Mothers and Daughters



Mothers and Daughters, A Lifelong Relationship.

The relationship between mothers and daughters affects women strongly at all stages of their lives. Even though not all women become mothers, all are obviously daughters, and daughters have mothers. Even daughters who never become mothers must counter the issues of motherhood, because the possibility and even the probability of motherhood remains. Yet this relationship is so often taken for granted that it is all but ignored, even by mothers and daughters themselves.
For any daughter, the relationship with her mother is the first relationship in her life, and may also be the most important she will ever have. David Lynn of the University of California, has pointed out that “little girls may have a particularly difficult time separating from their mothers because they are of the same sex”, and therefore identify most deeply with the very person from whom they must “psychologically” separate themselves. Dependency has played a particular part in the social role of women; the daughter who remains dependent on her mother will transfer her dependency to her husband and will expect her daughter to be dependent on her, repeating the cycle. These roles are no different in the African-American community, except for the fact that they are magnified to larger proportions.
In the context of her relationship with her mother a daughter first learns what it means to be a person but finds that she is not encouraged to develop a sense of her own separate identity. In the Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison shows what can happen to a person alienated from positive black traditions. Pauline had lost her inner self, and the beauty of her own people. She tries to fill an aching void with the films, and makes efforts to look like Jean Harlow. Her daughter, Pecola, is further removed from community strengths and longs for “the bluest eyes” to gain entrance into a world that doesn’t accept her. Through her mother a daughter first begins to learn about the cultural expectations of feminine role behavior. “Emotional independence is less easy to define than physical independence, but it is equally crucial” asserts Edith Neisser. A mother’s emotions can have a powerful effect on a daughter and can become part of the “glue” that binds a daughter to her mother from guilt and fear.
Also through her mother’s responses to and initiatives toward her body and its needs, a daughter begins to form her developing sense of sexual identity. The social climate in which girls discover what kind of value is placed on their being girls, as opposed to being boys, will strongly affect their sense of their sexual identity. Perhaps a girl’s mother creates the most important aspects of this social climate. It is in the context of her relationship with her mother that a daughter will learn whether she is free to explore and enjoy the potential of her own body. From her mother she will get her first cues as to how she should feel about her sexuality, cues that may become clear only when she has matured. We could see in The Family as well as The Bluest Eye, that the two main characters, Gwendolen and Pecola lack this trust with their mothers because both of them get raped by their own fathers, and are afraid of telling their mothers because of fear of them not believing them.
The lives of women are changing. The generation of women who are now in their late twenties, thirties, and early forties are women who have been raised in a traditional way and who must themselves begin to make changes in their own lives and the lives of their daughters. The problem many new mothers are facing is how to help their daughters develop a strong sense of self, so that they don’t grow up expecting to “lose themselves” in relationships with other people because they never “found themselves” in their relationships with their mothers. Young mothers are beginning to change their modes of mothering and their ways of relating to their daughters, but this does not happen without some conflict and perhaps confusion. Contrary to Pecola, Claudia and Frieda, have learn their life lessons from their mother. They have learn how to be strong black females who can