Whether your relationship with your mom is a tad problematic or off-the-charts unhealthy, celebrating your mom on Mother’s Day can be difficult.

She might get on your nerves or make you feel like she’s constantly judging you. 

Maybe you think your mom is a horrible parent, or you had a misunderstanding that seems impossible to overcome — and nobody wants to make the first move toward reconciliation. 

Perhaps the pain is so deep that you can’t forgive or move forward. Or maybe you feel your mom is toxic, and cutting her out of your life seems like the safest thing to do emotionally. [Read 4 Things to Know About Emotional Safety.]

It’s a tough road to walk. And it makes Mother’s Day tricky to celebrate.

But whether you choose to visit your mom or stay far away for the holiday, chances are you’ll be thinking of each other in some way.

Whatever your situation, thinking about these six things may make it a bit easier to find some way to celebrate a difficult mom on Mother’s Day. 

(Notice I said “may” and “easier” — not “definitely” OR “easy.” And there’s no excuse for abusive behavior. If that has happened to you, I’m so sorry!)

1. If you’re expecting perfection, you’ll be disappointed.

Here’s the thing: Nobody has a perfect mother. And nobody can be the perfect mother. But we all probably have an idea of what the perfect mother would look like. Unfortunately, our ideals often cause us to have unrealistic expectations that no one can meet. (Unless you’re married and your mother-in-law is perfect. That’s a whole other issue.)

2. Appreciate what you can.

There’s always something to be thankful for (at least according to Pollyanna). So, dig deep and think of what those things could be. Celebrate them, no matter how small. I recently went through some memorabilia my mom collected throughout the years. I found little love notes and cards I wrote my mom as a child. It reminded me that at one time, I thought she hung the moon. 

3. Celebrate your mom for who you want her to be.

She might surprise you and rise to meet the challenge. You may need to use your imagination. Maybe you can’t honestly tell your mom how great she is, but you might be able to write her a letter, or send a card or text to say you’re thinking of her on Mother’s Day. (Even if your thoughts aren’t that great, it’s a start.)

4. Time changes people and perceptions.

As a child, did you ever think your mom didn’t know anything? Did your perspective change when you realized being an adult was a little more… complicated? I can tell you from experience that I see things differently as an adult. I learned some things I didn’t know. My perspective has shifted over the years.

5. You may know your mom as a parent, but do you know her as a person?

Understand the things that shaped her life? Did a loss profoundly impact her? What were her parents like? Parents are people who have stuff they need to deal with, just like we do. Life throws all kinds of things at us, and sometimes we aren’t equipped to handle it. But trying to understand what makes your mom tick can be helpful, especially if she isn’t the parent you wanted or needed.

6. You’re not alone, and you don’t have to do this alone.

Many people have a rocky relationship with their mom, but not everyone feels safe enough to discuss it with their mom or a friend. If you need to talk, but you don’t want everyone knowing your business, pain, or struggles, a good counselor can help you take the space you need to stay positive and move away from bitterness and resentment. Forgiveness can bring emotional and physical benefits that are healing for the person who chooses to forgive, regardless of what another does. If possible, forgive your mom, whether she asks you to or not.

Things may not get better today or ever, but there’s hope that your situation will change. You may learn to navigate through the conflict or at least improve the relationship. One of you might take a step toward a healthy conversation and forgiveness. That may be all it takes. And one day, it might be easier for you to celebrate more things about your mom on Mother’s Day. I hope it is.

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