The mother daughter relationship is a dynamic and complex one –not easy to define. It goes through various stages as both grow up and mature in age and thought. The relationship goes through good and rough periods of love and hate as they struggle with their respective lives and between themselves. Thus they could experience periods of strong bonding and periods of loneliness and loss with minimum communication. They would connect and disconnect many a times through life stages. The maturity of the mother and her strength of character would ultimately count the most and benefit both of them as they withstand the test of time and emerge wiser and happier.
For the mother she may expect her daughter to imbibe her values and be a replica of herself. This is a narcissistic need for most parents- to see their children as a reflection of themselves. It could be a tremendous source of pride and happiness for the mother to see, even if a little bit, her own image in her daughter. It is not uncommon to hear of mother’s boasting that ‘she is just like me’ or stating with dismay that ‘she is just not one bit like me’. This could sound like a rejection to the girl and sometimes it could be a statement of emotional rejection or distancing by the mother of her daughter. The mother is responsible in nurturing certain personality traits in her little girl as she works hard on her towards the fulfillment of her aims. She may be responsible for breeding traits of dependency or independence, to be a good wife or a career woman or a mix of both. She will help define issues of social etiquettes and manners, romance and sexuality norms and expect her girl to follow them. She will naturally try to pass on her own set of behaviors (however neurotic or immature) regarding concerns of femininity, family relationships, marriage, motherhood and service towards males and elders in the family. She may succeed partly or fairly well or may not at all if the daughter turns out to be a rebel!
For the tiny little girl the mother acts as a role model initially but as she grows up and gets into her teens and her peer group influence she will get into conflict with her. As her thoughts and values change she begins to question her mother and her teachings bringing great pain and sorrow to the mother. She may then begin to find her own loved mother outdated and out of tune with the times. Adolescence is a period when most daughters might just ‘hate’ their mothers in some way or the other. A teenage daughter might perceive her mother as someone who is ontrolling, dominating, unsympathetic and hateful. She may think that ‘she just does not understand anything and all she wants to do is control’. One girl narrated how she would find her mother terribly irritating as she would keep track of her movements via mobile calls! ‘Has she reached college, when is she coming home, why is she late, who is she friendly with, why is she wasting time with friends, what is the need to have ice-cream every day’ and so on and so forth. She may begin to clash over a host of issues ranging from traditional rituals to rights, from social friendships to networking, family values, dress codes to everything.
For a young girl it is important that her mother tries to understand her and stand by her during her inner struggle for identity and autonomy. A daughter’s sense of self image and self esteem would come from the reflections made by the mother. A mother’s disparaging remarks could impact her psyche, however temporarily, but it would certainly drive a wedge between them. The thought that ‘my mother disapproves of me’ would be internally very hurting and demeaning. It would impact the self confidence of the young girl. An approving mother would instill confidence in the girl. Between the two extremes of either criticizing or approving the girl, the mother could disapprove of the ways of the girl but still go along with her and stand by her in her journey of inner struggle. This balance in thought and behavior of the mother would go a long way in winning the trust of the girl and building a good level of communication. Such an atmosphere of trust and openness would help the daughter immensely by helping her find and define her own sense of womanhood and femininity which the mother should graciously accept even if it is different from that of her own. That is what is expected of a matured and wise mother.
Published in The Hitavada – Womens World Persona For 9 Feb 2011