What Nobody Tells You About Mother-Daughter Relationships
We were all taught that mother is always right, hence it takes a while for psychological and physical abuse by mothers to become understood by children, sometimes it can be so subtle it goes unnoticed by the child until too much damage may have been done to the mind. Sadly in the court of public opinion, when a mother-daughter relationship is damaged, it is always the daughter that is on trial. We safely assume the daughter may be exaggerating or has been irresponsible. Most times this is not so as many women have scars from dysfunctional relationships they had with their mothers growing up.
Here are some reasons daughters can be unloved by their mothers.
The Mother Who Will Not Love Her Daughter
The strained relationship between Alice Walker a prominent figure in the feminist community and Author of the classic American book The Color Purple and her daughter Rebecca Walker also a feminist and author of the book Black, White and Jewish proof that complicated mother-daughter relationships transcend race, class or education. In the Walkers’ case, both mother and daughter have spoken about their broken relationship.
Alice Walker believed her being a wife and mother was a ‘form of slavery’. Rebecca Walker accused her mother of allowing her feminist perspective to make it difficult to be a mother to her daughter. Alice Walker also tried to suppress maternal instincts in her daughter Rebecca by not allowing her to play with dolls or stuffed animals.
Rebecca has also accused her mother of leaving her with neighbours for many weeks at a time. Alice eventually sent a letter to her daughter ‘resigning from the burden of being her (Rebecca) mother’. Rebecca insists she suffered severe emotional and physical neglect as a child, but is determined to become the opposite of her mother by being maternal, their relationship suffered more damage when Rebecca became pregnant, her mother didn’t take the news well and has never met her grandson.
When I first read about them, I thought Rebecca was probably telling wild tales, may have been ungrateful, difficult.
Like me, a lot of us are on the mother's side. It’s easier that way, it’s unnatural to not want to mother your children, but the truth is that women like Alice Walker are everywhere around us, they may not have the confidence of Alice Walker but their refusal to love their daughters' wrecks enormous damage to their children. Rebecca uses writing as a healing therapy.
Rebecca highlighted other vindictive traits in the Daily Mail Article in 2008, How my mother's feminist fanatical views tore us apart ‘My mother took umbrage at an interview in which I’d mentioned that my parents didn’t protect or look out for me. She sent me an e-mail, threatening to undermine my reputation as a writer. I couldn’t believe she could be so hurtful — particularly when I was pregnant.”
The Unwell Mother
Some mothers are mentally unwell and pick on their daughters. Abbey tells me of a story that is still etched in his memory ‘1was standing outside a friend’s house in around Ikeja in Lagos when I heard people screaming and I saw a woman suddenly pull a little girl of about 5 years old off the road. The girl had narrowly escaped being hit by a truck. Her mother shows up and turns on this child with slaps, kicks, slaps again, blows. After some time she slowed to catch her breath and continued to plummet this child. At this point I had to walk towards the scene, another woman was already there, pushing the child away from the mother on one hand and stopping the mother from doing further damage with her other hand. I and the other people around asked if the girl was her child. She said yes, then told us the girl was too clumsy and careless so she needs to be thought a lesson. She makes to hit the child again, spewing expletives as she does this, by now there was a small crowd and a barrier of people preventing her from hitting her child. I still have never seen a little child beaten that much till date.
Frustrated, she managed to grab the child roughly by the hand and left the now perplexed crowd. Someone in the crowd said he knew the woman, that she was heavily dependent on hard drugs and would constantly physically and verbally abuse her daughter at the slightest provocation.It’s been years now but I still think about that child.
I worry about her fate in the hands of her mother.
The Bitter Mother
Some mothers get bitter and disappointed when the child is a girl. Most women in Africa want male children first and thereafter have a lifelong preference for the boy child. A boy child usually cements a marriage in the eyes of society. A boy child proves that you are capable of helping your husband achieve immortality.
My mother once told me how one woman would not stop crying when she was told her child was a girl in the hospital. This was the fourth time she was having a girl child. She had a fainted in the labour room and was later too ill to breastfeed the baby for a few weeks.
The woman and her family became our neighbours a few months later, I saw how she subjected her girls to a lot of neglect because of their sex. She also strongly believed a girl’s life was full of troubles and pain, so didn’t invest too much resources on them.
She eventually bore a son and promptly elevated him to the most important person in the house. All the girls knew all of them combined still did not equal half a boy and to this day these girls still suffer a lot of unfairness and feeling of inadequacy just for being born female.
I have heard of households where girl was told to give her meat to her brother because he is man, and when one asked her mother ‘mummy why can’t we just share the meat, instead of giving it all to my brother?’ she received a hot slap and the meat was promptly transferred to her younger brother’s plate.
This is usually the most complicated relationship. It is hard to understand that a mother is jealous of their child. Often times the mother doesn’t even recognise their emotions like jealousy. Both mother and daughter just know that something doesn’t feel right. Normal or healthier mothers are proud of their children regardless of their achievements.
They want them to progress, so when milestones or achievements are met with silence, it is a sign of maternal jealousy.
In the article Difficult Mothers: 5 reasons mothers get jealous of their daughters McKenna Meyers says ‘My sister and I grew up with a narcissistic mother and it left us both with crippling low self-esteem. She’d compare us to her and always found us coming up short. She’d nitpick our appearance — criticizing our weight, hair, skin, clothes, and makeup. She was a great beauty in her own estimation and was troubled by her daughters not being the same. After picking apart our looks, she’d then wonder why we didn’t have the confidence to take on the world — finding boyfriends, becoming popular at school, and getting part-time jobs.
Her jealousy continued when we were adults and became mothers ourselves. Our homes were never clean enough, our meals never healthy enough, our kids never well-mannered enough. She’d remember her days as a mother when everything was rosy (not true) and she was super-woman (not true) and wonder why we couldn’t do the same. It boosted her ego to find us lacking.’
Being fed, clothed and housed isn’t enough for any child, unloved daughters grow into adults who cannot fully express their hurts because of the shame and sometimes false belief that other mothers marginalized and put down their daughters as well. They try to normalize the situation until eventually, they learn that it’s neither normal nor healthy to abuse a child.
What are your thoughts?
This story was guest blogged by me on www.teakisi.com