Tuesday 16 October 2012

Mothers and daughters

Our mothers are our first mirrors, they have the eyes we seek, the love we need, the touch we crave. But what if they are aloof, distracted, angry, grieving, anxious, unsupported AND in pain? It's hard not to take it personally. But that's what we do in the modern world.  Take it all on. As daughters, we are very susceptible to our mothers,  AND there's a big chance we'll end up mothering, just like them. Or even avoid motherhood altogether.
The modern mother-daughter relationship is intense, often too intense for both parties: boundaries are blurred, co-dependence abounds, and roles reverse chaotically. Pity the daughter who has to search herself to find the way to mother her own daughter.
So what would make a mother a positive mirror? What would she need to be able to connect, love, enjoy, play, as well as nurture her darling daughter?
The answer is  easily found in ancient women's business, where the child is loved and nurtured by all those around her. In effect, she has a wide selection of mirrors, rather than the singular. Imagine the freedom in that for both mother and daughter. Mother would not be isolated, anxious, or over burdened, but rather she would have the support of a strong base and a sense of belonging to the community of women, who understand what women need. And the daughter therefore would be less dependent on her, moving freely from one set of arms to another.
Too idealistic you say. I think not. We have ancient women's business in our genes: we love to get together, laugh and share. We just need to make an effort to create community wherever we are so that our daughters will feel safe and protected from the intensity of the modern mother/daughter realtionship and then their daughters and their daughters......
Want to give it ago. Tell us what you would do first.


  1. Denise, thanks for posting this. I can see exactly what you are saying. I can also so how I mother like my mother in many ways but I also made the conscious choice to mother in a different way with my son to break the cycle of emotional absence. My son is very compassionate and affectionate and so I hope the cycle has been broken.

  2. Hi Denise,

    You pose a very interesting solution to such a personal issue that all mothers find themselves in. I can see how growing up within a community of mother-figures could offer a nurturing upbringing for a girl, but I also believe that each woman has her own voice and personality that each daughter looks to identify to. Therefor, I feel that it is most important that the birth mother or main mother figure remain the central focus for the girl to look upon for guidance and inspiration on how to grow up as a woman.


  3. Thank you so much Catrice. What a fortunate son you have. And thank you Esti for entering the conversation. As a psychologist working with girls with Eating Disodrs, I have witnessed the negatives in the identification process with mothers/surrogates. What I discovered in ancient women's communities is less negatives. Less burden on the mother to be the singular role model of womanhood. More aunties and a variety of role models. My discovery/experience propelled me into writing my book "Finding Artemisia: a journey into ancient women's business" It's very sympathetic to modern motherhood but also reveals some ancient gems that modern communities could benefit from. It's become a cliche to say it takes a village to raise a child, but nonetheless the truth remains. Many thanks for your wise comments Denise