“Ask a Priest: How Can I Deal With My Mom Better?”

Q: I know one of the Commandments is to honor your father and mother, but sometimes I get angry with my mother. She has a strong personality, and many times I find it difficult to get along with her. My mother is loving and has provided the best she could for me and has been supremely generous toward me in many aspects. There are times, however, when I just don’t agree with some of her views or can’t understand her, and this causes friction in our relationship. For example, she was able to help me and my husband with our firstborn, taking care of my daughter till the age of 2. However, during the entire time she was helping me, she would remind me of this almost daily and would act miserable at many times. There used to be bad fights because I felt helpless, not being able to afford childcare. Eventually, my husband and I, by the grace of God, were finally able to manage completely on our own. Many times, I feel that maybe my own fears and insecurities cause the friction in the relationship with my mother. How can I not get too sensitive with what she says to me and just let things go? Thank you. – J.A.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Friction between adults and their parents isn’t uncommon. We are, after all, individuals with different ways of looking at things.

The Fourth Commandment calls us to honor our parents. It doesn’t demand that we agree with everything they say or do.

In one sense it’s healthy that you and your mom don’t agree on everything. That means you both have your own identity.

Perhaps the key to your specific situation is something you mention: “I feel that maybe my own fears and insecurities cause the friction in the relationship.”

It might be good to examine that point more deeply. What are your fears and insecurities? What are their roots?

Let me venture a guess: The solution here doesn’t lie with your mom. The solution depends on you.

By your own words, your mom has been “supremely generous” toward you and helped with your own daughter at a crucial time. All this indicates that you have been greatly blessed by Our Lord.

Notwithstanding the gifts we receive from God, fears and insecurities can leave us defensive. We might read too much into the things that people say to us.

Part of the solution might be to accept yourself as you are, and to try to work on healthy ways of asserting yourself.

Accepting yourself presupposes that you know yourself. To do this, take an honest look at your strengths and weaknesses.

The next step — accepting yourself — means that you try to be at peace with yourself. This doesn’t mean that you shrug your shoulders and say, “That’s the way I am, I can’t change.”

Rather, you want to be able to say, “This is the way I am now. God loves me, but I know I need to improve in certain areas. But I’m not going to spend my energy beating up on myself or blaming other people for my problems. I’m going to work on forming better habits in my life, and I’m going to rely on prayer and the sacraments at every step of the way.”

A next step would be to draw up a program of life. Think of it as a business plan for the soul.

If you want to buy a house, you figure out your finances. You crunch numbers. You shop around for the right house and the right financing. You plan ahead. Why not do the same in the spiritual life, where the stakes are much higher?

Here are two links that might get you started:

https://www.regnumchristi.org/en/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/29-Sec-2.5-The-Vocation-Statement-and-Program-of-Life.pdf

http://www.regnumchristi.org/en/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Program-of-Life-Examples-and-Outline.pdf

This article by my colleague Father Bartunek might help: https://www.spiritualdirection.com/2009/06/30/what-is-a-program-of-life-and-why-is-it-important-to-my-spiritual-progress

Stay close to the Blessed Virgin Mary. And count on my prayers.

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