Book Title: Mothers of Difficult Daughters
MOTHER DAUGHTER RELATIONSHIPS
Regaining for Mother some of the respect she deserves is Dr. Herst's mission. She asks: "Whatever Happened to Honor thy Mother"? She urges moms to consider that they are not entirely responsible for their daughters' states of mind, urging that one truth remains constant for every situation: You do not have to fix your daughter's problems to improve your relationship with her.
Re frame it. Look at it from a different direction. "Walk through the door backwards," she tells mothers. If you want to take the lead in changing your relationship with your daughter, you have to start with yourself, and that means reflecting on what you learned from your mother.
For better and for worse, your bond with your mother has directly affected your relationship with your daughter. Even if - especially if- your relationship with your mother has been less than glorious, you need to be aware of how it has influenced the kind of behavior you demonstrate with your daughter.
As an added bonus, you might discover some valuable lessons your mother can teach you today- about loyalty, self-respect, and most of all about how she has changed.
Mae West once wrote of her mother, ":She tried in every way to understand me, and she succeeded. It was this deep, loving understanding as long as she lived that more than anything else helped and sustained me on my way to success". West was lucky and knew it; not all women are so aware of the gifts their mothers give them.
Mothers everywhere vow: "I won't make the same mistakes my mother did". And you probably won't. As the saying goes, you will make new ones. Less obvious is the fact that your mistakes are often the result of trying to avoid hers. The ultimate irony is that, well meaning though your efforts might be, there is a good chance your daughter won't appreciate or even notice them.
The huge cultural shift that has taken place in this century has caused an appreciation gap between older mothers and their adult daughters. We are often horrified at the level of self sacrifice required of our mothers who grew up in the 20s to 40s and frightened by their anger and depression. Above all, we felt guilty for causing their suffering.
Our daughters however are not little clones of us, so we can't gage their desires by what we wanted in a mother. For all the Complexity of Mother Daughter Relationships, a single theme runs through every situation: unmet expectations. Mother and Daughter each expects the other to understand her as if, because they share the same genes, they also share an invisible mind link. Mother and Daughter are deeply disappointed in the other's failure to meet her expectations.
When a mom comes to see her for the first time Dr. Herst suggests getting a large sheet of paper and take the time to catalog every single expectation and disappointment, no matter how petty; describe how things actually turned out, to pinpoint specific issues that are undermining the relationship and review them in a productive manner, to come up later with a set of the top prioritized goals for the relationship.
Pick three, begin by choosing the problems that hurt the most- the ones that keep you awake at night, dig deeper to understand why. These problems become part of the blueprint you'll use to repair your relationship along with your revised version of her Reasonable Expectations Guideline to create a wish list of your own.
Take a few moments also to focus on your daughter's positive attributes, write down all the good things about your daughter, not only as she relates to you, but in her life outside of your relationship, be generous appreciative and complimentary.
Summary by Annie Vance,
Marriage Family Therapist