A Motherless Daughter On Mother’s Day

In honor of Mothers Day I wanted to do a post about mothers and daughters and my experience. Mothers Day is always a hard day for me as I’ve mentioned before that I lost my mom to brain cancer in 2006. It’s always just a bitter reminder of what I don’t have anymore but I also try to use it as a day to remember my mom and think fondly of the times I DID have with her. Mostly I try to do things that I know my mom would enjoy doing if she was still alive…like listen to Jimmy Buffet all day long or go to get a big breakfast at the diner she loved.

All this being said, exploring the mother/daughter relationship (in literature, movies and life in general) is something of interest to me. The relationship is one that is just so complex and fragile and yet can be such a beautiful thing. My parents got divorced when I was younger and we lived with my mother primarily. We got along well when I was young. She was strict but I knew how hard she worked to give my sister and I what we needed. And then somewhere when I got in middle school, my mother and I could not even be in the same room without fighting and it just escalated in high school. The fights, the mean words, the need to be right…it was definitely on both sides. It was like both of us were replaced with some evil alter ego of ourselves.  When she got sick (at the end of my senior year), there was a lot of pain and anger that made the fighting even worse but when she got really sick it all just really ended.

I feel sad that I’ll never get to see the relationship that my adult self could have had with my mom. Those relationships are just as complex I’m sure…have their own difficulties and troubles. I saw it in my mom’s relationship with her mom. But I just have to believe that it would have brought some really wonderful things too. I think of all the things I’ll miss out on not having my mom with me…my wedding, being pregnant, etc. etc. I feel like I’m missing out on the chance for my mom to be my best friend because that just wasn’t in the cards for us during my teenage years. I always secretly hoped we could have a mother/daughter relationship similar to Rory and Lorelei from Gilmore Girls..just more grown up.

I think this is why I’m so intrigued with books dealing with mothers and daughters and the intricacies of the relationship. In YA lit, I love seeing the mistakes I’ve made and the chance for a character to have a second chance with their mom. I see so much of my relationship with my mom and my past feelings within the pages of these books. I have a soft spot in my heart for books dealing with daughters who have lost their mother because I KNOW how hard it is to lose a mother at such a young age and how it really affects the path you take into adulthood. Reliving the pain and the grief is hard but I just find myself really drawn to these types of books. I can relate. I also love reading adult lit and seeing some of the mother and daughter relationships that have been worked out in adulthood or that take on a new layer of complexities. I am curious to see what experiences I’ve missed out on and I often wonder how my mother and I would have been later on in life. I just find myself so interested in this relationship. I guess it helps me to not forget the relationship I once had because sometimes I find it really hard to remember what it was like to celebrate Mother’s Day with a living and breathing mom and not just a picture show of memories.

Tell me about your relationship with your mom! Did you get along as a teenager or were you constantly bickering? If you are an adult, did your relationship change? Do you think the majority of literature, tv and movies accurately represent  the complex relationships between mothers and daughters? What are some of your favorite mother/daughter relationships in literature/movie/tvs?

Here are some books to check out relating to mothers & daughters ( I’ve read most of these but the ones I haven’t are on my TBR list and have been highly recommended by friends). Feel free to give me any recs that you have as I’m always interested in reading more books about mother and daughter relationships.

Fixing DelilahSaving FrancescaAlong for the RideMoonglassWhite Oleander (Oprah's Book Club)Letter to My Daughter: A NovelLife on the Refrigerator DoorMotherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss, Second EditionThe Joy Luck ClubThose Who Save Us

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About Jamie

Jamie is a 32 year old married lady (with a new baby!!) who is in denial that she's actually that old to be a married lady and a mom. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, belting out Hamilton (loud and offkey) and having adventures with her husband, daughter and rescue dog.


  1. picky girl says:

    Wow. What a great post, and I wish you peace and good memories tomorrow.

    Mother-daughter relationships are really complex. I love my mom, and we are really close, but at times, she can be a bit (ok, a lot) overprotective. I'm 30, so it really grates.

    But I am grateful for her and who she is to me and for her love of reading that has touched me, my brother and sister, and her former students. I'll make sure to keep all that in mind tomorrow.

  2. lisa (the nerd) says:

    I need to noodle over my full response to this post because you highlight so many facets of the relationship between moms and daughters…

    Until then, I can say that I hope your mom would be so proud of this post. It's intelligent, thoughtful, and candid. Thanks for giving us so much to ponder.

  3. Lauren M says:

    Aw! Thanks for sharing! Such a great post.

