Moth­ers & DAUGH­TERS


The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Body and Soul - - Relationships -

The re­la­tion­ship be­tween a woman and her mother is so pow­er­ful, it af­fects ev­ery­thing from her health and self-es­teem to all her other re­la­tion­ships, ex­perts say. Dr Chris­tiane Northrup, au­thor of the book Moth­er­Daugh­ter Wis­dom ( Hay House), says: “The mother-daugh­ter re­la­tion­ship is the most pow­er­ful bond in the world, for bet­ter or for worse. It sets the stage for all other re­la­tion­ships.”

Dr Northrup says that no other child­hood ex­pe­ri­ence is as com­pelling as a young girl’s re­la­tion­ship with her mother. “Each of us takes in at a cel­lu­lar level how our mother feels about be­ing fe­male, what she be­lieves about her body, how she takes care of her health, and what she be­lieves is pos­si­ble in life.”

Jen­nie Han­nan, ex­ec­u­tive gen­eral man­ager of ser­vices at coun­selling provider Angli­care WA, agrees. “How a woman sees her­self, how she is in her adult re­la­tion­ships with part­ners, and how she moth­ers her own chil­dren, is pro­foundly in­flu­enced by her re­la­tion­ship with her own mother,” she says.

But while most five-year-old girls love their moth­ers with an un­shake­able con­vic­tion, it’s of­ten a dif­fer­ent story by the time they reach ado­les­cence. The once-adored woman who rarely put a foot wrong is sud­denly al­ways do­ing em­bar­rass­ing things.


“The time you are go­ing to start hav­ing ma­jor prob­lems with your daugh­ter will be around ado­les­cence,” Han­nan says. “Ado­les­cence is a very dif­fi­cult, tu­mul­tuous time for chil­dren and their par­ents, and it tends to hap­pen in girls ear­lier than in boys.”

For­tu­nately this wild swing from close­ness to re­mote­ness usu­ally only lasts un­til the daugh­ter reaches adult­hood.

“If the mother and daugh­ter can hang in there dur­ing ado­les­cence, your re­la­tion­ship moves to a dif­fer­ent level and be­comes more of a re­spect­ful friend­ship,” Han­nan says. “I think what trig­gers them com­ing back is they be­come in­de­pen­dent… they move away from home, get a job, do the adult things in life. There’s a need to grow up and the re­la­tion­ship shifts.”

The re­la­tion­ship will change again when the daugh­ter has chil­dren. “There’s a greater level of un­der­stand­ing of the sort of depth of re­spon­si­bil­ity that you have as a mother to that child.”

If you had a less-than-per­fect re­la­tion­ship with your mother, it doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily fol­low that you won’t have a good re­la­tion­ship with your own daugh­ter, Han­nan says.

“It gives you a head start if you had a good re­la­tion­ship with your mother, but lots of women who have had bad re­la­tion­ships with their moth­ers have had re­ally pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ships with other women in their lives.

“The idea that you can have a per­fect re­la­tion­ship with any­body is flawed. Moth­ers do get blamed an aw­ful lot if some­thing’s wrong with their kids. But be­ing aware of things that were good and not good in your re­la­tion­ship with your mum is re­ally im­por­tant in not re­peat­ing any mis­takes.”

For most, the mother-daugh­ter re­la­tion­ship is ul­ti­mately ful­fill­ing. De­spite con­flicts and com­pli­cated emo­tions, 80 to 90 per cent of women at midlife re­ported a good re­la­tion­ship with their mother, a Penn­syl­va­nia State Uni­ver­sity study found.

“The re­la­tion­ship be­tween moth­ers and their adult daugh­ters is one in which the par­tic­i­pants han­dle be­ing up­set with one an­other bet­ter than in any other re­la­tion­ship,” says re­searcher Karen Fin­ger­man, au­thor of Ag­ing Moth­ers And Their Adult Daugh­ters: A Study In Mixed Emo­tions ( Springer). “There is value in the mother-daugh­ter tie be­cause the two par­ties care for one an­other and share a strong in­vest­ment in the fam­ily as a whole.”

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