The Mother/Daughter Relationship

The mother/daughter relationship is very important. It is often one of the more neglected relationships and yet certainly one of the most significant in a woman’s life. Healing your relationship with your mother or daughter will positively affect your entire life.

Our 27-year-old daughter, Rami, and I are preparing to lead a mother/daughter workshop. We are very inspired to help bring healing and positive energy to mothers and daughters. Now that Rami is receiving her PhD in psychology, it is also very thrilling for me to be doing something on a professional level with her. In our talks together about what mothers and daughters need I am struck by some important qualities.

The role of mother is very fulfilling and yet also very challenging. When I was a little girl all I wanted to do when I grew up was to become a mother. I played and played with dolls and dreamed of the day when I could have a real baby to care for. In my pregnancy with Rami, our first born, my only desire was to be a perfect mother for her. I wanted to do everything just right and natural. Rami was born at home and for the first 12 hours of her life we were off to a great start. Then I noticed that her finger nails were too long and she was beginning to scratch herself. I got out the fingernail clippers and very tenderly began to cut her tiny nails. I slipped and cut her finger. She cried in physical pain and I held her and cried in emotional pain. In that moment I realized that I could never be a perfect mother. I would always make mistakes. All I could do was to try my best in my mothering. Right there I said a prayer asking that I could be remembered not for the mistakes that I might make, but for the fact that I was dedicated and tried my best.

No one has a perfect mother and no one will ever be a perfect mother. We are human beings and make mistakes. And yet we try to do the best job we can. In my counseling practice I hear some pretty big mistakes that mothers have made with their children. A listing of the mistakes always seems to come easier than listing the positive aspects. I always encourage men and women to remember at least one way that their mothers loved them. One woman came to me once and described her mother much as one would describe the “Wicked Witch of the West.” I asked this woman to remember one positive thing that her mother did. The woman was convinced that she couldn’t. One week later she remembered when her mother came to her school play and told her that she enjoyed it. This memory led to others. The list of mistakes was still fairly big, but this woman was also opening up to the fact that despite these mistakes her mother loved her. With this realization brought a big change in the woman’s life. She was in turn able to open up to love coming from others, especially her partner.  

In our work we see a lot of young women in their twenties and thirties. Many of these women are craving acceptance from their mothers. They are starting careers, marriages, and parenting, all of which can be confusing at times. They yearn for their mothers to just say, “I am so proud of you for the way that you are living your life. I trust the choices that you are making are the right ones for you.” Instead they often get advice and criticism on how they could do it better. When daughters turn away from their mothers it is often because they are not receiving the things that they crave most – acceptance and trust. It is hard to sit by and watch your daughter make what you feel is a mistake, and yet it could be that very “mistake” that opens the door for wisdom and compassion and a fresh inspiration on life.

Eleven years ago my parents moved right next door to us in an apartment above our garage. Now that my father has passed on my mother remains there alone. People often ask me, “How can you stand to have your mother live so close to you?” The truth is that I love having her so close. We have a lot of fun together and our children really enjoy her. Through making a few mistakes she learned to not give unsolicited advice. I’m sure my mother sees things in our family that she doesn’t necessary like. And yet she doesn’t offer advice. She just lets it be. If my mother criticized my life and was found fault in what we did, I probably wouldn’t be able to have her live so close. Yet she and Barry’s mother strive to point out beauty in our lives and seem to enjoy us rather than wanting to change us. Some of the best times are when they are both here with us.

And so mothers and daughters need basically the same thing -- acceptance and love. It just takes one to start this process and thus allow your relationship to be transformed. Will you be the first one to offer acceptance and love or are you going to wait forever for the other to offer these things to you?
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