“We have to highlight the ways women perpetuate and sustain patriarchal culture.”
Hello Hey there!
I hope you are all doing well.
Mother daughter relationships are a complex phenomenon that most women I have come across seem to be able to relate to. Quite often, I think there is a perceived pressure on these relationships to be “perfect” and both mother and daughter to be each other’s best friends.
For a long time my relationship with my mother was very conflict ridden. My brothers would often describe our arguments as ‘nuclear wars’. It is only recently that I have started to have a much more positive relationship with my mother. I think it needed time, space, age and maturity to change.
From what I can tell, society puts a huge amount of pressure on mother-daughter relationships to be perfect, for them both to be each other's best friends, to go on spa dates together and to gossip together. Yet, in reality, most mother-daughter relationships are not like this. More often than not there are complicated dynamics filled with conflict and anger, yet at the same time they are often filled with a huge amount of love too.
So why are these relationships often so difficult?... Especially if most mothers and daughters would agree that love is central to their relationship. This is a complex question and will no doubt vary massively in each case but there are certainly some common themes and issues in a lot of mother daughter relationships. However, what I found really interesting throughout my research was the impact the patriarchy has on these relationships which I had never previously considered to be a factor that impacts these relationships.
One factor that contributes to the difficult dynamics between mother and daughter is how the patriarchy puts a huge amount of pressure on the mother to be the perfect mother. The expectations on her are quite often far higher than on the man in the family. ‘Hands on Dads' are celebrated and are even seen as ‘sexy' yet being a present mother is just a normal expectation of women. Women are expected to carry out most of the unpaid labour at home. Another way this is shown is how society accepts absent fathers - whether that is for work or other reasons- yet when a mother is absent this is far more controversial. Even women will criticise other women for working too much and not being at home with the children.The mother is also expected to hold the family together; the bar is far higher for the mother than the father. All of these factors therefore put pressure on mothers to be the “perfect” mother, and contribute to their lack of self love as they feel they can never live up to these unrealistic expectations which can affect the relationship with their daughters.
Mothers can put a lot of pressure on daughters to be “perfect”. Following some research I have found that quite often the mother is putting the expectations of her generation onto her daughter. This is because the patriarchy certainly used to expect women to be successful but not too successful, attractive but not too attractive, strong but not too strong in addition to being the “perfect” mother. In other words, women are expected to find the perfect balance in order to be acceptable in society. To some extent this still exists today. Often mothers unconsciously project this onto their daughters; the need for them to be “perfect” if they have not yet done the work to unpack this aspect of existing within the patriarchy. This can have adverse impacts on the daughter’s image of herself and therefore her self esteem as she can never achieve “perfection”. This in turn makes her feel like she is never good enough for her mother, causing conflict. If the daughter remains disempowered and does not unpack this trauma, it hinders the trauma of her mother being triggered, but if she empowers herself this can be difficult for the mother as she is forced to confront her unhealed pain.
This is especially important when we consider how society has different expectations of young women and it is becoming increasingly normal for women to carve their own path and ignore the pressure to find the “perfect” balance, which can be difficult for mothers to accept. What is acceptable, what a woman can say, do and wear has changed, as women continue to become ever more empowered in the patriarchy. The daughter, sometimes unrealistically, expects her mother to also accept these ideas. When the mother, who is of a different generation takes issue with this, this can cause conflict. In other cases, jealousy is sometimes an issue as the mother sees her daughter being able to do what she could never or was not allowed to do.
To me it seems to be a vicious cycle. Mothers are expected to be perfect by society. Mothers also to some extent expect their daughters to conform and be “perfect”. These women project this onto their daughters… so on and so forth.
So what can we do to help create more peaceful relationships between mothers and daughters?
For me a massive aspect was accepting my mother for how she was and not expecting her to be something she would never be. Time and space also helps.
Therapy can help you unpack the dynamic between mothers and daughters and see the generational trauma that impacts the relationship. Whilst not everyone is open to this or has this available to them, if this is an avenue you can explore I would highly recommend this. The other thing that I found interesting following my research was the importance of self love. Without loving yourself, a mother cannot give her daughter the love, support and guidance she needs. In fact, she will end up projecting her lack of self love onto her daughter. It is also important that the daughter loves herself; not only will this lead to her empowerment but it is also important if the daughter feels she is under a lot of pressure from her mother to be perfect. This will help her cope with this pressure.
Thank you for reading! I know it is a strange topic and this post took a slant I did not expect - I did not realise the impact the patriarchy has on the dynamics between mothers and daughters. I know this is a brief post for such a wide ranging topic and it certainly will not provide the answers to everything. But I hope it has been interesting, and food for thought.
I hope you are all staying happy and healthy.
All my love
Your GINA sister