My mother wanted me to be her wings, to fly as she never quite had the courage to do. I love her for that.
I love the fact that she wanted to give birth to her own wings” Erica Jong
The relationship with our mothers is the most primal and intimate one we will have because we are literally created through them. To be physically close, however, does not translate to emotional closeness.
There is an expectation that we should have a good relationship with our mother. Those with a toxic or unhealthy relationship with their mother admit to loving them even when they do not like them.
It feels sacrilegious to say or think negatively about our mothers. Society tells us that we should love our mothers no matter what.
Women who come to see me with 'mother issues', always preface their discussion by saying, 'I love her but', or 'I know she did the best she could but...'
Many women struggle to juggle their feeling of resentment toward their mother and guilt that they feel this way.
We can love our mothers and still acknowledge the inadequate mothering we received growing up. Inadequate mothering can include neglect, physical and emotional abuse, denying or ignoring sexual abuse, abandonment, severe criticism, and projecting that you're never good enough.
In fact, we need to give ourselves permission to look at and admit the inadequate mothering we experienced if we are going to heal effectively.
Growing up, I resented my mother and there was a lot of conflict in our relationship. I didn't really act out as such but I was extremely passive-aggressive towards her.
The conflict with my mother began when we met for the first time. I was nine years old and I did not realise that I had so much anger towards her.
Many of you know that I was separated from my mother at the age of one for eight years.
During those years, I experienced chronic physical and emotional abuse. My mother was meant to protect me against the ravishes of the world, but I was defenseless against the abuse I received and I hated her for this.
My deep trauma and abandonment wound meant I blamed her for all the bad things that happened to me and throughout my teens, I rebelled. I wanted to punish her for leaving me for so long and I wanted her to feel my pain.
At the time, my mother did not have the awareness that my actions were only a cry for help and because I was hurting. She pushed back and was overly critical and defensive toward me. The tussle continued for many years as my grudge deepened.
Although trauma played a big part in the conflict with my mother, writer Megan Glosson identifies 5 common causes of conflict in mother-daughter relationships.
5 Common Causes of Mother-Daughter Conflict
According to Margarita Tartakovsky with PsychCentral, it can be hard for daughters to develop their own individual identities at times due to the nature of most mother-daughter relationships. In fact, many mother-daughter relationships involve enmeshment, where the mother lives through her daughter. Just like other power struggles, an enmeshed mother-daughter relationship can involve lots of conflict because daughters want to break free, yet mums worry that they will lose themselves if their daughters build their own separate identities.
In these cases, mothers and daughters need to learn how to separate themselves in a healthy, balanced way. While neither needs to completely cut themselves off from the other, both mums and daughters need to find a healthy balance.
As girls grow up, they push for independence. However, many mums fall into patterns where they plan everything out for their children, sometimes to the point where they become controlling parents. While most mums do this because they genuinely believe it's in their daughter's best interest, Peg Streep of Psychology Today notes that this sends a message to the daughter that she's inadequate and helpless. Eventually, almost all daughters want to break out of this and gain their independence, which means that mums who plan out everything from clothing to extracurricular activities for their daughters may encounter lots of conflicts. It becomes a power struggle, and if not handled effectively, it can lead to a lifetime of conflicts over everything that involves planning and control.
3. Denied Needs
Unfortunately, we live in a society that often silences women and fails to meet their needs. When this social construct spills over into households, Rosjke Hasseldine of Counseling Today says that it sets the stage for mother-daughter conflicts. Because both the mother and daughter feel unseen and unheard, an either-or dynamic occurs. In other words, because mums and daughters feel like their emotional needs aren't being met, they're determined to fight for the attention and support they need even if it's at the other's expense. This belief that both a mother's and daughter's needs can't be met simultaneously can also set the stage for other battles.
This dynamic can cause mothers to resort to emotional manipulation, or it can make daughters feel like they need to be mind readers to make their mothers happy. At the end of the day, all of this just leads to more conflict.
Unlike relationships with sons that involve more shared activities, mother-daughter relationships typically include lots of talking because women are more talkative by nature. Because of this, mother-daughter relationships are bound to encounter conflicts eventually, many times due to overcommunication or an abundance of verbal expression. In other words, both mums and daughters say things that offend each other eventually because they're just talking so much. However, the experts at VeryWell Family say that this issue can easily be avoided if mums and daughters try doing activities together from time to time to develop their bond in different ways. While this doesn't always avoid conflicts entirely, it can help keep both distracted if a difficult conversation does come up during their time together.
In cases where the daughter is the oldest child, mums can sometimes heavily rely on their daughter's help with caring for the house and younger siblings. Daughters take on a caretaker role and can even become the acting head of the household in some situations. However, this overreliance can cause lots of resentment for the daughter, especially as she grows up and realises what's going on. While this type of relationship doesn't mean that the mother is incapable or even unloving, it can take years to work through and reach a stage where conflict no longer occurs because of it. Although some mother-daughter conflicts are unavoidable, you can cut down on the number of arguments that spring up with your daughter or even your own mother just by learning about these common conflicts.
It's also important to remember that many of us were parented by untreated trauma survivors who did their best but whose best was shite. That legacy of another generation's childhood trauma is triggered when they’re faced with people at the same age they were when they were abused, neglected, triangulated, surrogated, victimised, and the list goes on. So it’s without a doubt that their best was crap.
Daughters don’t do what mothers tell them, they tend to model what they see & internalise what they hear said about them.
The good news is that many of my clients admit to coming to therapy because they do not want to repeat the unhealthy experience they had with their mother with their own children.
It's important to note that you can still heal your relationship with your mother even if she has passed.
To continue your work on the mother-daughter relationship, join me on Sunday 22nd of May from 10 am - 11.30 am for my online workshop, Healing the Mother-Daughter Relationship.
Alternatively, if you prefer to do this process at your own pace and time, check out my self-paced version in the link below.
To continue your work on boundaries, join my self-paced Boundary Course my self-paced version