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Mothers and Daughters: Conflict, Confusion, Conciliation

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Mother-daughter conflict is as old as time and often the topic of many a classic as well a modern novel. Freud believed that the mother figure could very well be the root of all grown children’s neurosis[1], but it is probably much simpler than that. Mothers have the age-old desire to see their daughters achieve what they did not in their generation.

The Origins of Conflict

When a mother experiences fear or concern for a young daughter’s behavior she also remembers when she was young and how receptive she was to her own mother’s advice, talks, shouting matches[2]. Yes, there is a progression and any daughter or mother can attest that sometimes advice and talk get bypassed and shouting becomes the way of saying this simple sentence: I love you and I am so afraid of you making a mistake that could cost you your future[3].

Part of the reluctance to say these very true and meaningful words is the memory of how obstinate she was at “that age.” Even if a mother has done most everything right herself in a mother-daughter relationship, there may come a time when she projects her teenaged behaviors, thoughts, and feelings upon her daughter.

Most good mothers are so, not because they had a stellar relationship with their own mothers, but because they did not, and they are determined to have a good relationship with their daughters. The intent and pledge to do so is so strong, that when there seems to be the least threat to that relationship, that sacred alliance, the mother lashes out at whomever or whatever poses the threat. Often that may be the daughter herself who at a certain and normal age of her development wishes to assert herself as independent of her mother.

Fiction is Fact

Anyone who was a member of the cult following of the Gilmore Girls (2000-2007) remembers the enviable relationship between Lorelai and Rory. The only times there were ever disruption to their harmony was when there was a male in Rory’s life that posed a threat to not only the mother-daughter relationship, but also to the brilliant future Lorelai saw for her daughter; the one she herself did not have, because of a boy that ultimately led to teen motherhood.  Rory and Boys

The juxtaposition of their relationship is that Lorelai would not take anything for her daughter. However, her cognitive mind recognizes that had she not become a mother at sixteen her life would have been easier, if not better. This sort of cognitive dissonance is the stuff for which mother-daughter relationships are made of[4]. Mothers love their children, mothers love their daughters, but they wish so much more than motherhood for them.

Mother daughter symbolIf It Is Not Hate, It Must Be Love

When a mother and daughter come to an impasse in their relationship it is painful to them both, it may seem that they hate one another. The daughter may feel that no matter what she does, her mother hates her. The truth is that rarely do a mother and daughter actually hate one another, they simply find themselves at odds in the relationship. The daughter needs independence, and the mother is afraid to let go and allow her daughter to make mistakes[5]; mistakes that could possibly be fatal, or at least heartbreaking.

Recommendations

 There are no easy answers for any mother or daughter. However, open communication is a must. Even when it is painful. Even when there may be raised emotions and voices involved. No matter the issues, the words: I love you should be expressed often in the conversation. Even if these words are prefaced with: I am angry or I am disappointed, or especially, I am afraid. No psychologically healthy mother ever hates her daughter. She simply does not like the power that child has over her to drive her back to when she could have changed her course, and did not.

Daughters: Be Kind to Your Mothers. They Love You No Matter What You Do. Mothers, Be Kind to Your Daughters. They Love You No Matter What They Do.

 

[1] Missy Molloy, “Mother-Daughter Ambivalence According to Sigmund Freud and Chantal Akerman,” PSYART; Gainesville, 2014, N_A.

[2] Paul M Usita and Barbara C Du Bois, “Conflict Sources and Responses in Mother-Daughter Relationships: Perspectives of Adult Daughters of Aging Immigrant Women,” Journal Of Women & Aging 17, no. 1–2 (2005): 151–65.

[3] Susan J. T. Branje, “Conflict Management in Mother-Daughter Interactions in Early Adolescence,” Behaviour 145, no. 11 (2008): 1627–51.

[4] Molloy, “Mother-Daughter Ambivalence According to Sigmund Freud and Chantal Akerman.”

[5] N A Gonzales, A M Cauce, and C A Mason, “Interobserver Agreement in the Assessment of Parental Behavior and Parent-Adolescent Conflict: African American Mothers, Daughters, and Independent Observers,” Child Development 67, no. 4 (August 1996): 1483–98.

References

Branje, Susan J. T. “Conflict Management in Mother-Daughter Interactions in Early Adolescence.” Behaviour 145, no. 11 (2008): 1627–51.

Gonzales, N A, A M Cauce, and C A Mason. “Interobserver Agreement in the Assessment of Parental Behavior and Parent-Adolescent Conflict: African American Mothers, Daughters, and Independent Observers.” Child Development 67, no. 4 (August 1996): 1483–98.

Molloy, Missy. “Mother-Daughter Ambivalence According to Sigmund Freud and Chantal Akerman.” PSYART; Gainesville, 2014, N_A.

Usita, Paul M, and Barbara C Du Bois. “Conflict Sources and Responses in Mother-Daughter Relationships: Perspectives of Adult Daughters of Aging Immigrant Women.” Journal Of Women & Aging 17, no. 1–2 (2005): 151–65.

 

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