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Mothers, Be Good To Your Daughters

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According to our expert Jill Spivack, your relationship with your daughter could help define who she is as a mother:

two women

Becoming a mother brings up all kinds of feelings and reactions that are based on your past experiences with your own parents. It's important for young moms to take a look at their relationship with their own mother. What kind of role model was she for you? What was your early relationship like? This helps you as a new mom see the strengths you wish to emulate, as well as some of the ways your own mom let you down. You may be trying to recreate a new kind of relationship with your own child based on the way you felt about your own childhood. This will affect how you mother your baby: how you make decisions such as the way to set limits, or how much to allow your child to "separate" and "individuate." Your past relationship with your mother will also affect how you feel about yourself as a mom and how you will set up your family life.

Some women feel they are destined to repeat the automatic patterns of their mothers, while others actively reject who they were and try to create something very different. I always warn women who had either a very overly protective parent OR a very neglectful one to be careful not to swing the pendulum too far in the other direction, which can be equally as damaging to their own child. Sometimes talking with a counselor can be helpful in making sure to find the right balance between coddling or pushing toward too much independence.

Other moms begin to feel more empathy toward their mothers when they realize the challenges of parenting, or they may become increasingly angry as they reflect on their unmet needs. If women are so lucky as to be able to talk directly with their mothers about their feelings and reactions, oftentimes the relationship can grow and flourish in a way that it never had in the past. Sometimes, grandmothers realize some of the ways they would have parented differently if they could do it all over again, and can make up for some of the past hurts when they enter the role as grandparent. They may be able to mother their child better than they did when she was young or nurture their grandchildren more lovingly than they were able to as a parent. This can be really healing for a mother who may have had some past hurts about the way she was parented.

If possible, it's always nice for grandmothers to "mother the mother." That means being as supportive, nurturing and respectful as possible when their daughters become mothers (and beyond). Empathy, understanding and even hands-on help will help tremendously through this transition. Letting your adult child know you're available and willing to help without any preconditions can help make the experience smooth and meaningful for everyone, and bring you closer than ever before.

next: What You Need to Know About the HPV Vaccine
2 comments so far | Post a comment now
ashley January 4, 2009, 9:14 AM

I have two wonderful parents. They were a little overprotective and they gave us only what we needed and very little more, even though they could’ve, because they didn’t want us to be spoiled. Their overprotectiveness caused me to really stray and do some really stupid things. Like have a baby at 20. I always said I would be nothing like my mother. But after I had my first I became just like her. Our relationship became stronger than ever the day my son was born. I call her every day and I do things almost exactly as she does. I spoil my kids though, because I know how bad I felt when my cousin had 20 Barbies and I had 1. I don’t want my kids to ever feel like that.

Dorothy Stahlnecker January 4, 2009, 7:02 PM

Your post is wonderful I’m a 62 year old grandma with seven grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren. And you are on the money my daughter and I talk about our journey as like mother like self. I enjoyed your point of view so will Sherry..

Dorothy from grammology

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