Relationship between a mother and daughter has seemed to me to be one of the most discussed relationships in my practice. I’ve found that girls are either working to be just like their mother or at other times wanting to be nothing like her. Why do mothers often say it is so much easier raising a son? The impact a mother and daughter have on one another seems to be timeless. No matter how old each on is, they seem to trigger enormous amounts of emotional energy. Both are activated by female hormones, estrogen and progesterone. A little girl is nurtured by these hormones, and a blueprint is established for the rest of her life. A girl’s brain seems to be wired differently from a brother’s and a father’s, and girls seem to just thrive from staying within a relationship. Self esteem seems to be enhanced by feeling as though a girl is a part of a relationship. I would like to explore, on the eve of this Mother’s Day, what are some of the basic tenets of this extraordinarily powerful connection and how to work through difficult moments and set the stage for relationships that are mutually validating.
As I refer to the stonesetter women, I, too, posit that people yearn for connections with others, and there is something about this mother-daughter relationship, that connection and disconnection becomes a central principle. Gilligan, Brown, and Rogers, in 1990, have found that an inner sense of connection to others is a central organizing feature in women’s development. Five very beneficial components to mutually empowering relationships are 1) an increased sense of well-being that comes with feeling connected to others, 2) motivation and ability to act right in the relationship, 3) an increased knowledge about oneself and the other person and increased sense of self-worth, 4) and a desire for more connection.
Empathy. What about this in a mother-daughter relationship?
Anger. The recognition of the value of anger is very important in this relationship. In order to clarify sources of pain and doing something about it.
What is an ideal mother? Is it devoid of anger and aggressiveness? Does a mother need to be selfless with her daughter? The selfless one who needs nothing and lives for giving all to others.
I think it’s extremely important to integrate anger with loving feelings between mothers and daughters in order to lead to a daughter’s own independence. Anger is often use as a defense to mom rather than as an emotional response.
Questions each may ask of the other. What do I feel? What do I want? What impact do I have on mom or on my daughter? What do I need to do to move this relationship in the direction of growth for both of us? What is happening in the relationship right now? What does the relationship need?
It is very important to understand cultural influences on parenting and mothers and daughters. The attachment of relationship learned early in life has a profound and lasting influence on both mother and daughter.
Mothers and daughters, this very unique relationship that is so powerful. What is a mother’s relationship and the personal stake she has to her daughter? A mother seems to have a desire for another person, another relationship, a partner in a sense that is not the father or significant other, and sometimes seems to become much more murky, mom’s accepting her own aims as separate from her child. It becomes more distinct with a son than a daughter.
We know that mothering transcends gender, but there is a bond that mothers seem to, where they would question with a son their boundaries. There is a distinction in not having that same thought process. I would go so far as grandmothers, as well as mothers, consider the boundaries different.
Mothers want to keep their children safe, protect them, train them. The lines become much more blurry of women who are mothers who have independent aims and desires from their children. More women still do a disproportionate amount of work of caring for their children. Is there a difference between the relationship between and mother and daughter, a mother with a career and a mother that doesn’t. How does the daughter view the mother? There still seems to me a camp of mothers who stay at home and mothers who work outside the home.
Dr. Gellman is a psychoanalyst, psychotherapist, lecturer and author specializing in eating disorders, bipolarity, high conflict divorce and most issues relating to relationships. Dr. Gellman has been in private practice for over 30 years in West Los Angeles. She received her doctorate in psychoanalysis in the year 2000 from the Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis. She earned her teaching credential at UCLA.