Lots of flowers and cards will be sent to moms this weekend. Rightfully so. They deserve to be celebrated.

Mother’s Day causes us to reflect on our relationship with our mom, especially if you are an adult daughter. It doesn’t seem to matter if the relationship is great, terrible, or somewhere in between, all daughters must figure out who they are in relation to their moms. It’s a developmental process that leads to growth or feeling stuck, depending on how well we navigate this important relationship.

One of the greatest gifts a mother can give to her child is to work on her own issues. The better a mother feels about herself, and the more confident she is in her identity, the greater positive influence she has on her children. She teaches them how to be intimate, to deal with conflict, how to feel about their body, how to cope, walk out their faith, trust God, and so much more. Moms shape our identity.

Because our relationship with mom affects all other relationships, the more we make peace with her and build a meaningful connection, the more skilled we will be in all our other relationships. This should motivate us to work through issues and strengthen the bond.

Since the mom-daughter relationship is one of the closest bonds two people can share, this type of intimacy requires us to define ourselves apart from each other yet remain emotionally engaged and connected. Specifically, we must learn to be separate but attached, a process that is healthy for all relationships.

Sometimes adult daughters ask, Why do I still feel 10-years-old when I’m with my mom and then like a competent woman when I’m not?” The reason: You haven’t worked through the issues with your mom. You are still that child trying to win her approval and get something from her she may be unable to give unless she too is working on herself. Instead of waiting to be approved or validated, be realistic about what she can give you. In other words, change your expectations or you may continue to be disappointed.

Now, you may be thinking, “But I want her to be a better mom.” Yet, part of the separation process is working on your emotional reactions regardless of her behavior. This is the part you control. She may never be enough, but that is OK. You can find that completion in your God relationship. He can make up for the parts she cannot give you.

As you do the work to both accept you mom and work through issues, a wise therapist once told me how to assess the relationship. She said, when you can take a position on any issue without becoming highly defensive or overly emotional, you are in a healthy place with your mom. Accept your differences. Love despite some disagreements. Remember, love never fails.

This Mother’s Day, think about all your mom has done for you. Focus on the positives. Honor her in whatever way you can. Most moms do the best they can. Then, all year long, work on this important intimate relationship that sets the stage for all others. Strengthen the bond, address your issues, and make Mother’s Day a day you look forward to celebrating each year.

For more help building mother-daughter intimate connections, I Love My Mother But…

Celebrating the importance of mothers