Like Mother, Like Daughter

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As daughters, it’s so easy to bemoan what our mothers could or should have done. A mother of two ponders her relationship with her own mother, and reflects on her hopes for her relationship with her girls.

“I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but you get more and more like your mother….”

These are the exact words I heard uttered by a new father to his wife. They were walking along Manhattan’s Broadway carrying their newborn in a Baby Bjorn. I had noticed them at a distance because of their palpable exhaustion. As a chronically sleep-deprived mom myself, I can spot exhausted parents at 50 feet. We’re like the owners of VW Beetles who feel a sense of kinship. VW Beetle drivers even wave at each other as they pass by. Believe me, if I had the energy, I too would wave at my sleep-deprived friends. Instead I give them the sympathy smile. The look that says “Who knew? And, if we had known, would we have bought a dog instead?”

Had I heard that comment before I became a mother, I would have winced on behalf of the mom who heard it (“ouch!”) and moved on. However, as a mother of two young daughters, that throwaway comment struck a chord deep within me. It led me to reflect on my own relationship with my mother and what I hoped for in my relationship with my girls.

Psychology of Mothers

Why is it that moms catch themselves making certain comments to their children and then grimace as they realize they are “becoming” their mothers? Why do so many therapy sessions and workshops end with mama taking all the blame?

My belief is that it stems from what psychologists call “mother wounds.” Our mother is our very first female role model and the primary relationship in our development. Motherhood is so difficult that it’s impossible to do it perfectly. As a result, many children grow into adulthood with unresolved feelings and emotional “wounds” caused by their relationship with their mothers.

As daughters, it’s oh-so-easy to bemoan what our mothers “could’ve and should’ve” done. In reality, in the generational quicksand of life, we’re often expecting them to teach us how to navigate terrain that they’ve never had to travel themselves. How can I expect my mom to help me juggle motherhood and working from home when she has no experience of such a life?

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