Celebrating Mothers through caring connection

"Call your mother. Tell her you love her. Remember, you’re the only one who knows what her heart sounds like from the inside."  Rachel Wolchin

May brings with it the promise of a beautiful summer and on the second Sunday of the month, a day set aside to honour mothers everywhere. Many families have their own mother's day traditions that may include breakfast in bed or a day of pampering for the family matriarch. For those of us who have lost our mothers, it can be a day filled with wonderful memories tinged with sadness.

The relationship with your mother is the first one you ever have. The mother/child bond is intense, devout and complicated at the same time, impacting us well into adulthood. From the newborn attachment phase, through the teenage rebellion years and into middle age, you are inexorably tied to your mother as she is to you. 

I lost my mother when I was 17 and I'm incredibly envious of people who have an adult relationship with their mothers. Working with clients and their families at Victoria Lifeline, I've come to the realization that while it is truly a gift to care for your mother as she once cared for you, it is not without some challenges. Every mother/child relationship is unique of course, but as both of you age, there are some common themes threaded through the framework of that relationship. Mothers and their adult children will inevitably experience change, both in their own lives and in their relationship with each other.

The adult child may be dealing with career pressures while parents may be transitioning into an assisted living facility, giving up the beloved family home. As your mother settles into her golden years, she may be facing new or worsening health conditions and the adult child may be facing a new challenge of their own – constantly worrying about Mom, especially if she is living alone. Life, it would seem, has a way of coming full circle and this role reversal can be difficult for both parties.

Victoria Lifeline has been working with families for over thirty years and we understand the challenges you may face caring for an aging parent. So how do you navigate through these transitions and maintain a healthy, positive relationship with your mother as you both age? Here are some helpful tips:

  • Express gratitude - this goes without saying but sometimes we all need a reminder. Letting Mom know how grateful you are for everything she has done for you can go a long way.
  • Honour the past but be willing to forge a new relationship – you and your mother have already built the foundation of a great relationship. There is undoubtedly a lot of love and of course, some beautiful shared memories. As you both get older, however, there is an opportunity to develop a more mature relationship. So use those shared memories to make new ones.
  • Communicate openly and respectfully – talk to your mother about how you feel rather than telling her what to do. Aging often brings with it a fear of losing control and independence. Communicating well also involves active listening. Sometimes an open mind and a listening ear is all it takes to improve a difficult situation.
  • Discuss the importance of preventative care - research confirms that most older adults prefer to age in place. In fact, over 90 percent of older adults surveyed said they want to live at home for as long as possible. If independent living is their goal, what resources will they need to achieve that goal? Perhaps your mother will need home or yard care, meal preparation, and even a personal alert system like Victoria Lifeline. If you're worried about Mom living alone, start the conversation about the benefits of a help button, and involve her in the decision making process. 

On Sunday May 8th, I will honour my own mother's memory by spending time with my three daughters, ensuring we have enough beautiful memories to last a lifetime. And Happy Mother's Day to moms everywhere, whether you are one, you have one, or had one - each is worthy of celebration. 

Krystal Stokes is the Director of Marketing and Development with Victoria Lifeline, a community service of the Victoria General Hospital Foundation.

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