Every mother-daughter relationship is bound to be fraught and ambivalent. Even with all the love between mothers and daughters, there are always petty arguments, overbearing questions, desires beyond the domestic home. They don’t cloud the love, though. It took a long time—maybe 23 years of it—for me to come to terms with the fact that loving—especially loving your mother—is difficult.


My Mother’s Stubbornness


My mother is a typical strong, independent woman. She’s a single mom, committed to her career. She is hungry for knowledge. Even now, she is signing up for classes and seminars to learn new languages and how to build stock investments.


She has a lot of energy. Unfortunately for me, that energy sometimes takes the shape of a rock-hard shell of stubbornness. It’s hard to make her change her mind. There’s almost no chance of winning arguments with her. When she wants something done, she gets it done, or she gets you to do it and you can’t help but follow her.


The problem is that I’m also stubborn. I take after my mother. I’m usually very firm about things, so we end up going head to head on political issues, ideologies, and even matters as simple as who’s going to walk the dog today. It’s a big wonder how our house hasn’t collapsed under the weight of our arguments yet.


My Mother’s Intensity


My mother is an intense and intimidating person. She knows this. She can command a room with her mere presence. When she speaks, people have to listen.


She’s almost 50, but she still knows how to party. She goes out occasionally with friends to get drunk and have fun. I could never do that. I’m usually already asleep by 10 p.m.


I think the fundamental conflict between my mother and me is our personality difference. She’s so outgoing and outspoken, passionate and straightforward. I’m more laidback and observing. I rarely speak unless the moment calls for it. I think my mother’s stubbornness is partly because of how much she wants me to get out of my comfort zone. She’s constantly pushing me, and I constantly resist her.


Not only that, we’re so different when it comes to our principles and interests that we often clash. I want to be my person, make my own decisions that don’t always agree with her values or inclinations. It’s hard to get her to compromise so we often end up steaming in silence, waiting for the next occasion to argue.


My Mother’s Tenderness


In spite of her stubbornness, she is also a very tender woman. It took a while for me to learn this.


Our most intimate moments are spent in quiet, when it’s just the two of us. A particular moment that comes to mind was my 22nd birthday. My mother and I were driving home, and I was quietly crying in the front seat. She asked if I was okay. Before I could answer, she suddenly said, “Of course you’re not. But that’s okay. I’m here for you.”


My mother tends to be insistent, but in that particular moment, she went against her very nature and just became a very understanding and empathetic person. It still warms my heart that she said that.


I have no grand stories about my mother. What I have are the small, quiet moments like this one, and they’re enough. In spite of all the little resentments we have for each other, my mother and I still value each other. It’s just hard to see that sometimes when we’re too busy shouting at each other, pointing out each other’s mistakes and flaws.


But I keep her tenderness close to me. I have a special space in my heart for the moments when our guardedness slip off—when we reveal ourselves to each other as people.