The mother-daughter bond is the closest and most emotionally intense of all relationships. But as daughters grow older, the natural evolution of becoming an independent-thinking woman creates a forceful current against that unifying mother-daughter bond. Mothers start out as the primary caregiver and role model for their daughters. Many secretly hope and expect their daughters will turn out just like them. Yet as daughters mature, they must become physically, psychologically and financially independent. In their attempts to carve out their own unique identities, daughters often choose paths that are purposefully different from their mothers.
Daughters often choose paths that are purposefully different from their mothersAdult daughters and their aging mothers can frustrate each other because they have a hard time acknowledging the other has changed over the years. A grown woman may still view her mother as the inflexible disciplinarian who wouldn't let her attend a midnight movie "because I said so." And a mother may have a hard time accepting that her daughter, the girl who once didn't know how to make toast, is now a chef at a four-star restaurant. It's even harder for the mother to accept that as she becomes older and her health declines, her daughter may be cooking meals for her – rather than vice-versa. Mothers are accustomed to teaching and protecting their daughters and may not easily accept that their daughters have grown into smart, competent women who no longer need their mothers' help.
Psychologists have developed dozens of theories to characterize mother-daughter relationships, yet we realize that no two relationships are exactly alike. For starters, we invite readers to take the quiz that follows, which provides some insights into what's good and bad about their mother-daughter relationship. We hope this quiz will help you identify strengths and weak spots in your own relationship.
Daughters: Your mother invites you and your family over for a home cooked dinner. You:
a. tell her you have tickets to see a play with your family that night, even though you don't.
b. agree, but bring a box of macaroni and cheese for your kids, since they don't like her cooking.
c. take a deep breath and grudgingly agree.
d. happily say yes, knowing you'll be treated to a wonderful meal and lively conversation.
Mothers: You've invited your daughter and her family
for dinner and have spent the afternoon preparing your daughter's favorite dish. As you sit down to eat, your daughter brings over a bowl of macaroni and cheese for her kids. You:
a. tell her to take it away immediately and insist your grandkids eat what you prepared.
b. decide to go to your favorite restaurant next time, where everyone can order what they want.
c. let daughter serve the macaroni, but then silently seethe all night because she's hurt your feelings.
d. gently ask your daughter why she felt the need to bring the macaroni and ask if your grandchildren might try some of her cooking as well.
Your daughter laughs it off and does nothing to discipline themDaughters: Your mother has rented a condo in Florida for the month and has invited you and your family to visit for a week. Your children burst into your mother's living room, kick off their boots, and start chasing each other. Your mother tells them to put their boots in the closet and keep their voices down, as not to disturb the neighbors. You:
a. tell your mother that you and your family will never vacation with her again.
b. quietly tell the kids that it's fine if they want to run around for a little while.
c. tell your children that they must obey Grandma's rules when they're at her house and to go outside if they're planning on running around.
d. explain to your mother that your children have been sitting on a plane for four hours and ask if she can allow them to let off some steam.
Mothers: You've invited your daughter and her family to stay with you at your winter condo in Florida for a week. As soon as your grandkids walk in the door, they kick off their boots and start running around and yelling. Your daughter laughs it off and does nothing to discipline them. You:
a. tell your daughter you'll never invite her family to your vacation spot again.
b. tell your grandchildren they need to put away their boots and keep their voices down.
c. say nothing, even if their unruly behavior bothers you. Disciplining your grandchildren is your daughter's job.
d. take your daughter aside and ask if the two of you might come up with some "ground rules" to keep the kids in line when they visit.
Daughters. Your mom comes from out of town to visit for the week. As soon as she walks in your house, she sees a mass of wrinkled towels falling out of your tiny linen closet. Immediately, she starts to re-organize. You:
a. tell her to sit down and stop messing with your stuff.
b. let her go at it, but then run to your husband and complain about how annoying she is.
c. do nothing, since you don't want to hurt her feelings.
d. agree to let her help, provided you can do it together and show her where you like things to go.
Mothers. You are visiting your daughter for the week. As you walk into the house, you see dishes in the sink, and towels spilling out of the linen closet. You:
a. tell your daughter that her house is a mess and she should hire a cleaning woman if she doesn't have the time to straighten up.
b. immediately start cleaning.
c. ignore the mess, since it's your daughter's house and you have no place commenting on how she runs it.
d. tell her that you realize how overwhelmed she is, and ask her if she would like you to help clean her house or offer to pay for a cleaning woman.
A free night out and the children get to see their beloved grandma - what could be better!
Daughters: When your mom offers to babysit, you:
a. tell her you and your husband don't need a sitter. You spend all your leisure time with your children.
b. agree, but give her a list of rules she must follow, including appropriate foods to eat and a bedtime ritual.
c. agree, even though you have a regular, paid babysitter you prefer to use.
d. happily accept. A free night out and the children get to see their beloved grandma - what could be better!
Mothers: When your daughter asks you to babysit you:
a. say "no." You're very busy and don't have the time.
b. reluctantly agree, but tell her it needs to be at your house. You have a better stocked refrigerator and your home is tidier.
c. agree, even though it means giving up your monthly bridge game.
d. happily agree, delighted at the chance to spend time with your grandchildren.
Daughters. You've been dating the man of your dreams for four months, and have finally brought him to your mom's house for dinner. Your mother grills him on why he's a vegetarian, making him squirm and run for the door as soon as dinner is over. You:
a. apologize to your beau, yell at your mother for her insulting behavior, and leave before dessert is served.
b. make light of her behavior, telling your boyfriend not to take her too seriously.
c. say nothing, as not to create any additional tension.
d. take your mother aside and tell her that you'd rather she not interrogate your boyfriend about his dietary preferences.
