How close should mothers and daughters be? Having grown up with a mother that showed me constant love, but with structure, I remember feeling “envious” of friends who had particularly close relations with their own mothers and who shared all their problems, and even details of their sex lives! It was only after studying psychotherapy that I discovered that exaggerated closeness isn’t always the best thing for a daughter.
Mothers who feel and act as though they were buddies with their daughters, sharing everything (from clothes to secrets) and going out to bars as well as having common friends usually burden their daughters. Such relations are indicative that something is missing from the mother’s life and the daughter is called to give emotional support to the mother.
Such relations usually thrive when the mother feels that she doesn’t enjoy enough companionship in her own marriage and is isolated from friends. She may feel that her life lacks meaning beyond her relationship with her children. In such cases, the daughters are called to satisfy the mother’s basic needs and end up giving them the companionship they need.
The girls usually feel flattered that they are so closely tied to their mothers and rarely realize that they feel betrayed deep within. They are proud of their relations with their mothers but they don’t consciously realize the burden they carry. When the time comes from them to distance themselves from the usual developmental process they feel guilt at having to leave behind such a “great and brilliant mother”.
The relationship based on “equal familiarity” doesn’t allow the mother the ability to play a traditional role nor does it allow the daughter to be able to depend on a strong mother for care and guidance. The friendly relations are based on equality above all. When the mother and daughter act like friends the hierarchy on which the relationship should be based is lost. The mother stops being the basic caregiver in the relationship.
Daughters lack the experience of being able to depend on a strong and credible parent where they can test their limits and on whom they can get support.
The relationship between a mother and daughter should have a hierarchy that doesn’t exist in friendships. That doesn’t mean that mothers and daughters can’t enjoy each other’s companies or occasionally share personal secrets. There are limits, however, that need to be kept. Mutual respect and individuality doesn’t soften the holy bond. Instead, it makes it even stronger.
Do you have a problem that concerns you? Our resident psychotherapist Zeta Stravopodi is willing to address any personal matters. E-mail her on firstname.lastname@example.org
Zoe Stravopodi-Gianno works as a psychotherapist and offers advice to individuals, couples and families. She also coordinates groups interested in achieving self-awareness and personal growth. In 2012, she established “Parents School” to give parents advice as to how to navigate the choppy waters of parenthood regarding the healthy emotional growth of their children.