    As for my relationship with my mother… I'm one of those odd teens who has had absolutely no trouble getting along with her mother. We're super close, and she's more like a friend to me than a superior. I think our strong relationship is due in part to the things we've been through together–I've been seriously ill twice in my life, and she was always right there with me. I can't imagine life without her. I really admire your strength, Jamie! 🙂

  4. I'm sorry about your mom. My husband lost his mom in 2007 to cancer and he has a hard time on Mother's Day.

    My relationship with my Mom is complicated. I love her but the way how she acts makes me not like her sometimes. Thank goodness for my Dad. 😉

  5. Rie Conley says:

    I'm sorry for you loss. Mother's Day is a bittersweet day for me as well, as my mother has aphasia (can't find words when speaking) due to a stroke in 2009. I wish you strength during this day.

  6. Lenore says:

    I totally get where you are coming from. My mom died when I was 19 – just at the age you realize that it's NOT all about you and you start being really thankful and want to give something back. She had such a wonderful close relationship with her mother, and I often wonder if we could have had that too.

  7. readingfuelledbytea says:

    Sorry to hear about your mother – you are much too young to have lost her already.

    If you are looking for interesting relationships between mothers and adult daughters, try Penelope Lively's books – in both MOON TIGER and HEATWAVE the relationship is strained but very interesting from both sides. In both cases it's a subplot but the books are great anyway.

  8. Midnyte Reader says:

    Your mother did a wonderful job. Although you had tough times as a teen, as an adult you have the insight to see certain things about what was and what could have been. You passing on this knowledge and your experiences is such a good thing and I'm sure it will help other girls who are in the shoes you were once in.

  9. Amanda says:

    I lost my mom a few years ago, when I was 25, and Mother's Day is always especially difficult. I feel so blessed to have had those 25 years, but to have had her life cut short, so quickly, is always hard to think about.

  10. Melina says:

    I am sad that you do not have your mom here anymore. I am sure you miss her every single day.

    My mom and I get along great. She is pretty strict, just like your mom, but it doesn't bother me. She is also a lot of fun and I like hanging out with her.

    Her mother lives across the country, but they talk on the phone or skype all the time. Like nearly every day, so it is like they live closer to each other.

    When you are a mom someday, you will get to live all the dreams you are missing out on now – only in reverse. And your mom will be smiling in heaven.

  11. Ginger @ GReads! says:

    You spoke the same words I think about most often.. I, too, wonder what my relationship with my mother would have been like as an adult. It's coming up on 8 years that she's been gone (8 years??!!) & so much has happened in that time. I don't even know who that girl was when she passed. It's sad to think about, but it's part of life. We grow & change before we even realize we're doing it.

    Sometimes it's hard for me to read a book about a daughter trying to cope with the loss of her mother. It brings me back to a place that I feel like I am past — and yes Jamie, you will get there eventually one day. I never thought I'd say this, but it DOES get easier.

    I'm spending this Mothers Day by myself. It's somehow become a tradition for me. Just time for me to be alone and remember my mom in my own special way <3

  12. bookspersonally says:

    Thank you for this thoughtful and touching piece on mothers and daughters. What a lovely remembrance, I am sorry you lost your mom so young. The teenage years are challenging for moms and daughters alike, I suspect, as my own daughter heads toward them, but it an important part of the path to adulthood, and moms know the bond is there, even amidst the bickering.

  13. Hafsah @ IceyBooks says:

    I'm so sorry! Your post brought tears to my eyes.
    I just turned 18 and I am so grateful I have my mom. I don't have any friends (as I'm homeschooled), and if I didn't have my mom to tell her how I feel all the time, I guess I would explode!

    I hope things get easier for you. I really do 🙂

  14. Great post!! I'm sorry that Mother's Day is hard for you, and I know you're having a hard week in general.

    My mom and I had a similar relationship during our teens that you and your Mom had. We did kind of move past it but sometimes things revert back to that. We're both very stubborn and we like to deal with things in different ways which does cause some friction. But my mom is a great person and I know that a lot of what she does is done from love.

    Book recommendations:
    The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
    Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See (deals with relationships of mothers, sisters and female friends)
    Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
    Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

  15. Andrea says:

    Thanks for sharing. My mom & I had a relationship like yours w/your mom. And suddenly, it changed. When I met the guy who became my husband, we became friends. And then we became great friends. I'm sorry you never got to experience that. One day, maybe you can have that w/your own daughter.

  16. Thanks so much for sharing, Jamie. I'm sending good thoughts and hugs your way.

    My mom and I have never been the type to constantly go at each others' throats. We fought when I was a teen, and still occasionally now, but we're both pretty eccentric and both of us get worse when we're around each other. Wouldn't trade her for anything!

  17. Ashley says:

    <3 you Jamie. I'm thinking of you today.

    To answer your question- My mom and I did not get along at all in HS. We fought constantly. But after I moved out for college, we stopped fighting and started to get along so much better! A combination of me growing up and then not living together any more really helped.

    Now we talk all the time, and I consider us pretty close.

