Monday, May 11, 2015

Summarizing the Struggles between Mothers and Daughters

In the field of pithy summaries of very complex phenomena, I give you a champion from linguist Deborah Tannen:
Mothers want to protect their daughters, so they offer advice that they think will make their daughters' lives easier. Daughters, on the other hand, want approval from their mothers, so they interpret this advice as criticism, as proof that they're imperfect.


G. Verloren said...

That quote puts entirely all the blame on the daughters. I'm assuming Ms. Tannen is a mother?

Of course it is demonstrably untrue. My best friend has the exact opposite relationship with her mother - her mother is the one hung up on imperfection, while the daughter works to makes her mom's life easier, but they have a healthy and happy relationship, which is more than I can say for most women I know.

Many women are just not good mothers. They may have any number of crippling flaws, even various undiagnosed mental illnesses, and their motivations are not always pure or noble or moral.

Some women treat children as possessions or as toys. Some women live vicariously through their children. Some women emotionally and mentally manipulate their offspring for selfish purposes. Some women ignore their children. Some women are incompetant or otherwise incapable of rearing children. Some women bully their children because they themselves are bullied by others. Some women are scared of their children. And on and on and on.

My own mother was a personally unfulfilled homemaker who had an unhappy childhood and became an alcoholic in an attempt to cope. My significant other's mother was abandoned as a child, and still struggles with severe anxiety and fears that her own children will leave her forever if they leave for more than a few days. Most of my closest friends come from broken families with unhappy mothers - one a timid victim of emotional domestic abuse, another a trusting victim of cuckoldry, et cetera.

Broken people make poor parents, and yet they're everywhere, passing down the legacy of pain and suffering, giving their own children the gifts of insecurity and neurosis they themselves received as children. A cycle of violence and sickness that goes largely unnoticed - it seems the world would rather believe the fantasy version of motherhood they get in their laundry detergent commercials, and which makes so much money for the commercial sector on the second Sunday of May.

leif said...

i really enjoy your responses. thanks