The mother-daughter relationship is a complex bond that can both infuriate and delight its participants.
At first, girls are inextricably linked to their female parents. They depend on Mom for food, safety and comfort. As they grow, they make gradual moves toward independence, playing games with friends at day care or venturing off to scout camp for a week. Still, they trust Mother will be waiting when they return, maintaining an ever steadying presence in their lives.
By the time girls reach adolescence, the ultimate stay-out-of-my-life phase, they long for separation yet need emotional support more than ever. Too many mother-daughter relationships are ruptured by angry words and slamming doors as disgruntled young women storm out of the house yelling, I cant take this anymore!
Growth and adaptation
This angst is painful for both parties. But its one more developmental phase that requires growth and adaptation to move through.
Its vital for 20-somethings to ascend to adulthood, making their own decisions and paying their own bills.
Its equally important for mothers to keep the door open when grown daughters decide theyre ready to reconnect. Angry mothers may not want to. They may harbor badly bruised feelings.
But the relationship will most likely improve.
Research conducted by Karen Fingerman, Ph.D., at Penn State, found that 80 percent to 90 percent of midlife women reported good relationships with their mothers (http://www.psu.edu/ur/2001/motherdaughterconfct.html).
Meanwhile, mothers must set boundaries with their grown daughters. Mom doesnt need to cave in to her daughters every wish.
She doesnt need to be subjected to verbal tirades.
Mothers can have their own lives, friends and interests. They can say no without guilt and still be close to their girls.
While many women seek to be friends with their daughters, their relationship is always more involved. Friendships form because two people share similar interests. Theyre also specific: We have one set of friends in our book group, another at the gym.
But mothers and daughters are never in the same stage of life together. Their relationship is based on an inherent hierarchy of generations, differing backgrounds and experiences. Mothers also feel an overarching concern for the well-being of their daughters that transcends even the closest of friendships.
There is nothing they wont do to ensure their daughters health and happiness.
TIPS FOR MOTHERS
Demonstrate mutual respect. Dont confuse intimacy with unacceptable language. There is never a time to be rude or verbally aggressive. Be on your best behavior whenever youre together.
Resolve conflicts productively. Its natural that youre going to occasionally disagree, but launching into tirades is never acceptable. Stay calm. Address the issue. Reach a workable conclusion.
Schedule fun times together. Plan outings. Get pedicures. Take a cooking class. Youll have lots to talk about, and youll show you care.
Call before coming over. Its invasive to pop in on someone unannounced. Always check to be sure your presence is welcome.
Respect primary relationships. Dont allow mother-daughter time to interfere with your or your daughters marriage.
Establish traditions. Celebrate your birthdays at the same restaurant every year. Attend an annual yoga retreat together. Traditions give you something to look forward to and help cement a close relationship.
Its OK to say no. Your daughter may have plans that seem exorbitant to you. Dont feel pressured. Decide what youre willing to do, then state your case. Youre in control.
Limit contact. Occasional phone calls or texts are great. But you neednt be connected multiple times throughout the day. Decide on a specific time to communicate. Let that be enough.
Dont give advice. Be judicious about stating your opinion. Even when its asked for, its not always wanted.
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit http://lindalewisgriffith.com.