A long time ago I told my girls, “I’m definitely not perfect so I am definitely going to screw up at being a mom sometimes! All that I ask is for you to let me know if I do. I will apologize and take you to therapy if you need it. There you can confidentially share all the things I’ve done to fuck up your childhood. But please please don’t allow my mistakes to hold you back from pursuing everything in life you deserve.” This was my response to their mom critiques. Why are our daughters so critical of mothers and vice versa? Toxic patterns? Did we subliminally teach them to be this way? Do we still need to work at correcting the mistakes of generational feminism and old social norms? Let’s dig deeper to find ways to bridge the gaps.
ADORING TOTS TO ADMONISHING TEENS
They love us with sweet adoration until the teen years set in. All moms get this I’m sure. The way the young daughters want to grow up just like us. Mom is her mentor, who she aspires to be. She wants to wear our heels and wear our makeup, help with domestic duties, and on. Mine spoiled me with handpicked dandelion bouquets, hand-made pictures and cards and tokens of adoration (you name it). They admired me more than any human in this world. I felt like I had it all together like the queen of her kingdom.
Then somehow, as they reach their teen years, they become critical of what we wear, what we say, how we look, how we drive and the meals we prepare. They seem to know better than we do suddenly. Once they told us how pretty we were and now they say, “You can’t wear converse shoes mom! No offense but aren’t you a little old for that?” I was cool and hip once, now the same fashion from my youth, I’m too old to wear? Since when did “dice on mom” become the new norm and I become fair game to criticism? They want to be the opposite of me and everything I taught them. When did I stop being the cool mom and convert to nerd mom?
Mothers and Feminism
In the book written by Harriet Lerner PhD, on Mothers and Daughters, she dives further into patriarchy and it’s deeper effects on women as mothers. She has a quote that resounded with me. “Under Patriarchy, female possibility has been literally massacred on the site of motherhood.” This really resided with me as I think back to generations of women in my own lineage.
My grandmother raised 5 children as a widow, while working as a telephone operator. My own mother divorced and raised 4 daughters while getting a masters degree in microbiology and working and managing a restaurant. I now follow them having raised 3 daughters while owning my own business.
Three generations of women working and raising children with no male partnership or no male financial support. Yet I recognized the female condemning mindset. Mothers in their own struggles set the bar higher for their daughters. Could it be that they know what they must be prepared for if marriage and the stay-at-home mom options fail? I know this is my own mindset. Plan for the best and prepare for the worst. Get your education or trade certification for a living wage you can earn. Save. Have your own home and assets. Go for your dreams!
Dreams for our Daughters
As I review my own life struggles to be heard and seen and accepted as I am, the pursuit for each generation is the same. We as women want the same freedom to be whatever we choose. To be free to follow our own footpath, not necessarily our mothers in some generational competition.
In fact, my kids once called me out on my deficiency with their math homework and my reply was simply, “It’s my intention that I raise you to be more educated than me. I have accomplished my goals.”
The critical push from the past has been replaced with encouraging words and reward systems. The parenting model shifts to teaching our daughters from the stories of our generational struggles. More nurturing during struggle, rather than consequential. Life obstacles seem punishing enough.
So we push our daughters to dream big and pursue interests that were more closed off to women of generations before. Then as they become larger than life, they push back against us a little bit more.
I feel the push to do my own dreaming, pursue things I never had and we can all applaud each other’s accomplishments. It’s healthy competition really. Not the debilitating comparisons or trying to one-up each other while tearing each other down.
Admiration over Admonishing
I observed that when I criticize myself, my body, my beauty and my value, that I am teaching my daughters to do the same to themselves and others. We have to show and administer self-love as the component model for our daughters.
When a child hears her mother criticize herself it’s as if she’s sending the same messages to her daughter. What we don’t like in ourselves often exists in them. So if we won’t tell them they are ugly or fat or stupid, why do we say these things to ourselves?
When we truly accept ourselves and focus on our own growth and celebrate our accomplishments, we seem to encourage each other even more. As we admire our daughters, we can also be proud of their accomplishments. We’re raising them to dream their own dreams and be their own authentic selves. As we reach back to lift them to spaces to continue to shatter the glass ceilings of the generations of the past, they too reach back and show us more progress than we’ve never known or dreamed.