As well as learning from your mother how to express yourself as a female, your mother teaches you about love, parenting, sex and femininity. Her beliefs about how things should be, are handed down to you, nearly always with the expectation you will follow in her footsteps. It is important to remember your mother was also a daughter. She has been shaped by her mother and grandmother and the woman who came before her.
Mothers and Daughters: The guide to understanding and transforming the relationship with your mother details how we learn the roles of daughter and mother progressively in childhood. The common gender of mother and daughter intensifies the bond. The daughter role is the frame around which our behaviour as a woman is learned. Even in this day and age daughters are generally encouraged to play with dolls and play at being a mother adopting the matriarchal role.
If our mothers are over needy and dependent on us, we learn the role of caretaker early on, performing duties out of step with a child’s natural development. The responsibility to ‘mother’ our mother, impacts how we feel about ourselves and as a result we deny our own childhood needs. The role of caretaker becomes the place we operate from, not only in the mother-daughter relationship, but also by caring for siblings, other family members and later on in life in our intimate relationships. We forget who we are and may run the belief 'I don't matter', 'I'm not good enough', 'no one will ever love me', 'it's wrong to share how i'm feeling' etc.
Leanne Case Study
Leanne came to me for support with assertiveness and improving confidence in relationships
Leanne shared with me how she felt she had to give up her own needs to be loved and accepted by her mum. She recognised in our work together she was carrying the pattern of putting other people’s needs before her own in friendships and significant other relationships. She felt unable to express her desires as she believed it was selfish to do so and also because she feared criticism or rejection, expecting others to treat her in the way her mother had.
Through exploring her past, her current relationships and her future aims, it became much clearer to Leanne how she was self-sabotaging in her relationships, by not speaking up assertively or setting healthy personal boundaries. Using The Spotlight Process and EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique - see Chapter Six in Mothers and Daughters) she was able to resolve much of her frustration in relation to her mother and in doing so improved her confidence to end those relationships which weren’t serving her - and to look afresh as to what was possible for her in the future. When Leanne was able to recognise her default behaviours and limiting beliefs, she no longer responded in the same way when others were inconsiderate of her needs and opinions, she became able to voice her point of view assertively and in doing so many of her relationships improved.
Nothing is set in stone or cast in steel. When one person in a relationship changes their default behaviour and responses, others will change too or they will fall away if the relationship no longer serves their needs. This is part of life and learning and as we change so do our relationships.
Much of what we learn about role representation and relationships, specifically significant other relationships, is taught to us by our mothers through witnessing and modelling our behaviours based on their marriage, partnerships and communications with others. Some of our mother’s patterns and beliefs may well become our own based on this early conditioning. Mothers and daughters act as mirrors for each other, the mother subconsciously projecting a younger version of herself onto her daughter to share her image and identity. Sometimes however, our mothers show us an image of someone we do not want to be.
Understanding your mother as a woman and as an individual in her own right, recognising that she had her own life experiences as a child, teenager and adult, will help you in uncovering how your mother has shaped your life to date. Gleaning more information about your mother, her hopes and dreams will build up a picture of the real person beyond the blueprint you have of her (and which you may be currently responding to). The knowledge will help you to reframe your experience of her and the meanings you place on her actions and behaviours.
When you can look for nuances and clues into your mother’s life, before and after you were born then you can identify perhaps with how she felt about her experiences as a daughter and as a woman, not only as your mother.
Much can be learned when you take into account the age in which your mother and your mother’s mother were born and how the eras and generations have changed. Further insights are gained when you explore the circumstances and events your mother and grandmother may have gone through. In terms of societal development, women’s voting and employment rights, sexual liberation, social and economic freedom to name just a few of the advances your female linage went through before you came into the world.
Motherly love is not static, to endure it requires change - Evelyn Bassoff