After studying mother-daughter relationships for nearly three years, we noticed that there are many underlying assumptions that we make about our mothers and daughters. This week, Ellen tackles some of these myths by sharing her own perspective on common misconceptions daughters have about their moms.
1. Mothering a daughter is natural and instinctive.
The Truth: Wouldn’t it be great if after your daughter was born, a customized guidebook instantly popped up in your inbox so you knew from the start how to raise her? The mother-daughter relationship is so complex and so varied depending on the individuals, and everyone has their own parenting style. If you have more than one daughter, I bet you even respond to them differently because they have different personalities and needs.
While instinct certainly comes into play in parenting Jenna, I am more deliberate in how I interact with her because as adults, we can talk openly about what we want from our relationship. I am grateful that Jenna has the self-awareness and confidence to tell me candidly what she needs from me in different situations. With her guidance, I am learning when she wants support or independence, advice or compassionate listening, togetherness or space.
2. A good mother can do it all.
The Truth: Like many women, I’ve learned the hard truth that any mother – good or otherwise – cannot “do it all.” Balancing work and life as an ambitious career-minded mother (and several years as a divorced mom) was the greatest challenge of my life so far. I worked full-time during Jenna’s childhood and even with only one daughter, I never seemed to have the time and energy to do both parenting and moneymaking really well. However, if I put my perfectionist tendencies aside, I acknowledge that I did reasonably well on both fronts and realize that I did the best that I could under the circumstances.
So daughters, learn from us moms that you do not have to do it all. There is no perfect balance when it comes to motherhood, career and marriage. It’s up to you to prioritize the different aspects of your life and make adjustments as you go along.
3. Mothers shortchange their daughters if they focus on their own needs and desires.
The Truth: You may have heard the marriage advice, “Happy wife, happy life.” While it’s a bit antiquated, I actually think there’s truth to it! I think there’s another similar statement (my own) that also holds true: “Happy mom, happy daughter.” I know that when my life is going well, I am so much more giving, loving and patient in all of my relationships, not just with Jenna. Likewise, if my own needs and desires are not being met or I face personal struggles, I tend to be self-absorbed and not as attentive to others. I can say, however, that I often try to protect Jenna from the latter situation and work hard to be available to and supportive of her whenever she needs me.
Make sure you take care of yourself, because you’ll be a better mom to your daughter as a result!
4. If a daughter makes a bad life choice, it’s because her mother didn’t teach her well.
The Truth: I’m sure this statement is true in certain extreme situations like abuse or neglect; but overall, I believe in personal ownership of one’s path in adulthood. If Jenna asks for it, I give her advice but she knows that it is one person’s opinion and that she needs to consider it along with others’ and most importantly, her own.
Each of us make our own life choices and it’s not healthy to blame mistakes on your mother or anyone else, for that matter.
5. Daughters turn out just like their mothers.
The Truth: Daughters are often similar to their mothers in looks, mannerisms, viewpoints and/or personality. That’s no surprise given that mothers are role models for their daughters their whole lives and shape the way they view the world. Mothers and daughters who fill out the MDF profile questions often have the easiest time listing ways that they are most similar!
But of course, every person is unique and who they are is shaped not only by their mother, but also by their peers and own experiences. I am smart, organized, critical and caring like my mother but I pursued a career and she was an at-home mom. I am also more independent and active and have taken more risks in my life than she did in hers.
Likewise, Jenna and I share a lot of the same personality traits (I call her “my mini-me”), but still she is way more social, independent and adventurous than me. Just as I learned from my mother’s mistakes, I hope that Jenna will learn from mine to break through that mother-daughter mold and to “turn out” just like who she was meant to be – the very best version of herself.
Daughters, honor the traits you’ve inherited from your mom and cherish the differences that make you unique!