Navigating Mother-Daughter Relationships

Mother-daughter relationships can be complex and diverse, as they are influenced by various factors such as individual personalities, different life experiences, and one’s own hopes and expectations. These relationships can be both incredibly rewarding and challenging at times. 

If you are reading this article, you are likely to be wondering how to improve your relationship with your mother and/or daughter. We understand that there may be a desire, and a hope, to build a stronger and more open relationship, but sometimes it’s difficult to navigate and you may not know where to start. So why is it so difficult to have a good relationship with someone who you are supposed to know so well? 

Mothers and daughters belong to different generations, where growing up in different time periods inevitably means different societal expectations and norms. These generational differences can sometimes lead to misunderstandings or clashes in values and beliefs.

For my mum and I, our childhood experiences were so different. She grew up with six other siblings in a village home and parents who were not always around. When she became a mother, she made it her life to take care of us, from driving us everywhere to packing our lunches every day. She focused on getting her children educated and finding their own way in life. 

Mother-daughter relationships can be characterized by intense emotional bonds. These can create a strong sense of closeness and support, but can also lead to heightened emotions and conflicts. Often we expect more from the people who we are very close to, whether conscious or unconscious. When these expectations are unmet, it can lead to disappointment, frustration and resentment. Many mothers revolve their life around their children when they are young and the children get used to this way of interacting.

This was definitely my mother. However, in recent years after my dad passed away, she has found her own independence through hobbies that she never had before. She diversified her focus from her adult children to include other activities such as hiking and dancing. This took me a while to adjust to the new norm. Why didn’t she drop everything to be with me anymore? This was a point of conflict for some time, partly because I took it to mean that she no longer cared. It took a few meaningful conversations for both of us to express our own emotions in order for the other to understand the meaning behind our actions. 

Mothers often play a crucial role in shaping their daughters’ identities. However, this influence can sometimes create tension when daughters strive to establish their own individuality and independence. There may be layers of resentment from one or both parties buried so deep that it surfaces in later life as anger and/or avoidance. Many adult daughters feel like their mothers can be overly critical and prefer to avoid regular contact. They don’t know how to communicate with their mothers without feeling triggered. 

Effective communication is vital in any relationship, and mother-daughter relationships are no exception. Differences in communication styles and patterns can lead to misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and even strained relationships.

Mothers and daughters are also often going through very different life transitions given the age difference, such as adolescence, marriage, childbirth, career changes, becoming empty nesters, menopause, retirement, or losing their partner, any of which can significantly impact the relationship. Adjusting to these transitions can be challenging for both parties and may require open and honest communication to navigate successfully.

Despite the complexities, mother-daughter relationships have the potential for immense love, understanding and growth. It is important to remember that conflict is a normal part of any relationship, that it is possible to work through any conflict in a constructive manner. 

Tips for improving mother-daughter relationships

1.      Identify patterns: Look for patterns in the conflict, such as specific triggers or recurring issues. By identifying patterns and triggers, both parties can work towards a resolution that addresses the underlying issues and emotions with more clarity, but this will take time and practice. 

2.      Consider individual perspectives: Each person has their own perspectives and experiences, and elements of these differences may be shaping the conflict. It is critical for each party to carefully listen to the other’s perspectives in order to understand where the other person is coming from.

3.      Communication: Having open and honest communication. Try to express your feelings and listen to each other without interruption. Start sentences with “I feel…” instead of “You …” in order to step away from blame or judgment and get closer to sharing how we feel.

4.      Boundaries: Setting healthy boundaries can help prevent conflicts and misunderstandings. Encourage both parties to respect each other’s boundaries and communicate them clearly.

5.      Forgiveness: Forgiveness is essential in any relationship. Encourage both parties to forgive each other for past mistakes and tensions, and to move forward with renewed trust and a clearer roadmap on how to navigate future issues together. 

Ultimately, open communication, empathy, and a willingness to acknowledge and address these complexities can help foster healthier and more fulfilling relationships between mothers and daughters. This can take time and practice, so be patient and have the mindset to gradually change the relationship through healthier habits.