Let’s talk mothers and daughters. We are only about 11 weeks in and I can tell my relationship with Ava is going to be the most impactful. She has already pushed and stretched me beyond the limits I thought I had in all ways. I thought bringing her into the world would be the most challenging part, however, I’ve learned that her delivery was preparation for the emotional leveling up that is needed.
All of my relationships, especially the one I have with myself, have been shifted. I see them all differently now, specifically my relationship with my mother. It’s been humbling to take time to reflect on the ways the mother-daughter relationship changes over the years. To see decisions I am making as mother and wonder how my mother navigated challenges with me and my sister.
Research shows that the mother-daughter dynamic can be the most tricky. There are so many factors involved. Did you know that there are 8 toxic patterns in mother-daughter relationships?
1) Dismissive: Daughters raised by dismissive mothers doubt the validity of their own emotional needs. They feel unworthy of attention and experience deep, gut-wrenching self-doubt, all the while feeling intense longing for love and validation.
2) Controlling: These mothers micromanage their daughters, actively refuse to acknowledge the validity of their words or choices, and instill a sense of insecurity and helplessness in their offspring.
3) Unavailable: emotionally unavailable mothers, those who activ
ely withdraw at a daughter’s approach or who withhold love from one child while granting it to another, inflict a different kind of damage. These behaviors can include lack of physical contact (no hugging, no comforting); unresponsiveness to a child’s cries or displays of emotion, and her articulated needs as she gets older; and, of course, literal abandonment.
4) Enmeshed: These mothers do not acknowledge any kind of boundary between them, their definition of self, and their children. In this case, the daughter’s need for love and attention facilitates a maternal chokehold, exploiting human nature in the service of another goal. These women are classic “stage mothers” and live through their children’s achievements, which they both demand and encourage.
5) Combative: These mothers never acknowledge their behaviors, and they are usually quite careful about displaying them in public. Included in this group are the mothers who actively denigrate their daughters, are hypercritical, intensely jealous of, or competitive with their offspring.
6) Unreliable: This is, in many ways, the hardest behavior for a daughter to cope with because she never knows if the “good mommy” or the “bad mommy” will show up. All children form mental images of what relationships in the real world look like based on their connections to their mothers; these daughters understand emotional connection to be fraught, precarious, and even dangerous.
7) Self-involved: This mother sees her daughter—if she sees her at all—as an extension of herself and nothing more. Unlike the enmeshed mother who is intently and smotheringly focused on her child, this mother carefully controls her involvement as it suits her own self-reflection.
8) Role-reversed: The scenario in which the daughter, even at a young age, becomes the helper, the caretaker, or even “the mother” to her own mother. Sometimes, this pattern emerges when the mother has children very young and more of them than she can actually handle.
There are even therapists who specialize in mother/daughter relationships. Many of the patterns that create difficulty between mothers and daughters can be recognized through generations. Spotting them is a major key in eliminating unhealthy patterns and creating new, healthy ones.