Last week, I postulated that a woman’s relationship with her mother makes or breaks her ability to navigate female friendships successfully. This week we explore the potentially volatile topic: Should mothers and their adult daughters be friends?
I’ve got an angle on this question that may put a new complexion on it.
In a perfect world, a girl’s mother should be her first, best, lifelong friend. You came from her body. She loved you, breastfed you, changed your nappies and tucked you up each night. You probably inherited her figure! There’s nothing she didn’t know about you when you were little.
So why are there so many women who say, ‘I love my mum but we have flaming rows’? What has gone so wrong between us and the woman who gave us life? Why have I found my own attempts at friendship with my own mother to be so full of irritations, frustrations and pain that I fear befriending any other women.
This is the crux:
To be her daughter’s friend, a woman must know when to switch off the mothering and transition into treating her daughter with the same boundaries and respect she would give any other adult woman.
This is hard for a woman who has spent years following her instinct to nurture her baby. It takes concerted effort to transition into seeing her daughter as a separate, distinct woman. To treat her like a peer and an equal. An adult woman with the same boundaries as any other adult woman.
Where a woman would never dream of enquiring into her girlfriend’s monthly cycles, reproduction or sex life, a mother will question her grown daughter about these very things and become very offended if her daughter demurs.
I’ve had some memorable rows with my own mother when she blithely romped over, through and around my natural boundaries. The wounds are still raw on both sides. She maintains that because her reproductive choices resulted in me she should have entrée into all the details of my reproductive health and sex life. I maintain she doesn’t.
While she feels free to enquire into my marriage, into Rhys and my sex life and loudly passes judgement on my choices in clothing and hair, she would never do this to any of her other female friends.
With her not-blood-relative friends, she’s always complimentary and not intrusive. She’s a good friend and has many ladies who enjoy her society. But the respect she shows those women has never extended to me and my sister. Somehow the bond of blood, in her mind, dissolves even basic courtesy.
In her mind, we remain perennial children and she our perpetual mother when what we need and want is a lovely, respectful female friend. A peer in every way.
Once your daughter(s) reaches adulthood, Mothers all, you must make a decision: are you her mother or are you her friend? She doesn’t need a mother anymore, but she probably wants you to be her friend. If you try to play both at once, you’ll fail at both and your toxic ‘friendship’ will poison your daughter against befriending any other women.
Be her friend – but treat her exactly as you would treat any other female friend. Treat her as an equal. Treat her with just as much respect and appropriate boundaries as you would any other adult woman.
That would be a truly enviable female friendship.