Perhaps the biggest change in many mother-daughter relationships comes when the daughter has her first child. Assistant professor of human development at Penn State University Karen Fingerman said age strengthens mother-daughter relationship, partially because of shared experiences like having children.
The reasons for moving into a more positive territory and renewed affection are varied.
- The status of the daughter changes when she becomes a mother. She is emancipated, and it should signal the definitive end to treating her like a child.
- Roles change to some extent when a daughter becomes a mother. As one daughter aptly put it, they became mother and mother.
- There is added understanding and clarity when daughters encounter the intensity of the shared experience of motherhood.
- Daughters tend to seek new guidance from their mothers when they become moms for the first time.
- It is not uncommon for daughters to feel a new and intense period of bonding with their mothers after having a child.
- Toronto family therapists and authors of Goodbye Mother, Hello Woman (New Harbinger Publications, 1995), Marilyn Irwin Boynton and Mary Dell, reveal that often having children provides a wonderful opportunity and impetus for children to reevaluate their mother-daughter relationship. A 28-year-old woman called her mother for months after having her first child to praise her endurance, thank her for her love, and apologize for her own adolescent outrages.
- Daughters appreciate what their own mothers sacrificed to be moms once they, too become a mom.
- Daughters respond positively to the adoration their mothers hold for their grandchildren.
Woman to Woman
Many young moms say they are surprised even startled when they sound like their moms. However, many experts say that we cannot deny that part of our mothering style comes from our own mothers.
Do's and Don'ts for the New Mother's Mother
No doubt you will be feeling pleased and confident, if like so many other young women, your daughter's new role as Mom prompts a show of love and appreciation. Nonetheless, this doesn't give your license to drop all other guidelines. In fact, you best read through the following lists of do's and don'ts to steer clear of potential conflict.
- Do continue to see your daughter as a whole person, not just the mother of your grandchildren.
- Do compliment her on her mothering. Be sincere and look for the positives.
- Do give your daughter a little mothering at this stage. New moms tend to need it.
- Do make time to do adult things with her, not just the baby.
- Do give her support. New mothering can be overwhelming.
- Do listen to her patiently even though she sounds like no one else has ever dealt with an infant and her complaints about no sleep seem trivial. Discussing baby care creates a deeper psychic connection between you and your daughter.
- Do show enthusiasm for all the new things she is encountering in her life.
- Do make constructive suggestions, but only with a great deal of tact and wisdom.
- Don't be surprised when your daughter doesn't do things in the nursery or with her baby the way you did.
- Don't criticize her mothering.
- Don't tell her how to raise her children.
- Don't go against her wishes and do things behind her back that she doesn't want you to do.
- Don't let her baby or her entire brood of kids replace the special person she is or the place she holds in your life.
- Don't put pressure on your daughter to be a stay-at-home mom or a supermom. The choice is hers.
- Do not ever say, "I told you so."
- Don't pour guilt into wounds.
- Do not go to the extremes and either dote on your grandchild relentlessly or neglect him or her either.