The Mother Daughter Conflict

April 15, 2013  |  

As Mother’s Day approaches, some of us look ahead with excitement while we make plans to celebrate the moms in our families. For others, this holiday provokes anxiety and dread because of the pressure to spend the day with a women with whom we have a strained, difficult or just plain bad relationship with. For these women, Mother’s Day can be, well, a “mother”.

Mother-daughter relationships usually start out well. Both naturally believe this relationship will blossom into shared manicures, shopping trips and nights together on the couch watching chick flicks.

Then, mothers and daughters really get to know each other and discover that things are not always pedicures and proms dresses. Often, the disconnect is usually based on misunderstood emotions. These mother-daughter relationships can be disappointing, tumultuous and a real emotional tug-o-war. This challenge can leave both of you in shock and heartbroken. There can be hope for the relationship if emotions can be tempered while perspectives are refocused.

As your daughter ages, you may start to wonder “whose kid is this and where did my little angel go?” Know that she didn’t go anywhere and because you’ve done something right as a mother; she is evolving into who she is meant to be – not who you want her to be.  Watching a daughter mature and express herself can be as exciting as watching lava burst out of a volcano. It’s almost supernatural and if you get too close, it can be dangerous.  That is the nature of a woman finding her way in this world.

Many moms struggle to gently guide their daughters through transformation process even though they long to see the woman she will become. Raising your daughter can be like making canned biscuits. First, there is the startling POP as the soft, pale dough springs from the can (birth and early childhood), then the careful placement of each mushy disc on the baking sheet (the careful lessons of adolescence). Followed by the oven heat which forces the biscuit to rise and brown to perfection (the push toward maturity and more responsibility).  Can it be nerve-racking to anticipate the pressured pop of the can? Yes!  Can you feel unsure as you place the soft biscuits on the pan? Yes!  Does the oven make the kitchen hot and uncomfortable to be in? Yes!  But, if you bear with the steps and challenges of raising your daughter, like hot buttered biscuits you will enjoy them with savory satisfaction eventually.

On the flip side, the experience is a bit different for daughters. Some mothers can be overbearing, controlling, jealous, bitter, fearful, depressed or immature. Don’t get me wrong, there are some perfect mothers out there but we aren’t talking about those three TV moms we watched in the 80’s. The truth is, motherhood is very hard and no one is going to get it right at all times.  So, what’s her girl to do?

Daughters with difficult mother relationships can feel as if they are on a roller coaster ride.  You jump on, excited with high hopes (mommy-daughter bliss) about the unknown possibilities of what this ride will be like with this woman. The brakes get released and you begin your slow journey (childhood) toward the first peak of the ride.  As you grow upward (early adolescence), mom changes in ways that can be unpleasant.  As you endure many steep drops, twists, loops and turns, you realize you want to get off.  Despite your deepest wishes to do things your way, you’re strapped in and the ride continues. It picks up speed, rages out of control (young adulthood) until it comes to a screeching halt (adult independence). Whew!  Somehow, you’’ve arrived at womanhood; perhaps bruised and whiplashed but arrived nonetheless.

Ladies, choose to be at peace with each other.  Choose to communicate with loving honesty and empathy for each others journey.  Remember many moms don’t have a good blueprint to follow. Try things like couples therapy, pray and play together and exercises that will aid you in letting go of the pain and moving forward respectfully and appreciatively.

Remember that the roles will change.  So be the mother you want taking care of you as you age and girls, be the daughter you hope to get to know in your own future.

New York therapist La Shell Wooten is known as a “social-emotional” guidance counselor with an expertise in parenting and children. Website:

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