Mothers. Your daughter calls to tell you she's met the man of her dreams and wants to bring him for dinner. Within the first half-hour he tells you that he's a staunch vegetarian, that "meat is murder," and that he couldn't possibly eat your pot roast. At dinner, he interrupts your daughter and rolls his eyes when she shares her political views. You:
a. let him know firmly that you want him out of your daughter's life.
b. slip your daughter the phone number of your cardiologist's unmarried son.
c. say nothing, and hope your daughter comes to realize what a jerk he is.
d. speak to your daughter privately, gently expressing your concerns about his insensitive behavior.
"You're home so little with the kids as it is. Do you really think you should accept that promotion?" Daughters. You've been named partner at your law firm. You're thrilled and can't wait to share the news with your mother. Her immediate response is: "you're home so little with the kids as it is. Do you really think it's a good idea to accept that promotion?" You:
a. tell her she couldn't possibly understand what's best for you career-wise, since she's never had a real job.
b. block out what she says, and let your mind wander to the thought of your new corner office.
c. quietly agree this will take you away from your family more.
d. let her know you understand her concern and suggest brainstorming together on the best way for your family to adapt to your changing work situation.
Mothers. Your daughter calls you, ecstatic with her good news. She's been named a partner at her law firm. You're worried about the long hours involved, since she already sees her kids so seldom and often seems tired and irritable. You
a. tell her not to accept it; it's a selfish move that will hurt her children.
b. congratulate her and let her know you would have enjoyed a career like hers, but someone had to stay home and take care of the kids.
c. tell her you're proud of her and keep your concerns mum, even though you're worried about how your grandchildren will adjust to her long work hours.
d. applaud her good news and tell her how proud you are of her accomplishment. Then offer to help her adapt to her new work schedule.
Daughters: Congratulations! You've won a weeklong Caribbean cruise for two. The catch? You must take your mother as your guest. You:
a. say "no thanks." Even tropical breezes and margaritas on the lido deck couldn't get you to spend a week captive with your mother.
b. agree to go, but tell your mother to hang out with the seniors at the shuffleboard deck, while you sun yourself by the pool.
c. agree to go, even though you don't want to. How bad can it be?
d. jump at the chance! What a nice way to spend uninterrupted time with your mother, in wonderful surroundings.
Mothers: Congratulations! You've won a weeklong Caribbean cruise for two. The catch? You must take your daughter as your guest. You:
a. say "no thanks." Even tropical breezes and margaritas on the lido deck couldn't get you to spend a week captive with your daughter.
b. agree to go, but tell your daughter to hang out with the other young people by the pool, while you enjoy cards with your peers.
c. agree to go, even though you don't want to. How bad can it be?
d. jump at the chance! What a nice way to spend uninterrupted time with your daughter, in wonderful surroundings.
What kind of mother-daughter relationship do you have?
If you answered mostly A's… You're the "Dueling Daughter." You'd rather have a root canal than spend the afternoon with your mother. You two bicker often, and you tend to snap at her, interpreting her advice as criticism. Your challenge is to develop patience and not judge every word out of your mother's mouth; she may just surprise you with valuable insights, if only you'll let her.
If you answered mostly B's…You're the "Dismissive Daughter." You rarely insult or fight with your mother, but your actions are often hurtful. You'll do what you think is right, often with little regard for how she feels. Your challenge is to think about the consequences of your actions, and ask yourself how you would feel if your children quietly did the opposite of what you advised.
If you answered mostly C's…You're the "In-Denial Daughter." Even though your mother's questions and advice annoy you occasionally, you fear conflict so you'll hold your tongue when you're upset. If you continue to sweep things under the rug, rather than openly confront your mother about how you feel, you'll have a relationship marked by frustration and dishonesty. Your challenge is to develop the courage to share your thoughts with your mother.
If you answered mostly D's… Congratulations, you're the "Divine Daughter." This is as good as it gets. You're the accepting, loving daughter who views her mother more as a friend than an authority figure. You appreciate your mother for who she is. When you disagree with her suggestions, you tactfully share your feelings and keep the lines of communication open. Your goal is to share the secrets of your success with other women in your life.
If you answered mostly A's… you're the "Maligning Mom" You often feel like you've given birth to an alien, and can't understand why your daughter behaves as she does. Rather than just accepting her the way she is, you feel the need to barrage her with advice. Although your intentions may be good, your words end up hurting your daughter and making her snap back. Your challenge is to develop patience and not condemn everything your daughter does or says. She may just surprise you with her good judgment and competence, if only you'll let her.
If you answered mostly B's… you're the "Meddling Mom." You seldom insult or pick fights with your daughter, but your actions speak louder than words. By dismissing your daughter's feelings or opinions and doing what you think is right, you send the message that she's not a competent adult. Even though you want what's best for her and often choose your words carefully, your actions may be hurtful. Your challenge is to think about the consequences of your actions, and ask yourself how you would feel if your own mother quietly did things that undermined your authority and credibility.
If you answered mostly C's… you're the "Mum Mom," afraid anything you say will be interpreted as judgmental or critical by your daughter. You feel it's not your place to tell your daughter what you think. You're afraid to share your concerns, so you often seethe silently. Your challenge is to develop the courage to be open and honest with your daughter, yet do so in a way that won't offend her.
If you answered mostly D's… Congratulations, you're the "Model Mom" You share your concerns in an empathetic way that's helpful, not judgmental or critical. You openly appreciate your daughter's good traits, and treat her more like a friend than as the child you've raised. Your challenge is to help your friends and sisters achieve the kind of relationship you have with your daughter.