The Mother and Daughter Relationship

by Karen Keller, Ph.D.

Throughout history, the mother and daughter relationship has been a give and take or a push and shove relationship – depending on where you’re standing.  Sometimes these relationships are terribly strained ending up in a stand off when the daughter is in her forties or fifties. 

“I love my mother, but she drives me crazy!”

Does this sound familiar?  And then there’s that tiny twinge of guilt. 

How much do we love our mothers?

  • 88 percent of adults say their mother has had a positive influence on them.
  • 92 percent say their current relationship with their mother is positive.
  • 88 percent of all mothers say their family appreciates them enough.
  • 60 percent of women say their mother was more influential than their father, compared with 45 percent of men.

Even though we cut the umbilical cord there still is a strong connection.  So strong that 80% of women at midlife say they have a good relationship with their mother – but wish it was better.

Wish it was better?  If that’s the case then do it.  Why would you settle for less than what you want?  You have the power to influence any relationship – why not one of the most important one – with your mother?  

You have the power to influence any relationship!

What makes this relationship so interesting and at the same time nerve-wracking?  Mothers fear the changes that lie ahead (not playing a major role) and daughters are pushing the envelope to spread their wings (and fly away).  One thing is for certain – the mother-daughter relationship is the most intimate contentious experience two people can have.   

Most mothers continue to mother because that’s what they (we) do.  And we as daughters still seek our mom’s approval even late in life.  There comes an eye-opening time when the daughter suddenly realizes that her mother is not only her mother.  When did that happen for you? I was in third grade when my mom told me about the ‘birds and the bees.’  I was shocked!  It wasn’t until a few days later I realized that she did this (I was only 8)!  How horrible – yuck!  Could this be my mom? No way!

That reaction was nothing compared to my mother’s pain when my father died.  The roles suddenly flipped.  I was taking care of her.  That was the beginning of seeing my mother as another woman who could feel deeply about the very things I thought she had no grasp of.  I saw her as a symbol, something to revere and admire. 

I believe I became a woman, in the truest sense of the word, when I realized my mother was not only a mom but a woman, much like me – I, like her.  My lens changed.  I saw her needs, her lost dreams and the sacrifices she made in a completely new light.  She was the same woman but it was I who changed.  I found my way to it being less about me and more about her. 

Even though through much of my life my mother was all-knowing, all-powerful, she was also a woman who I shared similar problems and experiences with.  How she influenced my thinking on what a woman could do and become.  I learned from her there are no barriers – at least ones I couldn’t tear down. 

You would have liked my mother.  She could tell one hell of a story.  Imagine her surprise when, only a few years ago, I asked about her sex life with dad! (If she knew I told this she would say, “Oh, Karen” with a smile and a twinkle in her eye)!  By the time we finished talking we were rolling on the floor with laughter and tears running down our checks. That was my mom!

Whether I laughed or cried the intention was always the same.  She wanted me to connect to the message I needed to learn. 

There were many critical moments in our relationship.  There are great memories and cherished conversations.  Even though I miss each and every one of them – they are forever with me.  

Thank you Mom!

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