Author: Martina Jean- Jacques
Jodi Picoult said that ‘the best place to cry is on a mother’s arms’ (House Rules, 2010). What about if some of us do not feel this way, and this is one of the last places that we would feel comfortable in safety and containment? I commonly meet clients in my practice who feel an element of shame, embarrassment and guilt when speaking about their relationship with their mothers. I have frequently had to remind clients that the space is safe, contained, and non-judgemental. I have noticed that the issue of mother-daughter relationships has been arising more frequently lately, so I decided to share some of my thoughts on it.
Throughout my psychotherapy training and practice, I have seen the noticeable imbalance in conversations and recognition of the impacts of the mother-daughter relationship. The closest attempts that I have seen have been an exploration of attachment and the impact on childhood development. Where do you go to explore the possible resentment or guilt that you may be feeling towards your mother? I have felt that it can feel a little taboo to speak about these feelings in relation to our mothers, and culturally it feels very wrong, uncouth, and unappreciative.
Terms like ‘daddy issues’ are thrown around frequently, and ‘mummy issues’ are usually more referenced in terms of the mother-son relationship. It feels more acceptable to talk about absent fathers, or the impact of the father-daughter relationship on our adulthood and relationships.
How can we break down these barriers and make it feel okay to openly acknowledge that not all of us have a great relationship with our mothers? I feel that having these conversations in safe spaces is a great start.
My Personal Experience
I know that I grew up experiencing some difficulties in understanding the relationship with my mother and I am one hundred percent a daddy’s girl (and always will be)! However, me and my mother are now extremely close, having moved into more of a friendship space and I love her so much. Could I have said this when I was younger? Honestly, I do not know, but now there is no question in my mind about this.
However, what I do know is that some mother-daughter relationships can be repaired, explored, and improved to be better. However, this is not easy, it requires a lot of hard internal, and sometimes painful work, but it is possible.
There is also a great power in understanding the transgenerational patterns of parenting that have been passed through generations, and the impact on the current relationship. Some of our mothers were not allowed to express emotions safely but were raised out of a place of survival with no room to sit with emotions. There can be a gap between the expectations and realities of what is offered and received in the mother-daughter relationship.
A book which I have been referring to frequently and has been helpful is The Emotionally Absent Mother by Jasmine Lee Cori (2010). As well as including reflective practices, the book serves to provide a deeper insight into the impacts and realities of being raised by an emotionally absent mother.
My experience so far has taught me that it is ok to have discussions about toxicity, sadness, emotional distance, and negativity in regard to the mother-daughter relationship. This does not make you a bad person, it makes you human for questioning and exploring the value of connection to the mother who made you and the person you have become.
Thank you for reading,
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