Mothers and Daughters: BFFs?
My wife (she is also a psychologist) and I just returned from spending a week on Cape Cod attending a conference. Our two adult daughters joined us for much of our stay. It was wonderful seeing both of them! I am always delighted to spend time with them.
In modern life, with cell phones at the ever ready, it is easier to stay in touch with adult kids that live far away than it was in my young adulthood. My parents had to rely on letters, because phone calls were expensive. But today, a regular call or text keeps us in touch at a very low cost. But it is no substitute for sharing a meal together or watching the sunset.
Of course, vacationing together for a brief time, 24 hours a day, is more intense than when families live closer to each other. When you live in the same city, families can have a meal together, or go to a movie, and then go their separate ways--but not so on an extended visit.
There are both sweet and sour moments. Tempers flare, old wounds can re-open, and disappointment may rear its ugly head.
On these trips, I always marvel at the complexity of mother-daughter relationships.
As the father of two daughters and a husband of 35 years, this is not a new observation. It seems to me that mothers expect a lot from their daughters and daughters have a high bar for Moms. Sometimes, I think their expectations of each other are unrealistic--a recipe for disappointment.
Daughters give Dads a free pass. When they were teens, if I forgot to take a phone message, I might be quickly forgiven. But woe was the day if Diane forgot a caller's name! I was relieved that their expectations of me were so much lower (more realistic in my view). But I often felt bad for my wife.
Most mothers want to be "friends" with their adult daughters. They hope to have a close relationship, be able to share their innermost feelings, and to have fun together. If this kind of friendship doesn't develop (which it often doesn't), they feel disappointed--maybe even hurt. Their daughters may feel burdened by this expectation. Let’s face it; you never stop being someone's mother--even when you are no longer responsible for their care and feeding.
Adults choose their friends. We do not choose our parents. Adult friendship may not be in the cards for a mother and daughter.
Both mothers and daughters can have other unrealistic expectations too. Adult daughters may want approval from their mothers. But what if she doesn't approve of the choices her daughter makes? Even if she keeps it to herself, adult daughters can "feel" the disapproval--even if it is never stated. Their mother radar is always on!
So what can mothers and daughters do to manage this complex, and sometimes challenging relationship?
Be patient with each other. You are not in this world to live up to each other's expectations! If you do, wonderful. But if you don't, that’s OK too.
Work on accepting each other as you are, not as you would like the other person to be. This acceptance has to be genuine. When it is, your mother or daughter will experience it as true love.
Nurture realistic expectations. This is easier said than done. Cut your hopes and dreams by 30% and you might be closer to reality. Lower the bar and your reward will be Olympic gold!
Wait till your daughters have kids. When your kids have kids--your stock goes way up! They realize what you did and they have more appreciation for you.
Share your recipes for mother and daughter peace!