can also not force the other to be ready to deal with it," she says.

Alessandra adds that having an open conversation with your mom can be the beginning of a new start for the both of you.

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