Jenna met Julia Wexler on campus last week when she spoke at a WWIB event. Her 17 year-old daughter was also in attendance at the event to support her mom during the seminar. Jenna invited both to attend the upcoming Wharton Mother-Daughter Weekend. After participating in the mother-daughter event, Julia tells this touching story about her struggles to attain a close bond with her daughter and some breakthroughs that occurred over the weekend.

Attending a mother-daughter event this weekend was somewhat intimidating for me. We don’t have that picture perfect mother and daughter relationship, and exposing that might even prevent the possibility of having a stronger relationship going forward. Would she hate me, yet again?

I had never known what a strong mother-daughter relationship was supposed to feel like.  My mom and I were not close. In fact, we are so distant that even now as she is in the late stages of dementia, I wonder when I “lost” her because I didn’t ever truly “have” the connection to lose. I was all the more motivated to finally have a mother-daughter bond with my own daughter, but alas, no blueprint to use to build the foundation!

I made mistakes in my over-zealousness and my hyper-eagerness to finally attain what (it seemed like) everyone else had. It’s like eternal exclusion from some ideal sisterhood; and it feels very much like being gipped (as my other friend told me who was also estranged from her mom). It’s a dull heartache that’s always present each time she rolls her eyes at you and walks away. So it took a glass of wine and a bit of courage to attend.

Completing the event questionnaire was illuminating. What DID we do together that we enjoyed other than argue? Ugh! We both love to read and, in fact, I could write a book about menopause and adolescence having their crescendo in the same home in the same span of time . . . and the roof blowing off the home in a bonfire of hormonal rage. This stuff is not easy. In fact, it’s the most painful and deepest heartache a woman can endure from the only person who can truly break her: her other half.

But this weekend, something clicked: we laughed together. My daughter, Jackie, had seen me speak at an event for the very first time. (I might add she was the only member of the audience I was intimidated by). Well, for the first time in her life, I think she may even have respected me a bit.  She helped me; she cheered me on and she saw the non-mom. I also saw her for the powerful, sweet, compassionate young woman she is already becoming at only age 17. Maybe I didn’t completely fail as a mom. Maybe this horrible pattern was ending.

At the Wharton Mother-Daughter Weekend, under the “red tent” of so many other wiser women, a community of mothers and daughters supported us in our own beginning. They smiled knowingly when we described our struggles as if it was simply another speed bump along the way. Mothers and daughters who know each other as only they can, having virtually come from each other.

As my daughter sits beside me filling out her college application today, and I sit beside her hoping she’ll eat a healthy lunch, I have learned a great deal. Respect for her is the lesson from the group this weekend. It changed everything. I’m so grateful we have a chance to make our own history now.

Julia Wexler

Wharton Mother-Daughter Weekend attendees: We’d love to hear your stories too!  Please email us at ellenandjenna@motherdaughterfriend.com to share takeaways and lessons learned from your own experience.