  18. Nikki (Wicked Awesome Books) says:

    Thank you for sharing such a personal part of yourself, Jamie. I have a feeling your mom would be proud of the person you've become and despite the differences you may have had, it's clear in this post that you loved her. Maybe even more than you realized at the time.

    I would be lost without my mother and just the thought, hurts. When I was younger, she was my best friend. Our relationship changed when I went to college and we grew apart a bit, but I think we're getting back to how we used to be. My mom wasn't very close to her own mother and lost her when she 32, so I think that pushed her to have that relationship with me that she was never able to have with her own mother. Looking back on the past 22 years of my life, I couldn't ask for a better person to call mom.

    Hopefully, when you have your own daughter, you'll be able to experience all the things you were never able to have with your own mother.

  19. We Heart YA says:

    "Thank you for sharing such a personal part of yourself, Jamie. I have a feeling your mom would be proud of the person you've become and despite the differences you may have had, it's clear in this post that you loved her. Maybe even more than you realized at the time."

    Yes, ditto what Nikki said.

    For what it's worth, my relationship with my mother is very clearly reflected in Amy Tan's THE JOY LUCK CLUB. And I don't think it's just because she's Chinese, although that may play a part. I know non-Asian friends who have similarly complex relationships with their moms.

    Complex isn't bad, it's just… complex, lol. I love my mother with all my heart, even though she can drive me crazier than anyone else on this planet. I'm sure the reverse is true for her too.

    A lot of Amy Tan's books deal with this relationship, b/c it was so central to her upbringing. I definitely recommend THE BONESETTER'S DAUGHTER (my favorite by her) and THE OPPOSITE OF FATE, which is a memoir about her mother and about her writing.

    Hmm, now I'm thinking about re-watching JLC for Mother's Day. (Not sure if my mom would understand that as a compliment or not… :P)


  20. Annette says:

    Yes, we went through the usual bickering when I was a teen, but nothing serious. My mom is 83 years old. I still need her. She will bend over backwards to help anyone, especially her children and precious grand children. We all live close to her, so all of our kids (her grandkids) still love to go to grandmas house.The youngest will turn 21 in a couple of weeks. Because of this, the cousins are some of the best friends each other has. It's quite special. We are all having dinner at "grandmas" in a couple of hours – my dad is grilling steaks. I am VERY lucky — I know.

  21. Jasmine (The Reading Housewives) says:

    This is one of the best posts I've read in awhile. My mother and I just don't get along at all. We never really have and we never really will. She has her own issues that she needs to fix in order for us to have a relationship, but I'm lucky enough now to have a mother-in-law who is awesome! She is the best mother I could ever ask for. My sister also acted like a mother to me at times so I'm very thankful for her. I have always wondered what it would have been like growing up with a mother who was around and cared…

    I LOVED Fixing Delilah…It was such an awesome mother/daughter story.

  22. Cat the Librarian says:

    I hope your day has been full of awesome memories!

  23. I'm really sorry about your mom, and I hope today hasn't been too hard of a day for you. I hope you were able to surround yourself with people who love you and happy memories.

  24. TNBBC Super Mod says:

    Jamie, I know these kinds of posts are hard for you to write, but I appreciate reading them. I cannot imagine what it must be like for you on days like today, but I love how to plan to honor your mom's memory by doing the things she loved.

    My mother and I had a strange relationship growing up. She trusted me (enough to let me stay out all night long so long as I was in bed when she got home from her night shift job at 730am)… but I was full of sarcasm as a teen and had little patience for her short memory and long stories.

    Now we live about 10 minutes from each other and hang out.. I dye her hair, we run errands together or grab a bite to eat while my kids are school on my days off. I even drag her to author events in NYC now 🙂

    Thanks again for sharing!

  25. April (BooksandWine) says:

    Oh, Jamie. This breaks my heart. I can't imagine how hard it must be for you on Mother's Day, the sort of events others take for granted.

    I used to fight constantly with my mom and said some vile, VILE things to her when I was in high school. Once I moved out and went to college, things got better. I mean, I maybe talk to her once a month now. Which, well, could be worse.

  26. Lu @ Regular Rumination says:

    *hugs* This is a such a personal post… thank you for sharing, I know it couldn't have been easy. The relationships we have with our mothers are always complicated and you were robbed of the chance to see the other side of it. It's just not fair 🙁

  27. Writing In Laton says:

    Jamie first I'm sorry you also lost your mom and weren't able to experience some of those moments. this was my first motherless mothers day. Last May I lost my mom to breast cancer.
    As a teenager we got along for the most part. She wasn't my best friend like she was for my youngest sister, but I wasn't constantly angry with her like my middle sister did (as a teen). I wish now things were different then, but we had a good relationship. As I grew up we still had fall outs just like her and her mom always did. But I was more mature and easy to forgive and forget.
    Our relationship changed again when she was diagnosed a 2nd time with metastasis breast cancer, spreading to the lymph nodes and other areas, my family moved in with my parents.
    My youngest sister lost her best friend and mom on the day my mom passed. I lost my mom, is there a difference, yes there is. While I love my mom and the relationship we had, I wish we could of had what my sister and her had. I will always be thankful fur what I had, yet I will always regret not having her as my best friend.
    She was there for the birth of all 4 of my kids but I can't help but think of everything she will miss.
    Wow I rambled a whole lot. Great post thanks for letting me share it helps 🙂

