Relationships between mothers and daughters are exhilarating and also often fraught with peril. Why are they so complicated?
“Because mothers have greater difficulty separating from their daughters than they do from their sons,” says Cape Town psychologist, Lesley Miles. “They also identify strongly with their daughters and their own aspirations – whether met or unmet – are often projected onto their daughters. These relationships are often emotionally very intense. ”
“Mothers’ aspirations for their daughters often also contain a certain ambivalence. They want them to follow a traditional path with husband babies and children, often what they did themselves. Babies are also a powerful symbol of femininity. Yet mothers also want them to have the careers and professional success which they themselves did not always have the opportunity to realise . The messages mothers send their daughters are often mixed and therefore deeply confusing.”
“Furthermore, as mothers get to middle age, their daughters are often entering adolescence and becoming attractive and a certain amount of envy is not unusual. For adolescents, mothers are easy targets as they often don’t see parents as people with their own struggles and problems. It is only later in life that children can see parents from this perspective.”
“Communication and openness are the two most important things to keep mother-daughter relationships healthy,” says Miles. “These contacts need to be established early in life and there needs to trust between them. Mothers should be non-prescriptive and allow daughters the freedom to make their own choices. Daughters are what they are and cannot be changed into what mothers would like them to be. Daughters cannot fulfill the dreams their mothers had for themselves. Much of the tension between mothers and daughters come from unrealistic expectations they have of each other.” (Susan Erasmus, Health24, August 2006)