The Mother-Daughter Relationship, Part I
Why the Mother-Daughter Relationships Is One Of the Most Important Relationship A Woman Has
When a child is born, one of the most important relationship he/she has is with his/her mother. It is the mother who is the primary nurturer and teacher. This situation is compounded when a mother gives birth to a daughter. There is instant female bonding between the mother and the child because they are both female.
A daughter's relationship with her mother is quite complex. It can run the gamut to adoration to hatred. A daughter's relationship with her mother is a determinant to the level of self esteem a daughter develops, her future educational level, her career aspirations and satisfaction, her attitude towards sex, relationships, and/or marriage, and her attitude towards self-assertion among other things. A mother is her daughter's teacher and role model.
Many daughters imitate their mothers when they are children. They idolize their mothers and see their mothers as perfect. Daughters love to play dress up and play act in adult roles. They want to picture what it is like to be women and they see their mothers as those women. Also, a mother's attitude towards femininity will be reflected in her daughter. For example, if a mother is withdrawn, puritanical, and withholding, her daughter will absorb this attitude. Conversely, if a mother is joyous and positive, her daughter will mirror her positive attitude, Many daughters absorb attitudes about their bodies from their mothers.
When a daughter reaches adolescence, she begins to earnestly question her environment which includes her home environment. She is striving towards her independence and is exploring what it is like to be a woman. She desires to leave childhood behind.
Relationships between mothers and teenaged daughters vary from a friendship/buddy relationship to a strictly mother/child relationship. In a friendship/buddy relationship, the mother realizes that her daughter is becoming a woman and believes in giving her gradual independence. This mother knows that she cannot continually treat her daughter as a child. She further contends that she must loosen her apron strings if her relationship to her daughter is to evolve to a more mature level.
To the other extreme, there is the strictly mother/child relationship. This is when the mother is threatened by the increasing maturity of her daughter. This mother usually is an authoritarian mother who believes that a child should not question her authority and to do as she says. This mother wants to keep her daughter in a puerile and desexualized status for as long as she can. The childlike and neutered daughter is not a threat to this mother and does not rock the mother-daughter status quo.
In the friendship/buddy daughter-mother relationship, the daughter will be least likely to rebel against her mother while in the strictly mother/daughter relationship, either the daughter will rebel, becoming the exact opposite of her mother or she will become a dormant shrinking violet, being afraid of assert herself and mimicking everything her mother does. There will always be some type of contention in the daughter-mother relationship during adolescence.
In young adulthood, the daughter-mother relationship will either be close or enstranged as the daughter is developing to be her own person. Dr. Christiane Northrup, an obstetrician/gynecologist and Nancy Friday, a writer, have written articles pertaining to the mother-daughter relationship. Dr. Northrup maintains that a relationship a daughter has with her mother and vice versa oftentimes have an impact upon the mother's and daughter's physical, emotional, and spiritual health. In Dr. Northup's PBS special pertaining to the mother-daughter relationship, she gives examples of how a nurturing, independent, and self-confident mother produces a daughter who is fearless and is ready to discover new things while a mother who is negative and threatened by her daughter's independence often inhibits the daughter and makes her fearful of asserting herself and to experiment with new environments.
Ms. Friday wrote a book on the mother-daughter relationship discussing how the mother-daughter relationshp is fraught with love, acceptance, and contradictions. Ms. Friday maintains that many mothers are threatened when their daughter begin to mature into adulthood because they will no longer be the center of their daughters' attention. Ms. Friday further states that the issue of daughters' sexual relationships is a source of contention with mothers because it means that their daughters are no longer little girls but women.
Although this is a subject matter which is seldom discussed, there are some mothers who are jealous of their daughters. Yes, I said jealous of their daughters. Of course this goes against conventional wisdom. There are many mothers are very happy to see their daughters surpass them in terms of education, career, relationship, and economic achievements. However, there are other mothers, probably because they did not achieve those things for themselves, who are severely threatened when their daughters surpass them in every opportunity. Oftentimes, these mothers will severely sabotage their daughters by giving them subliminal messages as to why achieving their desired goals and dreams will only harm them. These mothers do not want their daughters to achieve happiness because they are not happy themselves. Usually these are the mothers who sublimated their goals and wants for the betterment of their husbands and children.
Usually in late adulthood, the daughter begins to assume a caregiving role towards her mother who is now elderly. If her relationship to her mother in the earlier stages was rocky, oftentimes she is estranged from her mother. Many times, although her relationship with her mother was rocky, she does make a conciliation because she wants to have a positive relationship with her mother because time is short at this point of life. There is a reversal of relationships at this time with the daughter assuming a more dominant role while the mother has a more passive role. Many daughters, at this time, make amends with their mothers as they know that time is winding down as their mothers are near the end of their lives. The daughter-mother relationship is one of the most important relationship a woman has. A daughter's relationship with her mother will ultimately determine what type of woman she will and/or will not become.