  28. I can really relate to this post Jamie. I, thankfully, still have my mother, but when I was in junior high she was in the hospital for at least six months because she had a tumor in her stomach. Since it was during those difficult middle school years I felt completely disconnected from her. In my eyes it was just less stress to deal with at home and I didn't want to visit her in the hospital. Looking back at those times I wish I had been more supportive of my mother. When I think that I could have lost her I cringe. What if that was the end of the relationship? Luckily my mom and I grew closer in my late teens and talk every day now. Even though you don't have your mother here I'm sure she is watching over you and is very proud of all you've accomplished!

  29. I completely agree with you Jamie and thank you for posting this on your blog. I'm sorry for your loss.I hate when people say it but theres no other way to describe it. My mom died the Sunday before Easter this year and I feel at a loss without her. I am grateful it was not a long process but it came to a shock to us all as I was just speaking to her the day before.

    Mother's day was hard for me and like you I always think of the things she will never get to see or be there for like my wedding day and grandchildren.

    I am so thankful for the time I had with her and the love of reading she passed onto me. Books were one thing we could always talk about even when we were not as close.My friend also recently lost her mom under different circumstances and I don't know how to comfort her, there are so many unanswered questions that I can never help her with. Sorry to ramble 🙂 but it feels good to put some thoughts into a post.

  30. Thanks for this post.
    I lost my MIL (for whom I took my pen name) October 24, 2011 to cancer (bile duct). She made it 11 months after her diagnosis. Such a pillar of strength and inspiration. This is my first mother’s day without her. Yep, it hurts. Badly. She was a brilliant writer and one of my biggest fans. I’m proud to bear her name…she’ll live on with every book I publish because it’s not only MY name on the front cover but HER name, too! 🙂

  31. Hope today is filled with loving memories of your mom, Jamie! My grams passed away last year and it hit my mom really hard, but I can’t even imagine what it would be like to lose a mother so early in life.

    As for the relationship with my mom. Well, she’s my best friend (other than Em, of course.). I think especially because she’s young at heart. She’ll be at BEA this summer so maybe you’ll get to meet her! (She likes to call herself my “EA” at these bookish events, since she comes with me on them for a mini-vacation for herself haha.)

  32. Jennifer says:

    I lost my mom when I was 19, I am now 36, and I still hate Mothers Day. I have tried to think of positive thoughts and memories to make it through the day but those commericals just kill me. I have learned I will never get over it but I will get through it….I just miss her and she was my best friend. I do hope that daughters who do have their mothers still with them, will love them and cherish them for once they are gone, it will never be the same.

  33. My mom passed away too (as I’ve mentioned in other comments). I like to think that if my mother DID NOT having a serious drinking problem (which lead to liver failure and in the end her death) – our relationship would have survived passed high school. But, I tried to fix things once I moved out and away. I’d call her and visit on weekends and make breakfast for her and dad. But the nice part about not living there is I didn’t have to subject myself to her drunk rages when she had them. I could just leave and I think she realized that and tried to be ‘civil’.
    If you took the drinking problem out of the equation – she was an amazing mother. She made sure we had a home cooked meal every night and helped me with home work and packed my lunch for school – Those are the memories I WANT to remember and will always charish.

    I also think if she didn’t have a drinking problem – we would have been best friends. She supported my reading habit and I love her for that.

  34. I love this post so much.
    The relationship between mothers and daughters is one I love reading about as well – because it can be so different for everyone, it’s like there are never ending possibilities and shapes it can form.
    My relationship with my mum used to be so tremulous. Like you, we couldn’t stay in the same room without shouting at each other, we would blame the other for every problem we had, and we both said a lot of things we regret (most of which I can’t even remember now, which I’m really glad for, hahaha). But as I’ve gotten older, over the past year or so, that relationship has changed and matured as I have – I’ve done a lot of growing up in the past six months – and I just know in my heart that as wonderful as it is right NOW, it’s heading down an even more happy and healthy road.

    All the best. xo

  35. I’m sorry for your loss, but I’m sure your mother would be proud of the lovely person you are and all you’ve achieved! My mom was diagnosed with M.E./CFS when I was seven and there are days where she is really sick and it’s so hurtful to see. I’m fifteen now and she still has it and she gets really sick. It’s never easy losing a parent and seeing them suffer. My thoughts are with you <3


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