THE BLOG
05/09/2013 10:16 am ET | Updated Jul 09, 2013

The Hallmark Mother's Day Challenge

Felice Shapiro

One thing about midlife women is that we are definitely wiser than our younger selves, and it appears that acceptance of our relationships with our moms is a goal and a theme on Mother's Day. Every article we've received on this topic speaks to this.

A week before Mother's Day, I begin the ritual of going to the card store to buy the "right card" for Mom -- for us. The process is always long and filled with emotion. I inevitably become slightly paralyzed and begin to glaze over. Hallmark can't capture us in their 3×5 card stock. What card actually captures the relationship I have with my mom? After all these years, I still haven't found the right one.

The truth is, my relationship with my mom has evolved because I have chosen to embrace and accept what we have, but it has taken conscious work. As I've gained perspective through the years, what didn't work so well for me as a kid has morphed into something that does.

If I were to ask my mom, I believe she would agree that we are radically different and always have been, but we won't have this conversation, because it's not really her thing. Mom's go-to place is to just move along. She finds it tiring to go into all this analysis over mother/daughter stuff. She prefers to just "be." Wow, that sounds so Zen!) Just accept what is and enjoy what you can -- the truth is, that is her modus operandi.

This way of "mothering" has tested my ability to interact comfortably, as my go-to place is the arch opposite. I relish deep conversation and analysis and I invite in opinion and am ever-ready to give mine. I love to chew on the how's and why's something went awry and am not ready to dispose of a topic until it has been thoroughly digested. Our different communication styles were the source of great tension for me but over the years I have learned to self-edit, accept and embrace what does work. As a mid-lifer, I've finally learned that managing my expectations is the most useful tool I posess in my toolbox.

"Viva la Difference" between Mom and me is the mindset that has helped me focus on the positives in our mother/daughter relationship and there are a few favorites that I love to focus on:

1. Mom dishes no guilt about lack of phone calls, even when we haven't spoken in weeks. We just start right in on the reason for the call. We are in the moment. I'm appreciative of this.

2. Mom is 80 now and she enjoys a full calendar of activities. She keeps a very active social schedule and she has plenty of friends. She is a great friend to her friends and they have been Numero Uno in her life -- I had no idea how important this could be as the years have passed. As a young mother, her social calendar ruled our family. I still wonder how she could have pulled off her never-ending slew of dinner parties as a mother of four girls.

3. Mom is a connector and a collector of people. Considered a "resource" by many, when she meets someone really interesting, she generously introduces them to one another. As a child, I never took advantage of her suggestion to call any of her friends' kids as she told me to, I probably should have -- but her friends all benefit from the array of people she brings together at her still active dinner table.

4. Mom's ability to deny there is trouble in paradise is now serving her well. She firmly believes that people who obsess about their illnesses are bores. Any woman who reaches the ripe age of 80 inevitably faces some health issues but, Mom rarely talks about her aches and pains. I am grateful.

5. Her organizational skills are something I didn't appreciate as a kid either -- frankly, they were annoying. "To Do" lists were everywhere and we were peppered constantly about our plans and activities. She always started packing a week before her trips and set a dinner party table three days ahead. My sisters and I are fortunate that this organizational skill set keeps her on the move and independent.

So, perhaps this year I will relieve myself of the stress of shopping for that "perfect" Hallmark card and just share my post and say, "Thanks Mom."

Read more from Better After 50:
Like Mother, Like Me
Losing My Mother To Alzheimer's
How I Became The Good Daughter
Help: What If My Daughter Dated An Older Man?